On April 29, 2008 we returned to Canada from a wonderful three week holiday in Israel. Our holiday was only marred by Budget s surreal response when our rental car broke down 25 minutes outside Jerusalem. What follows is a story of inconceivably bad customer service which left us stranded on the road for 6 hours, ruined our plans for our last day of our trip and left us frustrated and angry.
My wife, my youngest son and I had stopped at the Almog Junction for a cup of coffee shortly after 2pm on our way back from the Dead Sea. When we got back in the car it would not start. There had been no prior indication that anything was wrong with the car.
Sometime before 3 pm we placed a call to the Ben Gurion Airport Budget office where we had picked up the car and asked for assistance. We were transferred to the Jerusalem Office where Yael, who claimed to be the supervisor told us that we would have to follow procedure and wait (quote) - up to two hours- for a technician to inspect the car and determine what had to be done. I requested a replacement car so we could continue our trip but Yael, quoting procedure, told us that nothing would be done until the technician arrived and made a determination. When I asked if we could leave the car and deliver the keys to the Jerusalem office I was told that it would be (quote) -my decision- for which [I ]would be fully responsible if anything happened to the car-. This warning was delivered in a threatening tone.
Half an hour later I called to ask if they had an ETA for the technician and were told that the technician was on another call and could not be reached. An hour later, at about 4 pm I called again to ask about the status of our call and insist on a replacement car, and was told that my calls were making things worse for us and to stop calling.
An hour and a half later we were told that although they had no information on when the technician would turn up, the -up to two hours- period had not yet expired and therefore we could not complain. When asked what would happen after the two hours were up we were told that only the technician could make a determination. We were also told that the office would close at 6 pm and we would then have to call the emergency number. Fortunately my wife and son were able to get a ride to Jerusalem on a tourist bus shortly after 5 pm. (Thank you again Ezra and Oda for your help)
Well, 6 pm arrived (three hours since we had placed the first call) and when we called the emergency number they had no record of our previous calls and had to go through the remote troubleshooting procedure again before they would record our trouble call. Again we were refused any other options other than to wait for the technician who would decide what had to be done. Obviously according to Budget this was a technical decision to be made by a technician, not a customer service decision.
Four hours later (and after several other calls to Budget from friends and locals who took pity on us – by then I was exhausted , and feeling impotent in the face of overwhelming stupidity) we still had no word on the technician. The technician finally arrived at 7:20 pm , and without saying a word opened the hood , put his hand deep under the radiator and started the car ( raising our suspicion that it was a known problem with the unit) , then spent about half an hour with it until he pronounced it fixed. I asked if I could trust the car to get us to the airport the next day for our return trip and was told that I should try starting the car an hour before we had to leave for the Airport just in case. I asked to test the car before he left: the car failed to start after the second try. At that point, the technician made the decision to give us a replacement car, after more than 5 hours of being stranded on the road.
By the time we arrived at the Budget Jerusalem office -across from the King David Hotel ( 8:30 pm) I had decided I did not want to have anything to do with Budget any longer. I was asked to fill the gas tank before I left the car (15 liters) and was given a full rental bill, including this last day. There were no explanations or apologies, not even an offer of a ride back to my hotel. Before I left I was given a printout of some form. I asked- What is this? And was told it was a document indicating (quote)-that it was not your fault-. Drained of energy and emotion I walked to the corner and hailed a cab to our hotel,
Our plans for the afternoon and our farewell dinner with family and friends had been ruined. I arranged for a taxi to take us to the Airport the next morning and started packing.
We have not heard a word from Budget.
Product or Service Mentioned: Budget Rent A Car Car Rental.