National Didn’t Know They Had Shut Down in Lebanon

I stride out of customs at Beirut Airport and head for the National Car Rental desk. Hmmm…a bit odd, Hertz, local agency, Avis, Budget, empty desk, local agency.

National Beirut

I double-checked my National reservation and it did say in-terminal.

I asked the young man at the local agency. He pointed to the empty desk and said National had disappeared from Lebanon without notice. He gave me their local number, same as on my reservation. A man answered on his mobile phone to say they are shut down. The Avis rep added that this happened December 19 and they have been getting a steady stream of business from customers like me.

Rental agencies often work with local franchisees overseas. The Lebanese franchisee must have bolted and no one at National noticed in the month since. Sloppy management!

I had opted to pay US$7 more for National to avoid the home currency scam shenanigans with Avis/Budget as happened on my rentals in Spain, and now I was in their hands. Budget was sold out, Hertz wanted $127/day and the local agency wanted a minimum 3-day rental for about the same as the Hertz 1-day. My National rental would have been $49.

Fortunately, Avis had one economy car left for $63. Itinerary rescued and I was soon out on the road.

So what should I request from National to pay in compensation? I booked this reservation after December 19 and they did not notify me and are still taking bookings. I am thinking they pay for my Avis rental and perhaps a free rental day certificate or two for the hassle? If Avis hadn’t had that car left it would have been really costly. I rarely complain to airlines/hotels/car rental, I find no appeal in making a sport of it. This one is at least comical enough that I want to pursue it.

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  • Tom

    How about they pay you $14 in compensation since that was your loss? It doesn’t really sound like that much of a hassle, especially since the Avis guy explained to you what happened right away.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Tom – that would be a minimum however between the several agencies there were only something like 3-4 cars left at any price. If none had been available either I would have had to give up my itinerary, why I had bought a ticket from NYC, or been on the hook for several hundred in taxis. Putting customers on that position for a month and counting is pretty shoddy management and deserves a little effort from National beyond just comping the difference, don’t you think?

  • Wow, that’s terrible behaviour! You’d think they would have removed the online ability to book anywhere in Lebanon.

    You should definitely receive more compensation than just the $14 — the loss value. They should also compensate for the inconvenience of having to find a new vehicle provider, lost time and additional effort.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @zzap – that’s my take, too, and I realize I did not argue it so well in my prior comment. The point is not that it did work out pretty well, it’s that National had no way to know it would work out and it only did in spite of their negligence.

  • Jamie

    You should definitely be entitled to something that is compensatory for you, but also somewhat punitive for National. I think that reimbursing your Avis rental and also giving you a one or two day certificate sounds reasonable.
    I once booked a hotel/motel near Yosemite national park for the night before a friend’s wedding. I explained over the phone when booking that I would be arriving late… like really late probably 2 AM after a flight from DSM to SJC. No problem they said, just ring the bell at the office and someone will come down. When I got there I was unable to summon anyone. I rang and rang the bell. Then I phoned and I could hear it ring just inside the office. So, I drove towards the park stopping at every motel on the way and no one answered, until I got to one where there was a lady cleaning. She said I could sleep on the couch in the lobby, but really wanted someone to talk to while she cleaned. So, I got no sleep. I never asked for anything from the motel, I suppose because I was a much less experienced traveler and it wasn’t a chain, but I mostly had no idea what I could ask for. It wasn’t a prepaid rate, so I wasn’t out any money… but they had promised me a room that night and instead I got no sleep.