Alamo says my car was damaged by hail. I have the photos to prove they’re wrong. Now what?

By | January 25th, 2017

It’s one of those dreaded “acts of God” that every one of us who every rents a car hopes we’ll never encounter: a hailstorm.

Unfortunately, Josh Turiel encountered one when he rented a car from Alamo. Fortunately, his rental car suffered no damage. Or so he thought. I’ll let him pick up the story here:

When returning a rental vehicle to the Kalispell Airport Alamo Car Rental location, the customer parks the car in the parking lot and then walks inside the airport to return the keys at the Alamo rental counter.

The customer does not encounter any employees in the parking lot, and the parked cars are not visible from the rental counter. Behind the counter is a sign requesting that customers inform staff if a vehicle has encountered hail. It does not specify that staff should be notified if there is damage due to hail, simply if there was hail while the vehicle was in the customer’s possession.

Which is exactly what Turiel did, informing the agent that there had been a hailstorm, but that he had carefully inspected for damage and found none. That’s when, he reports, things got weird.

She excused herself to consult with someone in the back office, and then returned to the counter with another woman who asked me to fill out a damage report — before she even looked at the car. I told her that filling out a damage report was not necessary or appropriate since there was no damage. I requested that she accompany me to inspect the car and that if she identified any damage I would gladly fill out the report, but — very strangely — she adamantly refused to view the vehicle.

Turiel pointed out that when he had returned vehicles to other Alamo locations there was an employee in the parking lot who is able to look at the vehicle. Her response?

She abrasively told me that no one would be going outside with me and they may not inspect the car for a few days. In light of her very peculiar behavior, I again declined to fill out a damage report for a vehicle that had no damage.

Now a bit alarmed, Turiel returned to the car to inspect it again, and take pictures. A wise move, since, sure enough, he received a letter demanding $1,000 in damages and an additional $550 in fees.

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Following the advice at our advocacy website he sent a detailed letter spelling out his case to several Alamo executives, including those in the executive contacts listed on the site.

In response they offered to drop the fees, but still want $1,000 in damages. Here’s what Alamo’s website details as the renter’s responsibility:

Unless limited by state law, Alamo holds the renter responsible for damage to, loss or theft of, the vehicle including any part of optional accessory regardless of fault or negligence.
Renter shall pay the amount necessary to repair the vehicle. …
Unless prohibited by law, the renter is also responsible for other costs including but not limited to; loss of use, administrative fees, diminishment of value, towing, storage and/or impound fees and other costs to recover the vehicle and establish damages.
Unless limited by state law, Alamo holds the renter responsible for damage to, loss or theft of, the vehicle including any part of optional accessory regardless of fault or negligence.
Renter shall pay the amount necessary to repair the vehicle. …
Unless prohibited by law, the renter is also responsible for other costs including but not limited to; loss of use, administrative fees, diminishment of value, towing, storage and/or impound fees and other costs to recover the vehicle and establish damages.

Complicating all this is the fact that the claim is actually being pursued by PurCo, a company name that pops up all too often in our advocacy. PurCo is a third-party risk management company that handles “loss prevention” — chasing down and billing car rental agency customers for damage and loss claims. A message to renters on PurCo’s website is reassuring:

We are dedicated to handling the claims assigned to us in a professional, courteous, and efficient manner. We will work with you throughout the claims process to make the experience as painless as possible.

But the company has suggested in its past advertising in trade magazines that car rental companies can turn damage claims into a profit center.

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After Turiel sent his letters, PurCo responded with photos purporting to show the damage, but which Turiel says are too low-quality to show any damage.

Should we take Josh Turiel’s case?

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  • Alan Gore

    The circumstances certainly do seem fishy as described by LW, and since he has pictures, this is worth pursuing.

  • Don Spilky

    This seems to be a case where Chris’ talents are certainly needed! The behavior at Alamo is nothing short of disgusting.

  • Jeff W.

    It would be interesting to find out if there was another hail storm after the renter returned the car and Alamo is looking to recoup the repair costs.

    This certainly seems like a case for Team Elliott. Something is not right here.

  • MF

    If the story holds up regarding this egregious claim, perhaps the OP ought to punish Alamo on social media by posting the story & pictures? Or better yet, how about a travel website called ‘ShameOnYou’ that posts carefully vetted stories of bad behavior by travel providers? It’ll be uuuggge!!!

  • Bill___A

    They should have inspected it with the renter. There’s no excuse to not have. Especially in the case of suspected damage.

  • cscasi

    Right! And who knows when the photos PurCo has were actually taken.
    Also, I find it really strange that no one at the Alamo office, when he reported that he was in a hailstorm, just give him a damage report to complete and when he requested that someone go out with him and inspect the vehicle with him to prove there was no hail damage, he was refused. And then to be told it might be several days before the vehicle would be inspected. I have never heard of that happening before.
    Good thing he went back out and took pictures of the vehicle before he left. Would have been even better had he taken pictures of the vehicle when he originally took possession of it.
    I hope Chris and team will be able to resolve this, especially with the photographs he has presented. Hope we will be informed of the outcome.

  • Patrica

    So strange. PLEASE assist for OUR sakes too in dealing with ANYTHING similar.

  • Byron Cooper

    The OP should have contacted his auto insurance and filed a comprehensive claim. He or she is probably required to do that by the insurance company anyway.

  • LostInMidwest

    Take the case. Same thing happened to me while renting on working trip. This time it wasn’t about hail, but some phantom damage not visible in low-res pictures that I know wasn’t there when I left the car.

    Unfortunately, all it took was our letter to regional Sales Manager for rental company and, since we generate more than $500k in rentals for that company, it got dismissed light-speed and internal investigation into the branch of that particular airport ensued. Investigation because this was third case of apparently bogus claim generating from same branch on three different contracts and three different renters. We also got reimbursed for one that we paid.

