Dollar Rent A Car Systems, Inc. Complaint - Dollar: Bait & Switch
ALBURQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO -- DOLLAR: BAIT & SWITCH
I had planned a photographic study of the Texas panhandle on a tight budget and needed a sturdy hatchback for the job. Dollar Rent a Car promised a "Dodge Caliber or similar" on their web site at a base price of $109.88. The price was right, so I reserved the car through Expedia.
On the first day of travel, I arrived at Dollar's Albuquerque airport desk and gave the agent my confirmation number. She said the base models were all rented (however many THAT might have been) but the "upgraded" model was available for $179.88. She said a Chevy Cobalt sedan was also available for $109.88.
I sweated my options: pay more for the Caliber, take the sedan, or go to another rental outfit. I had looked over the cars and prices at other companies, but didn't have that information with me. I needed a hatchback, so I decided to take the Caliber and try to get an adjustment later.
She started tacking on insurance and options in a rapid-fire manner. Before I knew it, I was signed up for “full insurance” and other options that would cost me over five hundred dollars. I asked her to start over and limit my coverage to the damage waiver. Even then, the surcharges, airport concession fee, and various taxes brought the total to $435 and change for the week.
“It’s loaded,” she said. Hm, I thought—more like I’m soaked. I had rented a Jeep Cherokee from Dollar a month earlier out of Oakland-- all-wheel drive, cruise-control--and it had only cost me $367 a week.
En route to the airport, after I finished the job, I stopped and phoned Dollar customer service. Morgan answered. I gave her my rental agreement number, reservation confirmation number, and asked her why I had been overcharged. She told me that the Albuquerque location is actually an independent Dollar affiliate named Fleet Rentals of Santa Fe. I said it didn’t matter; Dollar negotiates the terms of association with its affiliates and is responsible when they don’t deliver what Dollar promises. She agreed with that assessment, promising to investigate further and get back to me.
The phone rang ten minutes later. Before I could retrieve it, it kicked over to voicemail. I called voicemail. It was Morgan. She left this message:
“Hi Mr. P____, this is Morgan with Dollar. Um, ah, what we can do is, we can, we’ll we’ll get this taken care of. Uh, just, if you can, give us a call back tonight or sometime before you get to . . . the location, or even after. Either way is okay. And if not, call us back tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. And, once again, my name is Morgan. And sir, I hope you have a safe trip. Thank you. Bye bye.”
I called back the number on my display. A recording announced I had reached “PRC, a leading provider of outsourced customer care solutions” and gave me some options. I punched one and got someone who said he didn’t know Morgan, and, in any case, I would have to call her back at the 800 number.
So I called the customer service number again (800-800-5252—you may need it). Lorenzo answered. He said he didn’t know Morgan but he’d be happy to hear my story if first I’d give him my rental agreement number. We were starting over. I told Lorenzo my story and he made appropriately sympathetic mouth noises, finally telling me he would investigate further if I could hold.
I held. That was the last I heard from Lorenzo. I soon realized I had been jawing with these people over an hour, and I was running disastrously late. A mad dash to Albuquerque ensued. Along the way I lost the connection. Lorenzo didn’t call back.
By the time I reached the Dollar desk to pay up, I could best be described as panicky. I reeked of stress sweat and my mouth tasted like the floor of a barn. Wild-eyed, I threw a credit card at them while I gave them grief over the entire mess. They gave the card back but, I would later discover, without my copy of the rental agreement or a receipt. I ran for the terminal shuttle and eventually boarded my plane exactly ninety seconds before they sealed the door.
When I got back, I phoned Dollar customer service again. Darrell answered. He said he couldn’t do anything about the Albuquerque outfit, because it did it’s own billing. He transferred me to the manager of Fleet Sales of Santa Fe doing business as Dollar Rent a Car. The man told me in an even, patronizing way that I had rented the “all-wheel drive, cruise-control upgrade” of the Caliber, which came with a higher price, and no adjustment would be forthcoming. I didn’t think to ask how many base models were actually available; my guess is: not many.
So that’s about it. I bit on the old bait and switch. Morgan never “took care of this.” Lorenzo and Darrell didn't either. And the manager of Fleet Sales of Santa Fe doing business as Dollar Rent a Car in Albuquerque told me to take a hike.
Forewarned is forearmed.