Budget Rent-A-Car Complaint - Budget truck rental systematically inadequate
COLORADO -- It appears to me that Budget Truck Rentals have a policy of providing inadequate customer care in order to force renters to find a way to cope.
I rented a 16' truck for a move from one end of Colorado to the other (Fort Collins to Durango). If you know Colorado, you know this means climbing over a couple of mountain passes.
As soon as the truck started to climb outside of Denver, it overheated. I figured something was wrong with the cooling system, so I called the road side assistance. After being on hold for 10 minutes, I got through to an operator, who couldn't locate me on a map, and so couldn't send anyone up to help. Why not just send them up the highway? How many 14' Budget trucks could there be by the side of highway 285, 10 to 15 miles out of Denver?
So I walked along the highway until I found an intersection. In the mean time, we were disconnected, so I had to call back, and sit on hold, with music fading in and out, interrupted by "all our operators are busy" every 30 seconds, for another 15 minutes. When I get through, the second agent asks if I can drive the truck back into Denver. Thinking that they could actually provide roadside assistance, I declined, as the engine temperature was barely below redline.
But when the mechanic finally called, he also wanted me to drive back down into Denver. By this time, nearly two hours had passed, and the engine had cooled down, so I did drive back to the city. When I finally met the mechanic, 3 hours after I first called for Roadside assistance, he inspected the truck and concluded that there was nothing wrong with the cooling system. The truck just couldn't handle the climb.
So they rented me a truck that can't climb a hill without overheating, for a drive with multiple passes over 10,000 ft. The mechanic offered a different truck from his Budget fleet, but it would take a full day for me to unload the whole truck and repack a new one, assuming that I could even fit it all back in, as it had been professionally packed. Budget certainly wasn't offering to help move my belonging, or ever offering to warrant that the new truck would be any better.
So I altered my route to go over passes that were less steep, and I drove off into the mountains, hoping the cool night air at high elevation would keep it from overheating again.
The truck, thankfully, had a gauge for temperature, not just an idiot light. So at the first pass, I kept slowing down as the temperature climbed. As I crested the pass at 15 miles per hour, the temperature had just started to redline at 260 degrees. It was midnight, and the next pass (Wolf creek) was steeper.
I debated a 4 hour detour into remote northern New Mexico, but I didn't want to risk a break down where cell phone coverage is limited, so I kept going. This time I slowed down to 15 mph as soon as it got steep. It took some time, but we crested the pass
(at 10 mph) without overheating.
I asked the Budget office in Durango not to rent the truck to anyone heading to the mountains. I'm trying to imagine the perils of going up Vail pass or up to Eisenhower tunnel on I-70 at 10 mph, or worse yet, trying to merge back into traffic at 5 mph after pulling over to let the engine cool.
I suspect that this type of adventure is not what most people have in mind when they rent a truck. I also believe that Budget deliberately understaff their help lines, deliberately have limited mechanics on call, and so deliberately provide inadequate roadside assistance, in the expectation that exasperated customers will find some way to cope.
Everyone at Budget was helpful - they just kept repeating that there was nothing they could do to help. Even when the truck wouldn't start after I got to Durango, the guy at the local Budget shop told me that, by policy, he couldn't come out to jump the truck until I'd contracted the 1-800 number. Instead I found a new neighbor who could give the battery a jump.
At the end of all this, I called customer service. They offered a 15% rebate for my trouble. I asked the customer service fellow if he thought a $47 rebate was reasonable compensation for this hassle. He just kept repeating that it was their policy. I have to agree with him.