Next time you’re in a tourist town and you think about renting a scooter, remember Shasteana Wikenheiser.
She’s the reader who decided to do just that on a recent visit to Playa del Carmen, Mexico — and lived to regret it.
The rental agency, Cuarto Quinto y Poder, issued her family mopeds that barely looked road-worthy.
“They were pretty beat up,” she says. “They had scratches, the odometer always pointed to zero, no headlights, and my scooter’s blinkers didn’t work. They had definitely been well used, but we had already paid.”
Wikenheiser paid extra for insurance and as a precaution she filled out a form that documented all of the pre-existing damage. She also took a “before” picture of the motorbike.
Obviously, she reads my column.
But then, an unfortunate thing happened. I’ll let her pick up the story:
After spending a few hours driving around the island, we started heading back to fill up the gas tank and turn in the scooters.
Long story short, I crashed it.
I was turning in to the gas station parking lot, managed to not press the brake soon enough, and the scooter tipped over.
Surprisingly, the damage was minimal – a large scrape (about the size of a large dinner plate) on the back above the wheel, and another scrape on the front (about the size of an apple.)
My leg and arm were directly underneath when it tipped, and they probably received the most damage.
When Wikenheiser returned the scooters, a representative demanded that she pay $800 in cash to cover the damage immediately.
“My father didn’t have $800 in cash, but he offered to pay with his credit card,” she says. “He told them that $800 was worth more than the scooter, but they had his driver’s license, and he was forced to pay so that he could get it back and we could leave. They kept the form stating that we had insurance. We were all pretty shaken up because of the accident, so we left and my father paid the $800.”
On their way back to Playa del Carmen, Wikenheiser stopped at a Walmart to buy groceries, and, wouldn’t you know it, there was a similar, brand-new scooter on sale for less than $1,000.
“We knew for sure then that we had been ripped off,” she says.
Wikenheiser tried to dispute the claim with her credit card company, but without the form stating that they had received insurance, or the form stating that there were already damages to the scooter, they were denied.
“I feel like $800 is a lot to pay for an already broken scooter that apparently came with insurance,” she says.
It is. In hindsight, Wikenheiser should have kept her rental records. She should have waited for a repair bill for the scuff, rather than fork over the money. But in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget all of these things.
Then again, she acknowledges damaging the scooter and either she, or her insurance company, is responsible for any repairs.
I’m thinking of mediating this case even though the rental agency probably considers it closed. I don’t know if $800 is a reasonable amount of money to charge for a slightly damaged motorcycle — one that will probably be rented the next day without any repairs to it.