In May this year I had the worst car rental experience in my whole life - I'm travel agent and rented more than 1000 cars in my life but never had such a bad experience and I cannot tell you how extremely upset I am.
I had to decide pretty shortly to fly to Guatemala City then rent a car, ride to South Mexico, pick up some stuff from a resort I'm connected to, get some paper work signed and confirmed by a lawyer and then by a notary, return back to Guatemala, head to the the Northern border, unload my stuff and return back to Guatemala City. I knew that it might be difficult to cross the border to Mexico and therefore I tried to find a reliable rental company that allow to take the car to Mexico.
I had to make maybe 7 or 8 phone calls from Europe, first found one company that later told me that it was not possible and then found Budget. I explained that I had to ride to Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, and then back to Guatemala and that I needed to be in Mexico for 3 days and everything seemed to be OK.
To confirm I asked for an email address and I confirmed to the counter of Budget in Guatemala, received a confirmation from them and everything seemed to work out fine.
I had asked to get permission for the days of May 23, May 24 and May 25, 2008 and they confirmed.
When I reached I was very surprised that they told me that I had to purchase the insurance immediately. I crossed the border to Mexico from many spots and knew that there were insurance companies in the border towns and usually purchased the insurance there for approximatly 45 US$ a week. I usually then buy an insurance from ING insurance - they allow credit card payment and include a total care package into their rate where you can call a number in case you have any problem and they pick you up and fix everything - Budget in Guatemala City told me I had to purchase the insurance from them for 45 US$ per day and there was no care package. (By the way: Now they told me that I would not be allowed more than 350 Miles into Mexico - they did not mention this before and it's not on their website - but that should not be a problem!).
I asked again for 3 days of insurance.
In the end they gave me a lot of papers, made me sign the rental agreement and handed a permission to me to ride into Mexico the requested days. But I didn't receive any insurance policy and I asked for it. They answered I would not need that - they never had problems.
I have been living in Mexico for almost 5 months and I knew that this could be a huge problem - if you cannot prove that your car is insured they sometimes arrest you and ask lot of money - so I asked for the written confirmation. They said I was the first one who asked for these papers and they could not deliver this now. They promised that they would send the papers to my email adress and then when I reach the border I could print out this paper. I was not very comfortable but saw no other solution and left the office.
The next day I left Guatemala City pretty early and reached the border around 9.30 am. I did all the immigration and customs and crossed to the other side - there was no Internet cafe in the whole village and I had to continue to the next town to print out my insurance papers. Within the first 5 Miles I have been stoped by a check-point - I didn't have my insurance and they asked 800 Pesos for violating Mexican law. I had a lot of discussions and in the end after trying and trying the policeman agreed that I paid 200 Pesos to him - he wanted more and it took a lot of words to finally make him agree.
It was a hassle.
I reached the next village and finally found an Internet cafe, checked my email and there were no papers. I had to phone from Mexico to Guatemala and asked for the insurance and they promised to forward immediately and I waited and waited and nothing reached. At 11.20 I sent an email and I called again. They said they would send and again nothing happened and I waited and waited. I could not continue as I didn't have the insurance papers. At 12 noon I finally received the papers and I was very surprised that I received insurance just till May 25 12.noon so just for 2 days.
I called again but then continued my travel as I had the confirmation of insurance now and could continue without hassle.
Approximately 40 Miles past the border there's another customs check-point where you have to purchase the tourist license and I wanted to get this sticker. The officer asked for the insurance papers and then asked me for how many days I'm going to need the turist license. I told him for 3 and he declined. He said he could not give the license for more than the insurance lasts and not have the car licensed longer than May 25 at noon. It was a catastrophe.
I had to return into the next town approximately 7 Miles and in the meantime called Budget in Guatemala for the 5th time. I tried to speak to the same guy - he had left for lunch. So I spoke to a lady and later to somebody who seemed a supervisor to me. We discussed more than 10 minutes and I told him that I didn't want to spend more money on phone calls as this was extremely expensive and I asked to get the insurance papers for 3 days right away and he agreed.
So I looked for another Internet cafe and checked my email account and nothing happened. I called again and it looked as if nobody knew about my problem and I really freaked out and yelled into the phone that I wanted my papers immediately. I hang up and waited and nothing happened. At around 2.30pm it was enough and I searched for a rental company to rent a car that I could use without risking to get arrested or pay high fines and I found Thrifty and rented a car - it was a bad solution as this car was too small but I thought I could leave some of my stuff over at the place and pick it up next year or whenever I see an option to pick it up. I had to leave as I was already much too late for a first appointment. I rented this car at 3.21 pm in Tapachula approximately 30 Miles from the border and left my Budget car there and continued much too late and with a car much too small - it was a pain but at least I could continue.
Maybe you get aware that I left the border 6 hours after I reached the Guatemalan side.
