Dinged with an $1,800 bill from Enterprise – but is he responsible?

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By | January 12th, 2016

This is William Cameron’s rental car when he returned it to Enterprise a few weeks ago in Denver. Looks fine, doesn’t it?

Not according to Enterprise.

“They’re telling me that the number of miles I drove indicate that I drove through a hail storm,” he says. “Which I did not.”

As you can tell from this post’s category, my efforts to mediate this case for Cameron fell flat, and it presented him with a non-negotiable bill for $1,800. Not exactly the outcome he — or I — had hoped for. But this failure is filled with teachable moments.

Enterprise made him wait several hours when he returned the vehicle.

“Their fleet had been damaged by hail,” he explains. “The manager walked us around the vehicle, which had already had some damage — minor dents, and the front bumper was damaged — and I took a photo of the front bumper. We pointed out some dents, but she said that it was OK because they were smaller than a golf ball.”

Now, that’s a standard line. Any damage “smaller than a golf ball” is said to be acceptable when you’re given the keys to a rental car. When you return it? Not so much.

Cameron’s case fell into the “not so much” category.

A few weeks later, he received a surprise bill.

“They are saying that I’m liable for the damages because I drove 500 miles, and that because there were hail storms within a 500-mile radius of Denver, I drove into a hail storm,” he says. “I have printouts of my GPS searches when I was in Denver which should be decent evidence that I was nowhere near those hail storms.”

Related story:   Budget threatens customer with lawsuit, garnishment after he questions damage claim

Denver is a hotbed of hail damage claims for rental cars. And this isn’t just an Enterprise problem. The rental companies tend to bill first, ask questions later.

It’s such a big problem that it made our frequently asked questions on rental cars.

Enterprise doesn’t publish its contract online or on its Denver location page, but I can well imagine that Cameron signed a contract that said he’d be personally responsible for anything that happened to the vehicle, including hail, random dings and alien abductions.

The problem he’s having (and I am, too) is that one representative told him not to worry and gave him that old chestnut about the golf ball-size damage and “no worries,” and then he gets slammed with an $1,800 bill. That really chaps my hide.

So does this: I contacted Enterprise, asking if it could explain the discrepancy between what one of its employees told Cameron and what the company then did, and it simply sent him another bill.

Really, Enterprise?

Look, if someone signs a contract agreeing to cover any damage to a car, they should be held responsible. But don’t tell them one thing and then do another. That’s not good customer service. And you don’t need me to tell you that. You should know.



  • So what is the outcome?

  • MF

    This sort of deception is likely deliberate; the return car guy gets rid of the customer without a lengthy dispute in person, and the back office guys hit ’em with the charges weeks later. Reminds me of the way some overseas pick-pockets operate – one to distract & one to lift the wallet? A little pocket video recorder could have gone a long ways to solving the problem of being lied to in this case. When will some ambitious D.A. charge a local car rental agency with fraud for this and other bad practices???

  • sirwired

    Not to mention that unless this was a one-way rental, a hailstorm 500 miles away could not hit a car only driven 500 miles.

  • VoR61

    For clarification Enterprise said “there were hail storms WITHIN a 500-mile radius of Denver”. Thus it is possible/plausible.

  • sirwired

    For a car driven only 500 miles, a more correct statement would be “within a 250 mile radius”, and even that would assume that the car did nothing but drive 250 miles, get hit by hail, and drive back. (Which via the customer’s GPS searches, we know did not happen.)

  • VoR61

    Agreed, but Enterprise was just stating a fact.

  • FQTVLR

    I am curious about the damage. The OP says the car already had some damage—dents as well as damage to the front bumper. He also says he took a photo of the front bumper. Was this pre-existing damage and did he take the photo(s) when he picked up the car? Why not show us that photo? Did he have all have the pre-existing damage noted on his contract before driving out? ( I am well aware of the efforts rental car companies go to to prove renters damaged the car. One company tried to hit me up twice for damage and backed down quickly when I had photos to prove it was pre-existing. ) I find the 500 mile claim from Enterprise more than a bit iffy, but natural curiosity has me wanting the details that were omitted from this story. As always the devil is in the details.

  • JewelEyed

    They don’t care, they just sent him another bill. Case closed. He’s screwed.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    One of the neat things about modern smart phones is that it’s trivial to prove things via datestamp. With the iphone, all the photos are tagged with location and date via digital watermark If paranoid, simply forward them them via gmail to get an additional timestamp.

  • RightNow9435

    Sounds like time for court…..since “you drove 500 miles you must have driven thru hail” isn’t gonna stand up in a courtroom.

  • RightNow9435

    By Enterprise can’t just say maybe/coulda/shoulda/whatever. They would have to prove damages if the customer takes them to court over it, which is what he needs to do.

  • FQTVLR

    I once forwarded the photos to customer service at the rental car company at the time I rented the car when the agent refused to mark normal wear and tear on the car. Did this before I even drove off in the car. Their efforts to ding me with repair charges was unsuccessful.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    What I dislike about this approach is that it teaches them to prey upon the unwary. Sure, they didn’t get YOU but no harm, no foul, right? You didn’t even tell us the company’s name so they don’t even lose customer goodwill over the incident. They probably even gave a small pat-on-the-back to the guy who tried to scam you that he at least made an effort.

