When renting a car, no good deed goes unpunished

By | January 10th, 2014

Henry Lien/Shutterstock
Henry Lien/Shutterstock
After Chandra Bhandaru points out a few scratches on a Hertz rental, the car rental sends a bill — and then another bill. Now the company wants to refer the matter to a collection agency. What happened?

Question: I tried to be a good citizen when I rented a car recently, but I guess it backfired. I have been a longtime gold customer with Hertz. On a recent trip to Hawaii, I rented a vehicle from Hertz. I had a little accident and had scratches on the rear. When I returned the car, the agent did not notice anything, but being a loyal customer, I volunteered information to the agent and filled out a claim form.

Four months later I got a letter from Hertz regarding damages, and paid those through the insurance coverage on my American Express card. But now I’ve received another letter from Hertz claims services, saying that I still owe $420 in damages.

American Express is willing to pay the amount and is requesting proof of payment to the body shop, but the claims person is not willing to provide it. I am at a loss here.

The claims company representative who I spoke to said my case is going to a collection agency. I’m not sure what needs to be done. I have contacted Hertz customer relations, but haven’t heard anything yet. Can you help?
Chandra Bhandaru, Atlanta


Answer: You did the right thing by admitting to the damage. Hertz should have reciprocated by being clear about the claims process and sending you all of the documents you needed to file a claim with your insurance provider.

And that process should have been fairly simple, starting with the damage claim that you filled out, and ending with one bill that you could send to your insurance company. I’ve never heard of multiple invoices being sent, although I suppose it’s technically possible if a repair problem is misdiagnosed.

Related story:   Almost overcharged on Expedia

But even if Hertz had discovered additional damage, it should have been willing to share the repair bill with you. According to the records you showed me, it wouldn’t provide you with the information needed to file an insurance claim, which meant you were liable for the extra $420. Not fair.

Incidentally, you don’t have forever to make a claim. Your policy only gives you a few weeks at most to send in the necessary paperwork (it varies by company), so the clock was ticking. Even if Hertz sent you the right bill, it wouldn’t do you any good if your time was up.

I asked you to reach out to Hertz again and request the bill in writing. You did, but the company didn’t send you the documents. You might have appealed this to someone higher up at Hertz — I list the names of its executives on my website — but time was running out. From the looks of it, someone just wasn’t paying attention when they sent out the bills.

I contacted Hertz on your behalf. It dropped the claim.

Should Hertz have dropped Chandra Bhandaru's damage claim?

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  • Andre_K_FL

    When the damages were paid, that constituted a settlement in the matter. Hertz was totally out of line to send a second bill for additional money after the fact.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m very skeptical when I hear that Hertz refuses to provide proof of payment. It makes me wonder if something shady is going on. Especially as its a second bill.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Not necessarily. Depends on the paperwork.

  • Cybrsk8r

    This is a tough on to vote on? Was the $420 for additional damage, or did Hertz somehow “forget” that it had been paid? In either case, a car rental agency refusing to send a repair invoice tells me they’re not planning on repairing the damage, just pocketing the money.

    Yes, it’s Hertz, and you’d think that Hertz would be above such tactics, but I seem to recall another recent case (in the last year) involving a Hertz rental in Hawaii.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Exactly my thought.

  • Justin

    Honesty isn’t always the best policy. If agent didn’t notice and signed off the form saying all is well, tough luck. Rental cars are beaten to hell and companies often screwing customers thrice.

    I’m no lawyer, but I can hear one saying don’t fess up if there’s no need.

    Sounds like Hertz wanted a windfall pay day, and upon questioning, didn’t have proof of further damage. Put a cog in their plan.

  • Justin

    Yes…windfall payday. Think ambulance chaser. Neck hurt, back hurt, call today. Well be at your hospital bed with 10 shyster doctors.

    Hertz hoped to cash out, got caught and questioned, and were unable to provide proof upon being backed into a corner. So remainder bogus claim dropped. Cog in their plan.

    Some occasions don’t call for being honest OP…Doubt he’ll be so upfront again in the future.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    Besides what others have written, there also seems to be an implied opinion in the story that being “sent to collection” is akin to being tortured with splinters under one’s fingernails. It always made to sound like some kind of an ominous, dreadful experience to be avoided at all costs.

    Nothing can be further to the truth.

    Want to send some bogus claim against me to a collection agency? Knock yourself out. Have fun. Collection agencies are more bark than bite. A few times, over the years, it happened to me, for typically bogus reasons. A simple letter, sent via certified mail, and I never heard from them again.

    Same thing happened to various family members of mine. At my direction, they also sent a similar letter, and they haven’t heard from their collection agencies ever since, too.

    I do not believe there was a need to waste any time on this obviously bogus shakedown scam. When the bogus bill arrived, the individual in this story should’ve paid a few dollars to the mailman for a certified mail back to the car rental shop, requesting proof of damages.

