I had a customer service experience last night that I just have to rant about.

I needed a rental car for 24 hours, so I made a reservation with Budget Car Rental. My flight was on time and the shuttle bus came within minutes, but when the driver stopped to drop us off in front of the combined Avis/Budget rental building, I knew I was in trouble.

Inside, I saw at least two dozen people in line, but only three people behind the counter. A few minutes later, at 6pm, one of them closed down her station and went home. I know businesses are shortstaffed but, come on! When that many people are waiting, someone in a supervisory capacity should have authorized overtime until each and every one of us got a vehicle.

What I needed was Oprah to start pointing to everyone in line saying, “You get a car! And you get a car!” Instead, I got a headache.

I shouldn’t have even had to wait in any line, because I am a member of Budget’s Fast Break program, which means I had filled out all the necessary information ahead of time, allowing me to bypass the counter completely. So, when I arrived on the lot, my name should have been on the big board along with my contract, allowing me to just go take any car from the class I’d reserved. But last night there was no board, so I had to join the queue — and I wasn’t the only Fast Breaker who was pissed about that.

While waiting and fuming, I did two quick calculations. One was that if each of the customers ahead of me spent only five minutes at the counter — and I noticed no one was done that quickly — it would be two hours before it was my turn. Worse, I counted about 15 cars in the Budget rental lot, so I don’t know what they were planning to do for the rest of us.

Oh, and their shuttle bus kept bringing more people! You would think the driver would have told us about this problem before pulling away from the airport terminal, so we would have a chance to perhaps find an alternate arrangement. Or maybe take a cab. But no, not a word.

I had made the reservation through Priceline, and fortunately was able to get through to their customer service number, where a helpful human helped me cancel the reservation, and assured me I would not be charged by either Priceline or Budget. We’ll see about that.

Instead of waiting, I called a friend and begged him to drive over and pick me up. He agreed, and as I walked away from the Budget office, yet another shuttle bus pulled up to deposit ten more soon-to-be-really-angry people at the curb.

In the twenty minutes it took my friend to get there, I noticed only three rental cars being driven through the exit gate to freedom, which means I should have taken the over on my earlier two hour estimate.

While making a mental note to never again book a vehicle through Budget or Avis, I was reminded of this “Seinfeld” scene…