I travel a bunch for my job and have to rent cars on a regular basis. I’m no globe trotter but do my share of domestic jumps and generally rent cars with Budget. I’m a gold or platinum or plutonium or uranium member – this matters very little or a great deal depending where one is. While most rent-a-car companies endeavor to make the customer experience uniform across each outlet, Budget, refreshingly, does not. Let’s trot out some examples:
Memphis, TN – This by far my favorite Budget counter. To call the staff merely relaxed is several comfy sofas short of reality. They are routinely women who are black, sizeable, and owners of bosoms that cover the majority of the available counter space when they lean over it. Your precious metal status as a customer is unimportant, as these girls lure every customer in with phrases such as “What you want to drive today baby? – I got a Mustang," “Insurance is a rip off” and “Where you drivin hon? You goin' to be back Wednesday? Don’t worry I’ll just put it down for Tuesday and we’ll see.” Despite being the home of The King and such, Memphis is by this traveler's reckoning a "dump" or a “shithole." The Memphis experience starts with the constant stream of FedEx planes overhead making sure all the Amazon Prime people get their electronics on time, and it gets worse from there. I don’t want to go anywhere in that town except maybe back to the Budget girls' places for bbq. Their counter is a refreshing wet nap before you plunge into the grunge of a city that combines the boredom of the Midwest with the general backwardness of the South.
San Juan, PR – Also a fun spot assuming there is a car for you and you can navigate back to the lot which turns out to be much more difficult than leaving it. As an extremely white guy Puerto Rican Budget workers generally hit me up with English right away, which I appreciate. Very friendly spot and buenos noches all around. But, seriously, when they tell you to inspect the car for damages and fill out the little sheet DO IT! before you exit.
Philadelphia, PA – Like the usual blogger here, I hail from Philly originally and both of us have had many occasions to use PHL. There are probably worse places in Syria and South Sudan but I don’t have to go to those so I will single the Burg of Brotherly Love out as the most unfriendly Budget counter in my experience. This is not unique to Budget; all PHL airport denizens are surly in the extreme, from info desk workers to bag handlers to bar staff. After a brief walk through the Marriott (or if you actually deign to get on the shuttle bus to the Budget counter) the staff will have taken miserableness to the Olympic level to celebrate your arrival. From your pick up to your drop off, barely suppressed anger oozes out of them, complementing the hellishly cold and dank surroundings nicely. I do my best to try and be sympathetic, as the Philly airport is nestled between a very large sewage treatment plant, the Delaware River, where the pollutants of centuries past meander lazily towards the Atlantic and an abandoned Navy shipyard. If you've never been there please brace yourself for the initial shock of the smell that hits you upon arrival –unique among the nation's metro airports. I imagine being surrounded by it all day would make me testy as well.
AUTHOR'S NOTE—While I don't have the rental car resume of my brother, I did recently suffer through a similar travel-work experience in Dallas, which in my opinion is just another boring Midwestern town but with a cowboy hat on. While my rental car wasn't from Budget, it didn't matter; at the Dallas airport all the rental car companies share the same structure, kind of like a United Nations General Assembly of Rental Wheels, filled with cars painted in primary colors that you would never want to actually own. The main defect with this is that the structure is reached by a very long road along which the signs for rental car drop-off are spaced so widely that you are repeatedly gripped with an acute fear that you have missed the turn-off for it, and are doomed to extend your stay in Dallas unintentionally.
As far as the source of Philly surliness, I believe it is caused by its citizens being certain they live in the worst major city on the East Coast. This is reinforced by the experience of traveling there by road; while you can keep track of the miles to New York as far south as South Carolina, Philadelphia is not even mentioned on the signage of I-95 until you get to northern Maryland. Once you find the place, a little north of Wilmington, Delaware, which is sort of a mini-Philly (city slogan—"Why Go Further? We Have the Same Sandwiches and the Same Crime Rate) you'll find yourself in a town that is way more tolerant of bystander shootings than of losing sports teams and where any suggestions for improvement are usually greeted by a hearty invitation to go enjoy intercourse with yourself.
See you there soon.