I travelled to Atlanta recently and experienced something new: the rental car I reserved was not there. There were, in fact, no rental cars available from Enterprise at the airport at all. The other car rental agencies were similarly sold out. It turns out that rental cars are on a first come, first served basis. Your reservation does not matter. Reservations are for the convenience of the rental agency only, they are not a guarantee.
The counter clerks said that people were keeping the cars for a longer time than expected, something they had no control over. I understand Thanksgiving week is abnormally busy but they should be able to anticipate that since they know how many cars are being reserved, all the reservation requests coming over their phone lines and from their websites.
I have never had a sellout at a hotel with a reservation held by a credit card. I see no reason why cars should be any different. The agency could cap the number of reservations or warn people with cautionary language that a sellout might be possible. Enterprise did neither. They also said they e-mailed me but I never received anything.
I prefer to rent cars so I can drive where and when I like. Without a car I had to take a $55 cab ride to my hotel. I then put Uber on my phone and got around that way. While Uber is a fine service, I like to come and go as I please. Also, the thought of missing an important ride, say back to the airport, is incredibly worrying when you have to depend on someone else.
I’m not sure what to recommend. Someone suggested making multiple car agency reservations. But wouldn’t they all have penalties for cancelling at the last minute? Right now I am no longer trusting Enterprise or an entire industry. I’m concerned about my next trip.