A System that Preys!

I had been flying for about 7 hours and all I wanted to do was pick up my rental car and grab something to drink so that I could get strength to make the 1 hour drive ahead of me. I was physically and mentally tired: I only got 4 hours sleep the night before my flight, and my body was also struggling with the 3 hour difference between my home state and California, where I had just arrived.

As I staggered to the National Car Rental parking lot with my suitcase, laptop, handbag, drink and a head full of thoughts, a voice jolted me. “Will you like to upgrade to any of these cars for only $25 more?” I looked up to find two smiling faces in front of me. “Hmmm, this is weird, there is usually no staff in the lot. Why are they here?” I looked past them to see the cars they were trying to get me to pick: my tired brain recognized a Volvo and a dangerously beautiful Mercedes Benz. I was getting lost in my thoughts when I realized the pretty faces were waiting for my answer. “Oh no, my boss will kill me if I do that,” I replied. With a rather dry laugh that seemed to tell me I didn’t know what I was missing, one of them replied: “Okay then, please choose one of the cars after the big sign.” And off I went in a car I honestly still don’t know its make even after 3 days of driving it.

Welcome to America, where companies prey on the tired traveler, the excited tourist and the “plan-less” shopper. As a member of National’s Emerald Club, I usually have a ton of choices when I get to the rental car lot, but until this week, I had no idea there was a premium section. I just thought National didn’t carry the luxury brands. Now I know they do, and I also know that someone somewhere is unhappy that customers like me haven’t been willing to pay more than the $50-75 per day we pay to rent their cars, so they will like us to step up our game. Well thanks, but no thanks. Apart from the fact that it makes no sense to incur an additional and might I add non-reimbursable $100 for the 4 days I will be here on official duties, I also don’t care to spend an additional $100 on a car. As long as the car is reliable and functioning properly, I could care less what the brand is.

While it is easy to blame National and other companies that prey on tired minds when we get to the car lot, grocery store and shopping malls, I want to advise that we don’t blame them, they are just trying to make money. What you and I need to do is learn how to survive in a system that lets predators roam free. Here are some useful tips:

  • Proactively plan your finances,
  • Be alert and aware, don’t let current emotions sway decisions that have financial implications,
  • Set a limit/threshold that you need to think about for at least 12 hours before spending without a plan,
  • Cut your coat according to your “fabric” not your size,
  • Don’t subscribe to the “instant gratification” school of thought,
  • Leave an allowance in your budget to spoil yourself a little, this makes it bearable to take your eyes off every single distraction,
  • There are so many free and cheap ways to relieve stress – explore them,
  • Know the color of your money, so you can be equipped to deal with your weaknesses and to maximize your strength!

I hope these help you keep the predators away from your future. Good luck!

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