TRAVEL with pat and lew

* let down by Budget Car Rental in Rouen

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 25, 2007

On our way to Normandy, we train and taxi to the Budget location which is not at the station. We resolve to favor, from now on, car rental companies which are at the station. For this and other reasons, we’re beginning to re-think my choice of Budget as our car rental company.

The next hour provides much more reason to do so.

Our car is waiting for us. While doing the paperwork, I repeat that we are declining the collision insurance (covering damages to our rental car) since this coverage is provided by our Citibank MasterCard. I then say, offhandedly, that I understand the liability insurance (covering damage to other property and persons) is automatically included in French car rentals, which I have been told by Budget US when making the reservation.

The local Budget manager says this is not true, and if we want 3rd party liability insurance, it will cost 25 euros per day, 100 euros total for the 4 day rental. I protest, and ask him to call Budget in the US to resolve the question. Instead, he calls a friend of his who speaks better English, and after several interchanges between the friend, the manager, and me, he reluctantly agrees to call Budget’s main French office in Paris.

I explain the issue to the English speaking person, who says she thinks I am correct, but will check with her supervisor to be sure. She leaves me on hold so long I think we’re cut off, and I ask the local manager to call again.

Instead he calls the friend.

As you can imagine, this has taken a long time – we’ve now been waiting for 30 minutes with all these phone calls, and everyone is getting aggravated. Finally, the manager again calls Budget in Paris, and remarkably, I speak to the same woman, who tells me I’m correct, that 3rd party liability insurance is included in all French car rentals without separate charge.

So it’s now clear that the local Budget manager was trying to charge me 100 euros ($140.00) for something he knew, or should have known, I did not need.

OK, now to the car, which upon inspection, is filthy.

All that time on the phone, the manager did not see fit to make sure the car was cleaned. We wait another 15 minutes while the attendant cleans the inside of the car. By then, we say enough and decline the exterior cleaning.

When we return the car four days later, our charge sheet includes the CDW insurance we had specifically and explicitly declined, and some other charges. I’m furious. The desk clerk calls someone (the manager?) and the charges are removed. I get copies of both charge sheets so I can later document my complaint letter to Budget. We also decide to cancel all remaining Budget reservations (Ireland, Italy, Key West, etc, etc, and do business with another car rental company.

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