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Rental repair scam (Thrifty)
Old 07-30-2007, 07:29 PM   #1
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Rental repair scam (Thrifty)

We used three rental cars during our last trip. The good news is that the upsell pressure seemed to have stopped and no one hassled me about their insurance waivers. I wouldn't call it a pleasant experience but it's better than it's been for a long time.

The bad news is that we probably got nailed by the repair scam.

Our last flight left in the early morning so we needed to return Thrifty's car before they opened, or else drop it off the night before. They offered what seemed like a good deal: leave it in the airport's long-term parking lot for them to pick up later that morning.

The next morning I got a call that the windshield was damaged and $75 would be added to my bill. I hadn't seen any damage when we picked the car up and I hadn't had any problems while we were using it, but I wouldn't notice a windshield chip unless it was within my field of view. The 20-something rental agent went into great detail about the crack and its location. When I pointed out that I hadn't seen anything they quickly said that it had probably happened in the long-term parking lot. But when I asked for a copy of the repair documentation ("For my insurance company") he suddenly had no idea how to do that. I asked if they could send me the before & after photos but they were highly offended that I expected them to bear that evidentiary burden.

Their familiarity with windshields cracking in long-term parking, the implication that it happened a lot, and the sudden change in attitude, made me a little suspicious that they'd done a lot of these phone calls to their out-of-town customers. When I asked them to meet with my claims adjustor to inspect the damage repair, suddenly no one could tell me when the car would be available ("Uh, we have to rent it out as soon as it's fixed") or how they could do that. I was even told that the repair was hardly noticeable and might be difficult to find.

When I asked for the total credit-card charges the manager got on the phone to tell me that, wonder of wonders, the repair service had only charged them $40 for what was customarily a $75 fix. She promised to mail me their paperwork "for my claim", which amounted to a generic invoice and a cover letter. Funny thing-- according to the invoice copy they sent, the repair company didn't charge the car company any tax or break out the charges. Just a scribbled "windshield repair" line and a $40 total. Meanwhile my Thrifty bill had three separate entries for all the taxes I'd be paying.

Was the windshield ever chipped? Was I scammed? I have no freakin' idea. $40 isn't a big enough number to get into a colossal pissing contest with Thrifty and USAA, although $75 might have crossed my entertainment threshold. (Funny how I pushed back and that charge dropped so quickly.) However the whole crappy quality of the phone call and the weaselly behavior of the people I spoke with, let alone their documentation, means that I'll never rent from Thrifty again-- especially their Albany airport franchise on Albany Shaker Road in Latham NY. I'd also be a little skeptical of using AutoMotion Restoration Service in Averill Park.

Next time I'll stick with USAA's discounted rental companies-- currently Avis, Budget, or Hertz. I'll also join their frequent-renter programs (no matter how infrequently I use them) so that they treat me as a valued customer instead of a quick hit & run.

And when the employee does the before-rental damage inspection, I'm making sure that he sees me recording digital images for my own records. It only takes an extra minute and it'll be a deterrent to any temptations...
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Old 07-30-2007, 07:37 PM   #2
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Something new to learn everyday. Thanks for sharing.

I guess the lesson here is to always return the vehicle to a person, and get a receipt, right?
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Old 07-30-2007, 07:46 PM   #3
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I would call Thrifty's corporate office asap and have a little chat with them about the matter...
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Old 07-30-2007, 08:00 PM   #4
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Our last flight left in the early morning so we needed to return Thrifty's car before they opened, or else drop it off the night before. They offered what seemed like a good deal: leave it in the airport's long-term parking lot for them to pick up later that morning.
Whether it was cracked or not, by giving you that option it seems to me they assume the risk of any undetected damage. Since it was only $75 they know you're not about to hire a lawyer or get in a hassle with the insurance company, so it's a pretty good scam. Bet they don't try to collect on many $1000 undetected damages.
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Old 07-30-2007, 08:06 PM   #5
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I am still mad at Enterprise for hitting us with a $26 a day charge for putting my wife on the rental car. Silly me, when the guy asked if she needed to be on it, I didn't understand that, unlike Hertz or Avis, that there was a charge.
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Old 07-30-2007, 08:11 PM   #6
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I am still mad at Enterprise for hitting us with a $26 a day charge for putting my wife on the rental car. Silly me, when the guy asked if she needed to be on it, I didn't understand that, unlike Hertz or Avis, that there was a charge.
Must be a local franchise "profit opportunity". I just rented an Enterprise car and put a friend on it as a second driver - no charge.
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Old 07-30-2007, 08:27 PM   #7
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Must be a local franchise "profit opportunity". I just rented an Enterprise car and put a friend on it as a second driver - no charge.
Washington Dulles Airport, then. I have learned to ask questions every time they change something (like upgrading us).
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Old 07-30-2007, 08:30 PM   #8
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Rental cars-ughh! Anyway, I always go to the USAA site and from there to Avis, the discount is worth the trouble. I just think having to go through the extra step is ridiculous--the price should be the price. Avis has been good to me, I rented cars about 20 times over the last two years.

