Beware The Budget YVR Upgrade... 'They're Just Trying To Get You'

Open Jaw

“They’re just trying to get you.” A Budget employee’s words, not ours.

Anyone who’s ever rented a car knows that the experience and pricing can vary somewhat depending on the franchise you are dealing with and some are more trustworthy than others. In some cases, it’s a wild west of charging whatever you can get away with until the client objects.

A case in point is the Budget YVR location which is no stranger to controversy. *

Open Jaw founder Suzanne Christie rented an SUV for 6 days from that Budget location this past Christmas. Although she’s rented SUVs from them or Avis for the past 3 years, this year, Christie experienced a dramatic change in the process and pricing. Her rental fee for the same duration and approximately the same vehicle went from about $1,200 to $4,398 and Budget doesn’t seem to be able to explain why.

The only explanation that makes any sense at all is the one from the Budget staffer who told her, “They’re just trying to get you.”

Open Jaw reached out to a former car rental executive to get an insider’s perspective. While not wishing his name to be used, he offered the following comment: “I’ve seen this a couple of times in my car rental life and now as a consumer where some locations are holding back high-demand inventory so they can max out on walk up rates. Following the airline premise, upgrading at the last minute is often ridiculously expensive. But at least airlines publish those fares.”

The former rental executive said that counter staff are “highly incentivized” to upsell, and “on the surface it would appear that an overzealous seller and an eager or distressed buyer collided.”

“The car rental industry still needs to do more on transparency - inconsistent car classes, upgrade charges, extra fees - but they also need the backing of the credit card companies to be able to enforce no-show charges,” the former executive added. “It’s way too easy for consumers to hold 2 reservations “just in case” and then the rental company is stuck with an unrentable car, which contributes to the gouging - or making hay when the sun shines – from the rental location’s perspective.”

Here’s the background in brief: The past 2 rentals had been for Ford Explorers for 6 days and cost approximately $1,200. This year Christie tried to book an SUV online with both Avis & Budget, but the category wasn’t available. So Christie booked a Budget Dodge Caravan, for a total rate of $1,034.14. On arrival, Christie realized that her party of 7 and their luggage would not be accommodated in the Caravan and the counter staff offered an upgrade to a Ford Explorer MAX SUV and Christie agreed.

When the rental agreement was produced, sticker shock set in – a $1,000 rental had just ballooned to over $4,000. Feeling there was little option, Christie went ahead with the rental.

“When I returned the vehicle, I asked an employee for the daily rate for a Ford Explorer MAX. He didn’t know. I told him what I paid and he said ‘Oh, they’re just trying to get you.”

To add insult to injury, the estimated charges had jumped from $4,131.99 to $4,398.81. Christie spoke to the manager, who first offered a 10%, then a 15% discount. With the 15% discount, final net charges and taxes were $3,750.20.

Christie knows that she accepted the price and paid it. What she’s concerned about is the process, and the less-than-transparent way Budget YVR rents such vehicles. “The manager at Budget’s YVR location said I got their published pricing – but I hadn’t been able to find any published pricing, ” Christie says.

Following up, Christie spoke with Budget YVR Recruitment, Sales & Service Manager Jason Lewis who offered a future discount. Christie refused telling him he had missed the point of her inquiry. He has sent Christie a sample of Budget YVR’s published pricing for SUV’s indicating the counter rate of $84 per day for premium models.

Budget-YVR spokesperson Anna Oglestone says she investigated Christie’s complaint and confirmed that the location was sold-out for SUVs at the time of Christie’s booking. “The vehicle that you rented during this trip was rented to you at the price it would have been booked at had it been open for a reservation,” Oglestone said providing the screen shot below of pricing for November 2015 at $429 for a 7 day premium SUV rental.

Oglestone also suggested that booking early brings a lower price and she correctly stated that the Ford Explorer MAX, outfitted as it was with snow tires, was a higher-value rental than the models Christie had rented in previous years.

Oglestone then offered a free rental day and a 15% discount on a future rental. Christie says that response is also missing the point and there will be no future rentals. And, we’re not sure we are any further ahead in figuring out Budget’s pricing and customer service policies… but we do know you should never upgrade at the counter.

* CBC reported in November, 2012 that 3 former employees had contacted its Go Public investigative unit with allegations that the Vancouver-area operation systematically and intentionally rips off customers, by grossly overcharging for minor repairs that sometimes aren’t even done. The same news outlet published new allegations in February, 2014.


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