So I recently took a surprise trip to see my Mom in Florida and found out the hard way that in the US you are not a person unless you are in debt to someone else. My observation of this will be of my experience trying to rent a car to go 93 miles to get to my flight. To explain where I am, I live 27 miles from the New Jersey border.
So (having a wife who isn’t comfortable driving in urban areas, like Newark Airport, a daughter that is too new at driving for me to be comfortable to drive out of state and back home again) I started looking into how I was going to get to the airport. I called the local “car services” to get estimates. What I got was $180+ just to go 93 miles (I could use emojis for this blog) which I found to be a ridiculous price. Then came the calls to the local taxi service. “$150+tip” was their quote. “Let me try this Uber© thing!” Look online, can’t get a quote without their app. Download the app. Find out I have to enter a credit card or PayPal account. I personally didn’t want them having my Debit Mastercard on file just to get a quote, so I tried the PayPal account, “Sorry something isn’t working. Try a different form of payment”. Still not giving them my card number, I purchase a prepaid Mastercard with $50 on it and it works. Estimated cost for the ride…. $114-$155. Ok this is getting really frustrating. Then it dawned on me, just rent a car to go from here to there! Genius! “What’s it going to cost me like $40?” Just going off the $40 per day rates they advertise. Seemed like a win-win idea.
Not so fast idiot. Call my local Enterprise®, yes they can do a one way rental, but since I was working on the Sunday before my trip and they weren’t open on Sunday, I’d have to rent it an extra day on Saturday to have it for Monday at 4am when I had to leave. “Fear not” said the agent “just rent it from our office in Stroudsburg, they have Sunday hours, it’s save you the cost of the second day!” “Why thank you good Sir, that will be great”. On my next day off the wife and I go into the Stroudsburg office to reserve the car. Explain to them the conversation I had with the Mt. Pocono office, and since I have to work on Sunday, can my wife pick-up the car for me on Sunday? They say not a problem, but there is going to be a “destination fee” because they like to keep their cars local and I’m taking one from them and dropping it off somewhere else. “Well, seems stupid, but what’s that going to cost me?”. I was told it would be a day’s rental plus $100 destination fee! (really need the emojis). Are you fucking kidding me? So I started to walk out and the guy behind the counter whispers “book it online, the destination charge is lower and they can’t change it once booked.” Ok, so I go home and let this experience stew in my head for a few days. But hey, I need the car to get to the airport. I booked it online and it comes to $68 with their bullshit destination charge. Better than the other options. So I thought (dum dum dum).
The wife goes to get the car. They give her a hard time because, we don’t have a major credit card, we have a debit Mastercard connected to our checking account. Because of this they will have to put a $350 hold on the account which will be removed when I turn in the car. Not happy with this, she says fine. They have a “glitch” with the credit card processing machine while ringing her up, but she’s told it never went through, they have to do it again. She gets the car and comes home. I get an email copy of the invoice. It now says $124 for the rental. How the hell did it go up almost sixty more dollars? Look online at my account they’ve put two holds on my account of $350 each! Now I’m fuming! Call the office, they’re closed. Try calling the corporate office, get kicked back to the local office. Leave angry (but polite) voicemail demanding a call back on Monday. Go to bed and start my adventure in the morning.
And I’m off. Get to the airport, turn in the car and proceed to try and get answers as to why they are holding $700 dollars of my money hostage and my rate for the day went from $69 to $124. Poor clerk at the airport can’t explain the two holds, but the rate increase was because the wife took the full coverage package on the car. Ok can’t blame Enterprise® for that one. So he does what he can and gets my full cost to $109 for the day rental. Better than nothing.
Get to my destination, get my Hertz® rental at the airport (smooth transaction no issues w/ debit Mastercard) and I’m off to make my Mommy smile for the 4 days I can see her.
Never get a call from Enterprise® as to why the are holding on to my money. Call them on Tuesday. The manager at the Stroudsburg office informs me “We place a hold on the card because it’s a Debit Mastercard and it’s your bank that causes it to double the hold, because it’s a Debit Mastercard. It can take 2-5 business days for that hold to fall off.” You have to be joking! The guy said the processing machine went down and she’s telling me it was on purpose. So now I chase it up the corporate ladder. Call the customer service corporate number (which took 10 minutes to find online, because all other numbers go right to a prompt to speak with the local branch). They inform me that I’d have to contact my bank and they would have to call the local office to speed the removal of the holds, since now they have charged me $109 plus the $700 holds bringing my total to $809 just to go 93 miles. Call my bank to hear that until the “pending” comes off of the $700 and it becomes a charge, there is nothing they can do. Finally Wednesday morning, the two $350 holds fall off. Ok, lesson learned, but I still need to get home when I fly back. Being the only car rental place near my house I still have to make the reservation for a car. So I book the return car from Newark to Mt. Pocono through Enterprise’s phone app. Get the confirmation that it’s going to cost me $89 to get a car to go home and suck it up as the last time I will ever rent a car from them again.
I end up having an forty minute delay for my flight and land in Newark at 2:45. Take the tram-car to the rental area and wait in line to sign the devil’s paperwork to get home to see my wife and girls. Get up to the counter handover my license and card. Get told “we don’t take Debit Mastercards sir, we need a major credit card!” (insert rage emoticon) “I don’t have a major credit card, I rented a car from Mt. Pocono to here on Monday with my Debit Mastercard, why can’t I rent a car from here to Mt. Pocono?” “Sorry but we don’t take them. It’s policy.” I ask for the manager and blow my top at him, he continues to tell me… “You can try the off airport rental sites and see if they can, but we don’t”. I then try to rent a car from someone to get home with but the only two rental agencies that will use a Debit Mastercard only have drop off points in Philidelphia (a little out of my way) so, now I’m pissed off and stuck at the airport.
To make a already long story shorter, I got an Uber and had a pretty good experience with that. So what should have been a hour and half drive took me just about 4 hours to get home.
The main issue I have with this whole experience is why is it that you need to be in debt with a bank to rent a car in the US? When my wife and I were younger we got into debt and swore to ourselves when we got out of it we wouldn’t fall into that pit again. Since then (over 15 years ago) we haven’t had a credit card, just for that reason. We have in the past 9 years bought a car and a house. If we don’t have the money to buy it, we don’t buy it. Why does my debit card say Mastercard on it if I can’t use it as a credit card when I need to? It works that way at the grocery store and the gas station? But I have to have a credit line to rent a car? Something doesn’t seem right with that.
I know a lot of people will say, “Tony, just get one and make sure you pay it off when you use it so you have it just in case.” and to that I say why? Why on earth do I need to have something that can put me into debt? The temptation to use when I don’t have the funds to back it up are too great. You don’t tell an alcoholic to keep alcohol in their house just in case someone stops by and wants a drink. It’s just asinine to run your life like that. I own a home, I have a car that is paid off. I have the money I need in my bank account, in short I am a responsible adult, but I just can’t rent a car. Where is the common sense in that?