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February 20, 2017

Uncommon Way to Save on Rental Cars

Filed under: Autos,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:17 am

A friend recently called MrConsumer to complain about high rental car rates in Florida, which used to be available at giveaway prices for years. Not anymore. He was seeing rates in the $500-range for two weeks in St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida. Yikes!

He then saw one rate at Budget for $458 — a bargain by comparison — and grabbed it.

PIE reservation

Some bargain.

MrConsumer went to checking around to see if he could find a lower rate. What infrequent travelers may not know is that there are coupon codes and rental car group discounts available if you know where to look. You’ll find these codes and coupons at places like warehouse clubs (no membership required generally to reserve, but you may be asked for a membership number at the rental counter), at membership clubs like Entertainment.com and AAA, and through various other organizations.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Budget coupon

Using those codes only yielded prices in the low $400s. To save a lot more, you have to use a technique that rental car companies don’t advertise.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Instead of picking up the car at the airport, get it at an in-town location. You can still drop it off at the airport on the way home for convenience and not pay any airport fees.

Going through the pricing exercise again, selecting Clearwater, FL instead of PIE (the airport) as the pickup location, yields dramatic savings.

downtown prices

$291 instead of $458! Of course, you have to get downtown from the airport. But, in this case, it is under three miles away and less than a $10 taxi ride.

These techniques won’t work in all cases, but as you shop for a car rental, give it a try. And don’t forget to keep checking back to see if prices have dropped. In most cases, you can cancel the old reservation without penalty and just make a new one at the lower price.




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October 24, 2016

At Payless You Could Pay More Because of Dirty Tricks

Filed under: Autos,Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

Consumer World reader Marcie S. is one determined consumer. She says she was ripped off by Payless Car Rental, which is a low-priced subsidiary of the Avis Budget Group. She was determined to get satisfaction not just for herself, but for the hundreds or perhaps thousands of other consumers who may have had similar problems with them.

Marcie says when she rented a car from Payless, they did something unusual:

Payless Car Rental pre-charges the customers’ credit card for a full tank of gas, stating the charge will be reversed once the car is returned with a full tank of gas. Upon return, they inspect the car and if the gas tank is full they note it on the return receipt. They do not automatically reverse the charges. Rather, you are directed to call 1-800-Payless where they open up a customer service ticket. There, the claim is classified as a fuel charge “dispute.”

They reply via ticket that they require ALL of the following to be met in order for your fuel charge “dispute” to be considered for review:

1) A physical receipt from the gas station noting the address and number of gallons purchased;
2) Gas station must be located within 5 miles of rental drop-off;
3) The receipt must have a time and date stamp. They will only accept the claim if the purchase was made within 30 minutes of drop-off time.

These requirements are non-contractual and extremely unlikely to have been met, especially with no knowledge of said requirements beforehand. They will NOT accept the rental return with the fuel reading marked “FULL” as proof. The ticket is then closed. There is no recourse and no way to escalate this situation.

Wow. Could Marcie’s experience be unique and came about as the result of a rogue agent’s actions? Apparently not. There are hundreds of complaints online about Payless, which average consumers never see until it is too late. Here are some of their alleged practices:

*MOUSE PRINT:

  • Issuing reservations at one price, but charging more at the time of rental;
  • Cramming charges, such as optional insurance, onto bills after the customer has declined the coverage;
  • Cramming charges such as for roadside assistance onto bills without oral disclosure or permission;
  • Misrepresenting insurance charges as being required when in fact they are optional;
  • Failing to refund fuel deposits after representing that they will be credited upon return of the car fully fueled;
  • Failing to fully disclose fuel refilling requirements prior to rental;
  • Representing there was no charge for an additional driver, then assess such charges;
  • Representing that certain fees are refundable upon return of the vehicle when such is not the case;
  • Provide the customer with one receipt with a certain price, and subsequently provide a receipt with a higher price;
  • and many others…

    Many customers report they were charged hundreds of dollars more than they bargained for. Some would even call Payless’ actions bordering on criminal behavior.

    Marcie got her money back from her credit card company but she wasn’t going to let Payless keep ripping off customers. She was able to collect the complaints of other consumers, complained to state AGs without much success, organized a private Facebook group with over 250 members who had complaints, and searched dozens and dozens of law firms until she found one to take the case.

    Last month, two law firms filed a class action lawsuit against Payless, alleging many of the things mentioned above.

    The New York Times asked Avis Budget (Payless’ parent) to comment on the lawsuit, but they declined. But we welcome your views below.

    And to Marcie… we need more consumers like you who don’t take no for answer.




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    February 22, 2016

    Sometimes There’s Good News in the Fine Print

    Filed under: Autos,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:05 am

    With minus nine degree weather in Boston last week, MrConsumer’s 1996 Honda Accord wasn’t so eager to start easily. I wondered if my battery was going bad, then again, it hadn’t been that long ago since it was replaced. Checking the receipt revealed that the battery was purchased at Autozone in mid-March 2013.

    A further check of the receipt revealed the warranty terms.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Autozone receipt

    The battery, which cost about $119, had a five year warranty but provided for free replacement within the first three years if it was defective. Since we were now at the two years and 11 months mark, MrConsumer hightailed it over to Autozone to have it tested. After a few tense moments when they had difficulty connecting the tester, the readout said “bad battery.” Yeah!

