THE IDLE AMERICAN: Rain on Priceline Parade

Published 6:43 am Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury


The fingers of one hand are more than enough to count the disparaging columns I’ve written about online purchases that I feel warrant “red alert” warnings.

There’s a current issue, however–intended to be a “let-the-buyer-beware” suggestion– that could save travelers both money and grief.

It concerns a respected company, Priceline©, best known for allowing us to bid on hotel rooms. It also dabbles in other ventures.

For the hotel side of Priceline©, I say “amen,” having booked rooms more than 100 times during the company’s first two decades of operation. I likely will continue to do so, having faced minimal problems while saving considerable cash.

Priceline© also rents automobiles, and it’s my hope that this practice becomes an aborted dabble, like several others in its history.

While I am certain Priceline© demands that participating hotels meet certain standards for each “star level” claimed, such indices don’t seem to apply to its car rental companies.

I know. All that glitters isn’t gold, and sometimes doesn’t even save the couple of dollars expected when one falls for the allure in ads and ignores the fine print.

More than three months ago, I sought a Priceline© car rental at the Denver Airport. I was notified by Ace Rent A Car that my vehicle awaited. However, I learned the day before the scheduled pick-up that Ace was “no longer in business.” However, I was assured that “my contract would be honored by Fox Rent A Car.”

I should have checked Yelp ratings first. Renters rated Ace #167 among car rental locations in Denver, and Fox wasn’t even to be found.

Fox Renters are “yelping on Yelp,” however, 767 times so far.

The “Yelpers” cite numerous common shortcomings, and 599 offer just one “star,” many indicating they would have cited “no star” if the provision were offered. (“Yelpers” suggest the fleet may resemble the one my late “Uncle Cecil” accumulated. He was an undertaker who often accepted used cars as partial payment for funerals. “Usually, the cars ‘jumped naked’ on me,” he used to say.)

I would be a “no star” respondent, too, had there been a place to check “ZERO.”

I spoke with a Priceline© customer relations guy. He was cordial and understanding–or seemed to be–but couldn’t understand why I felt my multiple issues with Fox involved his company. He urged me to take it up with Fox.

Unhappy “renters” cite many shortcomings. Many are repetitious, so surely Priceline© is aware of them. And if they’re not, they should be. Shame on William Shatner, the company’s ad guy said to earn millions annually for his ad endorsements.

Fox Rent A Car “hit” my Sam’s MasterCard bill for a third straight month, assessing a charge of $111.90 for “tolls and fines.” No doubt, the Fox folks didn’t expect my wife to give the bill (and all of our bills) the “fine-toothed-comb” treatment.

I would rent a camel before giving Fox Rent A Car another chance.

Priceline© for hotels remains “at the top” in my book. It will remain there if the “tolls and fines” are cleared. Ten weeks ago, I wrote with tongue in cheek about the misadventures involved in trying to return the rental car. We arose at the Priceline©-booked Aurora, CO, Radisson Hotel, at 2:30 a.m. to make the 6 a.m. flight, 19 miles away (mostly freeway). Unable to find the Fox rental car return, we missed our flight. For this writing, my tongue is retracted, and my teeth are gritted over this ongoing miserable experience.

This gloom is overshadowed, however, by the loss of our rescue dog, Sadie, who had to be put away last week. We’d had her 11 of her estimated 13-15 years, and are saddened that she had too many health issues to overcome. We still have one rescue canine, a dachshund named Sailor. He scrunches beside me in my lounger every day at naptime.


Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments/inquiries to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.