A Business Traveler Vents His Rental Car Road Rage While planning trips can be tedious, at least the reservation process is modernized. Unless, of course, you are renting a car.
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"If I were you, I'd take the full protection," a Budget agent in the San Jose, Calif., airport said. Then she advised me to upgrade to a larger vehicle, take the fuel option and rent a GPS. Never mind that I had my Garmin sitting on the counter between us.
I don't mean to pick on Budget. The practice of upselling customers has become a staple of the category. It's one of many factors that makes renting a car so frustrating. While the rest of the travel industry has evolved into the online era, rental-car agencies remain stuck in 1985--or worse. In those days, you could walk to your car at all but the biggest airports. Now there's a bus or tram to take before standing in line for a car that will likely have 25,000 miles on it. Or isn't the size you requested. Or isn't there at all.
Neil Abrams, an industry consultant and spokesperson, explains that agencies are often more interested in the resale value of their fleet than in divining their customers' preferences. "Sometimes they do better selling off their cars than renting them," he says. On the other hand, they fear alienating consumers by holding them to strict pickup and drop-off times, like a restaurant that books tables only once a night just in case their 7 p.m. reservations arrive at 5 or 9. Illogical?