Question: I reserved a rental car from Budget at Maui's Kahului Airport for $350. When I showed up, the not-so-friendly agent said I did not have a reservation. I told her my reservation number, and she said my reservation was not for the airport but for the office on the other side of the island.
I told her that the phone agent obviously made a mistake and asked how she could help. She said she couldn't do a thing because they were sold out of cars. After some discussion, she "found" a car for almost $1,000.
When I complained about this, she then "found" another car, even though they were sold out. This car was mine for only $550, but came with mandatory insurance and roadside assistance.
I told her that I didn't need or want those options, but she said if I rejected them, the rate would be $1,000. I told her that I would deal with it when I returned and accepted the $550 price so that I had a vehicle.
When I called Budget after my return home, the phone agent said he couldn't help because I had accepted the options, but as a goodwill gesture he could refund 50 percent of the fees. I refused, because I didn't voluntarily accept the options. I wrote to Budget via its website, and the company offered 25 percent off, which I also declined.
At this point, I don't know what to do. Why would I sign for options I don't need or want? The only reason was because the desk agent in Maui said I needed to accept them to get the lower rate.
Answer: Budget should have had a car for you on the correct side of the island at the quoted price. The company's "fix" was rather self-serving: Either accept another rental at three times the rate or another rental at significantly more than the quote if you accepted additional mandatory fees. I don't like either of those solutions.
A review of your correspondence shows that you called Budget and spoke with a reservations agent, who entered the incorrect Maui location. This is an example of the importance of reviewing a reservation; you could have seen the error and corrected the reservation before you arrived.
Airport car rentals can be far more expensive than off-airport locations, because airports charge facilities fees and taxes. Kahului Airport adds an Airport Facility Charge, an Airport Concession Fee, a Vehicle License Fee, a county tax, and a general excise tax. You can find a handy list of these extras on Hawaiicarrentals.com. Run the numbers, and it's clear that Budget was trying to quote you the same rate and just cover its expenses.
However, the "mandatory" insurance is another matter. When I looked into that, Budget conceded that your experience was not "typical."
"A copy of our report has been sent to the appropriate manager for corrective actions," a Budget spokesman assured me.
Next time, either book your car online or use a qualified travel agent to help you. If you don't, at least review the reservation after it has been made.
Budget launched an internal investigation and refunded $172, the full amount of your "mandatory" insurance.