At various times I have given my expertly advice on booking flights, restaurants and hotels around the country.
This time my advice is “Don’t do what I did.”
For my current semi-annual trip to Indiana I booked the flight months ago. I also bought travel insurance because when you’re trip is to visit a 99 year-old mom, plans can change. I held off booking the car-rental until a month ago.
I used “Kayak” to find all the deals from all the companies. I sorted them by price and stayed away from cars that scare me to look at them, let alone drive them. You know, cars like the Kia Rio, Chevy Spark, Honda Fit and Velveeta Cheese Box.
So, the sub-sub compacts were out.
Then I saw a seductive offer from Dollar Rent-a-Car. The sub-compacts were $24 a day, compacts were $25 a day and then they offered a big bold “?” for $25 a day. I wondered what the “?” could be and of course I clicked on it.
The fine print was clear; a guarantee that this would be at least a compact, but more often than not it would be a standard or upgraded car if they have too many models on the lot. They called it a SURPRISE.
Well that was for me. I ordered a “?” for 14 days.
I’m a lucky fellow, so I imagined I would have at least a Buick Regal or a Chrysler 200. (There I was—flying down those Indiana farm roads in my “200”, the sun burning my bald scalp through the sunroof)
There were four people ahead of me at the Dollar counter. The first lady was renting a Chevy Cruz, second guy a Kia Rio (NO NO—you’ll be sorry), and the guy ahead of me was renting a Buick Regal (Damn, that was MY Buick Regal)
The counter-dude was young and I gave him my mature, confident smile and told him what a fine, efficient job he was doing. He smiled back, thanked me and started looking my name up in the computer. He smiled when he saw I had rented a “?”
He started typing furiously, asking for my driver’s license, credit card, phone number, address where I would be staying and the time I was returning the vehicle.
Then it was time for my Surprise.
He said, “All right, sir, I see you have our “surprise” vehicle and that means whatever vehicle that is a compact or better and is our heaviest inventoried will be your “?”
Tonight sir, you have a choice. Would you like a Ford 150 or a Dodge Ram 1500?”
“Yes sir, when you see our lot you will see we are over-inventoried with trucks.”
“I don’t want a damn truck. It’s raining out. Am I supposed to put my suitcases in the passenger seat? Your signs states, Dollar Rent-a-Car, not rent a truck.”
“Sorry, sir, that is the stated policy.”
“Well, I also read that I can cancel at any time without penalty.”
“That is true, sir.”
“Well, I cancel.”
I then rented a Chevy Impala.