Budget Car Rentals Vancouver – questionable ethics create nasty customer service


I’ve been renting cars for a long time now, and I have never experienced anything like this before.  I can just imagine the types of things that happen to less experienced travellers. Here’s the story:

We had a reservation for a compact car at the Vancouver airport.  The cost was going to be a little over $400per week (plusVancouver’s insane airport tax and HST).  When we arrived, I inquired about upgrading to a mid-size or full-size, just to give us a bit more elbow room.  I expected that this would increase the rate somewhere around$130-$140 a week.

The very friendly agent told me that for ‘just a little bit more than the upgrade I was looking for’ she could upgrade me to a specialty car – a RollsRoyce Bentley no less.  When I asked how much more, she said $199.  Wow, I thought, that’s only $10 or so more per day.  How cool would that be?  So I took it.

The next morning, I looked at the contract again, and realized to my horror that the ‘little bit more’wasn’t $199 per week – it was $199 per day!  Holy crap.  How could I have missed that?  (I’m pretty sure that she didn’t say it).  So as soon as I finished work, I took the car back to Budget.  I didn’t make a fuss, but was nonetheless stunned when the one day I had rented the car was over $500. Yikes! But the worst is still to come.

The new agent I was dealing with didn’t apologize for the ‘miscommunciation’, and when I went to re-arrange for a mid-size, he quoted me $900 – over double what my original rate was going to be.  I asked about it, and all he could tell me was ‘rates change.’  When I suggested that, given what had just happened they should at minimum honour the original contract, he just shrugged and looked at me.

So, basically, it sucked to be me.
My next step was to call my travel agent, who made a new rental arrangement at a different car rental place.  And I went about calling Budget’s head office to complain. I left a message on their answering machine, and now no-one has bothered to call back.

For those of you who like to calculate the cost of a lost customer, here’s an interesting analysis for you:

Budget’s actions – and subsequent inaction, (which, in our customer service training programs we would classify as unethical) – made them a nifty $550 for a one-day rental.  Sounds great, right?

But let’s do the rest of the math: Our company’s trainers and I probably represent close to 200 car rental days in Canada each year. If we assume the average rental rate of about $60 per day (a far cry from Budget’s $550),  that represents $12,000 per year.  All of a sudden, their great little score doesn’t sound quite so great.

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