Thrifty’s Offer Of A Free Rental Car Sounded Too Good To Be True Because That’s What It Was

No free rental for you.

No free rental for you.

There’s nothing like that bright beam of hope when an unexpected email arrives in your inbox — like perhaps the offer of a free car rental for a day from Thrifty, a missive many Consumerist readers received in the last few days and forwarded to us in excitement. And then there’s the feeling you get when the rug is pulled from under your freebie joy. In other words, Thrifty didn’t mean to send everyone on its email a free car rental, and it won’t be honoring the initial offer.

Consumerist reader Dave was a bit wary when he first received an email last weekend from Thrifty congratulating him on a free car rental.

“I thought this email from Thrifty car rental was a little weird because I hadn’t rented from them in a few years,” he wrote, sending along the offer from Thrifty. “I thought they might be trying to win me back.”

He and other customers subsequently received another email, essentially saying “Oops, we biffed, you get nothing for free.”

Thrifty is apologizing now, saying that the offer was only supposed to go out for its elitest group of customers, but instead, went out to a whole lot of other people. As for how many of those emails were mistakes, it’s not saying.

This morning you received an email from us offering you a coupon for a free rental day through Blue Chip Rewards. Unfortunately, this offer is not valid. You will not be able to book this offer online and you will not be receiving a coupon in the mail. Please disregard the email you received. We’re very sorry for any confusion our eagerness may have caused.

A spokeswoman tells the Associated Press that the whole muck-up had to do with their email system, coupled with that age-old weak spot — a person.

“Unfortunately, this was a human error and as soon as we became aware of the mass email distribution, we took steps to correct the situation,” she said.

There are a few things Thrifty could’ve done here besides just apologizing and telling customers what they won’t be getting. If, perhaps, it’d offered a small discount on the next rental or some other coupon, customers could be inclined to remember that small kindness in the face of this mistaken offer.

The lesson to come away with here: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But while it’s being offered, go ahead and try to sign up for it any way, just in case the company is inclined to throw disappointed customers a bone. JCPenney did it during the legendary $10 Towel Spree Of 2013, so you never know.

Thrifty says offer of free rental car was mistake [Associated Press]