While the events in this post happened a while ago, the moral of the story remains the same and it’s worthwhile repeating for those who’ve never seen it before.
One of my predominant character traits is that I’m honest, occasionally to my own detriment. From a very young age, I was a terrible liar. I guess it comes from being an only child; who could I blame for something if there’s no one else in the house? Over the years, I’ve also developed an almost visceral dislike for people who lie or are dishonest just for their own personal gain.
Several years ago, I was stuck in a moral dilemma in regards to a booking I made for a rental car. I’m just curious about what someone else would do if they ended up in the same situation (and hopefully get rid of the guilt I’ve carried with me for all these years).
Way back before I had Autoslash to look for rental car discounts for me, finding the cheapest rate for a car was an hours-long process. In order to check the price for each discount code, you needed to make a test booking and input the specific code for each discount you were eligible for (AAA, Entertainment Book, BJ’s Warehouse Club, American Express Platinum.)
It was a tedious, time-consuming process and just the type of thing I used to love to do. I’d have a pad of paper and a pencil, writing down each code number and the price I received for that rate. When I was all finished, I’d go back and complete the rental with the lowest rate.
One time, I was going through the process and I received a rate that was at least 50% lower than any of the other already discounted prices. I couldn’t believe it so I went and tried again and to my disbelief, the same low price appeared. I decided to test this further and found that any size vehicle up to a full-size car showed the same price.
So I went ahead and booked my full-size car for what ended up to be 70% less than the list price and felt very happy with my work for the evening. As I said before, this was quite a while ago so I couldn’t just go onto Facebook and tell the whole world about this great code I found. There were some message boards that listed all the codes but I was still a newbie and I wasn’t even sure why this code worked the way it did. However, I wasn’t stupid so I make sure to note it on my list of codes to use in the future.
Now we’re going to jump ahead to just before my trip. That time where you started to get emails from all of your reservations reminding you that you were going away. I used to love that time, the pre-trip excitement. Except for this time. You see, sometimes between when I booked the car and the email being sent, the rental car company updated their systems. Instead of simply showing the rate, now there was a line item of the discount you’ve applied and the type of code you used. Instead of typing the code I wanted to use for a legitimate discount, I transposed two numbers and ended up using a corporate convention code. Oh no!
All of these thoughts went through my head. Should I rebook? Well, let me see what the rates are. They’re double the rate from when I looked before (not double the rate I booked, double the normal rate since I was only a few days from the trip). Would I be asked for some sort of proof I actually worked for this company? I looked up the company whose code I accidentally used. Was it some government front and I’ll end up being interviewed by men in grey suits like Matthew Broderick’s character in War Games?
What can I say?…I was young. I thought people got in real trouble for doing things like this, even if it was an accident. And my bedroom never looked like that. OK, maybe it did but with the next generation of computers.
I considered being honest when I showed up to rent the car and tell them I noticed on my receipt that I was getting a discount code I didn’t recognize. I decided doing that would even confuse the rental company clerk even more. So I made a decision to do something that is totally against my character:
I made the decision to lie.
Well, I didn’t end up lying. I just didn’t have to say anything. I walked to the counter and rented my car. Since I was a member of the frequent renter program, I didn’t get any questions about the insurance or gas (and since you paid tolls at the toll back then, there weren’t any crazy transponder fees). My rental was processed and I went on my way. It was way too easy. I was half expecting to be flagged when I returned the car, but nothing happened. Pfew.
Now, when I got home, I made sure to note that the code I used was wrong and corrected my mistake on my list. I discovered that it’s pretty easy to get away with something if you discover, or are told, some inside information. I also found out that I am the WORST person to try any of these things. I’m too nervous as it is and I don’t need any additional things to worry about when I travel. I’ll just go ahead and find discounts I’m eligible for and I sleep much better at night because of it.
What’s your take? Would you have canceled and rebooked the rate or would you have handled it the same way I did? Even more, would you have used the rate again? (If you’re wondering, I checked and it did work for a while longer with impressive savings until it was eventually turned off.) Would you have shared it with your friends? Maybe with everyone who’d listen?
(Note from Sharon: I would have used the code again and again, if possible. Hey Joe, do you think maybe that code still works? We’re gonna need a rental car for our trips to Texas this year… LOLOL!)
I think that this situation is why I tend to take such a conservative approach to earn points. There are plenty of people out there who are making hundreds of thousands of points a month through any number of different systems but I’m not the person to try these. They just seem too risky for me. I think too much about what if instead of looking at what could be and I don’t plan on changing.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary