Because of ongoing difficulties with the Saab, and my reluctance to drive it for great distances, I’d been borrowing Craig’s car to visit my mother on weekends. Last week, however, I decided to rent a car, so early in the week I reserved a compact car from Thrifty.com; Thrifty, along with many car rental companies, maintains a location just south of National Airport, not far from my home.
Friday evening Jeff and I went over to the rental facility to pick up the car. The man behind the counter pulled up my record and after a few minutes asked me if I’d like to upgrade to an Intermediate or Full-Size. I told him I would not. He then continued to enter my information, and a few minutes later told me that he didn’t have any cars, only minivans, to which he’d upgrade me for the same price as the compact. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to use a minivan, thinking it was likely that they got horrendous gas mileage on the order of an SUV (a co-worker has since told me he thought it probably would have performed nearly as well as a car), but then I agreed to take the minivan. Then he quoted me a price two and a half what the original reservation had been. When I protested, he said that it was because of the insurance; I told him I already had insurance and didn’t need any additional coverage. But by then my frustration took over and I told him just to hand back my driver’s license and credit card and to forget the whole transaction.
To be fair, I didn’t really want to go home for the weekend. I was tired and stressed, felt like I needed to clean and organize the condo in preparation for today’s appraisal, and would have spent four hours driving there and four back, just to have a little over 24 hours there.
Before I left, I asked the guy why they even took reservations, if such were essentially meaningless (and I’m wondering now why he asked me if I wanted to upgrade to an intermediate or full-size, if they didn’t have any of those, either; if I’d said yes, would he then have offered me the minivan at the same price as that upgrade, or for the original compact?). He said that other drivers don’t always return their cars on time. But you’d think that a company and facility that deals with the kind of volume that they must would have formulae to account for that fact, and to have the extra cars to cover for those that they can estimate won’t be returned.
So this coming weekend I’m in the same boat, but will make reservations at multiple rental car companies all along the same stretch of road–excepting Thrifty–in the hopes that one of them will come through. With any luck, I’ll have my Prius before I have to deal with the rental car companies too many more times.