U-Haul’s Voodoo Reservation System

Shrink a head in a pot, rub your skeletally-painted hands together and evoke ancient jungle spirits for their gris gris: exactly what sort of voodoo do you have to perform to get U-Haul to give you the right truck?

Generally speaking, U-Haul seems to run a significant side business charging you to make reservations for the wrong truck, for the wrong hours, “subjected to availability.” It costs David M. $10 to hear from U-Haul, twice, that U-Haul had thoughtfully made him a reservation for a vehicle that wouldn’t suit his needs.

Of course, even if David had accepted that reservation, past experience dictates he would have shown up and the truck wouldn’t have been there. David’s email, after the jump.

Before I begin, let me set the dates: I had to move yesterday (Sunday, October 1)…this was a one-day window for me, as my old apartment was paid through the first.

Here’s the story:

– About two weeks before I moved, I went to U-Haul’s website and made an on-line reservation for a 17′ truck for a 24-hour period (we wanted to pre-pack a lot on Saturday evening (9/30) before the move. I was told by the website that someone would be contacting me in the next day to confirm the reservation. No one contacted me the next day, but my reservation on U-Haul’s website switched to “confirmed” status, and I also received an e-mail confirming the reservation (which I only glanced at), so all seemed okay.

– I should mention this here: U-Haul charges you $5.00 just to make a reservation (which, presumably, will be applied toward your future rental). You have to enter your CC# on the website…

– A few days later, someone from U-Haul called me to tell me that actually, there were no 17′ trucks available for “the time period I had specified”…would a 14′ truck be okay? I told him that I had asked for a 17′ truck, but it was all right if there were no such trucks available.

– Friday evening, when my girlfriend’s parents were helping us pack, her father (thankfully) asked me to double-check the time to pick up the truck, so I check the confirmation e-mail (reservation #21937022)…

…and saw that the pick-up time was 9:00am Saturday (9/30), with a drop-off time of 4:00pm the same day. Just to be clear, I had specified a pick-up time of 4:00pm on Saturday and a 24-hour rental.

– Vexed, I called U-Haul and asked why my reservation was for only seven hours when I had specified 24 hours in my original request. The phone call went something like this:

Me: I can’t just rent the truck on Saturday for six hours…I’m moving on SUNDAY…it’s totally useless to me on Saturday.

Customer Service Rep: Sir…the website says “subject to availability” when you make the reservation.

Me: That’s fine…I understand that it’s “subject to availability”. That said, when you determined that the services were UNAVAILABLE during the period I requested, why was I sent a CONFIRMATION? Why wasn’t I sent an e-mail stating “sorry…your reservation time is unavailable, here are some available times…”? If you had told me that, I would have been fine with it and rented with another comapny.

CSR: …the website says subject to availability…

Me: Then I want to cancel my reservation because it isn’t what I wanted and I can’t move that day.

CSR: …your reservation has been cancelled *click* <---that was her hanging up on me.

It was already 8:00pm, so I decided to wait until tomorrow (Saturday) to find another moving truck.

– Saturday morning, I call a few local U-Haul locations and no one has trucks available. Finally, I decide to call their national number, figuring that they’ll have access to inventory all over the Bay Area…I understand that we may have to drive a ways to pick up another U-Haul, but thems the breaks. So I have the following interaction:

Me: I would like to rent a U-Haul this afternoon and keep it for 24 hours, as I’m moving tomorrow. I need a 14′ or a 17′ truck, and I need it for 24 hours.

CSR: I need to get your CC# because there is a $5.00 reservation fee…

Me: I know there’s a $5.00 fee, and I’m totally willing to pay it, but I don’t want to pay it, then get a call in an hour telling me that there is a 14′ truck available for 5 hours this afternoon. If I pay this, can you confirm that there is a reservation available for the time period I’ve requested?

CSR: Sir, I wouldn’t even be able to select these truck sizes if they weren’t available. Someone will be calling you in an hour to confirm a location to pick up the truck you want to reserve.

Me: (Grudgingly) Fine…but my understanding is that there is a truck somewhere available that fits my requested parameters.

I take a shower, still without a concrete reservation. While I’m doing that, my girlfriend calls Penske, another rental comany, gets a nice woman on the phone, and reserves a 15′ truck for pick-up only three miles from our apartment. All of this is done in the span of one phone conversation…no waiting for a CSR to call back and (not) confirm the reservation. All is good.

Two hours later, my cell phone rings:

CSR: This is ***** from U-haul calling to confirm your reservation today. Unfortunately, all the larger trucks are reserved, but we have a moving VAN available in Oakland…

Me: I already have a truck from another company…thanks for taking my $5.00, though, and not adhering to the reservation parameters I requested. <*click*>

Yeah…so now U-haul has at least $10.00 of my money and may, for all I know, tack on another cancellation fee for the “reservation” I cancelled on Friday evening.

Now I know that I should have looked more closely at the confirmation e-mail that U-Haul sent me, but when I see “U-Haul Reservation: Confirmed” in the subject line, I feel that it’s safe to assume that the reservation I made was confirmed (as opposed to a completely different reservation subject to the whims of U-Haul’s “subject to availability” policy). I wonder how many other people are bilked by U-Haul in the same manner, and whether their shady-ass business practice is even legal. To me, it smacks of “class-action lawsuit”.

Needless to say, I won’t be using U-Haul again.