Q: I reserved a rental car from Budget at Maui’s Kahului Airport for $350. When I showed up, the not-so-friendly agent said my reservation was for the office on the other side of the island!
I told her the phone agent obviously made a mistake since the airport is at Kahului. She said she couldn’t do a thing since they were sold out of cars. After some discussion, she “found” a car for almost $1,000!
When I complained about this, she then “found” another car, even though they were sold out. This car was $550, but came with mandatory insurance and roadside assistance.
I told her I didn’t want those options, but she said if I rejected them the rate would be $1,000. I told her I would deal with it when I returned and accepted the $550 so that at least I had a vehicle to drive.
When I called Budget after my return home, the phone agent said he couldn’t help since I had accepted the options, but as a goodwill gesture he could refund 50 percent of the fees. I refused. I wrote to Budget via its website and it offered me 25 percent off, which I also declined.
I don’t know what to do. Why would I sign for options I don’t need or want? The only reason was because the desk agent said I needed to accept them in order to get the lower rate.
A: Budget should have had a car for you on the right side of the island at the right price. The “fix” was rather self-serving: Accept another rental at more than three times the rate, or another at about double the price, once you include mandatory fees.
I don’t like either solution.
You called Budget and spoke with a reservations agent, who entered the incorrect Maui location. If you’d reviewed your reservation, you would have seen the error and could have corrected it before you arrived.
Airport car rentals are almost always more expensive than off-airport locations. That’s because airports charge facilities fees and taxes. Kahului Airport adds an airport facility charge, an airport concession fee, a vehicle license fee, a county tax and a general excise tax. Run the numbers, and it’s clear that Budget was trying to quote you the same rate and just cover its expenses.
However, the “mandatory” insurance is another matter. When I looked into that, Budget admitted your experience was “not typical.”
“A copy of our report has been sent to the appropriate manager for corrective actions,” a Budget spokesman assured me.
Next time, book your car online or use a qualified travel agent to help you. If you don’t, at least review the reservation after it’s been made.
I contacted Budget and it launched an internal investigation. Budget refunded $172, the full amount of your “mandatory” insurance.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.