Budget made a $426 mistake! Why do I have to pay for it?

A Budget mistake caused her to pay twice for the same car rental. Can we help. Michelle Couch-Friedman, author.

Eileen Wendorf says a Budget mistake caused her to pay twice for the same car rental. She wants her money back. But there’s a big problem with her discovery — it occurred nearly seven months after she returned the car.

Now she’s asking the Elliott Advocacy team to convince Budget of its expensive billing error and retrieve her $426 refund. Can we do it?

Wendorf’s dilemma is a reminder that when you self-book reservations, it’s imperative to stay well organized and vigilant. She made and canceled more than one car rental reservation before settling on a prepaid price. Shopping around snagged her a slightly lower rate, but ultimately it led to much bigger problems.

Looking for the best car rental deal

Wendorf says that she and her husband were planning a two-week trip to Oregon last fall. Early in her search for the best car rental deal, she made a reservation through Rentalcars.com. The rental was booked with Budget through Priceline.

“A week or so later, we saw a better rate for $414 for the same category car directly with Budget,” Wendorf recalled. “So we canceled the first reservation and booked the lower rate.”

The lower rate with Budget was a nonrefundable, prepaid rate. With their rental car confirmed, Wendorf says her thoughts turned to planning the rest of the trip.

No problems with this car rental

Wendorf says that she and her husband had a lovely time in Oregon. The car rental went off without a hitch. The couple picked up the car, drove it without incident and returned it as scheduled.

“When we returned the car, we handed the keys to the attendant,” Wendorf remembered. “He looked the car over and gave us the all-clear.”

Wendorf and her husband flew home and didn’t think much about that car rental until recently. In March, Wendorf was looking over some credit card bills from the end of last year. That’s when she made a surprising discovery.

Budget Rental Car had billed the Wendorfs twice for that Oregon rental. And Wendorf set off on a mission to get Budget to correct its mistake and refund one of the rental charges. This would soon prove to be a “Mission Impossible.”

A Budget mistake: charged twice for the same car rental

Wendorf called Budget and reported the mistake. She hoped the second charge would easily be reversed. But the Budget representatives told her that she had been a no-show for a nonrefundable reservation.

Wendorf was confused by Budget’s records. She had two credit card statements that showed that Budget had made a mistake and charged her twice for the same rental. She had not been a no-show — the couple had picked up the car, as scheduled.

But the Budget team continued to tell Wendorf that she had been a no-show. The correspondence from the car rental agency explained that she had multiple reservations. Budget had marked one of those, a prepaid reservation, as the no-show. Things were getting murkier by the moment and Wendorf wasn’t any closer to proving her case and getting a refund.

That’s when she reached out to the Elliott Advocacy team.

How else can I get this Budget mistake corrected?

When Wendorf contacted our team, she had a lengthy paper trail that chronicled her attempts to resolve her problem. After a credit card dispute failed because of the length of time from the billing error to the discovery, she had reached the end of her resources to resolve her problem.

Initially, I assumed that she had made multiple reservations and had forgotten to cancel one.

She certainly wouldn’t be the first consumer to make that mistake.

Wendorf insisted that she had not forgotten about any other reservation. But one of the emails from Budget mentioned a reservation from Priceline. I asked Wendorf if she had ever made a reservation with Priceline for this car rental. I feared that she had made a nonrefundable “Express Deal,” as Karin Fox recently did for her trip to Amsterdam.

Unfortunately, if a consumer books one of those surprise heavily discounted and nonrefundable deals, we can’t help.

But Wendorf was sure she had not booked such a deal. However, she went back through all her paperwork and made yet another discovery.

A cancellation confirmation for this rental car

“I’m sorry I never thought of this before,” Wendorf told me. “I made a rental through Rentalcars.com, but I also canceled it. But I now see in the fine print it says fulfilled by Priceline. This must be what Budget is talking about.”

It definitely was the genesis of Budget’s mistake. The good news is that Wendorf had a copy of the cancellation confirmation of that reservation.

The proof that Wendorf canceled the car rental reservation.
Proof of Budget’s mistake. The company used this canceled reservation for the couple’s car rental — and marked them as a no-show for their prepaid rental.

I compared the itinerary number from the Priceline reservation to the one that Budget eventually used. They matched. Although the couple showed up at the Budget counter as scheduled in time for their prepaid reservation, the Budget agents had used a canceled Priceline reservation for the booking instead. That was Budget’s mistake. But it ended up costing the Wendorfs an extra $426. That is until she happened to review her credit card statements seven months later.

Correcting Budget’s mistake

With all the evidence in hand, I reached out to our friends at the Avis Budget Group. I showed our executive contact Wendorf’s evidence that proved that she had not been a no-show for her Budget rental. The Priceline reservation had been canceled before the couple had made their prepaid Budget rental. Somehow the cancellation from Priceline had not been conveyed to Budget. That allowed the company to use that reservation instead of the prepaid reservation.

And soon came the welcome relief for the Wendorfs. Budget agreed to correct the billing mistake. All that was needed was an updated credit card and Budget would reverse the additional charge. Wendorf was thrilled.

Michelle, I cannot thank you enough for doing this for us!
Before you were interceding for us, we were getting nowhere.
We were on a prayer mission trip with this car rental. The fact that you helped us so much will bring many blessings into your life.
I [believe that] God will work abundantly on your behalf as you help others in their travels!
Thank you again!

I’m happy to have been able to help and appreciate Wendorf’s kind wishes for our mission here at Elliott Advocacy.

How can you avoid this kind of car rental trouble?

This summer many of us will rent cars during our vacations. There are a few things you can do to avoid finding yourself in this kind of car rental trouble.

  • Shop around, but maintain your records: In Wendorf’s case, it appeared that she and her husband were shopping around simultaneously. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you keep a list of all of your reservations. Unfortunately, the couple wasn’t even clear about which companies they had booked and canceled. Proper record-keeping is essential to ensure you don’t wind up in the same situation.
  • Bring your prepaid rental confirmation to the rental counter: The confirmation codes on Wendorf’s rental contract did not match her prepaid rental confirmation from Budget. The cost of the rental also didn’t match. If she had looked carefully at the contract she received and signed at pickup, she would have noticed something was wrong. Having a copy of the prepaid rental confirmation would have prevented this problem.
  • Check your credit card bills: Finally, an important point here is that travelers should always do a prompt and careful review of all of their credit card statements after a car rental or hotel stay. Remember, the Fair Credit Billing Act allows consumers to dispute billing errors, but there are time limitations. By the time Wendorf got around to reviewing her statement, that time limitation had elapsed. That was a mistake that almost cost her $426.

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