    We went back in to process the warranty claim. Half expecting some type of snafu or some hidden charge to surface, I was treated to one pleasant surprise after another. They handed me back $4.10 in cash, explaining that the battery was cheaper today than what I paid three years ago. They pointed to a second receipt that popped out of the register good for a rebate of $20 (via gift card). And the worker said that he was giving me a free five year warranty on the replacement battery (rather than the more common practice of only getting the remaining time from the original battery).

    Wow. What great customer service! Hats off to Autozone in Medford, Massachusetts.




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    February 8, 2016

    Thanks for Nothing #2:
    Dollar General Found Selling Obsolete Motor Oil

    Filed under: Autos,Retail,Thanks for Nothing — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:26 am

    Many of us shop at dollar stores because of bargains you can often find there. Sometimes, however, the bargain is no deal.

    For example, Dollar General sells quarts of its own brand of motor oil, DG, for $2.50 to $2.75. That is cheaper than the big name brands.

    Dollar General oil

    What could be bad?

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Dollar General Oil back of label

    The back of the label provides an unexpected shock. This oil is not for use in cars built after 1988?! Who would ever expect a common oil like 10W-30 sold by a major general merchandise chain to be inappropriate for the expected use for most customers?

    While the label says it meets a particular automotive specification, that spec is outdated, and has been updated six times since then according to the Petroleum Quality Institute of America.

    Another product the company sells, an oil called SAE 30, has an even more astonishing disclaimer on the back of the bottle:

    SAE 30

    This one is not for cars built after 1930! So for everyone with a Model T, go grab some.

    But for everyone else, thanks for nothing, Dollar General.

    Now, consumers in 14 states have filed lawsuits against Dollar General for selling obsolete motor oil: CA (see lawsuit), CO, FL, MD (see lawsuit), KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, NJ, NY (see lawsuit), VT, OK, and TX.

    And our friends at ABC’s Good Morning America, with a little help from Mouse Print*, just completed an undercover investigation of these motor oils:

    Good Morning America story
    Click to view

    We asked the company to explain why they even sell these products that are inappropriate for most of their customers, whether they would put up more prominent warnings for shoppers, and what their reaction was to the lawsuit. They responded as follows in relevant part:

    We are confident that our DG-branded motor oil products meet not only our standards for quality and value, but also all applicable federal and state labeling requirements where they are sold. In addition, the labeling on these products contains obvious and unambiguous language regarding the products’ intended and appropriate use.

    Dollar General intends to vigorously defend against the claims raised in the recently-filed lawsuits regarding these products, including the filing of motions seeking their dismissal. — Dollar General Corporate Communications

    Few shoppers know that there is more to buying motor oil than looking for the proper viscosity, such as 10W-30 or 10W-40. You need to make sure that you are choosing the one specified in your owner’s manual, including the appropriate service category. This is an industry specification, noted on the label, relating to the additives put in the oil to help prevent corrosion, sludge build up, and engine damage.

    The most current service category is API “SN”. The oils shown above have obsolete service category designations such as “SA” or “SF,” meaning they are missing more modern additives.

    Here is a chart from the Petroleum Quality Institute of America (an organization that tests motor oils for compliance with the labeled standard) showing which car model years are covered by each service category designation. Each category is backwards compatible.

    oil chart

    =======

    We welcome your submissions of other great “thanks for nothing” examples. Just email them to edgar(at symbol)mouseprint.org .




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    • • •

    March 30, 2015

    Hertz Hides the Lowest Priced Cars

    Filed under: Autos,Internet,Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:26 am

      It is not easy to find the lowest price on a rental car because companies don’t automatically incorporate discount codes into their displayed rates, so you have to keep trying different codes and different companies’ websites. And even when you think you have found the lowest price, some rental companies have some tricks up their sleeve to bamboozle you.

    Case in point: A friend is coming to Boston this week to visit, and MrConsumer agreed to help him find the “best” car rental rate. After using a number of travel sites that compare the prices of various companies, it became pretty clear that Hertz was offering the lowest prices depending on which coupon code promotions you entered into their website.

    Here is the top portion of the results search on Hertz’s webpage:

    Hertz top 4

    It seems pretty clear that the best price turned up by this search is $162 ($170.73 including taxes and fees). It even says at the top “The rates listed represent the best available rates based on the information provided.” So a booking was made for this $170 car based on MrConsumer’s recommendation.

    After a little more poking around, MrConsumer learned that this $170 rate was not in fact the cheapest rate that Hertz was offering.

    Here is the (almost) full list of cars and prices on Hertz’ website at the time the above four prices were extracted:

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    Hertz

    Scroll down the list.

    The nearly complete list appears just as it does above with the $162/$170 rate apparently the least expensive option. But if you scroll down to the bottom of the list, to the 10th car listed, a $153 rate appears! What, where did that come from?

    It appears that Hertz deliberately creates the impression that the lowest rate appears first at the top of the list, but in fact tucks the best rate farther down the list. (Testing other rental dates and locations, the lowest price was not always on the bottom, but it was never the first, second, or third listing which appear in increasing cost order.)

    Mouse Print* wrote to the PR folks at Hertz asking why they did this, whether they recognized the deceptive nature of this ploy, and if they were going to fix it.

    The company did not respond.

    Just imagine if Hertz can grab an extra $7 or $10 on each car rental by upselling customers one car class above the cheapest car… times how many million rentals a year…




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