Misadventures in Moving, by Tober

Editor’s Introductory Note:  I generally avoid posting rants, but this one about a Budget rental truck was genuinely epic and tragi-comic.  If you don’t enjoy rants, then only read the first section. – JWR

I think sharing this story will help me a bit, as this was quite an adventure that was mentally and physically exhausting. This article is long, so I decided to put the tips at the beginning. If you want to read the story of why I thought these tips were important, continue below.

Here are my mental health tips for you if you’re planning on making any type of move cross country with all your stuff:

  1. Check the rental truck over carefully, including the oil, other fluids, and belts. Don’t assume the rental place did it. Pretend the last person that had the truck treated it in the worst possible way, and the rental employees are too lazy to do anything about it.
  2. Get at least the basic insurance. It saved our butts in this case. Your regular insurance might not cover vehicles over a certain weight, so at least call and find out.
  3. Allow extra time. If there are no trucks available the day you need them, change the date, or go with a different rental company. Don’t accept the last truck. And most importantly, always expect things to go wrong.
  4. Pack your belongings as if you expect them to get flipped and turned sideways. You never know what will happen. We were fortunate nothing broke.
  5. Don’t buy used trucks from these rental places. Clearly they don’t service them properly. Our truck only had 56,000 miles on it when we picked it up. 56,750 when it left us stranded on the side of the road. As we stared at the back of the broken truck with the sign “We have used trucks for sale”. I bet you do, this one will be next on that list.
  6. Pack plenty of food, water, warm clothes/blankets, and even a bucket in case you need a toilet. No need to pee on the side of the road (yeah, easy for a guy, not a gal). This Self-Contained Toilet has good reviews on amazon (haven’t used it myself). And if you like privacy, might not hurt to have one of these privacy pop-up tents tucked away behind a seat somewhere. And don’t forget the hand sanitizer or soap and water with paper towels. You may be washing your hands on the side of the road as well.

  1. Invest in battery packs  for your cell phone. We were fortunate to also have a pickup truck that would allow us to charge our phones, but if we only had the rental truck, since that thing was dead, no way to charge a cell phone. And we used our cell phones more than we expected due to being stranded on the side of the road.
  2. Get everything in writing. Everything. That’s hard to do when you’re negotiating extra days over the phone with rude or incompetent people. But have them send you an e-mail stating this was your agreement.
  3. Expect to break down and plan for it. Pack books to read, board games or cards if you have kids, or other entertainment. Don’t count on your electronics, you may not have service/internet where you break down, and you may need to conserve battery power. Gone are the days where people used to pull on the side of the road behind you to make sure you are alright and don’t need anything.
  4. Have extra cash/credit available. You will be expected to cover everything up front (hotel, food, etc.), if you break down. You get reimbursed later (or so they say). And keep your receipts! You will need those receipts for any expected reimbursement.
  5. Read reviews on hotels before choosing to stay somewhere last minute. Or else use trusted brands. I’ve found Motel 6 to allow dogs at every facility, be very accommodating, and only a few of their locations lack a microwave or mini-fridge, which isn’t bad for an inexpensive hotel. They are always clean too, at least in my experience. My second choice is La Quinta. Again, I have big dogs, so if furry friends aren’t an issue, you may have other brands you trust.
  6. Expect that the rental company could care less about you. They expect your rental to go as smooth as possible with no problems, and will only deal with you when something goes wrong. And they will probably be very bad at dealing with anything that goes wrong.

If you doubt any of these invaluable tips, read on. This is a true story that happened to us just recently:

Our Misadventures

We had been looking to relocate for quite some time. We started our business in Klamath Falls, Oregon, but that was a little too rural to get the business really going. So we started commuting back and forth to Reno, Nevade, where the business did much better. But we had to continue to commute, as I was not about to leave my loyal customers without product. We had finally grown enough where we needed to rent a real lab for our purposes, not the makeshift one we had put together by fitting expensive equipment in a tiny corner of a storage room. But this became a challenge, especially in Reno.

Those who live in Reno know for a fact that cost of rents far exceed the median income, since income there has not caught up with the cost of living. Many people spend half their salary (or more) just to pay rent or mortgage. Even finding a place to rent can be a challenge, and don’t bother looking for places to live when school is starting, as you’re in competition with a lot of college kids. This very scenario led us to the decision that the only way to keep our costs affordable (which means keeping our product prices as low as we can considering the high quality of the raw ingredients we start with), we had to leave Reno, and look elsewhere.

After much research evaluating things like business laws, shipping estimates, and so on, we decided on Texas because that’s where the dart landed. Just kidding. It was because everything is bigger in Texas, so maybe our business will grow bigger too. Okay, seriously, rents are more affordable, and we thought the business would be more prosperous there, among other personal reasons. Now this is not an easy transition. And don’t worry, we have not officially fully transitioned yet. So if you’re worried about buying local, you’re still buying local for now, but surprise, we’re moving!

Planning Our Move

So we decided to start with the first phase of our move. We found a location to settle ourselves, and several potential locations for the production facilities. But no point in renting the production facilities until we get ourselves settled. So this is just phase one of our move.

We carefully decided what items to take to Texas and what to leave behind. We decided that all the production equipment currently in use would stay in Reno for now, while equipment we no longer use, or equipment we bought for future use will move. Then most of our personal belongings would move, other than what is immediately needed to live in Reno. Since we are still a small business (for now, but we have big plans!), we had to be careful about the costs we were going to incur for this move.

