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The high cost of great customer service

Nikkytok/Shutterstock
Nikkytok/Shutterstock
The basics of good customer service, like courtesy and attentiveness, may be free. But great service? That’s expensive.

Consider what happened to Virginia Bibliowicz’ father, who rented a car from Budget recently. Shortly after he picked up the vehicle in Knoxville, Tenn., he suffered a heart attack and died.

“When my sister and her husband returned the car later, Budget refused to let them pay the charges,” she says. “I think Budget and this rep should be commended, and they will certainly always have our business.”
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Did Budget send me the wrong damage claim?

Haraldmuc/Shutterstock
Haraldmuc/Shutterstock
Budget wants Guilhem Ibos to pay $3,000 for damage to his rental car. But wait! Is that Ibos’ rental car in the photo? No, it isn’t.

Question: I recently rented a car from Budget in Nashville and returned it to New Orleans. It was in perfect shape when I brought it back.

A few weeks ago, I received a damage claim from the company. They asked me to pay more than $3,000 for repairs.

I’m not responsible for the damage. How do I know? Well, I can tell you that I returned the rental undamaged. But there are two things about Budget’s claim that don’t make sense, either.

First, I returned the car at the Budget Rent-a-Car agency in New Orleans, specifically on Canal Street. Canal Street is in the middle of town, surrounded by buildings. But the landscape in the pictures on my damage claim is completely different. There are no buildings at all. They must have moved the car before taking pictures of it. Who’s to say it wasn’t damaged then?
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Enterprise sent me a bill for “hidden” damage

Max/Shutterstock
Max/Shutterstock
When Frederick Dintzis returns his rental car to Enterprise, it tells him the car looks fine. But four hours later, all is not well. The underside of his car has been damaged, it claims. It wants him to pay for the repairs. Is that fair?

Question: I’m fighting with Enterprise about a damage claim, and I need your help. I recently rented a Hyundai Sonata. Both a manager and I inspected it and we both thought it looked OK.

When I returned the car a few days later, we did the same thing, and the manager considered the car to be in good shape and he accepted it.

About four hours later I received a phone call from the manager, claiming that there was “hidden” damage — specifically, several scratches to the underside of the car.

A few days later, I was notified by mail that a damage claim against me had been filed. My credit card was billed for $186 for paint scratches on the rocker molding, and that costs totaling $106 for “administrative” fees, loss of use and diminishment of value were waived. Included in the claim were two rather poor black-and-white photocopies of the claimed damage.
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My Toyota Sienna needs your help

shutterstock_165216488Philip Boutelle’s minivan is a money pit and Toyota doesn’t seem to care, even though it issued a limited recall. Can this car be saved?

Question: My wife and I purchased a 2008 Toyota Sienna used from a dealer in her hometown in central California, a dealer where her family has purchased numerous cars over the years.

A few months ago, the oil light flickered while driving. I pulled over when it was safe and got the car towed. A pressurized oil hose had burst, and cost me just under $500 to fix, plus about $100 to tow. I contacted Toyota of America to ask why an oil hose would failed on a five-year-old van, and if the repair cost would be covered under my warranty.
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Is Advantage trying to scam me for damage to my rental car?

Photodiem/Shutterstock
Photodiem/Shutterstock
You know the ding-and-dent car rental scam? Sure you do.

Rent a car, and the agents tell you “not to worry” about the little scratches and bumps on the high-mileage vehicle. But when you return it, they give it a careful once-over and pressure you to sign an incident report, acknowledging you’ll pay whatever repair bill they send you — usually something suspiciously close to your car insurance deductible.

Well, Chelsey Johnson thinks she’s a ding-and-dent victim. Let’s hand the mike over to her to hear her story.

A few months ago, Johnson rented a car from Advantage in Minneapolis.
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Yes, you can still fight a bogus car rental damage bill – here’s how

Photo of Kotzin's alleged damage to her bumper.
Photo of Kotzin’s alleged damage to her bumper.

Don’t mess with Barbara Kotzin.

Someone should have warned Enterprise before she rented a Toyota Corolla from the car rental company earlier this year. Maybe it wouldn’t have sent her the repair bill, which Kotzin claims was bogus.

Then again, maybe it would have. Hard to know.

Here’s what I do know: Kotzin’s tale of fighting what she believed to be a fraudulent damage bill, is an inspiration to anyone who thinks car rental companies are enriching themselves from frivolous damage claims.
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A rental car bill I don’t think I deserve

Zhu/Shutterstock
Zhu/Shutterstock
After a grill falls off her rental car, Alamo sends her a bill for $669. Does she have to pay?

Question: I’m hoping you can give me some advice about a damage claim that my car rental company states I am financially responsible for. I rented a car from Alamo in Reno, Nev., recently. The paperwork was signed and initialed as the person at the counter indicated. Then I was escorted to the garage where the cars were kept.

My husband walked around the car and didn’t notice any damage. I drove from the airport rental location directly to our hotel in Reno, where the car was parked for two days. Several days later, when we left Reno to drive to Las Vegas, I noticed that the plastic grill on the front of the car was uneven. My husband inspected and found that it was loose but still connected.
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Charged for insurance I never wanted — or needed

hyxl/Shutterstock
hyxl/Shutterstock
Jenny Tran discovers a mysterious $260 charge on her credit card and discovers she’s been charged for optional car rental insurance she never wanted, or needed. Can she get a refund?

Question: I recently rented a car from Avis in Houston with a friend. A few weeks after we returned the car, I discovered a $260 charge for optional insurance that we never asked for. I need your help getting a refund.

Here are the details. We had pre-paid for the car using Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” service, which covers the entire cost of the rental. When we got to the counter, my friend offered them his debit card — it’s all he was carrying — and an agent said they needed a credit card.

So I gave them my card. Before I handed it over, I asked if it’d be charged. The agent said “no.”

After coming home from the trip, I found out I was charged $260 and wonder where this amount was coming from. We looked at the paperwork from Avis, and that’s when I saw his signature to accept the optional insurance. I asked him if he knew he signed for it and he said “no.”
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