Thursday, February 11

Check online, then call

I love the Internet, I really do. It's a godsend for someone with fatigue, since I can check prices without leaving my house. And on days when I don't feel up to talking on the phone (one of the weird forms my depression takes) I can do most of my research online.

But, when it comes to services -- especially rentals -- it often pays to follow up your web investigations with a phone call. I was reminded of this today, while booking Tim's rental car reservation.

His parents currently share a car, so there is no way he could just borrow theirs. I had originally been dismayed at rental car prices. The cheapest I found was $220 for five days. Ouch!

Then I remembered Rent-A-Wreck. For those of you not familiar with the company, don't be fooled by the name. The vehicles are perfectly serviceable. They're just used, unlike most rental cars. There may also be minor aesthetic problems. The cars run perfectly well, though. My mom used one for over a month when she was visiting Alaska. No problems whatsoever. And she got a discount for paying in cash.

I checked online and saw I could get Tim a car for about $126 after tax. That was almost $100 less than the cheapest price I found. (And less than half what most of the companies were asking.)

Unfortunately, life intervened. I never got around to making the call to reserve it. (The company doesn't offer online reservations.)

Fast forward to today, five days before he leaves. And I'm officially paying the procrastination tax -- an offshoot of the stupid tax.

I called and was informed the cheapest they could give me was $189.25. That's after I cleared up that I didn't want the airport location, which came with a $30 surcharge. Always good to remember that convenience comes at a premium.

I told them I'd call back. Then I started hunting around to see what else I could find. I'd had good luck with Enterprise specials in the past, so I surfed on over to its site. Sure enough, after taxes, the price was $168.

That was definitely an improvement over $189. But I wondered if I could do better. So I found the phone number and gave a call. And wouldn't you know it? The price I was quoted was $15 less!

The agent also made it clear that I should call back if I found a lower price anywhere else. Always good to know when a company will match a competitor's price.

After a few more calls, it was clear that Enterprise was offering me the best rate. I called back and booked it. Tim is officially all set.

I am also going to see if my mom can mail an Entertainment Book coupon down to Tim's parents' house. (I'll also ask her to email the coupon code to me, that way if the coupon doesn't make it in time, Tim can always say he forgot his coupon but his wife read him off the code.) If that works, we'll be able to get an even better deal.

Of course, if I had been more on the ball, we would have saved $27: $126 compared to $153. But life isn't perfect, and I'm definitely not. So I consider this a small victory for the procrastinators.

One caveat: I wouldn't recommend trying to do this with airlines. I know of at least one or two that have actually instituted fees for booking over the phone.

Have you found that phone calls can get you lower rates? In what industries?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I havent written before but enjoy reading your blog. Sometimes calling hotels to make reservations gets you a better deal then online.

February 11, 2010 at 6:27 PM


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