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Budget Truck Rental Redeems Themselves

On August 17th, after nearly dying in a Budget truck, I posted this, describing our experience up to that point. What follows is the full description of our saga.

Update 10/18/2010: Budget called today. Apparently their social media specialist saw this blog entry, and sent the matter back to Customer Service. They apologized profusely, refunded the remainder of our rental fee, and promised to look into this to make sure this sort of issue was avoided in the future. The company just went up an order of magnitude in my estimation. Nobody is perfect - we all make mistakes, be it large companies or individuals. What brings customers back is not perfection but responsibility and caring.

Thank you, Budget, for doing the honorable thing and making this right!

On August 14, 2010, we rented a 16-foot truck (No. 664450) in Harrisonburg, VA with the intention of being in Payson, UT on the 22nd of August. On the Sunday the 15th, as soon as we got on the freeway and reached 60 miles per hour, the truck began swaying from side to side in a violent manner. I was fighting to keep the vehicle upright and trying to stop the harmonic motion with compensatory steering, but it was almost a losing battle; braking seemed to make things worse. Rolling a fully-loaded van at 60 on a busy freeway would have been death. As it was, we just about had heart attacks anyway - but we were thankful to have been spared death or disaster. To say the least, this was terrifying.

After we got pulled over and calmed down a bit, we called Budget Roadside Assistance, and got the answer that a dispatcher would call us back in 30 minutes to tell us what to do. We decided to trundle ahead to the next exit - slowly. On the way, we found that keeping the truck at 45 or below made it possible to control the swaying, even though any uneven pavement would begin the rocking again. Budget's dispatcher called back in an hour and a half, and told us that there was really nothing we could do until Monday morning. We chose to continue at minimum speed, andd made it as far as Moorefield, WV that night.

The following morning we got on the road and slowly continued northward toward Keyser, WV, where we stopped for lunch and called Roadside Assistance again. We asked them to arrange for a repair stop along our route Northward; sadly, our request was ignored, and an hour later we were told we could take the truck for repairs to Truck Enterprises, Inc. in Burlington, WV, which was South of Keyser. When we arrived – after 90 minutes and 45 miles of trying to find the place – we were told that

a) they wouldn’t be able to help us because they were too busy - and they had clearly explained this to the dispatcher on the phone, and
b) they don’t even work on moving vans – only semis.

Why in the world would your dispatch team send us to a repair shop that they knew couldn’t assist us? This makes no sense at all.

Dismayed and disgusted, we called Roadside Assistance, and asked for a repair location Northward on our route. We were once again told we had to wait for a dispatcher, and continued on our way. By the time we had phone connectivity again, we had passed through Maryland and were back in West Virginia at the Bruceton Mills rest stop. At that point I called once more and was told there was a repair shop 60 miles behind us – again our request for a repair shop on our route was ignored. We chose to carry on, overnighting in Pittsburgh and heading the next morning for Detroit, where we had friends with whom we could stay while the vehicle was being worked on. Roadside Assistance set us up an appointment with Budget of Livonia, where we arrived at 8:15 AM on Wednesday morning.

A brief examination by the people at Budget determined:

a) The rear left and right springs were completely de-arced.
b) Right and left radius arm bushings were worn out.
c) All 4 ball joints were loose.
d) Front tires were badly worn.
e) The rear left and right spring rear shackle bushings were worn out.

Based on the service sticker in this vehicle, it was maintained in June. None of these problems had developed overnight, and all of them should have been caught at the last scheduled maintenance. In addition, the brakes were extremely soft and I had to stand on them to get the truck to come to a stop. This truck should never have been let anywhere near a road, let alone rented out. It was both un-roadworthy and unsafe.

The people at Budget of Livonia are to be commended. They bent over backwards to make sure we were taken care of, and determined that the truck could not be repaired. Once again we began dealing with Roadside Assistance to arrange for a load swap team. We returned to our friends’ home in Wyandotte, and were told by the dispatcher that a load swap team would be on-site at between 2 and 3 PM.

At 3:41 I was called by Moving Staffers (the movers Budget contracts with in the Detroit area) and told that they could only be at the truck at about 7:00 PM. I told them that this was too late, and asked if they could arrange for another team to come help us. When they called back at 4:08 they said that a two-man team was on its way and would be there at 5:30, so we headed off for Livonia again. And, their fine two-man team arrived at about 7:00 PM, claiming that they were lost and unable to find the address, even with a GPS. Once the two got to work, they were able to swap our load in about 2½ hours. I’m so grateful for our friends in Wyandotte who shuttled us back and forth and put us up – if not for them, my wife and I would have been stuck at the Livonia Budget outlet from 8:30 AM until 10 at night.

For what it’s worth, the 24-foot truck they put us in had problems of its own. At idle, the entire cab would vibrate loudly; on certain types of pavement the truck would buck like a stallion, making it impossible to rest or read; the interior cargo lights were broken; the air conditioner would cut out at random intervals; and the headlight switch would fall into the dashboard, making it very hard to extract. At least we made it to our destination safely.

We contacted Budget and reported our experience. They offered to pay our expenses for the three days we were delayed, and refund 30% of the rental price. A truck sent out in such unspeakable condition implies a gross failure in safety and quality control procedures. I would have thought that a much more appropriate response would be a refund of the full price of the rental, plus expenses, and a letter of acknowledgment and apology, with the promise that measures would be taken to avoid this kind of incident in the future. I told them so, and gave them a chance to modify their offer. They did not. They made their choice - and now we're going to make this incident known far and wide.

I wish I were as clever as the "United Breaks Guitars" guy...

[Edit: It makes sense to publicize things like this without being nasty. This post got their attention, and they did the right thing. A lawsuit would have been useless, frivolous, and a waste of time and effort for everyone - except the lawyers.]

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Oct. 11th, 2010 04:26 am (UTC)
Mind if I post a link to this in my journal to spread the word?
Oct. 11th, 2010 05:24 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you!

Oct. 18th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
Apparently spreading the word did the trick. See the update, and my latest entry. Thanks for your help! <3
Oct. 11th, 2010 06:51 am (UTC)
We could easily make that into a song similar to "United Breaks Guitars". We just need a few more words that rhyme with "truck" and "suck"... (But maybe not the word that I'm sure you're thinking of right now!)
Oct. 11th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
"Luck?" "Duck?"

Oct. 11th, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC)
Chuck. Muck? Yuk.
Oct. 11th, 2010 12:14 pm (UTC)
That's terrifying. I'm glad you're safe, and thank you for spreading the word about this lousy company.
Oct. 11th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC)
I'll say it again; I consider myself warned. You may find it worth your while to take these sorry poor excuses for donkeys' backsides to court over this!
Oct. 11th, 2010 01:42 pm (UTC)
Glad you are safe. I do hope you reported it to the BBB. Also DOT might be interested in your experience of this.A pop inspection might be in order. Don't forget to give the truck number and or plate number.
Oct. 11th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)
Seems to me the very company name is a red flag.

Why in the world would your dispatch team send us to a repair shop that they knew couldn’t assist us?

I can attribute it only to miscommunication, possibly from bad reception or simply NotAlwaysRight.com-style poor listening.
Oct. 11th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)
Sounds as though you'd have done better to ask the Clampetts for a loan....

That sofa was more comfy than most truck seats...


The Old Wolf

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