Midtown Manhattan, New York City, from Rockefe...

We moved the eldest daughter from one apartment to another in NYC over the weekend. While she hasn’t yet accumulated the vast amount of “stuff” we all do over the years that necessitate bigger and bigger spaces to contain it, she had enough that we needed to rent a truck to move it 60 blocks uptown. And that’s when the fun began.
At least when the mob tries to sell you on the concept of insurance you know it’s not a negotiation. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the same principles applied when the “insurance” salesperson came in the form of a Budget Truck Rental agent.  I reserved the truck on-line and when I appeared at the rental office, all was well.  In fact, since they were out of 10′ trucks I was given a 16′ one at no extra charge.  While this made the packing a bit easier, it made the driving a bit more of an adventure.

In any event, as is the custom when one rents a vehicle of any sort, I was asked if I wanted to buy the insurance package which, should I total the truck and abandon its charred frame in the Hudson, would wipe out any liability I might have and replace the vehicle.  Except, of course, you and I know that it really doesn’t.  While I’m not a lawyer, I do play one on the web and know enough to do a little research.  Turns out the Supplemental Liability Insurance they try to sell you covers you against claims made by a third party (i.e., not you or the moving truck rental company) regarding damages to persons or property that you caused. The Limited Damage Waiver protects you from having to pay for damages to the moving truck up to a specified amount.  If I did, in fact, crash the truck into The Bethesda Fountain or anything else, I’d be pretty much screwed in any event so I opted to go naked – no insurance – and hope I’d drive carefully and have enough other insurance or cash on hand to cover any eventuality.  I know my credit card and home owners policies don’t really help and I was pretty sure neither would the rental company’s in a pinch.

Stupid?  Maybe, but it’s MY choice, and when I informed the agent I would be declining his kind offer, he launched into a 5 minute lecture on what the inner circle of hell was like without insurance.  He had me sign – in 3 places – an additional form that detailed the forthcoming ruin I was about to meet.  He gave me a diagram of every scratch on the truck I was renting (to which I added two torn decal indications).

When I returned the truck 3 hours and 10 miles later, it was exactly as it had left the lot.  Maybe with a bit more gas.  As I checked it in, and was given the receipt to sign, there was a charge for – wait for it – insurance!  In fact, the insurance was more than the rental charge.   The same guy who gave me the lecture now gave me a credit, but obviously he has some incentive to get that insurance on the bill (which, if anyone from Budget reads this, he didn’t redo – he just issued a credit so DO NOT pay his commission on the sale!).

Business lessons:  First, the customer is in charge.  If he’s  an idiot that doesn’t want the damn insurance, it’s his choice.  You did your job by informing him.  Now either include it in the basic rate you quote or back off.  Second, consumers aren’t dumb.  We do read receipts.  Third, trying to sneak something by a customer won’t work when it doubles the bill.  Fourth, the likelihood of me ever renting from you again is proportionate to my experience with you.  How do you like your odds?  Finally, don’t incent your sales reps to do anything that places that rep on a different side than the customer.

Insurance is supposed to mitigate damage.  In this case, it caused it.

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