Monday, January 06, 2014

Bait and switch

“And of course, insurance is extra. Additional drivers are extra. Satellite radio is extra. GPS is extra. If you don’t pay for fuel in advance and you bring it back less than brim full, we’ll charge you the GDP of Latvia to gas it up. And all quoted prices are plus tax, so that we appear 6% less villainous.”

Such are the delights of car rental in the United States, where most domestic customers have their own motor insurance that covers rental cars when they’re away from home.

Way back, I used to trot along to Hertz in Dubai to book and pay for car rental up front, in advance, and in full. Then, arriving at Hertz at Washington Dulles airport, I was handed a car and everything was paid for. Sadly, this arrangement has now gone away. When I tried recently, Hertz in Dubai could only book a car; I’d have to pay when I picked it up, and I wouldn’t be told how much the insurance would cost until I got there.

Result? Not fancying spending any time over a barrel, Beloved Wife got on line and booked and paid for everything, including a second driver and fully comprehensive insurance.

At Hertz at Dulles, the first thing we learned is that ticking the ‘Additional Driver’ box didn’t add His Goatness to the insurance, and to do so would be an additional $91 for the week. Plus tax. Secondly, the motor insurance paid for covered only the vehicle, and would we like additional cover at a mere $12 per day, plus tax? Nope. Would we like to pay for a full tank of ‘energy’ at below pump price and return the car empty? Yes, we’ll have that, and we’ll bring the car back on the last traces of hydrocarbon fumes.

Finally, because Beloved Wife had picked a sub-compact car, because it was cheapest, would we like to upgrade to something more sensible than a Fiat Cinquecento for two grown adults and their luggage?

“Nah… we rented one of those last year and it was just fine. They can ford 15 inches of water, you know…”

“But a more realistic car is a mere $10 a day extra. Plus tax.”

“Fiat 500, please. No additional costs, thank you. We’ll be just fine. We’ll drop the back seat to get our luggage in.”

Ms Hertz finally relented, and told us to collect our car from Bay #1. The car turned out not to be a Cinquecento, nor a Yaris, but a Chevrolet Sonic. This vehicle is still technically a sub-compact, and compared to a Toyota Tundra it’s minuscule, but the Sonic has an enormous boot and four doors, along with satellite radio and a cruise control, all of which are optional extras at additional cost at the Hertz desk. And we had our own GPS too, saving a further $5 a day. Plus tax.

Here, then, is the Bait and Switch: offer a ludicrously tiny car, then attempt to get the customer to pay to upgrade it. As they didn’t have any Cinquecentos, Hertz had to upgrade us for nuppence.

Incidentally, after we returned the car, coasting down the ramp on the last teaspoon of fuel, a fellow customer shared his experience with us. He was offered a bigger car because of his luggage, and only later discovered the additional cost.


No comments:


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.