When is an ID not valid?
If you said, “When it suits the company asking for it,” then maybe you know Michael Kahn.
“This was an unusual circumstance,” he says, “but it might happen to someone else.”
A few weeks ago, he reserved the car from Avis in Monterey, Calif., but left his driver’s license at his hotel’s registration desk while traveling. He obtained a temporary license, which is valid in the state of California, except that it doesn’t have a photo.
Just to be safe, Kahn brought his temp license and his passport to Avis when he picked up the car.
The representative at the Avis counter turned her nose up at the dual IDs.
“She told me in the most arrogant and obnoxious manner that company policy wouldn’t allow her to honor my reservation,” he says.
Avis is clear about what it does — and doesn’t — accept. “Avis rents to customers between the ages of 21-24 with an Avis-honored credit card and valid driver’s license,” it says on its site.
Clearly, Kahn was renting with a valid license. And for added security, he’d presented the Avis rep with a valid passport, which should have removed any doubt that he was who he said he was.
So why turn him away?
An Avis spokeswoman says the company policy was incorrectly applied.
“A valid U.S. passport is a commonly accepted form of identification,” she told me. “The name must match the name on the renter’s U.S.-issued driver’s license. A temporary driver’s license is acceptable only if it has no restrictions and is valid for the entire period of the rental.”
Kahn had no trouble taking his perfectly valid license to Hertz and getting a car.
“Seems like an illogical policy,” he added. “And my policy, going forward, is not to use Avis — ever again.”
That leaves us to speculate. And here’s where it gets interesting.
I’m willing to bet Kahn found a dirt-cheap rental online. Perhaps the Avis representative saw this money-losing booking and saw a revenue-enhancing business opportunity in the photo-less license.
By turning Kahn down, he could go to another agency. (Good riddance, you cheapskate.) Then again, maybe the agent thought she could cancel the old reservation (after all, how could she be sure it’s really him?) but make a new booking at a more expensive walk-up rate. That would be devious.
Ah, but who knows?
Anyway, the Avis policy of not accepting a valid license or a passport can’t possibly benefit customers, particularly those with valid IDs. And it can only inconvenience legitimate renters like Kahn, who just want the car they reserved.
I’ve come across many ridiculous car rental policies in my years of advocacy, but this surely must be one of the most absurd ones. Although I completely favor verifying a renter’s identity, I don’t see how much more information you can reasonably ask from a customer.
A blood sample, maybe? A DNA test?
Now that’s something I’d like to see.