When booking a rental car for a business trip or vacation, most travelers are looking for the most affordable option they can find. Between daily charges for the vehicle itself, taxes and fees, and add-ons like collision coverage and liability insurance, renting a car can get expensive, fast. Unfortunately, going with the best upfront deal can sometimes cost you more in hidden fees and underhanded dealings.
When it comes to rental cost, Payless Car Rentals (owned by Avis) often offers the cheapest daily rental rates. However, consumers may want to think twice before opting for Payless’ low advertised prices.
In addition to the slew of negative reviews and media of Payless, I have first-hand experience that confirms the company’s poor reputation is well-deserved. I rented a vehicle from Payless for a recent trip. After I checked my credit card statement, I discovered that Payless charged my card an extra $79.16 on top of the price I consented to and signed for in the rental agreement. An inquiry to Payless’ customer service phone line was less than helpful in resolving this discrepancy. The operator on the line could not or would not tell me the reason for extra charges. She had to “create a ticket,” which she said would be addressed by customer care within the next 72 hours. I went roughly a day and a half without a response when I called back. The operator I spoke with told me the initial individual I gave my information to had entered my email address incorrectly in the system, though I repeated and verified the address’s spelling multiple times during the first call.
The reason for the extra charges, however, was even more frustrating than the delayed return call from customer care. It turns out that either the desk agent at Payless, or someone who processed the reservation on the back end, added full damage coverage to the rental without my consent. I only opted for the “supplemental liability insurance,” which cost $15.77 per day, for a total cost of $47.31. I did not select the loss damage waiver ($33.00 per day), personal accident and effects coverage ($6.95 per day), or emergency sickness plan ($4.99 per day), which was indicated as such on the rental agreement I signed and received upon picking up my rental. I did not request these services and I was not notified of the additional charge over the agreed upon cost. These costs were also not included on the credit card receipt I signed when I returned the vehicle. Had I not happened to check my credit card statement when I did, I may have never noticed the unauthorized increase in the charge.
Unfortunately, the process got even more frustrating after my second call. Five days after that call, which was a full week after my initial contact, I had not received a response. Payless never sent me any of the promised emails related to my issue, despite representatives’ statements that they had done so. I had to log in to the website with my ticket number in order to see the customer care department’s responses. Incredibly, Payless refused to refund me the additional $79, stating that they believed I had agreed to the extra charges despite my possession of a receipt which proved otherwise. On the phone, after I learned this news, the agent on the line refused to let me speak to his supervisor. After a final call with a promise to report on this issue publicly, a Payless representative once again refused to elevate the call.
My experience with Payless is not unique, unfortunately. Payless has a one-star (out of five) rating on Consumer Affairs, with 196 one-star reviews and only two five-star reviews and four with two stars. The company received the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) lowest “F” rating, and the BBB issued a nationwide warning about the company in May. Competitor Hertz received an “A+” from the BBB, and both Alamo and Thrifty have “B” scores. Payless parent company Avis got an “F” from the BBB as well, as did Enterprise. A number of plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit against Payless and its parent company in September 2016, for the same kind of unauthorized add-ons that happened to me.
Here is the Better Business Bureau’s full description of the issues with Payless:
BBB has identified a pattern of complaints. Consumers claim that the business misrepresents its sales and services. Specifically, consumers allege that quoted prices for vehicle reservations are sometimes not even available or billed at a different price at a later time. Additionally, consumers claim that this business is not forthcoming with additional fees and services at the time of the contract. Customer’s claim that services they declined; such as fuel service, road side assistance, and insurance, appear on their bills when they return their vehicles. Customers allege that customer service representatives are often unable to remedy their situation, transferring them from one department to another. Complainants also allege the overall lack of communication and unwillingness to return calls. BBB has reached out to this business, but the business has failed to respond.
What can consumers do to avoid being burned by a bad rental? Be careful of springing for the lowest available price – research the company to make sure they have a good reputation. Consumers may also want to contact the rental agency directly to inquire about the cost of additional services such as insurance, as these costs are often not presented up-front on the rental website. Lastly, always be sure to double check the credit or debit card statement after the rental is concluded, and request and keep all original paperwork and receipts, to ensure that you are charged only what you agreed to pay.