The last article I read before leaving my flat to pick up a hire car on Saturday morning was this:
It describes a guy who reserved one class of car but, when he arrived to pick it up, he was warmly greeted with news that he had been "upgraded" to a bigger, better model "at no extra charge!!"
The argument for why this was a bad thing went like this:
- Fuel prices are high
- So gas guzzlers are not selling
- So car manufacturers are selling cars with bad mileage to the hire firms at knock-down rates
- The hire-firms then rent these out to unsuspecting customers who think they have received a bargain - when, in fact, they are about the be stung for far more fuel than they anticipated
- An extension to the scam is that hire firms will try to sell you a full tank of fuel "to save you refuelling at the end of your hire period" - and so will benefit from selling a car with a bigger tank.
Very interesting, I thought.
And then Hertz at London City Airport stung me with the scam thirty minutes later!
We had booked a Ford Mondeo 1.8 - nothing special, but enough for three people and their bags.
We were congratulated on having been upgraded to a two-seater Alfa Romeo. I pointed out that three people would not fit in it.
The guy paused for a second before offering us Saab 9-5 instead.
Now, a 9-5 isn't that much bigger than a Mondeo so I checked it was the same engine size ("It's a 2.0l - but we could have given you a 2.0l Mondeo in any case"). So far, so reasonable. He also let slip that it was an automatic but I wasn't quick enough to start smelling the rat.
The reality: after we had signed the paperwork and gone outside, it transpired that this was a monstrous estate car with a 2.3 litre turbo-charged engine.
We were running too late to argue so took it.
The car was very nice to drive and very fast. But we barely scraped 30 miles per gallon (on a 650 mile round trip).
Somewhere in Hertz HQ, they probably think this little system is win-win for all concerned. And, mostly, it is.... unless you're driving a long way and petrol is learly £1 per litre...