Sunday, June 29, 2008

The car rental business

There's been an ad running on radio recently where Budget are offering a single class upgrade, for free, for every car rental. They bill this with various superlatives such as 'rent with genius' and they seem to be trying to appeal to those of us, such as myself, who've had to travel a lot as part of the job and yet aren't high enough on the totem pole to warrant a luxury car.

Never mind the fact that I don't care much about what I drive; its sole purpose is to get me from point A to point B. But you, knowing that I drive, by choice, a Kia Rio, already knew that!

Call me a cynical old bastard if you will but I'm deeply suspicious of the entire ad. It seems to me that Budget have found themselves with a pile of larger so-called luxury vehicles that no one, in these days of higher petrol prices, wants to rent. I'd guess they have far more bookings for economy vehicles than they have economy vehicles. How to avoid pissing off the customer who made the economy booking only to be disappointed? Aha, genius! Let's offer *everyone* a single level 'free' upgrade!

Hmmm, that sounds a lot like reclassifying a compact as an economy, or a midsize as a compact. And if I, booking a compact, am going to be lumbered with a midsize, whether I want it or not, how is that an 'upgrade'?

It's been a common enough trick in my experience; book off a website, front up and 'oh we're sorry sir, we don't have that model. I can let you have this for only $12 a day more'. How very generous.

As for me? If I book an economy that's what I expect. If they* want to foist something larger off on me I'll have no qualms about submitting a bill for the extra petrol it used. Whether they'll pay it is another question entirely but at least it'll annoy em! Who knows, they might even start rethinking their business strategy.

There you go, cynicism and naïveté in the same post!

*they, in this context, means any car rental company, not just Budget.

1 comment:

Nish said...

Hertz has this one-class upgrade too - they do it via coupons. You can only go as high as full-size car though - means you can't get a full-size and ask for a free upgrade to a compact SUV.

I usually find that I get better rates with my AAA discount, so I use that instead of the coupons. Cannot combine the offers though - that'd have been neat :-)