Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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Auto upgrades aren’t for everyone

By Lesley Carlin


QUESTION: I recently reserved a compact car through a major rental-car agency. I’m a member of its loyalty program, a perk of which is that it posts your name on a board with the parking-space number of the car assigned to you. You can then walk directly to your car instead of having to stop inside at the main counter.

Well, when I got to the space assigned to me, there was a giant (and I do mean giant) SUV instead of a compact car. I knew I would be doing a lot of city driving, including parallel parking on the street, plus I didn’t want to spend tons of money on gas, so I went inside and asked for a different car.

The agent made a big deal of this (“This guy wants to turn down an upgrade!”), and the other people waiting in line overheard. I heard a woman in line say, “Jeez — if I got upgraded, I’d be grateful.” Was I doing something wrong by declining the SUV?

ANSWER: Not at all. You always have the prerogative to decline an upgrade, and I think your reasons for doing so are perfectly valid. As long as you were polite, I wouldn’t worry about what she or the other customers in line thought of you.

Q: If you rent a beach house and find food in the kitchen cabinets, can you eat it?

A: If it’s there, I think it’s fair game — unless, of course, the rules of your rental say otherwise. Many rentals do stock basics like salt, pepper, sugar and coffee. “Should you eat it?” is a much more important question, though. I’ve found some pretty unappetizing-looking food in rentals (e.g., a half-eaten pint of ice cream, spices that had expired years ago, granola of unknown provenance), so I’d be picky about what you decide to consume.


Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at

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