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Budget Car Rentals / excessive per gallon charge

1 AirportAlbuquerque, NM, United States

My wife and I recently went on a vacation with our 2 children and rented a car from Budget car rentals. We were greeted at the rental counter by a very friendly staff and were having multiple conversations between the staff members and our family regarding where we were from, and what we would be doing while visiting the state (New Mexico). They pointed at the monitor for us to check off what we thought were the appropriate boxes regarding extra insurance, mileage, gas… the standard stuff on the agreement forms while we were all engaged in pleasant conversation. How wrong we were.

When it was time for us to return the car we were searching for a gas station so that we could replace the 14 gallons we had used on our vacation. There were no gas stations visible from the freeway, and the few times we took an off-ramp there were no gas stations, or signs indicating a gas station around. Since we were unfamiliar with our surroundings, and we had to get to the airport, we decided to just bring the car back and pay the extra price per gallon to have Budget refill the tank. Apparently, since we did not check the box to have them fill up the tank when we returned the rental, the price changed from what would have been $2.45 per gallon to $9.29 PER GALLON! The fuel charge totaled $130.98 for $34 worth of gas!!! Almost a $100 extra charge just because the box was unchecked. This information was buried in the agreement, was not made clear to us initially, and as I mentioned earlier, we were distracted by pleasant conversation at the time of the rental.

When we asked to have the punitive amount taken off and replaced with what the price would have been had we known how ridiculous the charge would be, we were coldly told that "that's what you agreed to." When I asked WHY the cost PER GALLON was so high they mechanically responded, "that's policy." There was zero compassion and understanding from the staff as to why we would be irate at an almost $7 dollar PER GALLON service charge. Every response was like a recording, "that's policy", "that's what you agreed to"… When I asked them "who in their right mind would EVER agree to that type of charge" they keep up with their impersonal mantra. By-the-way, this was on Mother's Day.

We asked to speak with the manager (Laura Warfield) and as you can probably guess, she responded with the same inhuman responses - no compassion and zero customer service. I reminded the manager that this was Mother's Day and that my wife, and mother of my children, was devastated at the lack of caring and understanding we were being shown by Budget. The manager quipped, "Well, I'm not going to do anything to reduce the charges".  I then responded, "So you could do something, you just won't right? It is up to you." The manager replied, "I can give you the entire rental for free if I wanted. I'm not going to do anything."

When I returned home I called the customer service number and was given the exact same responses. No help at all and once again, no compassion. The phone representative went into repeat mode stating "it is a valid charge." I responded, "$9.29 per gallon is NEVER a valid charge when gas prices in that state are around $2.30 a gallon." You'd be surprised that his response was, "it is a valid charge."  They couldn't care less about me as a customer and they have made it clear that is the case. I am merely a case number to them. I'm not sure why the phone number listed was referred to as a customer service number. The outrage I felt was/is palatable. No willingness to compromise on behalf of the customer what-so-ever! Just animatronic responses and a pass-the buck mentality.
If Budget car rentals, a company we have rented with for years and spent thousands of dollars with, is incapable of the most basic customer service or general decency, I suggest everyone stay clear of them. I guess they are doing so well that one small customer doesn't matter to them. The treatment I have received has turned me into an advocate against Avis/Budget group. I have a case pending with their corporate offices but from what I've experience from multiple Budget representatives, I fear the only recourse I have is to shout it from the mountain top how horribly they treat their customers if there happens to be an issue of sorts. I teach college and will make it my mission to educate the thousands of students I have to avoid using Budget or Avis. My voice is small but much bigger than most.

May 31, 2015

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