Amy and Kevin Roeder are stuck with a $1,600 bill from Thrifty Car Rental for damage they say they didn’t do. Thrifty insists they’re responsible, and isn’t backing down. And now I’m stuck, too. What do I do next?
Maybe you can help with this case.
Let me fill in a few details. The Roeder’s flew to Kalispell, Mont., in May for a high school graduation and rented a minivan through Thrifty. Before picking up the van, they conducted a thorough inspection. All was well.
The only noteworthy event was the “hard sell” on optional insurance. “The Thrifty man was insistent that we get his insurance only $5 a day,” said Amy Roeder. “We said no, we have insurance.”
We left, traveled to our hotel, went to graduation and returned on Monday the 31st.
We once again walked around the van with the rental guy and he signed off that all was OK. I have the document that states this.
Fast forward, 2 days later at home, there is a message on the machine from Thrifty in Montana that the van had major front end damage and scratches along the side and the hubcaps were all scratched up — $1,600 worth of damage, that for whatever reason they could not see when we returned it.
We did not damage that van. They have since sent pictures and a bill for the damage.
I really don’t want to submit a claim for something I didn’t do, and I also get a discount for never having ever submitted a claim, but I don’t want this to leave a bad mark on my credit.
What should I do? Should I really submit a claim, lose my discount, have my premium increase for someone who is scamming me? I don’t know any other recourse?
Roeder says she called the Thrifty location in Kalispell, and asked about the “all clear” slip she’d been given.
“I can’t discuss that with you,” she was told.
I contacted Owen Kelley at the Kalispell Thrifty franchise on her behalf. Here’s what he had to say:
What happened with the Roeder’s rental car is that damage did occur at some point during their rental, but I want to make it clear that I don’t think they were aware that it happened, and I don’t want it to appear that we are insinuating that they are being dishonest with us.
This particular car had only 460 miles on it when it was rented to the Roeders, and 125 of those miles were put on it by me personally when I drove the car from our main office in Missoula to our location in Kalispell.
The signed checkout slip that Mrs. Roeder refers to in her email to you is the damage report done for the vehicle prior to us renting it out to them, and she signed it stating there was no damage to the rental car at the time they rented it.
When they returned it the car was dirty, as is very common when cars are returned, and the damage was concealed by the dirt, so unfortunately we did not discover the damage until the vehicle was washed. This is not an uncommon occurence, we don’t make customers wait for us to clean the cars when they return them because they are usually in too big of a hurry to get to the airport.
At rental car locations that are on site at the airport people leave cars in the lot and turn the keys in at the counter, so when damage is discovered on those cars they are also contacted after the fact, when the cars have been cleaned. This is not an unusual procedure.
I want to stress again that we do not think that the Roeders are trying to scam us like they think we are trying to scam them, I believe they did not realize that the damage occured while they had the minivan, but there is no doubt that it did.
We have won awards from Thrifty Corporation for our professionalism and customer service, we do not “scam” our customers. We want them to come back to us again as many of our customers do, but we can’t afford to absorb the damage that is done to our cars.
That being said, if there is any doubt in our mind that the damage may have been previous damage, we do not pursue the claim. In this particular situation that simply is not the case, we know the damage happened during the Roeder’s rental period.
So what now?
Should I appeal the Roeders’ case to Thrifty at the corporate level? Should I send it back to them with my regrets? Should I just do nothing and let the the family’s insurance company deal with the claim?
I’m conflicted. On the one hand, I find it difficult to believe that $1,600 worth of damage could be hidden behind dirt. On the other hand, the Roeders were the only renters of that vehicle.
What would you do?
(11:30 a.m.) Just received this from Thrifty, via Twitter: “We appreciate your comments. The Thrifty loc is dealing directly with the Roeders on this.”
(2 p.m.) I’ve forwarded this case to Thrifty corporate. Not sure who’s at the steering wheel at Thrifty’s Twitter account, but I get the sense they’d like to stay out of this one.
(5 p.m.) Send this case along to PurCo for review.
(Photo: biker tect/Flickr Creative Commons)