I just touched down for a bit of a long-term assignment in the Miami area—I’ll be in SoFlo until 7/21/17, so RG readers, holla—and as a result, I decided to investigate some different rental car options. Normally, I’m National 4 Lyfe kinda guy, as I like the ability to pick my own car and exit the airport as quickly as possible. But, in this case, National was the most expensive option by far, clocking in at nearly double the price of some competitors.
As a result, I decided to investigate SiXT Rent a Car.
They had some stunningly low rates on European cars—something like $20 a day for a Mercedes GLA/CLA, Audi A3, or Volvo S60, and only a little more for a C Class or even E Class. National was $35 a day for something from the Emerald Executive Aisle, which, in Miami, normally means an Impala or Charger, and sometimes it’s worse.
So I reserved my “Audi A3 or similar” through their website after I found a 15% off coupon online. This made my rental $16 plus tax per day. Amazing, right? I could have saved even a little more if I had decided to prepay my reservation. However, just in case all wasn’t what it seemed, I decided not to. And, boy, I’m glad my Spidey senses were tingling on that one.
I showed up to the SiXT rental desk around 9:45 PM, after walking past literally a dozen SiXT advertisements on the way to the Rental Car train. I’ve been incredibly spoiled by National, in the sense that I can just walk to their Emerald Aisle, take a car, and leave. However, SiXT gave me a QR code to put into my iOS wallet, which was supposed to mean that I could have “express” checkout.
Turns out that SiXT and I have very different understandings of the word “express.” After waiting ten minutes or so at the counter, where I could observe SiXT employees taking the most cavalier of attitudes toward customer service, I was called up to my counter. Turns out there was another counter right next to it that I couldn’t see from my original vantage point, where a young lady was just sitting and filing her nails. Okay, then.
Nevertheless, I was somewhat excited about my car options. After I handed the young lady at the desk my phone with the QR code displayed on the screen, I began to review the SiXT brochure on the desk. It detailed the various classes of cars, including the engine size and horsepower ratings of each. It was taking the associate at the counter a genuinely long time to enter my information, so I had time to review all of the options. I was even considering an upgrade, when she interrupted my train of thought with a between Scylla and Charybdis sort of option.
“Would you like the full coverage insurance, or the basic coverage?” Christ, little girl. I’ve been in sales longer than you’ve been alive. Don’t alternative choice me.
“Neither. My credit card covers that.”
“Okay, but it doesn’t cover liability. Florida state law requires you to buy liability insurance.”
“My regular insurance policy covers me for liability.”
“Do you have your policy with you? I have to enter it.”
This is the sort of thing that drives me batshit crazy. I’ve rented literally fifty cars or more in Florida in my life. Not once have I been forced to buy liability insurance or to demonstrate that I carry it. (In fact, it turns out Florida law states exactly the opposite.) I wonder exactly how many people SiXT bullies into paying for insurance that they don’t need?
“No, I don’t carry a paper copy of my insurance policy with me. What exactly do you need? I’m in a bit of a hurry here.” Which wasn’t technically true—I was only in a hurry to go to sleep.
I think she sussed out that I was suitably annoyed, so she said, “That’s okay, sir, you’ll just have to sign a waiver. Now, will you be driving on toll roads here in Miami?”
If you’re not aware, it’s nearly impossible to drive in Miami without going on a toll road at some point. Nearly all of the highways have toll sections, and if you try to drive on surface roads in Miami, you may end up killing yourself—either out of frustration or by accidentally stopping at a red light in Little Havana after dark.
“Yes, I will.”
“Okay, well we charge a service fee for each toll of five dollars…”
Now I was mad. “I’m sorry, what? The tolls are like fifty cents each.”
“Yes, but we have to charge a service fee for each toll. You can get unlimited tolls for $11 a day.”
Jesus. So that’s why the rentals are so cheap. “I’m not paying that. Why can’t you just bill the tolls to my credit card on file like every other rental car company does?”
“We have to charge a service…”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake. Fine. I’ll pay the $11.” My savings over National was nearly gone at this point, and I’d been inconvenienced for at least 30 minutes. But at least I was still getting a better car than I’d normally get with National. Kinda. Well, no, not if it was a CLA 250. Fuck.
“Okay, sir, they’re washing your car right now, so it will only be another 30-45 minutes.”
“Cancel my rental. I don’t have time to wait for that.”
“Are you sure? It’s late at night and you might not be able to get a car elsewhere.”
I opened up my National app, and 10 seconds later, had a one-click reservation. “Yeah, I think I’ll be fine. Cancel it, please.”
“Okay, well, if you’re sure. You didn’t pre-pay, so there’s no charge.”
“Thanks.” I stormed off, collected my bags, and went down to the Emerald Aisle in the garage. 2 minutes later, I had my Impala V6 LT and I was on my way. Sigh.
Moral of the story? If something seems to be too good—especially if you’re a tenured business traveler who really should know better—it probably is. And National, I’m so, so very sorry. I’ll never stray again.