“As far as I can tell, this company doesn’t have a clue about ethical business practices”

One of the most questionable business practices among car rental companies is when it resizes its fleets to lift profits, a practice apparently pioneered by Enterprise. But now Dollar appears to have outdone it by changing its car sizes at just one location.

David Costner describes his recent experience at Dollar in Boston as “a car rental experience that just about hits my worst-ever mark.”

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How so?

I reserved a full-size car. When I got there I was provided with a mid-sized car: a Hyundai Sonata, which is the car that Dollar actually uses as their definition of mid-sized on their site.

Let me interrupt Costner for a minute. Here’s the link to Dollar’s classifications.

When I questioned the substitution of the smaller car at the higher price, the counter agent, who I later realized was the location manager, screamed at me — something about, “Do you want to get a car here, or would you rather just get out and get one somewhere else. We don’t need your business”.

I should have given him the keys back and taken my business elsewhere, but I was already running late for an appointment. I figured I could call customer service, or deal with it when I returned the car.

Just to make a long story short, neither of those approaches have proved fruitful.

The one and only guy working when I returned the car was a Russian immigrant with no real English language skills and even less authority to do anything other than take my keys and drive me to the terminal. Lawanda, the customer service agent I talked to when I called their 800 number today, informed me that Dollar “can’t guarantee a car, only a price,” which misses the point entirely.

Dollar offered Costner a $20 gift card toward his next rental, which doesn’t even come close to fixing the problem.

I suggested he write to Dollar. Here’s where it gets interesting.

This is the response:

Thank you for notifying us of your recent experience with Dollar Rent A Car in Boston. On behalf of Dollar Rent A Car, please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience you experienced.

I apologize that you were not satisfied with the vehicle that you received. For the Boston location the Sonata is a Full Size car. I apologize for the misunderstanding. While reviewing the website, I found that we do not advertise the Sonata a midsize car for Boston.

We appreciate your business and hope you will allow us another opportunity to fulfill your car rental needs in the efficient, professional manner you expect and deserve. Thank you once again, Mr. Costner, for taking the time to notify us of this situation. We look forward to serving you again soon at Dollar Rent A Car.

Say what?

Costner says he’s left to conclude the following: “When the Sonata is in Boston, it becomes a full-sized car. Magic, I suppose.”

He adds,

As far as I can tell, this company doesn’t have a clue about ethical business practices. I won’t be doing business with them again.

I would have walked away when the manager started to yell at me, if not sooner. But this creative “resizing” based on location is totally absurd, and may, in part, explain why car rental companies are the first ones people think of when it comes to fees.

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