Should Consumers Be Entitled to Use Corporate Codes, and Who is at Fault When They’re Called Out?

Christopher Elliott does a service with his Travel Troubleshooter column. I may not always be a fan, but there’s no question that he’s helped out many consumers.. even many that were very much undeserving of help.

Today though he didn’t just help someone get compensation they likely didn’t deserve, he also appears to have cast unwarranted aspersions at a car rental website that helps with discounts — Autoslash.

The consumer Elliott writes about booked a 30-day rental car using a State of Florida discount code. He doesn’t work for the State of Florida. He got a rate of $686 but a few days after pickup he heard from Avis and they were adjusting his rate to $992.

The renter contends he was told all was well when he picked up the car, so Avis should be forced to stand behind the price.

Avis’ position (although Elliott’s attention has convinced them to relent and refund the difference) was that he wasn’t eligible for the discount code so he shouldn’t benefit from it, and in fact that anyone actually eligible for it would have booked it through the proper travel management channels.

Christopher Elliott and I actually do agree, it seems, that the consumer was in the wrong or at least wasn’t being wronged by Avis. He does speculate a bit too far, I think, and frames the issue in a way that may unfairly malign a pretty useful car rental website.

I do my best here to characterize the arguments of both sides, and do agree with where Eliott seems to be vis-a-vis the consumer and Avis. But I take exception to one piece of the column. See what you think.

Here’s how Elliott begins the column:

Anand Iyer recently rented a Hyundai from Avis in Westfield, NJ. He’d found the car online through a site called AutoSlash.com, and booked the rental through Travelocity.

Of course, the consumer Iyer couldn’t have booked an Avis rental through AutoSlash initially since the Autoslash website doesn’t offer Avis as an option when searching for rentals.

You book a rental car elsewhere, and input your confirmation into the Autoslash website. Then they track your rental and try to find better pricing available.

Elliott writes:

The wildcard in this case may be Autoslash. If it offered the discount code, and Iyer used it believing it was legit, then I think it may bear some responsibility, too.

Did Autoslash really add a State of Florida discount code? My understanding has been that they only add coupons and discounts that are available to the public (when they first launched several years ago this could have been possible but my understanding for the past several years is that it wasn’t).

So I reached out to Autoslash to find out, which is something they tell me Christopher Elliott did not do. (I’ve reached out to Elliott to confirm this, he’s answered my emails in the past, but I did not yet hear back, though I will update if I do.)

Autoslash tells me that the reservation in question had the discount code applied by the consumer in their original reservation that they had made elsewhere, before coming to the Autoslash site. Autoslash did find a coupon that could be added to save an additional $50, and instructed him how to add it. They did not add, and did not suggest adding, the Florida employee discount code.

There’s discussion now in the comments to Elliott’s post about how this is Autoslash’s fault, and suggesting that they’re somehow a less than reputable website.

And that seems a really unfortunate place for this to go, at the very least Autoslash’s side of the story — that they had nothing whatsoever to do with the code that got the consumer in trouble with Avis — deserved to be told.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Wow, I’d totally written off autoslash. I did use it a few times, and saved money. But it seemed like their business model was killed off, and it wasn’t worth trying. Am I wrong in that feeling?

  2. What happens once Autoslash finds you a better deal? Do you then have to cancel the original reservation, and make a new one?

  3. @Lindy,

    The first time the rate goes down, they ask you if you want it changed. After that, if the rate drops again, it’s automatic. I posted some impressive (to me) savings over the years.

  4. The company should be responsible for verifying at check in. With car rentals this could be done at the check in counter or during the express check in process. As a government employee, I highly value these discounts and it would be unfair if they were to disappear due to misuse by others.

    With that said, I have been asked for credentials when using a special rate code about 5% of the time (hotels and car rentals). This is a figure far too low.

    I do feel that some blame would be on the car rental company for failing to verify credentials and therefore, entering into a contract at a given rate.

  5. Why the fixation with Chris Elliot? You’ve published more than 4 articles this topic this year alone!

  6. @Richard I’m not sure that 4 posts out of over 800 posts (probably well over 800 posts in the last 7 months) classifies as a fixation.

  7. It amazed me to contemplate a company not verifying a corporate discount code. In the case of a rental car, however, I thought about how that would work. The customer who was trying to use a code he’s not entitled to would raise a huge fuss at the counter, involving several employees, phone calls, other customers and wasting a huge amount of time. So it’s more efficient for the rental company to just let it go at the time the car is picked up. Then someone qualified to investigate goes after the renter. People need to stop cheating and stealing!

  8. Unlike everyone else who has posted here, I do work for the State of Florida.

    The terms of the Avis contract allow state employees to book at the preferred state rate for personal travel. No one way rentals. Some additional restrictions as detailed in the following link:

    http://www.dms.myflorida.com/business_operations/state_purchasing/vendor_information/state_contracts_and_agreements/state_term_contracts/rental_vehicles/forms_and_other_information/avis_contract_summary

    The governor may have a “preferred rental channel” The rest of us book through the website just like you

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