After reading horror story after horror story about items arriving damaged when having others handle the moving part, we decided that if our lab equipment was going to break, it would be due to our own fault. We decided to rent a moving truck, and drive it ourselves, rather than leaving it to someone else. Cost factor was associated with that as well. We had both a moving truck and our personal pick-up truck with a trailer to haul, plus two big dogs, and ourselves. After figuring the cost of the truck rental, gas, and hotel rooms, we decided it would still cost half as much to do this ourselves, not including our time of course. Big mistake on our part. The time factor bit us hard in the end.

A Budget Rental Truck

So, on a very strict time budget, with only a couple extra days to spare, we started to make our phase one move. We went online to reserve a rental truck, only to realize we should have done this a month sooner. There were hardly any trucks available, when a month earlier there were plenty. We didn’t know our exact dates for the move a month earlier, so we couldn’t have possibly planned correctly. But at that point we were limited. We decided to go with Budget, as they had the only truck in the size we needed that was available during our time frame. We ended up getting the truck two days early, but figured that was okay, we would either hit the road early, or take extra time packing it well so nothing would break.

We picked up the truck, paid for insurance and an extra driver, and went on our way. Now, I’ve rented many cars at airports, and never did it occur to me that perhaps I should check the fluids of a rental car; I actually don’t think anyone thinks about that. When you rent a car, you expect that the rental agency took care of that. So would that be any different when renting a moving truck? Not in my mind, so it didn’t even occur to me that the truck was never looked over. However it should have occurred to me, because at the time that we picked up the truck, we had to do an inspection to notate any dents/damage.

Then, as we were ready to leave, the Sparks, Nevada Budget employee decided last minute that he should check the inside of the box of the moving truck. We walked over to the back and he unrolled the door, and sure enough, a bunch of moving blankets were in there. He looked at us and implied “oops”, then offered the moving blankets, which we declined. Free or not, I didn’t need them nor did I want the extra responsibility of having to return more stuff. So he grabbed them and threw them on the ground behind the truck, and we were then on our way. Though that really should have been a clue as to what we would encounter on the road.

I won’t bore you with the details of planning and loading a moving truck with fragile items, but we figured out a system that worked. Even though we packed everything carefully in cardboard boxes with lots of padding, we still didn’t want to take chances as you never know when you have to hit the brakes. As Newton’s first law (the law of inertia) says that things in motion stay in motion, the last thing we wanted was for our fragile items to get squished and thus damaged. So the packing of the truck was a real art per say.

I was relieved that Rob said he would drive the loud 16-foot box Budget truck while I only had to tow a small trailer in our comfortable noise-free pickup truck. And I had the luxury of the company of the dogs. We hit the road a half day behind schedule, but we were on our way. We had a list of potential hotel rooms that were dog friendly, and maps on our phones, back up paper maps in case our phones didn’t work, plus a basic knowledge of where we were going. We had traveled enough that we figured we could manage any issue that arose.

It was around 9 pm when we reached our first stop, which was no where near as far as we wanted to get to on day one, but we were both too tired to keep driving. Unfortunately, we seemed a bit too late, as every hotel we hit, while dog friendly, had its last room just taken. We finally found another hotel who just happened to have one room left, and gulp, the price. We paid for it, then struggled to find parking for a 16 ft moving truck and a pick-up truck connected to a trailer. We ended up creating a parking space for the truck/trailer, then parked the moving truck across three parking spots. Figured if we took the last room, then there weren’t going to be that many more people trying to park.

Exhausted, we microwaved our pre-made organic meals that we had stored in a cooler, and fell asleep hoping that the rest of our adventure would not put us further behind schedule. After all, once we arrived at our destination, we still had to unload the truck, return the truck, and get me to the airport in time for my flight back to Reno. At least until Rob gets things set up where we can fully move and transition the business without too much interruption.

Day two was fairly uneventful, driving through miles of nothing. Our dogs had been on road trips before and were accustomed to the schedule. They usually went on a hunger strike, but so far so good. They were behaving and knew what to expect. They actually would just sleep most of the time. I felt bad for them, but figured it was just four days and three nights.

Already Behind Schedule, And Then…

The morning of day three everything started off well. The hotel we stayed at had truck parking and wasn’t very full. A healthy veggie omelette breakfast (though not organic, but you have to make exceptions occasionally) was acquired, and by 7:30 in the morning, we were on our way. We were only 750 miles into our trip, which was about 250 miles behind schedule. We figured we could push ourselves, and maybe do an extra 50 or a 100 miles that day, it might not be so bad. This was of course my hope, but I was not the one driving the really loud moving truck that required lots of muscle power to keep control of the overly sensitive steering wheel, while feeling every bump on the road.

I went  first as the GPS service on my phone seemed to do better than the GPS on Rob’s phone. As I pulled onto the freeway on-ramp, all was well. That was until I looked in my side mirrors and didn’t see the Budget truck anywhere behind me. I slowed down a bit and kept looking, and looking, nowhere in sight. I pulled over to the side of the road. Waited. Nothing. I tried calling but it went straight to voice mail… must have been no service. I waited a little longer. Nothing. Then I thought, did he pass me and I didn’t notice? We’ve been on the highway for just a few minutes. I decided to drive up a little bit more. If he did pass me, he would have seen me pull over, and he would be waiting for me up the road. So I decided to drive to the next exit, but by the time I reached the exit, still nothing; no Budget truck anywhere in sight. I knew immediately something was wrong. I took the next exit so I could turn around. Then my phone rang, he had service after all – sort of – poor service. The Budget truck had broken down, dead, on the side of the highway. By then I had turned around using the overpass of that exit and was heading west instead of east, until I saw the Budget truck sitting helpless on the eastbound side of the freeway. I took the next exit and turned around again. Pulled in behind the Budget truck, put on my hazard lights, and carefully got out of the truck. (With semi-trucks zooming by at 75 mph).