I tried to re-organise my first appointment and found out that the paper work that we had to arrange with a lawyer could not been done as the moment when I should arrive the lawyer would have left for a weekend trip. It was an even bigger catastrophe - I invested some money into this resort and I arranged that the lawyer would write the title and the notary would by exception finalize the statement on Sunday so that I could return with my investment safe and not worry - now as the lawyer could not wait 5 1/2 hours more the whole plan spoilt and I had to cancel the appointment for Sunday morning with the notary too - one part of my trip from Europe did just not work out and till today I do not have a confirmation to secure my money, will have to fly over again and get this done to have a secure way to get back my investment - this is so unbelievable but it's not the end of this horror story:
I reached my final destination completely tired and 5 1/2 hours too late and packed my things together the next day. I stuffed into this VW Jetta whatever I could and had to leave some stuff over there - knowing that I'll have to ride there again, have to transfer the rest again through the whole of Guatemala and then finally send all the rest of my stuff back to Europe.
As my appointment for Sunday did not work out I could return earlier on Sunday and droped the Thrifty car and continued with the Budget car and did what I had to do the next days.
I reached the Budget office in Guatemala City at approximately 2.45 pm on Friday - wanted to do some shopping in Guatemala City after returning the car but this didn't work out neither: Everything was Ok with the car and they checked out at 3pm. I told about my story, had already sent several emails - told the consequences and they asked me to wait till the sales manager returned which would happen in approximateky 15 minutes. After 30 minutes the lady at the counter said he did not return but wanted to talk to me on the phone and after I explained the story again. He offered to give one free day to me which I didn't want to accept. I told him that I spent 20 US$ for the policeman, approximately 50 US$ on phone calls to Guatemala, 7 US$ for Internet use and printing, approximately 5 US$ gasoline in addition and 196.43 US$ for another rental car and I would not agree to get 65 US$ refunded as a free day. I spent approximately 270 US$ in addition and lost 5 1/2 hours and would not accept.
I said that I then would not accept the invoice and would write "not accepted" onto the credit card slip. That was when they decided not to hand out one of the virging credit card slips that I signed for security reasons and I asked this slip back. They refused.
I asked them to call the police as now I wanted this to be arranged by the police but they refused. Mrs.Maria Gonzales either sales manager or marketing manager reached and said that my reservation was not clear and it was a mis-understanding from both parties and she would not refund more. Can you imagine that I spent additional 1 hour and 45 minutes there before they finally agreed to hand over the virging credit card slip? Can you imagine that these people even spoilt my last day shopping in town? Can you imagine that these people (don't let me call them by the names that come spontaneously into my mind when I think of those people - as it's all the bad words I remember!) spoilt more than 7 hours of my time and 270 US$ of my money and do not want to take responsibility?
I could prove that I made reservation for 3 days insurance for Mexico! Here's a part of their confirmation (In Spanish):
"...es un placer de confirmar su reservacion de un Kia Magentis
llegando al aeropuerto den Guatemala City el ... de Mayo 2008 a las ...
y volviendo con el carro el ... de Mayo a las ... con permiso por 3 dias para conducir a Mexico." this means exactly: "with allowance for 3 days to drive in Mexico..." and nothing else!
This is a very clear reservation and they confirmed!
But that's not all: They have an offer to get Miles for the rental onto your flying Miles account - I asked for it and they didn't give it to me.
It's not the end:
Some days later I filled the form of Budget Customer service with the matter. I sent the form and received an email to confirm reception of the form and they promised to get back to me, but nothig happened. 5 days later did the same, filled the form again, received the confirmation email and nobody got in touch with me.
I finally called Budget customer service in the States from Europe and got in touch with S..., a very friendly customer service representative and told the whole story (22 minutes call) and she finally asked me to send the whole story via email, told me that it could take up to 6 weeks.
I sent an email after 7 weeks - no answer, then one week later, no answer and I called again and she told me that some days before 108.57 US$ had been refunded to my credit card - wow - you spend 270 US$ additiobal for their ignorance and they credit you one day (65 US$) and 108 US$. So, as a customer of such a company you pay 100 US$ on your own, lose 7 hours, miss appointments and get pissed and they just give you some tips?
ooooops, sorry - it's not yet over.
I waited and waited and after some time sent an email to Budget: No refund received - no answer. I sent another email and received the message: "Please ask your bank why this takes so long".
Now, 3 weeks and 5 days after they should have refunded this money there is still no refund. I called customer service yesterday, asked for a supervisor, and got in touch with J..., and J... was not very friendly - in the end he even hang up on me. Can you imagine how much this company pissed me off and then the supervisor hang-up on me? and I'm still waiting for my money.
Man, I will be praying the moment this endless nightmare will be over. Do you think I'll ever rent from Budget again?