“It’s amazing to me that Enterprise can get away with this”

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You’ve probably heard Karen Moyer’s story before.

There’s the VW Passat, rented from Enterprise after an ice storm in Greensboro, NC. There’s the claim, sent by its legendary Damage Recovery Unit, weeks after she returned her car, noting her roof was scratched. And there was the bill for $442, suspiciously similar in amount to her insurance deductible.

Moyer fought the good fight, disputing the claim. More on that in a minute.

But unlike most consumers who contact me, and who want to fight a charge, she’s made her peace with this incident.

“I accept the responsibility and will pay the damages,” she told me. “But I’m not a happy customer.”

Moyer wants me to raise another question: Has she been, in her own words, “scammed” by Enterprise?

To find out, let’s hit “rewind” on her rental. Moyer rented the vehicle back on March 10, and used it to drive to and from work.

The car was covered in salt from top to bottom; I could not even tell the true color of the car.

An employee walked me around the car in a hurry and asked me to check for damage. I did so, looking at the sides of the car for major dents.

He even made the following comment to me, after I stated that the car was so dirty that it was hard to see, that it’s, “not a problem unless I bring the car back with the bumper falling off.”

I mentioned to him that I thought Enterprise would have cleaned the car prior to rental. I also noted that the car’s engine light was on, which was a concern. He once again told me not to worry, that the car had been serviced.

I never looked at the roof of the car.

The car also smelled strongly of cigarette smoke, to the point it burned my eyes.

Well, at this point, I would have told Enterprise to find a different car. But maybe I’m just being picky.

Moyer claims she babied the Passat.

“It was parked in an open parking lot and then at home, parked in a garage,” she says.

She returned the vehicle after a rainstorm, which rinsed the salt from the vehicle.

I returned the car in the same condition as rented, with the exception of its odor. I had sprayed air freshener.

I was totally shocked when the same employee took me out to see scratches on the roof of the car.

I told him I did not check the roof on Monday. The scratches must have been present before I drove the car from their lot.

Moyer filled out an incident report and was contacted April 1 by Enterprise’s Damage Recovery Unit. Several efforts to resolve the claim in writing and by phone failed.

Here’s the thing: Even if Moyer had taken “before” photos of her vehicle, she’d still get the bill. That’s because no one could see the pre-existing scratches — if indeed they pre-existed — through the layer of salt.

In fact, the photos might have proven Enterprise’s claim was legitimate.

But my consumer advocate instincts tell me there’s more going on here. Certainly, it’s difficult to call this particular claim a scam unless you can show me another driver with the same repair bill.

Are they giving Moyer the benefit of the doubt? No. Are they collecting every claim they can, and trying to keep the insurance companies out of the process? Probably.

Here is what is a scam: If Moyer’s account is correct, then Enterprise tried to rent her a dirty, smoke-saturated vehicle. That’s no way to run a car rental company, and indeed, some might consider a car in that condition a scam, at any price.

And who would I be to disagree?

Car rental customers have a right to a clean, salt-free, smoke-free vehicle. And when the car rental companies don’t provide one, they shouldn’t be surprised when their customers claim they’ve been scammed.

Is Enterprise trying to scam Karen Moyer?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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