If you’ve traveled on highway 40 between Arizona and New Mexico, then you know this isn’t some back country road. This is a very heavily traveled road, mostly by semi trucks with a typical speed of 70+mph. The two lane highway in each direction was divided which helped, but the two lanes were not enough to be safely broken down on the side. By the time I had reached the broken Budget truck, and parked behind him, and safely made my way to the passenger side of the Budget truck, he had already called Budget roadside, and was waiting for a call back to find out what’s next.

At that moment, I felt utterly helpless. I quickly assessed how much food we had, water, blankets (it was very breezy and cold), and of course, we had the other pickup truck with the trailer, so we weren’t exactly stranded. But we also had thousands of dollars worth of equipment and personal items in our rental truck. Something we didn’t exactly want to leave unattended. And we didn’t know how long it was going to take for a mechanic to arrive. So we kind of had to stand by for when the mechanic showed up.

Six Quarts Low

The mechanic finally showed up an hour and a half later. Rob told him the symptoms before the truck broke down. Rob actually thought the transmission had failed based on the truck’s behavior. The mechanic looked under the hood and checked the oil. Dry. Nothing. He ended up adding 6 quarts of oil to an engine that normally takes 13. The truck wouldn’t start or even turn over. The battery seemed to be problematic as well. The mechanic needed a new battery to see if that would get it running, but to get a new battery, he had to get authorization from Budget. He told us he’d be back in a half hour. He left us alone on the side of the road, and an hour later he sent a text apologizing. He said he’s still on hold with Budget. He finally came back another hour later and put in the new battery. The truck started, but there was a loud knocking sound, and the engine died almost immediately. They tried again. Nothing. Blown engine, they figured. The OBD reader didn’t show any error codes. The mechanic then told us that he will report this to Budget, and we would need to be towed. However the closest heavy equipment towing company was 45 minutes away. So it would be at least a couple hours.

We decided to leave the Budget truck and go to the next gas station for a bathroom, to clean up, and maybe find some comfort food. Anything not to sit on the side of the road as semi’s were blaring past us  with wide-load signs on them. The mechanic told us that Budget had wanted to send another rental truck for us to transfer our stuff to, but he told them that location was too dangerous to transfer all the contents of a box truck. We would have to be towed.

After we spent as much time as we felt was not rude at the tiny gas station, we returned to the Budget truck, and waited, and waited. The customer service from Budget during this entire process I can only describe as “deer in the headlights” bad.

State Line Dilemma

Several hours later we finally started to get calls back. They were sending a heavy-equipment tow truck (a “wrecker“) that was an hour and a half away. The problem they ran into was that we were on the border of Arizona and New Mexico, and that they had to find a tow truck that was not only a wrecker, but could legally tow in both states. That’s why it took so long. No one of course told us this while we were waiting. So I kept calling and calling, wanting to know why it was taking so long. I thought to myself, I’m already a day and a half behind schedule, and by the time this event is resolved it would be three. At this point, I wouldn’t make my flight. Since no one would tell me what the problem was until later, I just figured they were too busy for us, didn’t care that we were on the side of a dangerous road, or that we might be stuck here another night, so I kept annoyingly calling them making sure they didn’t forget about us.

It was during this wait time that my meditation practices really came in handy. First, when you rent a moving truck, they just say if you get in an accident you call this number, and if you break down you call this number. Easy peasy, done deal, all is well, next in line please. Well, these numbers are for a reason, and not exactly what one would expect. First, the customer service number, which is usually routed to another country, and their job is to sell you the rental. They will tell you that they can’t do anything for you, because they’re just customer service, and you can call back after you’ve returned the truck to discuss any compensation for the company’s incompetence. Then there’s the roadside assistance number. Their job is to assist you with breakages on the road and that’s it. They have nothing to do with extending the truck rental, or any other department. Then there’s the truck receiving office location, who is a separate contractor from the renting location, and they too can’t do anything about extending the truck rental. So you have to call the originating station, who was closed by that time, so I had to call back in the morning to extend the truck rental.

I assure you, I did not want to call back that location. The owner of that location was rude, inconsiderate, and a liar. I had called him earlier actually, because I was so upset over being broken down and finding out the truck was low six quarts of oil, that I called to ask him if he had records of service on the truck. Or at least a record of checking the truck over before handing me the keys. He basically told me that’s not his job (a classic line), that’s corporate’s responsibility, and that he gets what he gets for trucks and has no control over it. In other words, he did not, nor did anyone else, look over the maintenance of the truck when it was dropped off. And that’s when I remembered the blankets left in the back of the truck. If they didn’t check the box of the truck, they likely didn’t check the fluids either.

I was fuming. I tried every bit of meditation I have learned in the past, but none of it helped. Perhaps the sound of semi’s zooming past kept me from being able to clear my head. Instead, I felt my blood trying to boil. That irresponsible business owner put me and my family in danger. And he didn’t care. He even told me he’d been doing this for 30 years. Oh great, you’ve been screwing people over and putting them in danger for 30 years; yeah, that’s awesome. While I wish ill on no one, I have no kind words for him. And I still had to call him the next day to extend the contract of the truck.

The Wrecker Arrives

When the heavy equipment tow truck arrived, he put on his light behind the red triangle we set up behind our trailer for traffic to see us. It was dusk now, and watching the tow guy do his thing in the bitter cold wind made me appreciate what he did for a living. When the mechanic left hours earlier, I could tell he seemed disappointed he couldn’t help us, and I imagined this guy felt good about being able to get people off the side of the road. While we weren’t exactly stranded, as we had the other vehicle, we couldn’t exactly go far either, and other than a tiny gas station several miles West, there really wasn’t much nearby either. I suppose we could have driven to look at a different view of a different side of a road. I watched the tow guy get under the broken truck, hook everything up, and dodge traffic as he had to reach certain items he needed to properly hook up the broken truck. And then I had a moment of dread when I realized that we’re going to have to re-load all our stuff from the broken truck to a new truck. I was already both physically and mentally exhausted. Being stranded on the side of a busy highway for hours an end, takes a toll on you.

