I am fed up with places of business that sanction poor customer service. I have enough horror stories of incredibly unfavorable encounters with corporations that are riddled with inept personnel that would send chills down Stephen King’s spine. I feel like sharing, so here is my latest adventure. My recent family vacation was marred by a business transaction that went about as smoothly as driving a go-cart down I-94. What should have been a simple business affair deteriorated into a performance of what I will call "Iincompetent and Incompetenter". This experience can serve as an illustration as to how not to interact with customers. I will let my letters to the corporation’s two Chief Executive Officers tell my sorrowful tale: Mr. Miller: What should have been a straightforward business transaction with Budget Rent a Car has left me and several family members financially poorer, extraordinarily inconvenienced, and angry enough to tell anyone who will listen to avoid patronizing Budget at all costs. My large family group had been anticipating a vacation together for several months. We planned on renting a 15-passenger van for the trip and were excited at the prospect of riding together, minimizing fuel expenses, and spreading out the driving duties. Our trip was to begin on July 13 of this year. Approximately one month prior to the vacation, I reserved the van with my Visa credit card. I was to pick up the vehicle the evening of July 12 – the day before our trip – at the Livonia, Michigan Budget location. Around 1:00 p.m. on July 12, I phoned the office to inquire if I could pick up the van an hour early. I was astonished to learn from the office clerk that no van is – or would become – available for our use. The clerk (Amanda) offered no explanation, even when pressed for one, and no apology. I explained that I had reserved the van with my credit card one month ago, but Amanda clearly did not care. I asked when Budget was planning on notifying me that I had no van, since I was supposed to pick it up in less than four hours. Amanda replied that I had already been notified (I had not). I asked to speak with a manager, and Amanda replied that the manager, Brian, was out and would return in 20 minutes. I asked that Brian call me as soon as he arrives back in the office. Forty-five minutes later, I called again and got Amanda. I asked for Brian. Amanda replied, “he was here, but he just stepped out. He’ll be back in an hour.” I identified myself as the customer in need of a 15-passenger van and asked Amanda if she had given Brian the message to call me, as I had asked in our previous conversation. She responded that he just stepped out. I repeated the question, to which she replied that he had to run some errands. I asked the question a third time, politely and calmly. Amanda slammed the phone down in my ear. During this time, my wife was on her cell phone with various Budget employees, including the main office and customer service department. She explained the situation and was told repeatedly that there is no van and there will be no van. She was told, several times, that she should have reserved the van with a credit card (which I had done). Eventually, a customer service representative called back and offered us a pair of Lincoln Continentals. Considering that our need was for a single, 15-passenger van, I consider this “solution” absurd and insulting. Next, I went to Budget’s website. I typed in my confirmation number The site indicated that I have a 15-passenger van reserved for July 12, 2002 to be picked up at 5:30 p.m. It also told me to enjoy my trip. Brian then returned my call. He said the customer service rep had been in contact with him and it was going to be “the two Lincolns or nothing”. I reiterated the urgency of my situation but was again met with a “take it or leave it” position. No empathy. No offer to explore other avenues of resolution. No apology. I informed Brian that his employee had hung up on me earlier. His reply: “I can’t confirm or deny that, I wasn’t there.” He clearly had no intention of pursuing the issue further. Is this the sort of response Budget wants its managers to make to a customer who registers a complaint? Or should the manager have, perhaps, apologized and promised to investigate the allegation? Eventually, another family member contacted Budget’s corporate office and spoke with a representative, who secured a pair of vehicles for our trip. The vehicles sufficed, but compared to our original plan, they were an extreme compromise. We used twice as much fuel. We required twice as many ‘driver hours’ (this was an issue with us). And we were robbed of the togetherness we had planned on and looked forward to with the large van. Upon picking up the vehicles, we dealt with a desk clerk named Candy, who was the only Budget employee we’d encountered who was polite and helpful. She was also the only employee who apologized for our inconvenience. I am surprised that I did everything properly to reserve the van and there was no van available. I am dismayed that I was not informed by Budget that there was a problem; it was only by chance that I learned of it myself, two hours before the van was to be picked up and 12 hours before we were to leave for our trip. I am appalled that I was treated with such indifference, disrespect, and even hostility by various Budget employees. I have never before been subjected to such incompetence and apathy in a business situation. I am the editor of a local newsletter. My next editorial, still being edited, will detail my experience with Budget Rent a Car. People will hear about this. I have also filed a complaint on the website complaints.com, in which consumers relate unpleasant or unfair business interactions. Interestingly, I found many complaints against Budget on the site, three of which I’ve attached to this letter. I have also been in contact with Fox2 Problem Solvers, the Detroit area news program that works to expose questionable business practices, about airing a show based on my complaint. Finally, I will file a report with the Better Business Bureau. I trust you will take this letter seriously. I do expect a response.