Budget Rent-A-Car - An Inside Look At The Cutthroat Culture of Rental Car Sales
Upsells, Coverages, Gas Options, Etc
CALIFORNIA -- As a former rental car employee at a busy and well known Southern CA Budget location, I feel I can offer some valuable insight into the rental car employee culture that is becoming more and more pervasive not only in other Budget locations throughout the U. S., but also the other major rental car companies that many people rent from.
Since I have only worked at Budget though, I can't make any definitive claims about the other rental car companies. However, I do know that from speaking to other rental car agents at other companies as well as reading reviews on other consumer and employee review sites, it is IMPERATIVE that the consumer take their time reading EVERYTHING on the contract before they sign everything. I feel an inside look into the rental car culture might be helpful to the consumer and answer some questions on why it's important to read everything before you sign.
Some consumers might be under the impression that most rental car agents are unethical, money hungry hustlers that will do anything to pad their commissions. While there are many rental agents out there that do fit that description, I would say that the majority out there either fall into 1 of 2 camps: 1 camp is the agent that faces a daily struggle with their values and really hates having to pressure customers into buying stuff they don't want, but they need the job to feed the kids, pay the rent, pay student loans, etc. in a tough economy. They aren't driven so much by the commissions, but by the threat of being fired by management if their sales numbers aren't considered acceptable. Many agents in this camp have been in the industry for a long time and have seen it change from a customer service focused industry into a cutthroat sales environment. The 2nd camp quickly realizes that this industry is not for them and either quits on their own, or gets fired in a matter of months due to low sales numbers. Many people in this camp have strong customer service skills, but for various reasons don't badger the customer with upsells, products, and other services like the management expects.
As for the unscrupulous sales agents, they pretty much ruin it not only for the customer, but also the employees that are trying their best to remain ethical. The management loves these agents since they are bringing in the revenue, but everyone else hates them. These agents can basically do whatever they want including lying to the customer, or misleading them into paying extra for something they probably didn't even realize they paid for and management will almost always back them up since the contract has been signed.
How do you spot the unscrupulous sales agents? This isn't easy since many of them are rather charming chameleons that are so good at schmoozing the customer. Some things to keep in mind though when renting: All products and services are OPTIONAL no matter what the agent may tell you. You are not required by law to purchase the damage waiver for the rental car (Called LDW or CDW depending on the location), supplemental liability insurance/renters liability insurance (SLI or RLI), personal accidents and effects (PAE), and roadside service (RSN). Some agents may lie to the customer and say LDW/CDW, SLI or RLI, PAE, and RSN are airport taxes or state taxes, but that is false. If a customer chooses to decline LDW/CDW, PAE, SLI, and RLI, the contract should clearly say "Declined" next to all 4 waiver/insurance options.
Here is the tricky part though: Some agents will put that you are accepting all coverages into the computer system even if you said you are declining all coverages. If the agent did that, on your contract the word "Accepted" will be printed next to LDW/CDW, PAE, SLI, and RLI. That means you are accepting full coverage. The tricky agent will lie to you though and twist things around and say that "accepted" next to the coverages means you are declining all coverages. To someone that doesn't understand English well or is really tired from a long day, it is understandable how one can get confused with this twisting of words. My best advice is to have your original reservation printout with you to compare the price to what the contract states. If you don't know what your original price was, you can potentially become an easy victim for the dishonest sales agent. Just remember that LDW/CDW, PAE, SLI, RLI, and RSN are NOT taxes and NOT mandatory to take.
Another common trick an agent might do is "bundle" coverages together if you ask for just 1 thing. For example, say if you only want to cover the car with the LDW/CDW an agent might throw on SLI or RSN too. The agent may present this as "Partial Coverage" or "The Basic Coverage" making it seem like in order to cover the car, you have to purchase it in a "package" with other insurance. That is a complete lie and false. Some agents might continue to argue with you and say LDW/CDW is not sold separately and part of a package. That's a lie. Everything is sold separately and not part of a package. Don't fall for that common trick.
Tricky wording is another common trick rental agents do everywhere. Some examples for coverages: "Will you be taking the full protection package or just the basic?", "Will you be taking the full protection package or partial package?", and "Do you just want the basic protection?" The rental agent that uses these phrases is trying to trick you into taking some type of coverage no matter what. Some customers fall for this trick thinking "Basic and Partial" mean no coverage at all. Here the agent didn't really give you an option to decline anything, so if you don't want any coverage, you have to tell the agent explicitly that you don't need any coverage. Even after you explicitly tell the agent you don't want anything, be prepared for fear based tactics to try and get you to accept coverage. Then be prepared to read the contract afterwards to be sure everything was "DECLINED."
You REALLY have to be careful on the upsell attempt. Management encourages tricky wording for the upsell in order to get as much money out of the consumer as possible. I can't disclose the method that they use explicitly since this method is actually owned by an outside company that many rental car companies hire in order to increase profits. I can tell you that almost no upgrade is free usually (unless the rental car company doesn't have your car class that you booked, then they often do a free upgrade), and if it is too good to be true, it probably is. Let's just say that if you are booked into a Toyota Corolla, don't expect that you are saving money from your original reservation by upgrading into a BMW, Dodge Charger, Camaro, Mustang, etc. or getting a free upgrade. You are paying more and many times much more than your original booking if you fall for this common upsell trick. For anything that is an upgrade or sounds like an upgrade, always ask how much more it's going to cost you to avoid this.
If you took the time to read all of this, I congratulate you. I hope you find all of this information helpful. Just remember to carefully read everything on the contract before you sign anything. Once you sign that document, there is little that you can do since it is legally binding. If you do find yourself a victim though complain to corporate only, and NOT the local management especially if it's a franchise location. Nothing will change unless corporate gets enough complaints.