Fortunately, the Budget roadside assistance called to tell us that there was another truck waiting for us in Albuquerque, and that they would get us help moving our stuff to the new truck in the morning. In the meantime, we would be towed to Albuquerque New Mexico. Wow, towed 230 miles in a wrecker, that couldn’t be inexpensive. All because employees were too lazy to check the fluids.

They told us to find a hotel for the night and keep the receipt; they would reimburse us. I asked about hotel limitations, we did after all have two dogs. They said no limitations as long as it wasn’t $400 or something. I wrote down the address of where the new truck would be, and immediately started searching for hotel rooms near by. We had to meet the movers at 8am, and were already an hour ahead due to time zone changes. I didn’t want a hotel too far away.

I did what I could in finding a dog friendly hotel with decent reviews that wasn’t too expensive. But perhaps my stress levels kept me from being rational and reading the reviews clearly. Since I made a huge mistake. But I didn’t realize that until we got there. First, we still had 230 miles of being towed. Rob sat in the passenger seat of the tow truck as there was no room in our pickup truck, and I followed. I followed for 230 miles a tow truck towing a broken box truck with many of our expensive possessions that we had invested in for our business. Perhaps moving was not a good idea, and we should have considered relocating before starting the business. But the business was started by chance, out of necessity, so we could have never predicted this. So there I was, tired, ready to fall asleep, drinking coffee at 9pm at night to stay awake and follow a tow truck with bright yellow lights flashing in every direction. (Which was the reason the other Arizona heavy tow truck driver could not drive in New Mexico, he didn’t have those lights.) At least it was easy to follow a neon flashing massive Christmas tree of lights. I could see him a mile away.

We got to the Budget truck headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico pretty late that night. We found the new truck left for us, but not a soul in sight. I called Budget roadside again, this time a new staff was there. We must have gone through three changes of shift by now. The guy read the notes on my account, and there were many. He finally told me the key to the new truck should be in the truck, and the movers will be there in the morning at 8am to move our stuff. So we locked up both trucks and left them over night, signed the paperwork for the tow truck driver, who had to drive back to Flagstaff, Arizona, that night. Then we proceeded to our hotel room. It was a Days Inn, only a couple miles away sounded cozy enough, until we got there.

A Squalid Hotel

First, no one to be found at the desk. It was almost 11pm now. About two hours passed my normal bedtime. After about 15 minutes the only employee finally showed up. She seemed annoyed, and unpleasant. I told her I had a reservation, and asked if she had a room on the ground floor. She didn’t. I told her when I made the reservation that they said they had a room on the ground floor. Her annoyed response was that reservations were told to promise customers anything they want, and she has to deal with it. So I said fine, I’ll take what you got. She then warned me there might not be hot water, but she’ll try to put me in a room with hot water. This statement at first didn’t register with me. Nor did the location. And when she added that “the owners don’t care about this place, even though the carpets need cleaning, and the rooms need upgrading,” I again didn’t think much of it. So I just asked, “are the sheets clean at least?”, to which she thought for a second, and then said “I believe the cleaning staff do their job.” At this late an hour, with all the stress behind me and ahead of me, I really only cared about clean sheets. So I paid for the room, and proceeded to walk the dogs, while Rob unloaded what we needed from the pickup.

I should have read reviews a little closer, but I was stressed and tired. Upon walking into the room, not only was the filth evident, but I had immediate regrets. Sleeping in the pickup truck would have been more comfortable if there were only room. But at this point I was so tired, and we had to be up early. Plus you can’t sleep two people and two large dogs in most pickup truck cabs.

Based on all the warning signs throughout the buildings, we decided to bring in the stuff from the pickup truck, as the camper shell was not lockable. Upon checking for bed bugs, I was relieved not to find any. (You should check every room for bed bugs you stay in, no matter how fancy.) No sign of bed bugs was good enough for me. But the sight of the stains on the sheets told me not to get in my pajamas. Instead, I slept with my clothes on on top of the covers. I was out like a light.

The next morning, no hot water of course, lukewarm though. Enough to clean up the best you can in a so called hotel that was really a drug haven. I’m pretty sure I could have found any illegal drug imaginable there. It made Breaking Bad look tame. But they don’t make a pill to reverse time so I can go back to the truck rental day and check the oil. We loaded up the pickup truck as quickly as we could, attempted to drink the dishwater tasting coffee which we poured out, helped a nice young man jump start his POS car, then showed up back at Budget a half hour early.

Transferring our stuff and swapping trucks

I opened the rolling door of the broken Budget truck and we both stared in awe at how nothing had moved, not even an inch. We had packed things well. We were worried that with the towing there would be unexpected shifting, but everything looked intact. And I was thankful at that moment that they were sending movers to help us. There is no way the two of us could have moved all that in a reasonable amount of time.

But it was a love/hate relationship with the movers. Even though we explained that there were items that although in boxes, just absolutely could not be stacked upon, they did their thing, and got to work. For fear of being one of those annoying snooty ladies that kept telling everyone how to do their job, I decided I couldn’t watch, nor could I help as there was only so much room. Rob was already participating, trying to make sure our fragile items were not stacked on bottom. I retreated to the pickup truck, and begrudignly called the Sparks Budget to get an extension on the truck. Yes, I had to get an extension on the truck from the very place that broke the truck in the first place.

