Caviet Venditor

This is a rant, so please bear with.

budget logoAs I have preached for years, the essential disruptor of the web is horizontal connectivity. It guts institutional authority, because we can talk back AND to each other. Media, of course, is a visible example of this, but it’s impacting everything. I’ve often quoted Rishad Tobaccowala’s wonderful 2004 saying, “We have entered an empowered era in which humans are God, because technology allows them to be godlike. How will you engage God?”

Indeed, and one of the most visible arenas for this “engaging God” is in the world of buying and selling, and that’s where I’d like to begin my rant.

My beef is with Budget Truck Rentals, a company I have used and respected for decades. No link, because all love has been lost. Here’s the story.

A few months ago, my youngest daughter moved back to Huntsville, so we rented a Budget truck to move her things. On the way back, we got off the main road to get a bite and took a wrong turn getting back on the interstate. It was dark and the truck went under an old railroad bridge, putting two tears in the roof of the truck. I was unconcerned, because I had purchased the top end insurance.

I need to say here that at no time during the rental process was I told that the overhead wasn’t covered by insurance. When I brought the damaged truck back, the proprietor (a super nice guy named Chris) said, “It’s a good thing you bought the insurance, because I would have ruined your day otherwise.” That is an exact quote. Not even a paraphrase. (Remember, I’m a professional observer.)

A month later, I got a bill from Budget for over $1,000. A phone call later, and I was directed to a paragraph in the rental contract — what I would call “fine print” — stating that overhead damage wasn’t covered. Beneath this paragraph is my signature.

Okay, so let’s be real here. I signed a contract clearly stating my liability. I can have no argument. Guilty as charged. What I do have issues with are the following:

Despite what the proprietor of the rental franchise might say to the contrary, I was completely unaware that the top end insurance I bought didn’t cover the overhead. This was further evidenced by the comments of the guy when I returned the truck. Even he didn’t think I was liable, or he would have said something. In my discussions with the claims department, I was told that “the proprietor said he tells EVERYONE who buys the insurance that overhead damage isn’t covered. That is simply untrue.

I have an issue with insurance on a rental truck that doesn’t cover the overhead. WTF? If it’s such a high potential for liability, then charge me more for the insurance, but don’t put me on the road without coverage.

I have issues with the way this has been handled by Budget. I wrote a letter to the CEO and copied those who might care, including their public relations people. The CEO turned it over to the manager of claims, who called and offered to deduct the administrative fees but still expected I pay $940. That man insisted that the paragraph above my signature wasn’t “fine print.” Yeah, right. Judge for yourselves. “Fine” or not, it’s buried there, folks. “Sign here. Intitial there.” You know the drill.

My rental agreement

The manager seemed to take great joy in reminding me that it was my responsibility to read everything before I sign. Okay, duh! But if you’re going to toss “caveat emptor” in my face, then permit me toss “caveat venditor” in yours. Let the seller beware. Why? Because I am not entirely powerless here, and I think that what has happened to me is wrong, not only from a business perspective but also from a moral one.

Budget Truck Rental sold me insurance that I didn’t really have, and no one will convince me otherwise.

As I told the CEO of Budget in my letter, I will never again rent from his company or its affiliates. I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars with Budget over my many years, and the company would rather squeeze me for a grand over this than take into consideration all of that former business. Fair enough.

The claims manager said he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t take responsibility for what I had done, and that’s the convenient response of someone who’s got you by the short and curlys. Why doesn’t Budget take responsibility for deceiving me not only when I rented the truck but also when I brought it back damaged?

In the end, I’ll have to pay the $940, because our culture says I have no choice. “Don’t rent to” lists have unintended consequences, that I don’t need, so all I can do is to tell my friends that there are choices beyond Budget when it comes to renting trucks and choices beyond Avis (same company) when it comes to renting cars.

Meanwhile, I’ll load up the consumer beware sites with my story, so that others will understand that they have choices, too.

Comments

  1. Terry,

    I’m sorry to read that you’re being slammed with this unexpected bill. And it does seem odd that one of the likely causes of damage is not covered by the supplemental insurance you purchased. But any time you sign a contract, you have to read it first. I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve watched enough episodes of The People’s Court to know it’s not what they said (or didn’t say) that matters, but what is written, and what you signed.

    Also, the fact that they have you initial a passage is probably there because of some previous case in which it was determined that, yes, that particular language *was* kind of buried. So now they make you add initials to affirm that you have read it and agree with it.

    Of course, like a EULA, almost nobody reads it. But that doesn’t make it not exist.

    All that said, have you checked with your credit card company? Often there are coverages for rental vehicles that you may not be aware of.

  2. I worked in insurance for 12 years, and a well-known legal principle in insurance is that of the “contract of adhesion.” It’s well-known because it usually burns insurance companies. The principle of the “contract of adhesion” means that questionable areas in an insurance contract are usually resolved in favor of the party that did not write the contract, because the company could have phrased its provisions however they wanted. Take this case to a lawyer experienced in dealing with auto insurance and see what he/she says — in my non-legal but insurance-professional opinion, you may have standing here.

  3. I can totally relate says:

    I can totally relate to you. Budget/Avis has totally inconvenienced, caused me to screw up my daily agenda, lost time, money, situation, appts that was crucial and extremely inportant in the last 3 months.

    I have got the ” W O R S E” possible customer service with the nasty, rude, arrogant, offensive, insult abnoxious tones, behaviors and attitudes. To think that I was a good preferred customer for 10 years and stopped using them, because I didn’t need them and come back after all that time to get what I have been getting and not be able to email the ceo, the vp of operations to tell in details all that I have been through. All the aggravation, the repitiion, the jerking me in every direction but where I should have been.

    To tell me to call back and speak to the person in the escalation and exec level. Only to play with my head and never be there and play telephone tag. Only to try and reach someone that I need to speak to because I lost there email and phone. So I call someone who would have it only to promised me he would call me back in 10 minutes and never did. Only to go through more bullshit and get security to have someone call me back promising me he would fix the problem, on monday and to call this asshole back, and took my time debating wether I would; and playing telephone tag. Now, I am calling numbers at random with the hopes I get some jerkoff email of the ceo so I can finally tell all my problems that I have encountered.

    I know so many inportant people in social groups, org’s, businesses, media, political. That when I am finished embarrassing, humilating and bad mouthing. Not even a fly will want to do any business with Budget/Avis group. With the people that I know that work for the ewspaper, the tv news stations and so on. They are going to be so sorry they got me started.

    Anyone rents a car trash it under a false name so you don’t get caught. You can not imagine the magnitude of my disgust and frustration. I have never had this happen to me with anyone ever in all the history that I have rented cars or do any business anywhere.

  4. I can totally relate says:

    To Veronica, Stephanie, Kevin Stanley and the west palm beach location. To gregory stevens and all the other assholes that pumped me up. Just remember one thing. That when we tell people not to use your service, they tell 10 others and in manifests like a germ, plaque, virus. You may have a job today, but here is no promise of it tommorrow. You will reap alomg with your children all the bad seed you sow. By god!!! He sees, knows, hears, and watches all the ugly things that you do to his people.

    How will you live, sleep and eat with that. Just remember what you do to others, someone will do to your family members. It always comes back around to you sooner or later.

  5. I think may be you are right.I find it on google.Thank you.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Heaton at the PoMo Blog explains that top-line Budget Rental Car insurance doesn’t include an important risk.  You have to read the full, obscure details of the insurance form to understand this.  Most […]

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