Q: We booked a Budget rental car in Israel through Expedia recently. When my father arrived in Tel Aviv to collect his car, Budget would not give him the vehicle without mandatory theft protection and collision damage waiver. Since the policies are mandatory, shouldn't they have been included in Expedia's prices?
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We had two other bookings through Expedia and Budget, which we tried to cancel. We couldn't (Expedia said we had an incorrect reservation number).
We decided to go ahead and book through Budget directly, thinking it would be sorted out at the time of car hire collection. Big mistake. We were unfortunate enough to meet one of the rudest individuals I have encountered at the Budget car rental counter and he refused to honor the direct booking with Budget, only honoring the much more expensive Expedia one.
Can you help us?
— Marissa Barashi, Roselle, N.J.
A: Expedia should have quoted an all-inclusive rate when you booked your car. When it became clear that it didn't, a quick call to the online agency should have fixed the problem.
Why? Because Expedia's wide-ranging "promise" says it will help, guaranteeing that, "Whether you have questions about your itinerary or need help resolving a problem with the trip you booked, we're here to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week." (http://www.expedia.com/daily/highlights/Expedia-Promise/default.asp)
The online agency should have been able to retrieve your reservation through your full name, address or email. I have no idea what went wrong, but it's pretty clear that Expedia didn't keep its promise.
Some countries — and Israel is one of them — have mandatory insurance requirements. Those should have been noted when you made your reservation through Expedia. I checked the site after bringing your case to the company's attention, and the insurance requirements are not disclosed until you click on the fine print, under "certain conditional charges."
Expedia can do better.
Budget shares some of the blame for your negative car rental experience. The rude employee you dealt with should have been more understanding of the situation, and at least honored the less expensive reservation. If you're ever in a situation like that again, try appealing to a manager or phoning the corporate office to make your case.
In the end, this problem could have been averted if Expedia had given you an all-in rate on the rental. Which is to say, insurance is required, and here's the actual rate you'll have to pay. It didn't do that.
I contacted Expedia. The company agreed to reimburse you for the additional cost of the mandatory insurance you were required to buy. It also reviewed the details of your rental with Budget and threw in a $100 coupon by way of apology.
© 2011 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.