March 30, 2004


You'd think... you'd just think that being within 100 miles of the real Alamo, that the Alamo rent-a-car people would want to be on their best behavior. When you think of central Texas, you remember the Alamo. Now, when I remember the Alamo, I'm going to remember my car rental experience in Austin.

When I picked up the car, I presented my printed-out reservation and confirmation number with the quoted rate of $98.94. When I walked away from the counter, due to my lack of detail, I was leaving with a rental contract that said $313.60. When we returned to drop the car off, I asked the guy checking it in what I could do about it.

"Uh... for rate problems, you have to go inside."

So I went inside. After extensive explaining and recounting of my situation, the lady behind the counter said, "well, we can try and credit your account, but I have to have a manager do that, and he won't be in until tomorrow." So I left the counter with my confirmation numbers in hand and a promise that I'd be credited and get a fax as confirmation.

Monday comes and goes... and no fax.

So, I pull up my confirmation and my credit card website showing the whole bill and give Austin Alamo a call. After a not-too onerous voicemail tree, I get to a live person.

"Hi, this is Heidi."

"Can I speak to a manager?"

"Well... they're not here behind the desk... I'd have to call one. What do you need?"

Ten minutes elapses while I explain my situation and she looks it all up on the computer.

"Um... I can't credit your account, but let me call a manager."


When I get to the manager, he's been explained my problem, so he's about to get me credited when he says,

"Uh... I ran into a slight problem."


"Southwest [through whom I placed the reservation] will let me credit three days of your reservation, but it won't let me credit the first day because you picked the car up two hours early."

"So what are you going to do about that?"

"I can send you a coupon for a free day's rental."

Whatever. "Okay, I'll accept that."

The car rental will end up costing $140 instead of the $98 quoted. Amortized over four days, that's not horrible. And, really, I should have caught the wrong rate on the front end. The moral of the story is, don't pick up your rental car before your reservation time, and DON'T forget to read the rate you get on your rental agreement.

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