Buffalo, NY — Attorney Jeffrey Freedman, is considering legal action against Costco Travel and Budget Rental Car for the use of “bait and switch” tactics, excessive fees, fraud and breach of contract. Freedman reported he felt as though he and his wife had been dropped into a 20-year-old Seinfeld episode when neither the four-door sedan they reserved through Costco Travel in Buffalo two weeks prior to their vacation, nor any other vehicle was available upon their arrival at Budget Rental Car in Baltimore, MD. In fact, the couple stood in line with 50 other customers waiting for cars they had reserved ahead.
“When we got to the line, Budget’s employees announced no cars were available but as the vehicles currently out were returned, customers in line who had reserved cars would have their reservations fulfilled,” Freedman said. “They did not tell us we would wait three hours, and we were not guaranteed to get the model of car we had reserved.”
It is common practice at car rental agencies to over-book reservations, reasoning that some people never pick up their vehicles. Just as often, however, customers extend their rental periods or keep cars longer than planned without notifying the companies, leaving the agencies short of vehicles.
After the wait, the couple was offered a full-size pick-up truck or a Mustang. They chose the Mustang and went through the prompts on the Budget-provided keypad, which showed the total cost at $1,027.14 for seven days, instead of the $420.70 stated on their contract with Costco. When they inquired about the additional costs, the couple was told they were due to a “refundable security deposit.”
A later reading of the contract revealed Freedman was charged for: Loss Damage Waiver ($30.99/day plus tax), Personal Accident and Effects ($9.95/day); Supplemental Liability Insurance ($15.50/day), 1 RSN ($48.93/week), and Gas Service Option ($82.48/week). Most consumers are covered for these contingencies by their own auto insurance policies and/or their credit card holders, yet rental car companies press customers to agree to them because their employees are paid commissions on the “extras,” according to online sources.
Freedman called Budget customer service and was told the charges could not be changed over the phone, he would have to return to the rental office (a one-hour drive), which he did the following day, where he again waited in line — without success. Over the next seven days he made multiple phone calls, attempted to meet with the manager, and later; sent a letter from his attorney directed to Joe Ferraro, president and CEO of the Avis Budget Group.
“My intent is to shine a light on this issue,” Freedman said. “According to its online reviews, Budget repeatedly treats their customers the way we were treated: they disregard reservation contracts, use online systems that confuse consumers as to what they are paying for, and then expect people who have been bilked to walk away and forget these incidents. I am not walking away.”
The only response Freedman has had is the offer of a $750 credit to his credit card, which he feels is not sufficient compensation for the hours spent trying to resolve the issue, the inconvenience and loss of vacation time.