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How to avoid getting cheated when renting a car, and save some money.
You have probably been cheated and didn't know it.
I spent over a year working in the car rental industry, and its one of the worst industries to be affiliated with. Countless times I witnessed my co workers lying, and cheating customers. After my first week I fully understood why they were behaving like sharks. The company wanted them that way, and didn't reprimand them even when they got caught. I didn't make much money there because I refused to stoop as low as my coworkers to optimize a rental contract.
I requested to take 3rd shift because that shift wasn't pressured to sale as much, or so I thought. Shortly after taking the 3rd shift I was discriminated against by management. I was supposed to receive special training to do managerial work after hours, because its so slow. But I was never trained, and I was punished once for sitting in a managers chair. To make matters worse on a very slow shift Management started pressuring me to rip off customers. Using those unethical sales tactics. The only reason there was a 3rd shift is because the airport forced the company to stay open around the clock. The store was mainly open to check in cars late at night, and clean them.
The dirty dozen.
rental agents are desperate for money, and will do anything to get it!.
witnessed 70% of customers being taken advantage of by rental
agents several different ways. Many customers are not even aware they
are being cheated when rental agents sell them upgrades,optional
coverages,perform personal credit checks,include miscellaneous
fees,taxes,pre-paid gasoline,& charges for minor damages to a vehicle.
It was making me sick to observe all the shady tactics my coworkers were using to make a few dollars, and meet or attempt to exceed the goals set by the companies pay out yield. Car rental companies require rental agents to meet certain goals before giving them commissions or earning incentives. This policy really brought out the absolute worst in employees. All of the agents I worked with blatantly lied to customers just to get a sale.
I recall witnessing a rental agent boldly lie to a customer. Claiming the car they were booked in was unavailable because the customer didn't want to buy the loss damage waiver. After 10 minutes of giving the a customer a bogus sales pitch, the customer caved in. The agent swindled the traveler into paying for an upgrade they didn't want. The customer took it because the alternative vehicle the agent offered was nowhere near comparable to what they booked. This alone violates company procedure, but when an agent is caught being dirty they get laughed at by management.
In another instance a foreign customer came in with a reservation to rent a car for 28 days. The customer denied optional coverages, and didn't want anything extra charged on his bill. The rental agent put it on anyway quadrupling the customers bill! The customer didn't even realize they were cheated until they were back home a month later looking at their credit card statement.
This customer was swindled because he understood very little english, and rental agreements place a final total as an estimated charge. The agent can easily misrepresent charges about a customers total if the customer doesn't read the agreement carefully. Various things affect the final cost such as bringing the car back late or early, not refueling the vehicle, & taxes.
The rental agent was more inclined to cheat this customer because having all those unprofitable rental days under their name lowers the percentage needed to reach a goal to get paid a commission. One agent in particular would ask me to take the loss by putting the contract in my name. I was working midnights, and never made a payout or reached the goal because my shift was very slow.
The work environment in this industry is very high
pressure, & stressful. Often managers are constantly looking over
an agents shoulder. Some will even antagonize an agent after the
customer leaves if they didn't sell anything extra. Agents can even
lose their jobs for falling behind ridiculous goals set by the company. Quite often the only person who made a commission every month was the "tyrant" of the sells counter. This person would use every trick in the book to dupe a customer.
Many of the goals set by the company were unfair. Too many variables affect if an agent has an opportunity to meet the goals. Lack of fleet inventory, poor sales motivation from management, weather conditions, current events in town, the number of agents staffed at the counter, & certain shifts had an effect on the performance of sales. The company created this policy because they were essentially cheating their agents. If an agent made the company an extra 30k in revenue for the month, and didn't hit a certain percentage yield they wouldn't get a penny. If they did come in a certain range of the yield they would get 1% or 2%. Most of the time all the money went to the house. Its just like gambling in a casino. The company cheats its employees, the employees cheat the customers. The shit just rolls down, and never back up.
Many customers get ripped off because the overall experience of traveling wears down a person. And by the time they get to the rental car facility they just want to get the keys, and go. Travelers rarely fully understand what there signing, and many of them don't read the rental contracts because they place a false sense of trust in the person standing behind the counter.
It gets even worse if a traveler arrives late at night or if their flight was delayed. These travelers are usually not mentally alert to deal with intricate details of renting a car unless they are frequent renters. They often get tricked into paying for a frivolous upgrade, buying prepaid gasoline, & adding an additional driver when they may not have one.
How to avoid getting ripped off.
If you're in the market to rent a car follow these tips to avoid getting cheated.
1. If the agent is forcing you into an upgrade, walk the lot and see if your car is really there. If it is, and they told you it wasn't ask to speak to the manager. You may be able to get the upgrade free of charge since you caught them lying.
2. If you are being pressured to buy optional insurance coverages at the counter. Avoid this headache by talking to your auto insurance agent. But keep in mind the average damage to a rental car is around $300.00 a lot less than paying a deductible, and causing your rates to go up. This is because on average most people damage the vehicle by getting flat tires, chipping the windshield, and scraping the paint.
3. I highly recommend you avoid buying the pre-paid gasoline, unless you're in a hurry. They add additional tax to the pre-paid fuel cost. For example if the gas is $2.50 a gallon, and in that price is the states gas tax. You will pay for states sales tax, airport tax, and county rental fees as well. Its better to stop and fill up the tank before returning the car.
4. Avoid renting a car from the airport if you can. The reason is airport locations have to charge an airport tax. Where I was employed it was 16.5% ouch! it's a lot cheaper to rent from a local edition store oppose to an airport location.
5. To get the best rate always book online! Never walk in the location without a reservation. The counter rates are usually a lot higher than online rates.
6. Always take pictures of the car before & after you return it. That way if something is missed you wont be billed for it. On occasion the person checking out the car may have missed something, and when the car is returned they charge you for the damage when it was the previous renter who damaged the car.
7. check to make sure the car is clean. I recall a time when the store was very busy, and they rented a car that wasn't cleaned or properly checked in. They rented it back out and the customer was unaware he was driving with a trunk full of marijuana! He was on his way to Canada, and was pulled in to customs. Custom agents discovered the drugs in the trunk, and he had no explanation. I believe he went on to sue the company for this mishap. But you get my point.
8. If you're traveling on business find out what your companies travel policies are. Too many times have I heard at the counter the company covers the rental. But when something happens like the car being vandalized or stolen the company leaves you holding the bill.
9. Be prepared to get your credit checked if you're renting a car with a debit card. Rental companies really don't like debit cards, but they accept them because there are Visa & Mastercard logos on them. Its always better to use a credit card.
10. Don't rely 100% on auto rental insurance provided by your credit card. One customer damaged a car and was charged $5,000 on her credit card. It took them over six months to finally pay her back. She was lucky they actually covered the damages. in many cases they wont fully cover it, but will partially cover it. The best credit card that covers rental car damage is American Express. At the time when I was working in the industry Amex offered a coverage plan that would cover tires, glass, paint, and loss of use. Loss of use is the charge the company bills you everyday that car is on the lot, and can't be rented.
I hope all my tips will save you money, and provide peace of mind on your trip.