I’m not an extravagant spender. (I like to call it “being thrifty”; my mom prefers to call it “being a Cheap Norwegian, just like your dad.”) I like the thrill of scoring a deal, even when I’m traveling for business and not technically paying for any of it.
I spent most of last month traveling for work and, despite going on both trips at the last minute, thought I scored some relative bargains. I was pleasantly surprised by the semi-affordable Hampton Inn in Washington, D.C. — free Internet, warm cookies at check-in…need I go on? (Though I did have to cope with multiple “Ews” when I told people where I was staying. Hampton Inn, apparently, doesn’t have the best reputation.)
Unfortunately, I scored one “bargain” that has turned out to be anything but. Needing a rental car for a couple of days in Orlando, I decided to take a chance on a newer company, Sixt Rental Car. Based in Europe, the company’s expanding into the United States this year and seemingly offering deep-discount rentals to gain a foothold in the market. That’s not going to get them far, if my experience is anything close to the norm.
Renting the car itself was pretty usual — crappy-but-functional economy car, rental agent trying to upsell, etc. But when I got home, I found out my credit card had been charged three times the agreed upon price. I called the company’s hotline, listened to all the automated options and chose the one for help with billing problems. When I got through to a human, though, she informed me that, actually, she couldn’t help me with billing problems. Despite the “Questions about billing?” option it confusingly offers, the “Sixt Hotline” number is strictly for reservations, she said. All customer service requests have to be handled through e-mail.
So I e-mailed, explaining my problem and asking for a detailed explanation of the charges. Two days later, I sent a follow-up e-mail. Four days later, I have yet to hear back. Last night, I called the Orlando rental office directly. They were helpful and said it was likely a mistake — but had no way to pull up my invoice or actually do anything about the charge without a manager, who, of course, wasn’t there. So now I’m waiting for them to call me back, or for the company’s customer service blackhole to one day regurgitate a response to my e-mail.
Though uber annoying, this whole situation got me thinking about life insurance sales. It’s common for agents to run into price objections from prospects, but incidents like these prove cost shouldn’t always be the determining factor when making a purchase. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for — even if that’s hard for me and my fellow bargain-hunting brethren to believe.