This was by far the worst conversation ever. I had forgotten all about meditation, breathing, remaining calm. From the minute the location owner heard my voice from the second I started talking, he was back to being rude. He insisted for 15 minutes that I call the customer service. I call the receiving station. I tried to tell him I had done both, but he refused to let me get a word in, and kept talking and talking and talking, for about 15 minutes about the proper order of things. I thought in my head, ‘I already called customer service, I already called the receiving station, both told me I need to talk to the originating station. And when I originally rented the truck, the employee had specifically told me that I need to call them if I need an extension’. So I knew I was calling the right place, but the owner just kept on talking and not just talking, but being condescending as well. I finally yelled. I had lost it at that point.

He hung up on me. I called back, he didn’t answer, went to some answering machine. I called back again, he answered this time, and all I said was, “I already called customer service, and I already called the receiving station. Only you can extend my contract because the contract is with your station.” Silence. I thought he hung up on me again. I had to skip the “hello, this is such and such, with contract number such and such’ and get right to the point – it was the only way I could even get a word in. The silence didn’t last long. He insisted I had to pay to extend. I said “no, you gave me a broken truck, I’m not paying to extend. It took Budget two days to get me back on the road, I shouldn’t have to pay for that.” The condescension came right back, and in the end, for fear of something else going wrong, I agreed to pay for the extension of the extra driver and insurance, but not the truck itself. The owner reassured me that customer service would reimburse this amount, all I had to do was call them. I had a feeling he was lying, but didn’t want to risk driving without insurance, or the extra driver, since I wasn’t driving the truck at this point. You know the minute you don’t get the extra insurance is when something else goes wrong.

After I agreed to pay, and we were about to hang up, he said the strangest thing to me, and it told me that the owner knew something wasn’t right with that truck. After I paid the extra $72.66, he told me “That’s the only truck I had. If I had a different truck, I would have given you a different one at the time. But that’s the only truck I had.” Now why would you have given me a different truck if you believed there was nothing wrong with the one you gave me? The only reason someone would say something like that is if they knew or suspected the vehicle had a problem.

Perhaps that explains the rudeness, the condescending attitude, and all the bad customer service. He knew he was renting me a truck with problems. I bet he would like a pill to take him back in time too, so he could repair the oil leak, or at least refill the oil.

Time Efficient Movers

The movers finished moving our stuff in an hour. That was pretty amazing. Rob helped them, and later told me he had to keep correcting them. They were ignoring the directions of arrows on the boxes, and the order of stacking, and he feared some stuff may be crushed. At that point, I didn’t care, I just wanted this long nightmare to be over. We did decide to check the oil and other fluids of the new truck before we took off. I also found out from that Albuquerque Budget Rental how all the Budget Rentals are really all separately owned. It’s a franchise. They have little control over the trucks they get in to rent. But, they should be doing some kind of service inspection, depending on the franchise and their size. When I told him about the circumstance of the low oil in the truck, that New Mexico Budget employee laughed, and said “that owner’s going to have a hefty bill.”

During the rest of the trip I thought about how much money Budget must have spent on everything related to this event, particularly towing the broken truck 230 miles. The cost of the first mechanic assessing the initial problem. The cost they would need to reimburse me for my hotel, change of flight, and trouble. The pain in my body from the combination of stress, exhaustion, discomfort, and cold wind. All of it could have been prevented if just one person at Budget actually gave a c**p.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We pushed through for fear something else would go wrong. So we only had one more hotel night. We got to our destination at dusk, and were able to unload the basics so we could get a restful night’s sleep. The next morning we finished unloading, and returned the rental truck to the receiving office. I had changed my flight (for a hefty fee), and arranged to fly back two days later. In the end, it all worked out, sort of. I still had to call customer service about compensation. And we had a few unhappy customers as our online store was closed during this fiasco. But I attempted to reach out to each customer to make it right.

Customer Service Nightmare

Dealing with Budget customer service was a different story. First, they are not in the US, and are literally trained in what to say. I had submitted the cost of the hotel, food, change of plane ticket expense, and the extra added charge of the $72.66 to extend the truck, however, I didn’t have the actual receipt for the $72.66, just a screenshot of the charge on my credit card.

I was first told I would be reimbursed $91 for my trouble. Umm… repeat that please. $91? I did not agree to the $91. I asked for a supervisor. I was then transferred to a nice lady in Mexico City, who spoke English pretty well, but she was a robot. She agreed to refund me $272. That wasn’t even the cost of changing my flight. I disagreed. She kept repeating over and over that she is the highest level and that was all she was authorized to offer in compensation. I told her that if she is the highest level, then she is the owner of the company, and she could do much more. She hung up on me. She did give me an e-mail first and told me to send my receipts there. So I sent my receipts and a very descriptive e-mail of everything that went wrong.

After many e-mails back and forth, I ended up just more frustrated. There I was with the break down and being stranded on the side of the road fresh in my mind, the nasty hotel that I can’t seem to wash out of my hair, the cr***y food I ate as I only planned for four days of travel, and their e-mail responses were useless. You know those spam e-mails you get, where they start of with “Dear, due to an unfortunate circumstance of the death of Mrs. Zimbabwe, we would like to work with you in regards to the receipt of a ridiculous amount of money.” You know, one o-f those e-mails where their goal is to get you to provide them with your banking and other personal information, so they can rob you? Anyway, it was the “Dear” that got me. That was probably the worst part of all the e-mail communications between myself and Budget. They made it clear I was not dear to them.

