Oh no, Budget had second thoughts about my discount

Maria Scaldina/Shutterstock
Maria Scaldina/Shutterstock
Question: I’d like to share my recent Budget Car Rental experience with you that has me committed to never doing business with them again.

A couple weeks ago I received a voicemail saying the Budget at the Kansas City airport would be charging me an extra $104 because an “internal audit” found they gave me too much of a discount. My receipt shows the $85 discount, which seemed right since there was an advertised discount.

So, they billed my credit card without my authorization, and then added in all the additional taxes and fees to bring the amount up to $104. I called Budget corporate and the franchise, but nobody would help fix the issue, even though I had a receipt to prove we “agreed” on the lesser amount.

I rent from Budget weekly, easily spending anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 a month on their cars. The franchise doesn’t share information with the corporate office, so corporate is pretty much useless on the issue. Since there does not appear to be anything stopping them from charging customer credit cards at will, I refuse to ever do business with them again. Any advice? — Brandon Chase, Columbus, Ohio

Answer: Some of the most hotly-debated cases I mediate are pricing errors — a fare or rate where a decimal point went astray — but I’d never come across a complaint where a discount had been withdrawn after a trip. (Although we had something similar to this yesterday.)

The Budget franchise in Kansas City should have caught any discounting error before your transaction, or at the very least, when you checked out. But leaving a voicemail weeks after your rental is highly unusual. It’s probably also illegal: Budget had a contract with you, which its retroactive re-billing breached, the way I see it.

I don’t understand why Budget corporate couldn’t help you. Isn’t that what the corporate office is for? By the way, who cares if Kansas City is a franchise location? Budget’s corporate structure is irrelevant to a customer, and the company shouldn’t use it as an excuse. Cheap hotel chains often do this, too, and you can’t let them get away with it.

Fortunately, you kept excellent records. You had proof of your final payment and of the discount. Had you tossed your receipt (which some customers do) this might have been a more difficult negotiation.

Your appeal to Budget corporate yielded a $50 voucher, which was a good start. I followed up with the company, asking why it revised your bill. It responded by reversing the charge.

Should Budget be allowed to change its rate after your rental?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Andre_K_FL

    Indeed this is absolutely clear-cut breach of contract. Absolutely no company has the right to behave this way.

  • EdB

    A simple call to the credit card issuer should have fixed this up quickly. Customer had the receipt so Budget had absolutely no leg to stand on. This is the typical scenario we like to throw around a lot about “fat-finger” discounts where a merchant comes running after you after you left the store with the merchandise. No way they are going to be able to collect unless you voluntarily give them the money.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Budget was in the wrong here. Glad it worked out for the OP.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Re-negging after the fact is unconscionable. And all that for $30? Budget deserves the bad press this is going to garner them.

  • http://twitter.com/techherding Dick Carlson

    How incredibly stupid can a company be? Even if they really felt they were owed the money, did anyone stop to check how much they were shearing this guy for every year? And consider how many people he’d tell about getting treated like this? (Obvious answer: no.) But I GUARANTEE you the CEO gets some kind of daily dashboard of “sales leads in the funnel”.

  • The Travel Geek

    Interesting – ONE person (so far) has voted that Budget SHOULD be allowed to change its rate after rental. Wonder if they were serious or merely being a troll!

  • John H.

    Suddenly, following voting, an ad pops up almost obscuring the results. And the ad? Was by Budget. I wonder if there is something you can do, Chris. Do you have that sort of control? I’m sure that was merely an invasion and Budget didn’t pay anything for that annoying popup.

  • Kairho

    I’m hoping that was simply a fat finger issue.

  • scapel@suddenlink.net

    If he didn’t, he should have called his credit card company and disputed the charge while he was negotiating with Budget.

  • mbods

    I have never heard of such a thing! What lousy customer service. To all Budget or Dollar execs who may read your post: We rented a car not too long ago, my husband was researching and I asked him to please not even look at your companies because of your reputation for being sneaky, illegal practices and bad customer service…. I’m sure we’re not the only ones who avoid Budget and Dollar. These companies don’t seem to be run very well, do they? Whoever thinks it’s a good idea to scam their customers shouldn’t wonder why business is “slow”. Money talks, we’ll take ours elsewhere, thank you!

  • Extra mail

    Can view the results of the vote but can’t vote. What’s up, Chris?

    Does seem like it would be easily resolved by credit card dispute if budget wouldn’t have behaved. Just another example of why I check my credit card charges against my receipts.

  • Office_Bob

    Maybe Chris can retroactively reverse their vote. ;-)

  • andrelot

    This is like somebody going on a cruise, coming back without glitches, then 3 weeks later call Carnival or Holland America and say they want 40% back because they misantecipated the casino and beverage costs.

  • bob

    Who are these clowns that always back the company regardless of how wrong it is? This is one of the few clear cut incidents where Budget had no leg to stand on.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    That shouldn’t be happening. Am going to talk to my design team about this.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I’m working on it. Sorry about the trouble.

  • ctporter

    Not sure why but your site no longer plays well with Chrome or Safari, to vote or read comments I must use Firefox or IE.

  • Poley King

    Why is it that people go whining to a third party for help without going through the proper channels first? This could have easily gone through the credit card dispute process after his attempt to rectify through the vendor failed.

  • THill

    Hi Chris, having trouble with a pop up ad for a Montreal Mercedes dealership blotting out your site o my iPod. Very annoying. Can you fix this? T Hill, Nova Scotia

  • Carchar

    The ad that is obscuring the voting results on my computer is for United.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    I see FIVE SHILLS for Budget actually dared vote in this poll…..

