The Thrifty Car Rental That Never Happened

The Rental Car Floor at Orlando International Airport

June 11, 2021 – We went on vacation to Orlando, FL in February 2021 and decided to book our car rental in advance. A friend of ours owns a travel agency and I booked through her so she could make a commission. After I made the reservation, I found out there was a $100 cancellation fee for the reservation and in the news there were stories that because of the pandemic, rental car companies had been selling off their fleets because their business had declined so much that they had too many cars that weren’t being rented. The day of our travel, our flight was delayed into Orlando so by the time we deplaned and got our bags, it was about 10:30 PM. Heading downstairs to the car rental counters, we were shocked by what we saw.

The lines for all of the rental agencies were all very, very long. Imagine the long lines at an amusement park, now add strollers, luggage, kinds running around and/or crying, frustrated and tired parents trying to keep it all together. Of course we had to walk past all of the other lines to get to the Thrifty Car Rental line, which was at the other end of the room where we entered. The Thrifty line must have had 100 people in it at least. Sure, many were family members of the renters, but it was still a long line. The family that we traveled with got in line with a different company and got their car within 30 minutes and headed to the hotel where we were staying.

We had heard of rental car shortages, just days before our trip.

Meanwhile, more than 2 hours after I got in line, I’m inching toward the front of the line (my wife and kids are trying to keep themselves occupied, sitting on the floor about 30 feet from me–there are very few chairs) and people are still lining up behind me from the other flights coming into Orlando that night. Mind you, it’s almost 1AM by this time. At this time the customer service reps behind the counter are not helping anyone else–the line has stopped. They’re on the phone, pacing back and forth, looking suspicious. People ahead of me in line start to complain loud enough for the Thrifty employees to hear and one employee says they will be making an announcement very soon and won’t elaborate. Just after this, a uniformed Orlando Police officer shows up and speaks to the Thrifty employee.

The Thrifty employee makes an announcement that there are not enough rental cars in the fleet and it is taking much, much longer for the Thrifty Car employees to clean them and that there won’t be any more cars available until after 5AM. He tells us that we can wait in line, or come back when the airport reopens at 5AM. I can’t believe my ears and have a sinking feeling we’re going to be out not only a rental car, but $100 because of their cancellation fell. Other people that I’m in line with ask him why they decided to tell us this now, and didn’t give us any kind of warning ahead of time. He doesn’t have an answer and half way apologizes and heads to the back room, out of sight.

I text my wife, who I’ve lost track of because I’ve been preoccupied with the line and trying to keep myself entertained, and let her know about what’s going on with Thrifty. Of course she asks about the $100 cancellation fee, so I call Thrifty’s toll free customer service phone number (it’s about 1AM by this time), navigate through their menu and speak to a representative. I tell the Thrifty employee on the phone our predicament and she apologizes and said there is a $100 cancellation fee. At this point I explain to her that I’m not cancelling, Thrifty has run out of cars. She “speaks to a supervisor” and after a few minutes of holding, informs me the fee will be waived and the refund for the rental will take approximately 7 to 10 business days to go back on our credit card, reflecting the $100 cancellation fee that has now been waived. I thank her and we end up renting from a different car company, but have to pick up the car the following day. We call our friend and ask her if she can pick us up and drive me back to the airport the next day to get our rental car. She’s nice enough to oblige. It’s 2:30 AM when our friend picks us up from the airport.

Space Shuttle external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, Cape Canaveral, FL.

Our time in Orlando is great. Lots to see, including a SpaceX launch, Disney Hollywood Studios and all the Star Wars stuff, Jet-Skiing, hanging out by the pool and spending time with the friends we went down there with. About 7 to 10 days later, the Thrifty Car Rental refund shows up on our credit card statement. Take a guess what’s missing. Yup, our total was short the $100 fee they promised to waive. I call them and wait and wait for the next available agent and finally hang up when I see they have a live chat option on their website and on Facebook. Usually I’ve had pretty good responses from companies using their social media accounts. Immediately, I get a reply and am told they’ll get back to me. That was over a month ago. I’ve replied to the message, emailed them, sent them messages on Twitter and Instagram and nothing. They won’t reply.

My advice: Don’t rent a car from Thrifty. There are too many other companies to give your money to. They haven’t earned my repeat business and I’m taking this opportunity to let everyone I know that they should avoid Thrifty Car Rental.
-Terry, June 11, 2021

Trying to get their attention, June 15, 2021

Update, June 17, 2021 – It seems every time I update this page, they end up getting back to me, so here I am. A few days ago, they did in fact reply to me on Twitter , asking me to PM (private message) them my name, reservation number, etc., so I did. I got the obligatory “Thank you for providing this information…” reply. Of course, since then, crickets…again.