In reality, the people sending the e-mails, it’s not their fault. They are in a foreign country, likely Central America, just trying to earn a living. The person who hung up on me admitted to being in Mexico City. So Budget, like most other larger corporations outsource their customer service phone jobs outside the US. I find nothing wrong with that per se, other than how employees are treated. I can’t speak for Budget, but I have a friend in Nicaragua who used to work for a Western Union call center, and he would often describe to us the sweat shop conditions under which they worked. 48 hours a week for a mere $400 a month gross. Can’t be late or you’re fired, breaks are very strict to non-existent. And of course, they have to deal with angry people all the time, angry people like me. I tried to be mindful of this knowledge when I was making my phone calls, but when you’re stranded on the side of the road with no food, or toilet, and have no idea what to expect, what’s next, or information, no amount of meditation can put you at ease. I know, I tried.

Anyway, so it was the “Dear” in the e-mail that finally made me realize that I’m not going to get all my money back. That I will have to find other means. The $72.66 required I get a receipt, which means going to the Sparks Budget in person to ask for one before I can request a refund. I could go around in circles and circles, and let my blood boil every time I was referred to as “Dear”, or I could take my loss in money in exchange for not wasting any more of my valuable time (which clearly Budget doesn’t respect either), accept the reimbursement as it was, and move on with my life.

An Epic Failure

So that is what I did. I accepted the reimbursement for the hotel, food, and plane ticket. Which I’m still waiting for at the time of this writing by the way. So to Budget rental: this is an EPIC FAILURE of customer service. I will never do business with you again. And I warn everyone to not do business with them again. Ever.

But… I also wrote this article, to warn others about renting these types of trucks in general. When I finally returned two days late and was picked up by a friend at the airport. I told him what had happened, and he told me how he once rented a U-Haul, and there was still a lock on the back of the U-Haul, which was not noted until he was checking the truck over. They cut the lock with bolt cutters, only to find a broken end table still in the U-Haul. So it’s not just Budget, but other rental places likely neglect their vehicles in the same way.

In addition, the heavy tow truck driver told Rob during the 230 mile tow, that he had towed all brands, and named every single one we’ve heard of and others we hadn’t (Penske, U-Haul, Ryder, Budget, etc.). So just because I name Budget in my personal experience, it’s only because that’s who I rented from. But I’m sure others have horror stories as well. Otherwise how else would they have such scripted answers ready for callers like me? So the moral of the story is caveat emptor with all rental truck companies. And go re-read the tips at the beginning of this article.

Now back to business…

For Health, – Tober

Tober is the co-founder of Nature’s Complement, a maker of natural personal care and home products.



  1. We moved once with U-Haul. I told my wife the next time I moved it will be in a pine box. The U-Haul truck worked fine but everything else was a pain. This person just confirmed my pine box.

  2. I’ve used Penske twice for cross country moves (26′ trucks from SF Bay Area to Northern Great Lakes). Their trucks were near new w/ very low miles (both from the same dealer in the Bay Area, 2 years apart) and in excellent shape and service. No complaints about Penske. I did rent a beat up Budget 16′ (?) box van to move my daughter from No. Great Lakes to Brooklyn NYC, it was not a very pleasant drive but the truck made it w/out issue but because of overall condition, I did check fluids and even bought thick foam gasket material to stuff into the drivers door seal because the air flow through the door was as loud as a jet engine (well…not quite, but still real loud in my left ear). But as Tober stated, when renting anything, “caveat emptor “

  3. Wow, what a story. We did a move with a very heavy U-Haul and had an overheating issue while climbing the mountains between Redding and Eureka, CA. We made it over the top by running the heater on high to act as a secondary radiator. Nothing like what happened to these folks and I will certainly scratch Budget off of my list for any future moves.

    I did get a kick after reading about the dogs that go on a hunger strike during road trips. If my dog is in the car he sniffs my breath after any stops. What did you eat, where is my treat?

  4. Sorry about your experience, and thanks for all the tips. I rented a truck from a Penske dealer, a “licensee” near Ft. Worth, TX. They were the nicest, most accommodating people I could have wanted. The truck was clean and it performed well. I drove to the Minneapolis area without a hitch and when I turned the truck in in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, the staff was every bit as helpful. I have now reserved a truck for an upcoming move, Minnesota to Arizona, also from the Penske dealer in Brooklyn Park. I’m a retired truck driver, so yeah, I normally kick the tires, etc.

    1. I also rented a Penske from a licensee in the mid-cities area there, great truck, no problems at all. The lady working there had Tourette’s Disease, which freaked me out the first few times but she was otherwise pleasant and very capable. The U-Haul car trailer I towed, though, was a total POS and had a blow-out about 600 miles into the trip.

  5. I have moved my self a dozen times and actually enjoy the experience. Uhaul is awesome and I have no complaints. I have had my share of bad motels. I always ask if they are pet friendly and if they are I go somewhere else. Don’t like animals in the house/room and I don’t want to live there after they have left.

  6. Tober,
    I’d say with any rental vehicle, particularly a truck, the vehicle is only as good as its service. If the franchise owners don t care, you get a poor product. Most good franchise operations, McDonald’s for instance, have rules of operation and employ inspectors to check local franchise operations for compliance.
    In this case, you getting your message out this way has probably cost Budget Rentals significant future business. If they have a decent home office operation, someone should pick up this story and work to make it right. If not, then repeated instances of this type will greatly reduce profits.
    I’m glad you and your company survived. A lesson for us all, take nothing for granted!