    Why unfortunate? Because it sucks – I know perfectly well had that happened to ME personally, I am sure it would not be so expedite and with such results. Not all “customers” are the same and if there was a law needed right now it would be one that makes ALL customer equal to every company. Waiting for that to happen in U.S. might bring with it witnessing thermal death of the Universe.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    He’s got the pictures, if they show no damage, an open and shut case I’d have thought. It’s not like they are claiming he smoked in the car, he lost the GPS or spare tire, or misfuelled it, all of which are virtually impossible to prove you are innocent of

  • jim6555

    How can he file a timely claim when no damage has occurred? If he did file a claim weeks later, the question would pop up as to why the incident was not reported within 24 or 48 hours. Also, many auto policies have a $1,000 or higher deductible. if that is the case, nothing could be gained by filing. Finally, if a claim was paid, the OP’s auto insurance premium would likely increase when the policy was renewed. He should not have to pay a penalty for damage that did not occur during the rental period.

  • jim6555

    Was Alamo the rental company in all three of these instances? If so, that could be evidence of a pattern of fraud. The local or state prosecutor could bring a criminal court case that would result in fines and Alamo possibly having it’s business license suspended or revoked.

  • Hanope

    All this does is tell people to not inform Alamo that the vehicle had been in a hailstorm, especially if there was no damage to the vehicle. Don’t give your self an extra problem.

  • Byron Cooper

    Comprehensive claims generally have much lower deductibles. They generally do not raise the premiums since the driver is not at fault. The statute of limitations varies by state, but where I live you have 3 years to file a claim. You do not have to prove damage to file a claim and there is an allegation of damage from the car rental place and that is not disputed. Furthermore, the OP only discovered the allegation of damage when he was notified by the car rental and that is when the clock starts ticking in terms of the statute of limitations. Finally, many credit cards cover the deductible for car rental claims and some provide primary coverage. Even if there is a $1000 deductible, the claim was for about $1500. Moreover it is a requirement for most car rental companies that all incidents be reported.

  • LostInMidwest

    No, not Alamo and different airport.

  • Steve Rabin

    Is there a time stamp on their PurCo’s pix? And is there a complete list of the damage, including location on the car? Counter this with the renter’s pix, and this one goes away quickly (or as they do, PurCo moves on to the next renter…)

  • Barthel

    First of all, hale damage is beyond the customer’s control and should be eaten by the rental company. The renter made the mistake of informing the employee that he had encountered hale although there was no damage. This is an example of too much information. There was no need for the renter to offer this information. Consequently, Alamo is using this to allege that the vehicle has hale damage.

  • jim6555

    Auto insurance rules and laws differ in every state. I live in Florida and had a cracked windshield claim caused by a pebble hitting my car when I was traveling at 65 mph on an interstate highway. When my next insurance bill came due, Liberty Mutual had raised my annual premium by almost $240. I called my agent about the increase. He said that the rate was increased because I had submitted a claim. I explained the nature of the claim to him and he said that the company still had the right to increase the premium. We went back and forth and I threatened to find insurance elsewhere. Finally he said that he would take it up with the company. A few days later, I received a corrected bill for the amount that I had originally expected. The point is that had I not argued about the charge, the company would have gotten away with it. Under Florida law, they had the right to impose the charge.

    I really don’t know when the clock starts ticking in my state, but I can’t understand how you expect someone to report an “incident” when the person returned the car in the same condition as rented. The incident never happened!

  • Byron Cooper

    I live in DC. The laws in MD and VA are pretty much the same. I was in Florida with a rental car and someone bashed into my parked car. He refused to give me insurance info. I took a picture of his car and his license and reported the damage to Hertz, GEICO and American Express since the card has rental insurance. My rates did not go up. I am surprised that your insurance would want to penalize you for a cracked windshield regardless of what they can get away with in Florida, given risks of a cracked windshield.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Another case crying out for a newly minted lawyer, hungry for work, to sue for fraud as a class action on contingency.

  • Jim

    Of course you should take the case! Why is it even a question???

  • joycexyz

    Absolutely outrageous behavior on the part of Alamo–starting with the agent who refused to inspect the car. Turiel’s photos are proof that there was no damage. A blatant money-grab on the part of Alamo (and PurCo). They clearly falsified the report and backed it up with blurry photos. There oughta be a law!!!

  • DChamp56

    If she has the pictures, and if they’re of high enough quality, she’s golden.

    I’d love to see her stick it to them for the $1000 also, for falsely reporting damage.

  • Absolutely YES, go after these scammers.

    The behavior of the agent in Kalispell when returning the car says it all, and it was clear what was going to happen next.

    Make note to self . . . “No more Alamo rentals, as the company ignored the evidence provided by the renter.”

  • I think you’re onto something here, i.e. claim for stress caused and time lost dealing with their bogus reports of damage.

  • Annie M

    Another Purco complaint. There should be an investigation into this company.

  • PsyGuy

    I voted no, because PurCo is a scam, the LW should take Alamo to small claims court, don’t settle, and expose them as the scammers they are.

  • PsyGuy

    There is it’s called Chris.

  • Annie M

    But he won’t do a story on them, so until consumers are aware of this company and learn to protect themselves with pictures, there isn’t much else that can be done.

  • PsyGuy

    What do you mean, he just did the story? I read about it on Chris, thus there was a story.

  • Annie M

    Chris does story on a one at a time basis but he will not do a story about the sheer numbers of these complains and what a scam the entire thing is. He can advise folks to take pictures at pick and drop and and warn them to do all they can do protect themselves about these scams. Not one at a time stories, a story about what is going on as a whole with these scams.

  • PsyGuy

    Chris does those types of stories. Chris does everything.

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