I'm a stickler for noting damage before I drive off--even the ever-present scuffs on the rear bumper from people dragging their bags out of the trunk. At Tampa they don't want to hear it; "We only care about damage caused by an accident, we don't need to see the damage you are pointing out." Which might be true, or it might be an entirely different attitude when I return the car. So, I note all the damage on the rental agreement and just push it under the glass for the "helpful" attendant to sign. Then I add their name and the time. I don't think this approach is popular from the looks I get, but I've read too many stories like this to take their word for things.

Sorry for the bad luck at Albany, thanks for the warning.
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Old 07-30-2007, 10:41 PM   #9
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Rental cars used to be customer service oriented and the customer is always right. Lately they are like bank that will fee you to death. My wife rents car every now and then for work related travel and we have seen this changes. I wonder if they will go back to their old ways?
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Old 07-30-2007, 11:29 PM   #10
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I am still mad at Enterprise for hitting us with a $26 a day charge for putting my wife on the rental car. Silly me, when the guy asked if she needed to be on it, I didn't understand that, unlike Hertz or Avis, that there was a charge.
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Must be a local franchise "profit opportunity". I just rented an Enterprise car and put a friend on it as a second driver - no charge.
I rented from Enterprise last year and this year in Daytona, both times with an additional driver.....and like REWahoo, there was no extra charge.
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Old 07-30-2007, 11:54 PM   #11
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I have heard of a number of folks having mysterious problems with repairs. Usually, it was damage that was already there, but the current driver gets blamed for it. This just happened to my mom, but eventually the rental company relented.

Years ago, some friends of mine rented a car. After returning, the company claimed that a new bump was in the right rear fender. My friend was almost positive that it was not him, but he could not be absolutely sure. So, after getting browbeaten and basically told by the clerks at the rental place that he was a liar and irresponsible, and that they thoroughly inspected all cars so that they were sure that the damage was new, he relented.

Lo and behold, when he developed his pictures, there was a picture of the car right after they left, and that dent was there. He went to the rental place with that picture and lectured them for 20 minutes on how to be courteous to customers.

Nords, thanks for the details. From now on, I am going to take before and after digital pictures of all rentals. And be more anal about noting damage in advance.

Kramer
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:15 AM   #12
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Nords, thanks for the details. From now on, I am going to take before and after digital pictures of all rentals. And be more anal about noting damage in advance.
Me too. Thanks Nords, you've provided a valuable service.
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:48 AM   #13
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Here's what I got out of my college philosophy class: A fly in a bottle has a problem, he can't get out. The best solution to the problem, according to Wittgenstein, is for the fly not to go into the bottle in the first place.

Based on that, next time to Oahu we're not going to rent a car at all. It went fine last time but there are too many worries and potential hassles.

I remember getting the gas deal which made sense only if you used more than a full tank of gas. As I was driving away, I remembered that the entire island is only 35 miles wide. I kicked myself for that most of the week, but it turned out that we ended up using an entire tank anyway.

Parking was limited at the hotel, so every time we went out in the car, I worried about getting a space (plus $18/day for parking).

Last trip we saw the sights that you need a car for, so next year there will be less hassle and less expense.
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:58 AM   #14
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I hate to admit it, given the context of this thread, but I worked for a rental car company after college. What a miserable experience. The policies and procedures of the company were ludicrous, the customers frequently pissed off about everything, and you had to wash, by hand, in the summer in Charleston, South Carolina, in a TIE, the cars as they were returned. I mean, just awful.

We never, ever tried to rip people off, though. We always gave the customer the benefit of the doubt. We let a lot of bumps and scratches slide. A lot. A big problem we had were people being jerks b/c they'd had such bad experiences with renting a car previously.

Sooo, don't be too hard on ALL of these guys.
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Old 07-31-2007, 10:04 AM   #15
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Seems this has happened before...

