Dollar Rent A Car: Can I have a wire cutter with those keys?

You probably haven't spent a lot of time pondering what would happen if you lost your rental car keys.

I travel monthly on business. Until my trip to Arizona this month, I hadn't given car keys any thought. Probably I never would have if I hadn't changed my reservation from National to Dollar - something that I did because I was traveling with my 22 year old son. It turns out that car rental companies vary more than a little in their underage driver policies and prices. It also turns out that you have to factor in all kinds of other variables if, for example, you want to rent the car at one airport and return it to another. At best - if the company will do it at all between the two airports that you have in mind - this means an extra fee.

After waiting on the Dollar one-agent line, trying to rent something other than the Pacifica that turned out to be the only premium car available, paying $5.00/day for a second driver plus an extra $25.00/day underage driver fee, initialing away my right to various insurance options (despite the kind of subtle pressure that leaves you uneasy driving out of the lot), I was pleased to find that I had two keys in hand. Two drivers, two keys - good. Both on one key chain - bad. Could I have the keys on two separate chains? No. No?

The agent was sorry but he was not allowed to separate the keys. There was no penalty - if I happened to be traveling with a wire cutter - and wanted to separate the keys myself. It is Dollar policy to keep the original keys together because the manufacturer wants both keys when they buy the rental car back and the executives at Dollar have determined that there is less of a risk of losing a key if they remain together.

Here's the problem. If you lose the keys, you will be charged a minimum of $100 per key! Since the two keys are on one chain, they are of no advantage to you, the renter, but they are a potential liability. This is not exactly "user friendly."

Chris Payne, Senior Manager of Corporate Communication at Dollar wasn't aware of the key policy (was it possible that no one else had ever objected?) and had to research it, which he did and promptly called me back. He was sympathetic to my objection but that is company policy.

It moves Dollar down to the bottom of my rental car company list.


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