    When stuff like this happens, it should be forwarded to the Attorney General of the state, the consumer ombudsman, and then from there if nothing happens, local media and then national media. In that order.

    From what I’ve read here about the cozy relationshp between rental car agencies in Colorado and the local government, I would avoid renting a car there entirely.

  • LonnieC

    I don’t understand. What does his mileage have to do with anything? If there are dents in the car when he returned it, that weren’t there when he got the car, how far he drove doesn’t matter. How it happened may. Hail is an “act of God”, for which the OP should not be liable. (Are drivers responsible if, for example, lightning strikes a rental? hmmm. good question.).

    It appears Enterprise is attempting to make the OP responsible by claiming he was negligent in knowingly driving into a dangerous situation. However, I don’t see how Enterprise can arbitrarily decide the OP intentionally drove INTO a hailstorm, simply based on the number of miles he drove. The OP claims he has GPS proof he never drove far enough to be in the areas where there were storms. That alone should be a good defense. Let Enterprise prove he did.

    All things considered, I would recommend he refuse to pay Enterprise anything. He should also alert his credit card company that he will refuse any attempt by Enterprise to charge his card. And if the Enterprise charge has already gone through, this may be a good place for Small Claims Court in order to recover this highly questionable charge.

  • KanExplore

    That’s what I’m thinking. What was the damage and when did it happen? That doesn’t constitute evidence at all.

  • They’re betting that the mark – er, renter – is not going to take the trouble to come back to Denver to file suit, or to contest of they sue him.

  • MarkKelling

    If a tree falls on your rental car, you are responsible. If you park the car and the street floods up into the car, you are responsible. If you leave the car in the woods and a forest fire start and destroys the car you are responsible. Lightning strikes – you are responsible. “Act of God” exclusions do not exist in determining if the renter is responsible for the damage to the car. As long as the damage occurred while you are the renter on record, you are responsible no matter what the source of the damage.

    In this particular case, I doubt the renter caused the damage that Enterprise is trying to collect on and this claim should be fought.

  • donrull

    I had a similar issue happen with Avis almost 25 years ago. In my case I took pictures (the kind with film and digital date imprinted) when I picked up and dropped off the car as I had heard horror stories like this. What happened in my case is that the employee got in an accident on site and claimed the damage was there when I dropped it off. It was quite a fight involving the BBB, an ombudsman and an attorney, but the rental car company finally got to pay my significant legal fees and I walked a away having lost lots of time, but also with a settlement agreement that compensated me for that time as well as a feeling of justice being served. Perhaps I was lucky, but this has been a scam for years and is why I only use National now and have never had a problem. Of course, I also use a credit card with a low deductible and that offers primary coverage just in case. In my case and this case, the money lost by the rental car company in return business and bad press far outweighs the $1,800 they are insisting on recovering. I’ve rented an average of 100 times per year every year since that time and never from Avis. Anytime there is a gray area, the company should look at their reputation and the value of good customer service as part of the formula for loss and recovery.

  • Carrie

    This site may be the closest thing to a running blog on this topic. It would be interesting to have a kind of “clearinghouse” for each of these cases (mentioned on this site and otherwise) and see if there is pattern of abuse based on location, company etc…

    Is there a single car rental company that does not pull s*&t like this?

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Carrie,
    I like your “clearinghouse” idea. I can’t say we’ll do it, but I’m forwarding your comment to Chris to make sure he sees it. Thanks!

  • Raise your hand if you’re tired of these rental car agency scams.

    It’s criminal, and it’s not funny.

  • JimLoomis

    I’ve got to stop reading these accounts of people being screwed by rental car companies! I’m going to be renting a car in a week and I’m seriously thinking of simply calling a taxi whenever I need wheels! It does seem apparent that these rip-offs are occurring on an almost random basis, implying it could be the managers of individual locations who perpetrate these frauds in order to qualify for incentives and bonuses. Since the names of specific companies–Enterprise, for example–seem to come up more than others, I suspect some companies have an unwritten policy and actually encourage this kind of “revenue enhancement”, albeit with a wink and a nod.

  • SierraRose 49

    We no longer rent if we possibly can avoid it. There are times when it may be necessary. We now use taxis, shuttles, public transportation, bicycles, and good old foot power. We have always added up the total costs of renting vs. not-renting, and the not-renting has been far less, without the aches in the head and wallet that renting has become. A trip to Albuquerque with a rental from Enterprise, followed by one in Kauai from Budget are what finally convinced us to find other ways to get around town. And yes, in both cases, we took dozens of photos before/after and got staff to initial what we found. And still, there were issues which we resolved, thank goodness.

  • TMMao

    Someone had to have damaged the car, whether it was a staff member, the current renter, a prior renter, or Mother Nature. Why can’t the rental car companies come up with a way to track damage in a timely manner? How about a drive-through scanner booth that logs the current body condition of the vehicle both before and after the rental?

    My current solution is to sign up for the AMEX car protection plan. It’s about $30/mth and only charged in those months that a rental car charge appears on the credit card statement. So if there are multiple rentals within the month, there is still only one $30 charge. Plus, the coverage is primary so my personal car insurance doesn’t have to suffer any claims.