After Ali and I finally made it to Tampa, a good 18 hours later than we should have, we took a shuttle to Payless Car Rental to pick up a car Ali had booked through Expedia. The night before, when we knew we were stuck in Dallas for the night, she immediately called Expedia to let them know we wouldn’t be able to pick the car up until the next day. The Expedia representative put her on hold for several minutes, then returned and told her he had spoken to Payless and that the company would hold the car for us. We just had to show up between noon and 4:00 p.m.
When we arrived at Payless, there was no record of the reservation change, and the Payless rep told us he had no car for us. After a bit of a go-round, the rep explained that when Expedia supposedly called the night before, the Payless offices were closed — so no reservations could’ve been changed. Ali called the customer service number listed for Expedia on her reservation, where an Expedia rep told us that there was nothing the company could do for us. She maintained that Expedia had called Payless, and even had a contact name. It didn’t matter — Payless didn’t have any record of it, thus they didn’t have a car. It was the height of the holiday season, and finding a replacement car, let alone a cheap one, seemed unlikely.
After about 20 minutes of going back and forth between Expedia and Payless, trying to make one company take responsibility, Ali got angry. I watched her from inside the car rental office as she screamed out in the parking lot, her face red, hands flailing, and occasionally her high-pitched voice carrying through the glass. The Expedia rep continued to tell Ali there was nothing she could do.
“Oh, yes there is,” Ali replied. “You can find me a car right now, and honor your rate.” “I have no way to do that,” the rep maintained. “Yes, you do,” Ali said. “Here’s how: pick up your cellphone, start calling rental companies, and find me a car within an hour. I’ve got nowhere to go since I don’t have a car. Put me on hold — I’ll just wait right here.”
After an hour of this back-and-forthing, the rep did just that. She transferred Ali to someone else, who in turn found us a car at Enterprise. I don’t believe she used any Expedia magic, and I think had we called Enterprise, we might’ve been able to find the same deal. But as it was, we were able to get a Volkswagon Jetta for $50 less than our original quote at Payless.
Lesson learned? Get a confirmation number when a reservation has been changed. We thought we had covered our bases by calling to change our reservation (the number for Payless Car Rental was not listed on Ali’s confirmation email, only Expedia’s), but we needed to ask for more information. I can tell you that Ali will not be booking through Expedia ever again, although I’ve got faith that patience and a bad temper just might get you what you need.
What do you think? Were we right to demand that Expedia honor our reservation and price? Or should we have taken it up with Payless (who had no cars left)? I think we were correct to call Expedia on it, and I’m proud of my sister for doing what I don’t always have the guts to do: get mad.
Want to read more of my holiday horror stories? Check out Holiday Travel Hell Part 1: American Airlines really doesn’t care and Holiday Travel hell Part 3: If you book with Payless Car Rental, make sure your flight is on time. Got any holiday horror stories of your own? Be sure and leave a comment!