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    They are probably also one of the Pro-TSA shills too.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    I had a hotel recently charge me after disregarding a cancellation of a reservation which they never formally accepted. (Yes, I requested a reservation at a hotel who never responded to the request, and never responded to my request for withdrawal of the request due to lack of response. A Cape Cod motel.) My credit card company (CHASE) dithered about it for THREE MONTHS, even though my email trail was strong. So I don’t have any faith that the credit card company would do anything.

  • EdB

    Sounds like you need to get a better card issuer.

  • JimDavisHouston

    The bill was Paid in Full. I would contest the CC Charge, and furthermore, vouchers are complete BS. I give cash, I want cash back.

  • JimDavisHouston

    I cancelled my Chase Card. they don’t help in situations like this.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I’m using Chrome with the AdBlock extension (thanks TonyA!) on both of my computers. The computer where I disabled Java acts funny on Chrome (screen constantly flickers and shows that it’s updating); the one computer where Java is altogether uninstalled works fine. This has been going on all week and is a new phenomenon to this site. Wonder if this have to do with the Java 7 update that just came out? Just throwing it out there.

    Maybe the odd behavior of the website accounts for the now 7 “yes” votes?? I know there are some contrarians out there, but ???

  • fshaff

    My screen is showing Cheap Car Rentals by Priceline.com

  • JenniferFinger

    Once you return the rental car, and the company takes it back and acknowledges its existing condition, that should be case closed. No charging you for discounts it wasn’t supposed to offer you. “Internal audits” can prevent that kind of thing in the future, but should not affect past business.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    We are working on a site redesign that should fix all of this. Thank you for your patience.

  • Grant Ritchie

    One word explains your problem… CHASE. I’ve had a Costco American Express card for years, and asked them for help three times. All three times, they stepped up immediately, went to war on my behalf… and won! A hundred bucks a year gets me that, a Costco membership, and cash back ($420.92 this year). Gotta love it. :-)

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Sorry I’m coming so late to the party but we’ve been painting all day.

    I think I was more than a little stunned when I read this one. Just so I know I’ve got it right, the OP rented a car from Budget. The OP used said car, returned it, signed a credit card receipt and then returned home. A couple/three weeks later Budget leaves him a voicemail they under charged him and THEN runs his credit card for an ADDITIONAL $104? Whew! That’s quite a problem…

    I’m declaring shenanigans on this one against Budget. I can’t even imagine how they thought this would be okay and I have to wonder how many people they’ve done this to who DIDN’T contact Chris? Hundreds? Thousands?

    All I know is, in spite of their returning the money to the OP, I’m never renting from Budget again. It would seem their business model is, “We never stop charging you for your rental”. WOW!

  • cjr001

    I get the feeling that we’ve got some lurkers who troll the poll, voting against common sense and so on.

  • cjr001

    If you don’t need Java, don’t install Java. If you do have Java installed, disable any browser plugins.

    Java has far too many security holes to make it worth installing unless required. This applies even with the latest 7 update.

  • TonyA_says

    There’s two important issues with mistake fares or pricing:
    1) Establishing the facts that it is really a mistake, and
    2)Assuming it is a mistake, what can you reasonably do about it?

    Budget fails in both. There is no proof provided that the discount was a mistake. And, unilaterally charging the credit card of a customer for a pricing change weeks after he returns the car is so bizarre. If the did not like the rate he got, they should have cancelled his reservation.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    wonder what the other side of the story was ?

  • sirwired

    I would have given the franchise a single chance to see the error of their ways, and then disputed the charge on the credit card. Only the most stupid and tone-deaf bank would have sided with the business for such a stupid charge.

  • calbff

    Trolls, and maybe industry shills. You can really see it here, because anyone that voted yes is an idiot.

  • Scott

    If that’s the worst that happens, I think we can all live with that! :)

  • pauletteb

    You can tell how many rental car company owners/franchisees/shills monitor your column by the number of “yes” votes on this one.

  • dumbvoters

    Would the idiots who voted “yes” please stand up?

  • Sasha

    Here is a Budget story you would not believe, but it’s completely true, I have website screen shots and all (useless) BBB complaint, etc…

    I once rented a budget moving truck from a convenient location a few blocks from my home in downtown Manhattan (Tribeca area) on Dec. 31 (had to move out by Jan 1.) I was surprised to find that location on Budget website – map, phone number, hours, everything! – because living relatively close, I’ve never noticed it. But Manhattan can easily be that way – some parking garage can have a car rental in the middle of the busiest block and you’d never notice.

    When I went to pick up my truck, I could not the address anywhere. There was a gap, a fenced empty lot where the address would fall. I spent an hour running around asking every business in the vicinity if they’ve ever seen Budget rental there. Nothing. I kept calling the phone number but getting busy signal followed by a message that all agents are busy helping other customers. I called corporate office, which was COMPLETELY unhelpful – simply telling me the location must be there, must be busy, and if I can’t find it, they can’t help me – there are no trucks available anywhere in the vicinity.

    I ended up renting guys with the truck and paying several times the amount out of my pocket, and disputed the charge with Budget through my credit card. I found out that this location NEVER existed, the fenced lot at that address used to be a residential building raised years ago for a new construction that never took place. I wrote letters of complaint to the corporate office, asking for reimbursement of the difference in fees for my replacement truck rental. It was met with complete silence, and a few weeks into January the location was removed from Budget website search database, even though the location specific link still worked, a few weeks after that it too stopped working, of course.

    The cowardly way Budget office behaved about their screw up was pathetic, and I have never rented from Budget since – neither passenger nor truck rentals, and never will.

  • travelinlady

    Hmmmm, I’m going to be renting cars in May and June. For sure it’s not going to be from Budget.

  • Rick Roll


    your website redirects me to crap stuff. Please fix it.