|(Image: Denver skyline - The Denver Post)|
Planning a trip to Denver, Colorado. The hotel website offered options to book a rental car, this one being through Budget Rent A Car. Of course, the hotel probably gets some kickback by advertising the car rental company - a referral bonus. Many companies do this and it is usually convenient for customers. Without checking into this well-known rental company, I decided to book an economy car through Budget Rent A Car.
It was a nice Fall day upon arriving into Denver. The high was 74-degrees (F). The airport shuttle to Budget was good. The check-in process was typical, trying the usual up-selling of unnecessary "features". "Are you going to be traveling in the mountains?" "No" "Ok because this car doesn't have much power for that." Does it have a pull string to start the motor at least?
That night, the weather turned bad. The low was in the twenties and for the next few days, the forecast was for a sort of "blizzard"...and not the Dairy Queen kind. The news had a special report about rental cars and the requirement for "snow tires" or "4-wheel drive". If you are in a car and you slide off the road, cause an accident or impede traffic because you have no traction, you could be at-fault or, at least, suffer unusual fines. It was time to call Budget Rent A Car and find out if the car had "snow tires". That's when the hell began.
Once you leave the Budget Rent A Car office with your rental, you no longer matter or exist to them. Calling their "local" number for information you get: 1) a menu of options which never help, 2) a "live agent" who knows nothing about Denver or the location you rented the car from and 3) an agent who barely speaks or understands English.
So you call the "303" number for the Denver International Airport Budget Rent A Car office and you never get someone who is at the Denver International Airport Budget Rent A Car office. Huh? If you call the toll-free U.S. number which, I believe, is routed to Bangladesh or Mumbai, for information about your car that was rented from the Denver International Airport Budget Rent A Car location, they tell you to call the local "303" number. And, when you call the local "303" number and finally get to a LIVE agent, they tell you they are not located at the Denver International Airport Budget Rent A Car office but will transfer you to the Denver desk. However, when they transfer you, the roulette wheel stops on either 1) another LIVE agent not located at the Denver International Airport Budget Rent A Car office, or 2) it just hangs up on you. I mean, why would they want to talk to you? You're just a customer to them.
The company name is "Budget" so I don't have high expectations from the company but I would like to talk to someone who can tell me if the car has snow tires and, if not, what are my options. No one knows. The phone calls continued for more than 2-hours, promptly answered by someone in Mumbai, transferred, hung up or re-routed again into the system until it did hang up. Someone would answer, "well you need to go to the Denver rental office and talk to them." Why have a "local" number or "for questions about your rental, call this number" if I have to actually visit the Denver office to talk to someone????? How do you say "stupid" in India?
It is now snowing heavily. Another hour in Budget Rent A Car's phone hell. Another "you need to go to the office to talk to them personally" in a car that may, or may not, have snow tires. The "customer service" reps could not even tell me if they had all-wheel-drive vehicles at the Denver location. Nobody knows anything.
After not getting anywhere with the phone version of Budget Rent A Car, at 4:30 AM (that's 4:30 in the morning), we decided to pay a visit to the Denver International Airport Budget Rent A Car office. This is where hell became tolerable - the agent (only one in the office) was very helpful and understanding. None of the cars have snow tires, they are all "all season" tires.
Note to Budget Rent A Car corporate: If you have a rental facility in a location that gets snow like, I don't know, DENVER, why not spend a little extra for snow tires? Or, is it better to create aggravation and bad customer service for your customers? Snow tires also add safety in these conditions...if "safety" is even important to you.
Back to the Denver rental office. The early-morning agent was very helpful and eventually got us into an all-wheel drive vehicle. The first vehicle was a monstrous Jeep Wrangler 4x4. It was difficult to get into and out of unless you had mountain climbing gear and a safety harness. I also could not figure out the 4-wheel-drive stick. The agent then referred us to a Subaru Legacy with all-wheel drive. This was a comfortable car and handled well for the short time we could drive it - the next 3-days were like a blizzard with below-freezing temperatures and several inches of snow accumulating. It wasn't worth venturing out and taking a chance. Denver had reported over 100 accidents each day during the snow storm which was already unseasonable for October.
On the final full-day of vacation, the weather and roads cleared up. It was still below freezing, but time to go somewhere. On the way, a rock was picked up by another vehicle and launched at our windshield causing a 6-8" crack. This was reported to insurance and to Budget. Upon returning to the Denver International Airport Budget Rent A Car office, an agent found an incident form and helped in filling it out - although a lot of the form was left blank - no "written statement" was needed, just name, address, insurance name and claim number...that was it. I'm not sure the agent was well-versed on completing this claim form. Now we wait a week for the incident to be processed.
Budget Rent A Car did have low (the lowest?) car rental prices and the cars were clean, although the first car did have some scrapes on the exterior - I'm sure the previous customer was charged for them but the money was never used to fix the repair. If you are looking for no-frills, no customer service and no way to contact someone by phone with any knowledge of their own car rental company...Budget Rent A Car is a good option.
If you check out Budget Rent A Car on social media, which I didn't before renting with them, you will read comments from other "satisfied" customers - the lack of customer service being a chief complaint. Also suspect are the many comments related to charges for body damage a month, or longer, after the rental is returned. What? Yes, apparently, you can return a car to Budget and a month or more later they discover it has damages and bill you for it. And, on their own social media page, what is Budget's response? Nothing. On a few other comments from customers who have had issues, Budget does ask for a private message, to include the reservation number, and a representative will get back to you. Let's hope the representative understands the language and doesn't ignore you on social media.
In conclusion...my vote on Budget Rent A Car?