This past weekend, instead of traveling outside of Boston, I braved the travails of moving…and specifically the transport associated with it. Over the past nine years—depending on how you define moving—I have transported my stuff at least 14 times, transitioned to 6 different cities, and am now preparing to live in my 14th different “space.”

In the midst of my own current move, I’ve also been helping my parents pack up my childhood home in Dallas as they prepare for the next phase of their life. Needless to say, things have been a little hectic.

Not as sketchy as the sign at the place we rented

Not as sketchy as the sign at the place we rented

Generally, my moves have been fairly seamless. Unlike my usual poor travel karma, I actually feel like I have fairly good moving karma. Unless it involves Budget (Truck Rental).

My battle with Budget began several years ago when a friend of mine rented a truck with them, showed up on her appointed day to pick it up, and was dismayed to learn that in fact, there weren’t any trucks available. She was stuck with no other options for moving that day. A few years later, lured by the inexpensive rates of Budget compared with other options like Uhaul and Penske, I decided to forego my friend’s warning and rent a Budget truck to drive from Madison, WI to Boston, MA. When I arrived to pick up the truck, everything went fairly smoothly except when I returned to my car to follow my dad back to the house, I couldn’t unlock my door. As it turned out, my electronic key battery had died. So my dad and I had to drive around looking for a specialty battery store for about an hour and a half in a huge Budget truck. It should have served as a warning sign.

Delayed by the battery search, we arrived back at the house short on time. As we scrambled to pack the truck to meet our moving deadline, it started pouring. And low and behold, there happened to be a large, mangled hole—not visible to the eye until streaming water poured through—in the front left part of the roof. Having encountered no overpasses or other hangings, the hole could only have been from the previous renters. I called Budget to let them know. They said that I could return the truck for another, but we had already packed half of it. We decided to just tape it up to the best of our ability and power through.

What we didn’t realize is that Budget truck rental is run by contractors—and they don’t talk to each other. When we arrived in Boston there was no record of my call with the other Budget office. And they claimed I was fully responsible. Many heated words were exchanged and I ended up with a hefty bill that I refused to pay.

Needless to say, for my move this go around, Budget was not at the top of my list for truck rental.

So I made a reservation at Uhaul. Unfortunately however, when Uhaul called to confirm my reservation, they could only offer a truck from 3pm on Saturday till 6am on Sunday—and we needed more time. My moving partner, Jon, called Budget and they offered a truck from 9am on Saturday till 9am on Sunday. We decided to go with Budget—afterall, it had been a few years. Maybe things had changed?

They hadn’t. As we drove down a long winding alley to the back of a very poorly maintained parking lot, I had a bad feeling. There was only one rusting Budget sign hanging askance at the entrance to the lot. Two Budget vans, and two Budget trucks were parked oddly on the pavement.

We walked into the office, past rows of crated furniture stacked almost to the top of the large warehouse. Inside, three other people sat waiting. I remarked to Jon that this was perhaps the sketchiest truck rental place I had ever been inside. One of the waiting party members grunted a laugh. Apparently he agreed.

A few minutes later, a slightly overweight man, who clearly spent a lot of time pumping iron, walked in the door, cell phone attached to his ear, “What do you mean? I’ve got customers waiting? What am I supposed to tell them?” He looked over at us. “What’s your reservation name?”

“Kimball,” Jon said. The guy turned his attention back to the phone. “I’ve got Kimball here waiting. What truck am I supposed to give to them?”

Oh boy. Just what I wanted to hear.

Some of the truck sizes Budget offers. The 28 footer we were offered was bigger than the one on the far left.

Some of the truck sizes Budget offers. The 28 footer we were offered was bigger than the one on the far left.

They didn’t have a truck. Jon and I spent the next hour negotiating with the guy trying to figure out what to do. I called Uhaul and tried to see if they had any other reservations. The office owner called other Budget rental locations around Boston. Nothing.

We were offered either a 28 foot truck with an electric loading dock off the back…or a van. Nothing similar to the 17 foot truck we had reserved. Jon and I walked out to look at the 28 footer. I couldn’t believe that you didn’t need some kind of special license for that thing. There is no way that you could just rent and drive it.

We opted for the van. We decided that although it might take 17 trips, at least we knew we could park it.

After haggling on the price (the owner originally wanted to charge us the same price we had reserved for the 17 foot truck) and getting him to give us the mileage for free, we secured the keys and started on our way. Except that before I could drive two feet, I received all kinds of warnings from the van that something was wrong with the tires and I needed to check the engine. Based on my previous experience in Madison, I immediately hopped out and went in to ask the guy if I would be charged for this. He said no, he had noted the problem and it would be fine. As I left, I heard him saying to a new customer who had just arrived, “How do you think I feel, I have 15 customers coming in to get trucks after you and I’ve got nothing!”

Great, nothing like customer service.

How is it possible that you reserve a truck ahead of time and show up to nothing? I have no idea. But needless to say, I will not be renting from Budget (at least their trucks for moving) ever again. And I’m inclined to recommend that no one else ever rent with them either.

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