  7. Tober,
    I hate to break this to you but you have to check the fluids on any vehicle you drive whether you own it or not. As a contract business owner who constantly moved from jobsite to jobsite state to state across America over the years I rented trucks from time to time. Everytime you fill up with gas you check all fluids SOP. You created your own problems in this instance. I have rented Budgets largest van trucks and its SOP you check everything that you rent from stem to stern everytime in the presence of the the rental personel everytime. Fluids, body, tires, all lights including turn signals, underneath for fluids running out of it, etc. Most truck rental franchises do this as an add on business and most employees have no idea of the difference between a wrench from a quart of oil. Its a learning experience is all I can say.

  8. I’ve had good luck with Penske every time. Based on my experience I can recommend them (although their 26 ft trucks could really use about 150 more horsepower for hills…..)

    Tips: Consider palletizing everything. Std pallet is 40″X48″, good-excellent used pallets are $5 here, Lowes sells boxes 16WX16WX18H, 6 fit per layer, 4 layers+pallet = 79″H, still fits under garage & storage center rollup door. Strap columns of boxes to pallet (vertical), strap layers of boxes together (horizontal), stiff cardboard “protectors” on corners under strapping, 1/4 flooring underlayment or real stiff cardboard between layers, wrap boxed pallet in stretchy plastic wrap stuff. Pack the boxes ON the pallet, pack ’em tight with heavy stuff. Because you’re moving the pallet with a pallet jack ($199 on sale at Northern Tool) and not picking them up they can be VERY heavy. Each box is 2.67 cu ft, a pallet load is 24 boxes=64 cu ft + a layer of very light boxes (another 16 cu ft) set individually on top. Most pallet jacks will pick up 4000 lbs, so that’s your limit (= 167 lbs/box). Packed heavy and very tightly, you’d be surprised how much you can get into 64 cu ft and it’s strapped to the pallet so it doesn’t move around. Strapping – 7200 ft roll 1/2″ W (Amazon) = $47, strap tensioner=$38, strap buckles = $28/1K.

    In a 10X10 storage unit pallets barely fit 3X across, 2 rows deep, + light boxes on top of pallets stacks, + room for individual boxes stacked in front or pallets. Most storage units are 10 high so light individual boxes can go on top. Trucks are 8 ft wide, so pallets go in sideways 2X across, 16 ft truck holds 4 rows (8 pallets, each with 24 boxes+light stuff on top) with almost 3 ft left (watch truck door clearance). That’s 512 cu ft on pallets, +50 cu ft of light stuff on top of the pallets. Packed tight and heavy that’s a LOT of household goods.

    Tip: measure the rental storage staces, measure the truck. With your own tape measure. Do not trust what salespeople tell you. You do not want to arrive with a truck load of pallets and discover “their 10 feet wide” actually is 9 feet 10 inches. Same with the truck. Measure and write down. Put it in the written contract and make sure a responsible grownup from the storage place and truck rental signs it AND PRINTS THEIR NAME.

    Yes, you’ll need a pallet jack. Yes, you’ll need a truck with a lift gate (or forklift rental). Yes, you’ll have to think through loading the boxes (put the cast iron cookware, blacksmith anvils, and rock collection on BOTTOM layers….) to pack them as tightly as possible. Yes, you’ll need strapping materials and tools and have to learn how to use them. BUT – you’ve moving everything on wheels, not your back, each pallet holds a tremendous amount of stuff, AND you have the option of renting a forklift to load and unload (tip: rent a trained driver with the forklift, the extra $$ are worth it, and he’ll be there anyway because he’ll probably be the guy who delivers the forklift; 1 hour of forklift time w/driver locally to me is $150 and worth every single penny). My last move was 25 minutes to load the truck, 30 to unload; forklift pallets into the truck, pallet jack to get them into position, 2 people to put individual light boxes on top of the pallet stacks. Reverse to unload. Use extra pallets for unstrapped 2X layers of the light boxes, fork-load 2 heavy pallets, then 1 light, manually place light boxes on top of stacks, repeat until truck full. If you have a gun safe and/or big roll-around tool chests you’ll need a fork lift anyway, and you can get bigger pallets for strapping down riding mowers, barbeque grills, etc.
    Tip: plan where everything will get staged to load it, and where it will go when it’s unloaded. When you’re all done, unpacked and moved in, craigslist the strapping equipment and pallets (except that I keep finding more uses for the strapping stuff so I kept it).

  9. Tober:
    Thank you for sharing your epic adventure and your electronic and verbal jousts with corporate Budget Rental. What a terrible business model! Appreciate the warning. I will stay far away from a company that is set up to intentionally screw the customer by creating multiple divisions that don’t talk or cooperate with one another to avoid any extra expense to the company.

  10. Thanks for sharing the tale of difficulty. The author has my sympathy, but for the traveling preparation ignorance that resulted in the added costs in time and expense, rather than those two resulting problems.

    Been there and done that, without cell phone or internet.

    For others needing to move a business or homestead, I suggest you look diligently for a 16 foot long flatbed trailer or covered livestock trailer. Box trailers are better but often cost quite a bit more.

    Make sure you use a tape measure to verify the actual length, width, and height inside. Your upright appliances might not fit under the roof, and your 16 foot long lumber won’t fit inside a 15 foot 10 inch cargo area, unless it is loaded to hang out the back

    God Bless

  11. I’ll keep buying your soap, shampoo and shave bars. You’ll make up your losses to those losers in no time!

    (And you SB readers – you should be doing the same.)

  12. Thanks for the info, I will make sure my son stays away from Budget when I help move them from Texas to Idaho this spring. Although, I always check all fluids before acceptance and at every fuel stop. Thanks.

  13. I can attest to the wisdom of expecting incompetence and neglect from any service provider who is not the personal owner of the service and who does not have to look you in the eye when he’s providing his services. Enter into any business relationship anticipating as many problems as you can imagine and proceed only with a clear understanding between you what is expected of him in the way of performance (see my response to CORD7 and Dr. John in the January 12, 2019 comments: https://survivalblog.com/survivalists-odds-n-sods-338/#comments).

