Help! My son was ripped off by Budget

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Sally VanZandt was trying to help her son, Kyle, by making a reservation for his rental car in Milwaukee. Kyle is 25 years old and was “too busy” to make the reservation himself, she says.

But there was one thing she couldn’t do for him when he arrived at the counter: protect him from what she says are Budget’s predatory practices of adding extras to the bill.

She’d like our help in getting those surcharges removed.

“I did a pre-paid reservation online for $101,” she explained. “I ordered exactly what I wanted him to have, and was trying very hard to get the lowest price I could for this rental. I told him that all he had to do was go to the desk at the Milwaukee airport and pick up the car – everything he needed had been paid for already.”

Kyle and a friend showed up at the counter. An employee asked them why they were in town. They said they were there for a wedding.

“All she said, once she found out they were in town for a wedding, was that they should have a larger car and that she had a nice Impala for them,” says VanZandt. “The way she phrased it was like she was being kind and just giving them a larger car. She did not ask them if they wanted to pay extra for a larger car, nor did she quote the price for the larger car or additional services.

And here’s what they ended up paying extra for:

Upgrade $54

Loss Damage Waiver/Collision Damage Waiver $86.97

Personal Accident and Effects Insurance $20.85

Supplemental Liability/Third Party Insurance $47.25

Roadside SafetyNet $20.97

Additional Driver $39.00

Whoa, that’s a lot of upgrades. Kyle ended up shelling out an extra $303 after taxes for the rental.

“I asked both Kyle and his friend independently what the desk agent said to them and their recall of the interaction is identical,” she says. “They both said that at no time did the desk agent ask them if they wanted a larger car or the many additional services or coverages.”

VanZandt appealed to Budget via the executive contacts on our site. That resulted in the following response:

We have reviewed your son’s rental with the District Manager of the Milwaukee Airport.

We apologize for the miscommunication concerning the acceptance of the coverage and upgrade fee linked with his rental.

The signed contract does detail the acceptance of these ancillary products.

However, due to the apparent miscommunication we have adjusted 25 percent of the amount billed over the prepayment. A credit of $75.95 has been issued to the MasterCard linked with the rental.

“Budget took advantage of a first-time renter who didn’t know what questions to ask,” she told me. “Even I, as an experienced consumer, would have thought that they would be giving me exactly what I ordered with my pre-pay. Apparently, the order online does not serve as a contract or commitment to deliver exactly what was ordered.”

She adds, “Clearly, this isn’t enough to make up for their deceptive practices. I’d like to ask you to help get a full refund of the $303 extra that they charged us.”

Now, some of you will be tempted to say that VanZandt’s son is a big boy, and needs to fight his own battles. But I would urge you to temper your comments. I think it’s great when a mom tries to help her son with travel arrangements.

Part of the problem here is that even though we have two eyewitnesses to the transaction, the signature says Kyle accepted the upgrades. If this were to go to a credit card dispute, he would lose.

At the same time, I know Budget’s employees are trained to upsell. I have no doubt that the employee at the Milwaukee counter was trying to persuade Kyle and his friend to accept an upgrade. But did she convince them to accept the upgrades without adequate explanation?

Should I take Kyle VanZandt case?

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