Posts Tagged ‘Enterprise’

Deciphering rental-car ‘dialogue’

April 18, 2008

Ever since I first rented a car some 30 years ago, I’ve been doing battle with car-rental companies. I think they have some of the most blatantly unethical consumer practices in the country. (Enterprise is the only company I sort of trust.) I’ve given the industry dozens of opportunities to disprove that, but so far that hasn’t happened. Here’s a recent example:

On April 3, I rented a car through Budget at Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport). Here’s part of my exchange with the Budget counter clerk regarding insurance coverage for the car.

Budget: Would you like full coverage or just on the car?
Me: What about no coverage?
Budget: So you’re declining coverage?
Me: Yes. You didn’t give that as an option, did you?
B: You’re declining coverage?
Me: Yes, but I’m asking, did you offer me that option?
B: It’s not part of my dialogue.
Me: What do you mean?
B: It’s not part of the dialogue we’re told to use.
Me: That seems wrong to not give people the option because some people would think they have to buy insurance coverage through Budget, which of course they don’t.
B: It’s not part of the dialogue.

The following week, once I was home, I followed up with Budget about this “dialogue.” Here’s the answer I received via email from corporate spokeswoman Alice Pereira:

“Budget customers always have the option to accept or decline additional coverages at the time of rental. If you were not given the option to do so, it is contrary to our company policy. We will look into the matter and take necessary steps to ensure that employees adhere to the policy.”

So, the company line is that Budget tells customers their options. Yet my clerk said he was following “the dialogue we’re told to use.” Someone somewhere is not being honest. What I fear most is that my guy (who can be tracked by my paperwork) will be reprimanded for doing what he likely was being told to do by his boss, and nothing else will happen.

I figured I’d also check with the Washington Attorney General’s office to see if Budget’s failure to give me an option of declining insurance violated any consumer laws. For that I turned to Kristin Alexander, media relations manager in the office of Attorney General Rob McKenna. Here’s what she said:

“All businesses are obligated to inform consumers about their products in a fair and non-misleading manner. If a product or service is optional, it should be represented as such. If Budget (or any similar company, for that matter) has a pattern and practice of misleading consumers to believe that they cannot decline the option of additional insurance, its practices may violate the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

“Assumptive sales techniques are common in car sales, insurance, telecommunications – situations where the seller assumes you want the additional product or service. Consumers should be alert and be willing to pose questions of salespeople who offer additional products or services in conjunction with a sale.”

So, dear readers, stay alert and please complain to the company and the authorities if you feel your rights are being violated. Let me know too!

How to beat rental-car ripoff during spring break

February 1, 2008

If you know me, you know I have a big thing against most rental-car company practices. Jacking up, up, up the prices during peak season is one of my beefs. For you folks Enterprise Car Rentalflying to Florida (and I’m sure this works elsewhere) in the spring and renting a car, here’s a little trick of mine you might be able to use.  (I’d love to hear others’ strategies.)

In January I booked flights to Tampa from Manchester, NH, (where my friend Kristin is flying from), and Durham, NC, (where I’m flying from) on Southwest, and both were about $200 round-trip. Not bad for Easter weekend! But get this. Car rentals from the airport for five days were around $500!! Unbelievable.

Here’s what I did. As you probably know, Enterprise has little neighborhood offices all over the place, and they’re often (usually? always?) cheaper than airport rentals. I reserved a Indian Rocks Beach, FLcar at a location on my way to where I’ll be staying (Indian Rocks Beach). I’m paying a mere $30 extra to then drop it off at the airport when I leave. The grand total? $156!! Now that is a deal. If I picked the car up at the airport, still using Enterprise, the price would be $438. Other companies were charging even more!!

To do this fancy-schmancy different drop-off reserving, you have to call, not go online. But then Enterprise *offered* to give me the online price, saving me another whopping $5.

Enterprise is tops in car-rental customer service, and I’ve been saying this for years, not just since my $275 savings.

I’ll probably be able to get a ride from the airport to Enterprise, but if I couldn’t, a Super Shuttle ride for about $20 (including tip) would take me straight to Enterprise.

My scenario may not exactly suit your needs. For example, you could use a neighborhood Enterprise office in Tampa and be even closer. If you’re traveling in a group or family, it would be cheaper to take a taxi than pay for individual shuttles.

My main message here is that when prices are jacked up, try to rent away from the airport. Get creative!