    If he can’t deliver on mutually agreed upon terms, find someone else, this guy’s got something to hide or he’s a corporate robot.

    Having driven long haul as well as LTL back in the days when MCI meant Motor Carrier International (early, primitive truck tracking systems that ultimately led to the cell phone), and as a city bus driver in Iowa, I checked EVERY single item on every single rig, from fluids to belts to air brakes to the adjustable driver’s seat, every single time I went out, and had the dispatcher sign off on the inspection sheet. I was a pain in the a**, but I can’t count the times I was low on fluids, ready to lose a belt, running hot bearings or low on fuel.

    The lead mechanic at my trucking company finally asked me one day who I thought I was to question his people. I’m the guy who’s pulling a 65′ box over I40 at 60 mph in every kind of weather, day and night; the guy who doesn’t get paid unless the wheels are turning; the guy they jaws out of what’s left of the Peterbuilt when the brakes lock up or the tires alligator off a tread into a 4 wheeler civilian riding my FTC bumper too close. I’m the guy that relies on your professionalism and pride in performance to make it home alive, and brother, you’ve demonstrated you have neither.

    So good for you, Tober. I hope everyone who reads your misadventure with Budget will adopt the attitude that the customer is king, that these services need you, you don’t need them, and that the fair market system will work best if the consumer is unashamedly rigorous, exacting and tough.

    Flood Budget with email attachments of this article. It probably won’t do any good, but they will at least be without excuse.

    Hope for the best, but expect and plan for the worst – in everything.

  14. Thanks for the detailed events and your bullet points.

    I do not see myself needing to move again since I am retired but will tell my friends about Budget.

    I agree that just by word of mouth and Survivalblog your troubles will cost Budget tens of thousands of dollars.
    Just tell ten of your friends and do the math out to 10, stunning how fast the math adds up.

    Thanks again, Skip

  15. Tober,

    Thank you for taking the time to document your horrible life experience which befell you despite your impressive pre-planning and pre-thinking.

    I will share your epistle with my three adult children.

    Once again, Thank You.

    Glenn in Idaho

  16. Penske has always been a good experience. U-Haul, eh. I watched the fluids like a hawk, gauges, too. The U-Haul was like flying a Dauntless dive bomber..noisy, breezy, harsh. Beats you all day. Ear plugs recommended. Last time, with the U-Haul, our chase car was a Toyota Sequoia. The ride back was like heaven. Worship the dipstick.

  17. The article concluded that this wasn’t a rant about one particular company, but it appears the comments ignored that. For me this was more about how this scenario was dealt with, survived. What can I learn from this? What can I do when everything goes wrong? Meditation was what was resorted to, but it, or the meditator, failed to make that work. When meditation doesn’t work try the mediator Jesus Christ, not as in “Jesus Christ!!*&%$#!”, but in prayer to God accessed via Jesus Christ. When Murphy’s law gets the best of you, overrule it with God’s law.

  18. I have had nightmare moves like this, even using a moving company. However, Budget is no one’s friend. Might I suggest, especially since you have 2 dogs: think about a teardrop camper. Light, easy to pull-even with a small SUV,they contain a cooking area, a fridge,a bathroom with shower, and a bed. With one of those, you could have easily made your life simpler and less stressful. I hate hotels/motels because they are never really clean-and I don’t care what they tell you. With a camper, even a small one, you have your clean sheets, a place to cook, a clean bathroom, and some sort of control over your life. Blessings. I have always loved Reno, sorry to hear that it is becoming a mega-hub.

  19. You might want to check out Elliott.org on where to send a letter, who to contact in corporate, what info to include, and if all else fails, they might go to bat for you.

  20. The essence of survivalism is to roll with the punches. Just deal with it. Next time it will be a heart attack, or something else. Have a plan B. And lots of prayer.

  21. My wife is dealing with the IRS right now on a 6 year old tax return. Her phone experiences exactly mirror the Mexico City conversations. I think Budget employees south of the border must be training the IRS.

  22. If a blown motor on a rental truck and the resulting troubles wind one up this bad now, and the lodging conditions are that repulsive to one now, TEOTWAYKI is going to cause a meltdown. I am talking catatonic.

    Also, This episode should rightly be seen as a very memorable lesson in foiling Murphy with regard to equipment. If that had been your bug out ride or a vehicle you obtained use of after a shtf event, imagine the possible trouble that could have resulted. Learn from it, and know what you should have done differently to protect yourself. And do that next time. Also, adopt a mindset of covering your bases with everything in that way. Murphy ain’t picky and he has a strong work ethic. You gotta be on your game all the time to sideline the jerk and get things done.

  23. Just moved from NE Ohio to N Texas. The company I moved for paid for the move so we hired a moving company (American Van Lines). It is my first time moving cross-country. I was surprised when they said it could take up to 3 weeks for delivery, but they agreed in contract to 2 weeks (also saying it should only be a few days). They picked up my stuff 19 days ago and have yet to deliver yet. Yes, 5 days beyond at this point. The driver text me that they would be here today, so we’ll see.

    Thankfully, being a preparedness nut, I packed my own SUV full to the gills with short-term things like clothes, PC, TV, dog stuff, etc. Best decision I ever made. I cant imagine how difficult and expensive the last 3 weeks would have been had I not brought so much myself. Did have to buy an air matress and other items, but at least I havent had to go with nothing, or make an already expensive endeavor exponentially so.

    Tip: even if using movers, prepare to not have your stuff for a while.

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