Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Where Not to Rent a Car

I reserved a car on-line with Budget. The print-outs showed no confirmation number, so I called the night before to confirm that everything was OK with my reservation. I was assured that it was, that I'd be fine if I just brought the sheets in with the car and price info.

You know where this is headed. They had no record of my reservation, and no car for me, and no offers of any further help. Since I didn't have the name of the person I had talked to the night before, they were unwilling to take any responsibility for the mistake.

Their lack of of helpfulness was spectacular. After 10 minutes of fecklessly arguing with the rep behind the counter, I waited another 15 minutes to speak to the manager, only to have him tell me that the office was closed and there were no more cars available. He offered me the use of his phone so I could call Budget reservations myself to try to figure out a solution. Nice.

Judy at Budget reservations was the one helpful and sympathetic person I encountered in this whole debacle. She found me a car nearby at a rate only slightly higher than my original reservation. She tried--unsuccessfully--to get the Budget attendants on-site to find me a ride to the other Budget location five miles away. She empathized with me about their astonishing rudeness, and after we were done, she connected me to customer service and urged me to make a complaint.

I heart irony. I waited another 15 minutes to receive the lame-assiest customer service that ever masqueraded as customer service. I told him my sad and frustrating tale. I said, "They told me it was my problem, not theirs." And he said, "Well, it is." I am not even kidding. Oh, wait. He did say "Ma'am."

I confess that I was not very Jesusy during this entire mess.

I took the shuttle back to airport, boarded the train for downtown, and tried my luck at another Budget office. I handed over my card, only to have them point out that it expired in January. Crap.

I handed them my other card, a debit/credit card. "We don't take debit cards," they said. But it's both a debit and a credit card! Doesn't matter. Can't take it. How about cash? Nope. Must scan a valid credit card.

Finally I realized what the universe had been trying to tell me all afternoon: The car rental was just not in the cosmic plan for today. Once I let the car go, it was all good.

The moral of the story: listen to the universe the first time. And get a frackin' confirmation number.

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