Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Someone explain how car rental companies work

The ridiculousness of rental car companies in 3 parts...

Part I: The ridiculousness of Dollar Rent-A-Car
Last Friday, Smeri and I walk up to the Dollar Rent-A-Car counter in Atlanta to pick up our rental car.
I was really excited to use my over 25-ness so I reserved a car through Expedia ($95 for a compact car for 3 days + a few hours). I give the attendant my confirmation number and he brings up my reservation. I tell him that we don't need insurance and after many "Are you sure???"s from the attendant, Smeri says, "Just get basic insurance." So I said, "Fine, basic insurance." And after he asks for multiple phone numbers and drivers licenses, he shows us that our total is $263. REALLY??? How can it be $263? Apparently all the airport taxes (that Expedia conveniently leaves out) and the basic insurance, the price jumps to more than double our original quote. He tries to explain that if we return the car at the same time on Monday that we pick it up today, we'll save $6. Whoop-dee-do.

So I tell him that we're going to reserve our car through another car rental company because $263 is ridiculous.

Part II: The Ridiculousness of Budget Rental Car
I walk 10 feet over to the Budget Rental Car counter (it was right next door to the Dollar counter!) and say, "I'd like to make a reservation using a corporate account number." (MIT has a deal with Budget for "official MIT business" (i.e. club sports... us!) that waives the under-25 fee and includes basic insurance).

Their response, "Sorry, you can't use the corporate account number at the counter, you need to call the reservation number for Budget and make your reservation over the phone." Ok, fair enough. They give me a 404-area code number that I call and I speak to this lady on the phone.

Me: "I'd like to make a reservation for right now until Monday at 5:30pm and I have a corporate account number."
Budget rep: "Ok, so what day and time would you like that?"
Me: "Immediately... so that would be... right now."
Budget rep: "Ok let me take that information down and check the rates for you. Please hold."
Me: *holding*... *still holding*
Budget rep: (after 5 minutes) "Sorry, the corporate account number isn't correct. Are you sure you gave me the right number?"

I give her the number again and apparently she heard wrong (probably my fault, but I do try to make an effort to enunciate when I'm on the phone). After a few more minutes she comes back on the line to tell me that the reservation would be $217.

Me: "$217?!?! Really?! Why is so much?!!"
Budget rep: "I don't know. It says that the daily rate is $41 and you're reserving it for 3 days plus a few hours, plus airport taxes and fees, it comes out to be $217."
Me: "Ok listen, I have another reservation that I already made and I'd just like to duplicate that reservation (Clare had reserved some cars online for the other under-25 sMITe people). Same time, same car, same everything, just duplicate that reservation. It's for $124."
Budget rep: "Sorry, you need to call the national hotline for that. I can't duplicate reservations."
Me: "FINE. Transfer me."

I get transferred to the national Budget hotline and I explain the situation and tell her that I would just like to duplicate the reservation that I already had. So she types in the parameters and says, "The rate for your reservation would be $228."

Me: "What?!?! First of all, my reservation is for $124 and I just wanted to duplicate it, like, have the same price. Second of all, how is it $9 more than what the other Budget rep quoted me?!?!"
National Budget rep: "I don't know, I'm sorry. But this is what's coming up for me on the computer."

I was really starting to lose it by now and so I tried playing this card:

Me: "Look, my teammates and I are students and we're stranded in a city that we've never been before and we need a car. Isn't there something you can do? Do you have a manager that can override your retarded computer system??" (Ok I didn't actually call it retarded, but I did ask for her manager).

But she said sorry and that there was nothing she could do.

Btw, this whole time Smeri is standing there as patiently as a patient Smeri could be, and I'm pacing around the front of the Budget counter, fuming and on the verge of a breakdown.

Smeri: "What are you going to do?"
Me: "I'm going to make a few more phone calls."
Smeri: "You're not going to give up?"
Me: "Not yet..."

Part III: Daphne to the rescue!!! (oops, I gave it away)
I figured that if we were able to make reservations online earlier, we should be able to do another one for the same rate. So I call Bryan (didn't pick up) and Eugene (didn't pick up), and then Daphne, who picks up!!
I tell her Daphne the situation as fast as I can (Smeri is giving me impatient looks by now) and ask her to make a reservation for us on the Budget website. There couldn't have been a more understanding, more capable person to do this than Daphne, who's done this many many times during her time on sMITe. After a minute, everything is taken care of and she gives me the new confirmation number.

I turned to the people behind the Budget counter and say, "Here's my new confirmation number." They give me a weird look and enter in the number and promptly say that it doesn't exist. W.T.F.

It turns out that it takes about 15-20 minutes for the reservation to go through their system so Smeri and I do what any loving teammates would do: steal another car's reservation. (They were still waiting for their baggage and waiting for the tram to get fixed anyway. =P)

So, it finally worked out in the end. I wish I had something to take away from the experience, some tidbit of advice, anything, but I really don't. Except that Daphne is amazing and rental car companies are fickle and dumb.

Man, I feel my blood pressure increasing just from writing this post. ::sigh::

Has anyone else had a ridiculous experience with rental car companies?