I’ll Remember This Alamo

When I picked up a Jeep I rented from Alamo for a week on Kauai, I got such an apocalyptic hard sell for the collision-damage waiver that I’ll hesitate to rent from Alamo again.

I had declined all  insurance when I reserved the Jeep online. But when I arrived, the agent at the desk asked whether I wanted the “minimal coverage” or more comprehensive coverage. He didn’t ask whether I wanted to decline the extra coverage, although he had my reservation specifiying just that in front of him.

Tired after three flights, I didn’t pick on the manipulative phraseology. I told him I’d take the minimal coverage — I meant that I wanted none of the extra insurance — and he punched up a contract with $11-a-day CDW included.

When I started to sign the contract, I noticed the price had increased from $250 to $330. I figured out what had happened, and asked the agent to remove the CDW.

And that didn’t make him happy. He launched into a very long hard sell, the likes of which I have never heard anywhere when renting a car. I rented three vehicles from Thrifty during a Hawaiian cruise last year, without the CDW, and got no such pressure.

The agent pointed out, truthfully, that there are deductibles and gaps in the coverage provided by my own auto insurance and by my credit card. But he went way over the top, telling me that if anything happened to the Jeep, I’d have to pay for it all up front, that parts would have to be shipped from the mainland, and that I’d be liable for any “depreciation” if the vehicle was less valuable after repairs. He also alleged that my insurance would not cover damage to another vehicle in a collision.

“That’s why most people get this coverage,” he said, again and again and again. “For the peace of mind,” he said, again and again and again.

Now, among the many things my mother taught me is that just because everybody else is doing something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I’ve also learned that whenever someone claims to be selling me “peace of mind,” I’m being extorted.

Consider that $11 a day would be more than $4,000 a year, more than five times the cost of my own auto insurance. And this is for  supplemental coverage, kicking in to cover only what my own insurance and credit card would not.

I didn’t bring any of that up with the agent. I just steadfastly insisted — several times because the agent simply repeated his “warnings” and kept asking if I was sure I wanted to waive the CDW — that he remove it from the contract. He dropped the smiley demeanor he’d first greeted me with, but he finally did as I asked.

This dent was hard to see, with the Jeep parked up against a fence in the dark.

This dent was hard to see, with the Jeep parked up against a fence in the dark.

Two other things bugged me about my treatment by this Alamo office. I was told to inspect the Jeep  — at night with the bumper up against a fence — and note any damage on a form.

Only when I got to my destination did I see a substantial dent in the front bumper. I called Alamo and got a (very friendly) agent who told me she’d make a note of the damage and not to worry about it. But when I returned the vehicle, the extraordinarily surly check-in agent questioned me sharply about it and sent me inside to straighten it out with a (very pleasant) clerk.

In the end, the clerk acknowledged that the damage to the bumper had already been recorded and I went on my way.
Another annoyance was the key chain, which had a note on it reading, “Minimum Key Replacement Cost: $250.” This for a single key with no electronic chip, and without a remote door opener? Ridiculous.

Years ago, Alamo was my rental agency of choice, offering reasonable prices to leisure travelers at popular vacation destinations. As of now, it’s my last choice.


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