Helena Independent Record
Car rental companies find new and innovative ways to screw good drivers Upgrade: Travel Better

In doing a google search, I found dozens of Epinions reviews, articles and other cites on thrifty charging for chipped windshields and on investigation, these being ripoffs.

But it seems that the car rental companies are all subscribing to the same new customer service mantra of ripping as much money out of you as possible and then giving you the finger. Apparently nobody wants repeat business.
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Old 07-31-2007, 12:28 PM   #16
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It does sound sketchy to me. The repair price changing, the lack of an itemized invoice for the repair and you already being out of town just makes it look like they took the opportunity to take advantage of you.

If it was me I'd write up a letter or email and send it off to their Corporate Office with a copy to the Regional Office if you can find the address. You may not get your $40 back but you'll feel better knowing that you took action rather than letting them do what they wanted to you as a customer.

I complained about a filthy rental car once and they sent me a letter for a free day on my next rental. I think that was Thrifty. I never used it because I'd choose any other company if I rented a again. I filed a claim against BP Procare for an improperly done repair (brake line replacement that FAILED 11 months later) that later resulted in a breakdown, getting stranded out of town and having to stay in a hotel and rent a replacement vehicle. They reimbursed us for the out of town repair, hotel, rental car and gas. But what felt even better was when our local BP Procare got a new manager and then the company was sold off. Now, I know my complaint certainly didn't make them sell the company and probably had nothing to do with the local manager being replaced but it sure felt good that I may have added a straw to the camel's back.
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Old 07-31-2007, 12:32 PM   #17
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When I was finally moving back,, I had 9 or 10 pieces of luggage, so I reserved a van from Thrifty and I got a real good deal on that. Well when I went to rental place, the person there tried to convince me that my stuff will not fit in small van and I need longer van (like grand caravan). I said no, and he gave me the longer van for my reservation price since they did not have the short one. He knew that but still tried to make some money.
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Old 07-31-2007, 01:36 PM   #18
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Companies like this drive me insane. My bane is commercial equipment repair companies, and while there are some honest good ones out there, most refrigeration repair companies are utter crooks.

I got to the point where I log them on camera when they come in my place, have them sign in, and if they go on break I deduct it from their pay, unless they have worked over 6 hours.

I had one company repair a freezer, and the repair man was there for 45 minutes, now these guys charge like 60+ per hour, and tend to go eat, smoke 10 times and do whatever they can to spend more time there, especially if they are slow that day. Anyway, the guy fixed the freezer, and gave me the bill, and I noticed he had 4 hours labor on it. I asked him wtf that was about, and he smiled and said "Well it is better then buying a new freezer right?"

So I called the owner of the place (I had used the people several times always paid, no problems yet), and spoke to the owner, who proceeded to tell me the repairman was a "good christian" and would never screw anyone. Now I am a religious person myself, so this just utterly pissed me off.

I finally explained to the owner that we had documented witnesses, and his company was committing fraud, which was a felony, and that if he did not reduce the bill I would go to the magistrate and take out a warrant for his arrest and his employee. Suddenly he had a change of heart, and billed me correctly. At the next meeting of companies like my own in the area, I told my story to over 200 business owners, and the guy who had been open almost 15 years was out of business in 8 months.

Just remember companies that do this crap are at best committing theft of services, and at worst committing fraud, which is a felony. Not only that you can always go down to the local magistrate and take out arrest warrants for around 100 bucks. it may not be worth the trouble sometimes, but it teaches the crooks a lesson, and they will be less likely to screw someone else.
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Old 07-31-2007, 03:24 PM   #19
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Just remember companies that do this crap are at best committing theft of services, and at worst committing fraud, which is a felony. Not only that you can always go down to the local magistrate and take out arrest warrants for around 100 bucks. it may not be worth the trouble sometimes, but it teaches the crooks a lesson, and they will be less likely to screw someone else.
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Love this strategy--puts a whole new context to the old adage--"don't get mad, get even"

If you want to see another insider view of the rental car business, check out this link from the consumerist.com site Enterprise: 9 Confessions From A Former Enterprise Rental Salesman - Consumerist. This a great site as well for hearing about other scams out there.
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Old 07-31-2007, 04:08 PM   #20
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Nords,

Thanks for the info. Thrifty is on my $h!tl!st. I will avoid them.


Sounds like a class action suit will be brewing soon.
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