Not in the Budget



We’re in Santa Barbara this weekend, visiting Gail’s son.  We flew down, but I’m driving from here to LA for work while Gail flies home, so I had to rent a car, which I will return in Los Angeles.

Priceline got me a good rate for the week, and I sauntered over to Budget to get the car.  Life quickly turned into a Seinfeld episode;



I had reserved a compact, and the agent began by asking me how many people (2) and how many bags (2), then told me that we really needed a larger car–suggesting a VW Passat.  The car I reserved would have been just fine, but that sounded good—until he mentioned the extra $10.95 a day.

I said I didn’t intend to spend any extra money, just give me the car I had reserved.  No insurance, thank you.  No gasoline option, thank you.

Naturally, he started to sell me insurance.  I said no again.

He tried to rent me a GPS.  I have on in my phone, thank you.  No.  Just the car, please.

He tried to sell me insurance again.  Still no, somewhat more forcefully.

He tried to sell me Roadside Assistance.  I said i have AAA, just the car please.

He said my AAA wouldn’t pay the $600 if I lost the keys, which his $9.95 a day plan would.  $9.95 is better than $600.  Except that his plan is over $3,600 a year, for a $600 loss, which I have never had in a lifetime of driving.  NO!

Remember that slightly larger car he offered me?  When he was finally convinced that I wasn’t spending any more money with him, he told me that I was getting a complimentary upgrade–to a full size Chevy Impala.

Getting into the car, I noticed that it has a “LAX” sticker in the windshield.  The need this car back in LA, which explains my “complimentary upgrade”.  Unless they could trick me into spending more to upgrade to a smaller car first.

Then I started driving.  The car, which is a year old with 34,500 miles on it, is a piece of crap.  The tires are badly worn and the steering shimmies terribly.  I plan to return it to Santa Barbara Airport when I take Gail to her plane today and get another, which leads to more of what Budget foolishly calls “customer service”.

I called their 800 number to talk about returning the car, and had to go through their automated process 3 times before it would connect me with a person.  You say “agent” and it say, ” I think you want an agent.  Let me try to help you…..” and goes right back to the same questions I didn’t want to get into the first time.

Then you get someone in Bangalore or Manilla or Kuala Lampur whose English is terrible, over a miserable internet connection, who reads from a script and is no help anyway.

In general, I prefer to rent from Thrifty.  I joined their frequent renter program and the process is easy and fast.  But I tried to save a few buck using Priceline this time, and paid the price in time and aggravation when I got stuck with Budget.  You have been warned.


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