Why the rent-a-car industry is a corrupt, disgusting, fraudulant, manifestation of organized crime

Of course, I’m writing about the rent-a-car industry in general, because I doubt what I have to say is unique to one company in particular.  But the company I especially have in mind, on this day, the twenty-sixth of December, is Budget.

Say you want to take your family on Christmas vacation.  Say, further, that you want to visit your parents especially because you have four children, ages 5 through 12 currently, who see very little of their grandparents.

So you plan ahead.  You do your research.  You make a “reservation” with Budget for a vehicle that will fit your whole family–with no idea that the word must be framed in quotation marks.  (Side note: imagine further that you do not have a vehicle for the whole family.  You and your wife now take two cars with kids split between them when the whole family must go some place.  Using one family vehicle on a road trip is not an option.)

So you’ve done your job.  You have your agreement in black and white.  You can move on to other aspects of the Christmas season, feeling that this part of your plan is taken care of.

But its not.

Turns out, the only thing you “reserve” with a rent-a-car company, is the price if you should rent some vehicle, any vehicle they are willing to give you out of what is left on their lot.  And, odds are, none of those will seat six passengers legally.  Or practically–maybe they’ll offer you a town car that will allow you to make the 10+ hour trip with three across the front seat.

And then you will realize, as you give silent thanks that the friend who dropped you off hasn’t left yet, that you were never anything but a minor bet on the part of the company to protect them for losses.  As the company drones wring their hands over an empty lot, you know the corporation is thrilled to have all their vehicles in use.  All you did was give them a sense of security in November that, if nothing better turned up, at least you would give them $429 and some change the week after Christmas.  But they never had any obligation to you and your planned trip at all.  The grandchildren, who have been constantly asking about the visit, and your promises, mean nothing to them.

This stupid, venal, turd of a company deliberately spread the delusion that I had it in my power to plan a trip to Texas.  They robbed me and my children and there is not a thing I can do about it.

8 thoughts on “Why the rent-a-car industry is a corrupt, disgusting, fraudulant, manifestation of organized crime

  1. Joel

    I’m not arguing with you that it’s a bad system, but as someone who used to work behind the counter there, let me provide one other perspective:
    The company is totally dependent on people bringing back the car when they say they will. If another family brings a van back 2 days later than they said they would, you’re out of luck and they can’t do much about it. Also, the van might flag that it needs maintenance, an oil change, etc. or it may have been trashed so they need to get it fixed up, detailed, or whatever. I know that as the customer you just want what you ordered, which makes sense, but it’s tough working there. The higher ups are the ones to blame.

  2. COD

    Oil change? I worked in the garage at Budget. We didn’t do anything but give it a quick wash and vac. If the oil light was on we’d drop a quart of oil in it, but otherwise those cars went 12,000 miles plus on the original oil.

    I dugg the story for you. Maybe it’ll get some traction.

  3. mark Post author

    Joel, in this case, the lot was almost empty. I was told that several others were there for reserved minivans.

    And btw, after talking to Jennifer I think it is possible that I was too rough on the industry as a whole. After all, when Jennifer went looking for a minivan to rent, all the other companies reported not having any available for December. This was, indeed, the case. There were no rentals available in St. Louis, at least within a cursory search.

    So Budget alone reported having minivans available…. What would be interesting to know is if this is a company policy that differes from the others.

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  5. pentamom

    This might be a company problem rather than an industry problem. It sounds like Budget operates exactly the same way as U-Haul. However, I’ve had to rent Enterprise cars twice in the last six months, and they’ve always been excellent. In fact, the last time I rented due to a collision repair, they actually allowed me to pick up the car over the weekend but didn’t start charging until the Monday I was actually reserved for, due to their anticipated busyness that Monday. IOW they let me have a car for two extra days without charge just so I wouldn’t have to wait a long time at the body shop for the rental agent to drop off the car. Obviously there was no demand for that car at the time, but nonetheless, it was still good customer treatment. On the previous occasion, they were very upfront about not having any minivans available for the time I needed, so we made do with a mid-size (we weren’t traveling.)

  6. Kenneth Conklin

    Well, Mark, my heart goes out to you in this regard. Transpo difficulties are a pain, definitely. I have to agree with pentamom, though. Those rare times when military stuff requires me to rent a car, I’ve gone with Enterprise (“we pick you up” being their tag line), and have had no difficulties, other than minor waits for said vehicle at their offices. I’ve also never dealt with Budget (and after this, probably still won’t), so don’t know what’s up with them. I’d say give another provider a chance in this, and expect to be pleasantly surprised.

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