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BID FOR CHEAP RENTAL IS SHORT OF THE MARK

Q SEVERAL WEEKS AGO, I rented a car from the Buffalo office of Budget Rent A Car.

I have never before rented a car, and made that clear to the clerk when I called. My husband and I wanted the weekend to be special so we were renting a Lincoln Town car. My boss told me to inquire about a corporate rate, but other than that I was at the mercy of the clerk handling my order.

To sum up my complaint, when we brought the car back the clerk who handled the return said to me, "Gee, it's too bad you didn't take the unlimited mileage rate of $79.95 a day" -- an overall savings of $52.65. Obviously, they knew and I knew that going to Pittsburgh would take us beyond the mileage allowed with the daily rate they wrote us up for. Her comment also indicated to me that the special rate was available on the day we picked the car up.

Their customer representative -- in response to a letter I wrote the company -- claimed that a lower-rate mileage was not available when we picked up the car. I don't believe a "new" unlimited mileage rate went into effect over the weekend. They also claim that we were booked at a rate of $49.95 but a lower rate had become available when we arrived to pick up the car and they reduced the rate to $44.95. That is not true.

The $49.95 rate was what was quoted me over the phone. The $44.95 rate was because of the corporate rate I had asked for. I would much rather have paid the 10 percent corporate savings and taken the unlimited mileage. My husband saved hard for this weekend and I want to see him get back the money he should not have had to pay.

-- M.B., North Tonawanda
A "TO THIS DATE," says Paul Risk, a customer relations representative for Budget in Carrollton, Texas, "our earlier response to this customer remains unchanged."

That response was, "I am sure you can understand, reservations are of paramount importance to the travel industry. At the time your reservation was confirmed the only rates available were rates which included a charge for both time and mileage. According to the office you were booked for a rate of $49.95 per day with 150 miles per day free. Upon arrival, it was noted that a lower rate had become available. The office then presented you with a rate of $44.95 per day with 150 miles per day free.

"It is this rate which you accepted by your signature on the rental contact, and it was this rate upon which the office used to calculate your rental charges. Based upon this information I must agree with the renting office that your charges are correct.

"It is true that the renting office did initiate an unlimited-mileage rate during the course of your rental. However, I would not expect an office to change the rate charged to a client during the course of their rental. These rates are set upon commencement of the rental period. With this in mind, I must decline your request for reimbursement."

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