Pay Less? Nope, Paid More.
This is a guest post from my dad, Grandpa Points. He and my mom are in their mid-60’s, are (mostly) retired, and are ticking off “bucket list” destinations quicker than they ever thought possible thanks to miles, points, and travel deals. They have an intense love of this country, of its National Parks and treasures, and have no problem with a clean budget hotel room and an economy airline seat on a budget airline as long as it gets them where they want to be. Today he shares how their budget car rental didn't quite work out as intended.
Our travels almost always involve a car rental. We are movers, seers, doers, explorers and nomads when we go places. We have had mostly good luck in this area of the travel world. We usually are BUDGET conscious customers when we are in the reservation and selection process as we think a DOLLAR saved is a dollar earned, so we often opt for the rental source where we will PAYLESS. We have learned through experience that the most THRIFTY quote often comes with some hoops and hurdles that have to be dealt with and negotiated.
So, when we are at the rental desk, we are on guard, tuned in and wary. We know what to expect, what to reject and what to suspect. We figure that our knowledge, experience and awareness will get us through the ENTERPRISE successfully and at the rate quoted and in the type of car anticipated and reserved. Having this confidence and perceived ADVANTAGE allows us to seek out the lowest price offers. And, so it was with our recent rental in Las Vegas for our quick journey to the ghost town of Bodie, California.
We had reserved online a full size car from Payless at a base rate of $13.50 a day. We felt very confident this rental would go smoothly due to its proximity to the negative investigative report that appeared on the NATIONAL television show, Nightline, only about a week before our trip. Surely, we thought, everyone would be on their best behavior with their best public relations foot forward.
We were optimistic and excited as we entered the relatively quiet and empty McCarran Car Rental Facility just before 6:00 P.M. last Monday. We moved through this unhurried setting toward the Payless area with a printed copy of our reservation in hand. As the Payless rental area came into view, we were shocked to see a long line of customers winding their way through a crowd controlled partitioned queue.
We got into the fray to wait our turn. There were only two rental agents working the counter and the line did not move for 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes. My young wife decided to go eavesdrop on the conversation at the the counter. A few minutes after she left the line moved a little as one customer got served and one customer left the line in search of other rental options. Finally, the party my wife was listening in on finished their ordeal and my wife inquired as to their 30 minutes of counter time. The party of four said that they had been in line for almost two hours and that it would have been longer if several people in front of them hadn't given up and baled. They said that Payless had a special running with base rates between $8.00 and $11.00 which would explain the large crowd.
They also offered that they had heard that there was no one there to clean the cars which was causing further delay. They also said that the agent kept trying to add extra options and charges that they didn't want. We assumed the low price may have been an attempt by Payless to create goodwill to offset the recent bad media. We concur that it was a good idea, but its implementation and execution may have had the opposite result.
At that point, I estimated that it could take us two hours to get to the rental desk so I had my wife hold our place in line as I went to check on prices and availability at Dollar. Let me explain that we still had an almost four hour drive ahead of us that night, we still needed to pick up some items in Vegas for the trip, and we needed to eat dinner. It was looking like we might not get to our lodging for the night till about 2:00 A.M. which would have been 4:00 A.M. on our Texas body clock. We decided the time saved by changing the rental source would be a good investment even if the price was more. We decided that it would be worth $50.00, but maybe not $100.00.
I took the 100 foot stroll to the Dollar counter and immediately got waved to the desk.
I asked for the lowest mid-size base rate available and the quote that was offered was one that we could live with. I told the agent that I did not want any insurance or other options and none were subsequently presented or suggested. In 5 minutes we were on our way.
It did cost us about the $50.00 extra to abandon our original Payless reservation but, at that time and in that set of circumstances, it was the thing to do. Sometimes the best deal cannot be judged by price alone.
I would imagine that we will continue checking in on Payless in the future in the hopes of securing some really low priced rentals. We will likely continue to use Payless till it is not E.Z. or til it just HERTZ too much. Being good Texans, we will, however, remember the ALAMO, be wily like a FOX and keep our eyes open and our antennae up the next time we are taking AVISit or going on a trip somewhere and we are in the market for renting a car.
In all instances, we suggest, Caveat Conductor, Renter Beware.