Of course, I’m writing about the rent-a-car industry in general, because I doubt what I have to say is unique to one company in particular. But the company I especially have in mind, on this day, the twenty-sixth of December, is Budget.
Say you want to take your family on Christmas vacation. Say, further, that you want to visit your parents especially because you have four children, ages 5 through 12 currently, who see very little of their grandparents.
So you plan ahead. You do your research. You make a “reservation” with Budget for a vehicle that will fit your whole family–with no idea that the word must be framed in quotation marks. (Side note: imagine further that you do not have a vehicle for the whole family. You and your wife now take two cars with kids split between them when the whole family must go some place. Using one family vehicle on a road trip is not an option.)
So you’ve done your job. You have your agreement in black and white. You can move on to other aspects of the Christmas season, feeling that this part of your plan is taken care of.
But its not.
Turns out, the only thing you “reserve” with a rent-a-car company, is the price if you should rent some vehicle, any vehicle they are willing to give you out of what is left on their lot. And, odds are, none of those will seat six passengers legally. Or practically–maybe they’ll offer you a town car that will allow you to make the 10+ hour trip with three across the front seat.
And then you will realize, as you give silent thanks that the friend who dropped you off hasn’t left yet, that you were never anything but a minor bet on the part of the company to protect them for losses. As the company drones wring their hands over an empty lot, you know the corporation is thrilled to have all their vehicles in use. All you did was give them a sense of security in November that, if nothing better turned up, at least you would give them $429 and some change the week after Christmas. But they never had any obligation to you and your planned trip at all. The grandchildren, who have been constantly asking about the visit, and your promises, mean nothing to them.
This stupid, venal, turd of a company deliberately spread the delusion that I had it in my power to plan a trip to Texas. They robbed me and my children and there is not a thing I can do about it.