    After no response was received, any further hillarious letters threatening to turn the matter over to a collection agency should’ve been promptly shredded, and recycled. When the demand letter from the collection agency arrived, another couple of bucks for another certified letter, disputing the claim, and referencing the date and the recipient of the first certified mail as proof that the claim was under dispute, and since the car rental agency was unable to provide proof of damages, the debt is disputes, and invalid.

    99% chance that this would’ve ended the matter, with no further contact from the collection agency. Total time spent on it, maybe fifteen minutes total, tops, excluding the trip to the postoffice.

    Before anyone claims I’m blowing smoke, this is what I’ve done, more than once, and this was the result, every time, with these bogus shakedown scams.

  • Justin

    Not so fast…
    Collection agencies can:

    1) Tarnish Credit – Having a negative affect on receiving a loan (Higher interest, denial, etc)
    2) Put liens against property after winning judgments in court
    3) Garnish wages if a court rules in their favor
    Depends on the amount, but all the above are well within their legal rights. Op handled it appropriately to minimize damage to credit.
    Sure, you can SUE and SUE BIG for wrongful claims that hurt one’s credit. However, that takes time and money..

  • John Baker

    First, I applaud the OP for being honest… something lacking in our society. If it’s unethical for a rental car company to hide / not report damage at pick up, why is it any different when you drop off the car?

    Second, my BS’meter is pegging out on this one … Hertz won’t provide a bill or proof of payment to an insurance company? Yea … methinks something is up here. Having bills sent to collection isn’t the end all be all either. They can send it to collection and you can continue to dispute it. Once you do it in writing, the collection process has to stop too.

  • John Baker

    A collection agent can only do those if they can prove that you owe the money. If you dispute the amount owed, they can’t do any of those until they get a court to prove it (and if you have insurance like the OP most insurance companies will represent you in the action).

  • Sam Varshavchik

    A collection agency will not waste their money doing all that unless they think they’ll get money from you.

    Even if they do not know that the alleged debt is bogus, getting a prompt reply by certified mail claiming so, and even stating something to that effect will not go unnoticed.

    Collection agencies prefer to deal with debtors who do not respond, who are then unlikely to show up in court and who’ll be an easy default judgment. That’s who they’re going to focus their resources on, not someone who looks like going to be a pain, sending them certified mail.

    Most of the things you mentioned — they need to get a judgment first, before they can do that. The worst of the worst — sewer service, etc, is always a possibility, even if you’re willing to work with them — so you’ll still get screwed. So I don’t think it’s a factor.

  • VoR61

    Wondering if it would be practical/legal to insist that you/insurance will pay ONLY WHEN the repairs show up on CARFAX? That would require them to actually repair the vehicle.

    I would be skeptical of any documentation they send, as it can be easily doctored to reflect repairs that weren’t done. Assuming that they prefer not to have an actual “loss of use” as it affects revenue.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Seriously? People like you are the reason why rental companies have such policies. People return rental cars knowing they are damaged and hope the return agent doesn’t notice; that way, they can lie their way out of everything. If the damage happened while you had the car, you need to pay for it. Period. It’s funny how you expect rental companies to operate ethically and truthfully yet advise consumers to lie about damage.

    I 100% believe that Hertz was being shady here and the 2nd bill was totally unwarranted. But that doesn’t give you license to lie about rental car damage.

  • Chris Johnson

    Why in the hell would the claims person refuse to provide the information about the damages to the car? That employee deserves to be fired. If Hertz want to get paid quickly for damages, they need to learn how to communicate properly.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I usually side with rental companies but Hertz was totally in the wrong here. After the 1st payment was settled, the company had no right to ask for additional money. I’m a little surprised that AMEX, which has a great reputation for its car insurance services, wouldn’t have Hertz sign something accepting that as condition of receiving payment, the matter was considered closed. Can someone with more knowledge speak to this?

  • Alan Gore

    Once again, a damage claim that magically disappears as soon as the Internet Spotlight of Shame is shone upon it.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Generally, when insurance companies pay for damages, they have the receiver of said payment sign a statement saying that receipt of payment constitutes the matter as being settled.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Exactly which occasions call for being dishonest exactly? 2nd time you’ve made this statement, can you please clarify? Are you trying to say that if you damage a company’s property you should be dishonest? So if you borrow a friend’s car and dent the door, would you be dishonest and not tell them about it, then deny it later? Or does the dishonesty you speak of only apply when dealing with companies?

    It’s clear that your view on this is totally one sided and misinformed. You expect companies to be honest and ethical, yet when you don’t like something, you believe you are perfectly justified to lie about it so you don’t have to take responsibility. Says a lot about your character right there.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Actually, the OP admits the car was damaged while she had it, so the claim was legit in that aspect. What was shady was the fact that Hertz went after her for more money even after AMEX had already paid.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    While Hertz was definitely being shady here, they were never technically required to repair the vehicle. If you hit my car and it’s your fault, you have to pay me the cost of repairs plus the value of a replacement vehicle, but I’m under no obligation to actually fix the car.

  • emanon256

    This is just crazy to me. The OPs insurance already paid, and then they bill her for more, and her insurance is willing to pay yet again if they provide proof it cost more, and they refuse? How is the insurance providers money not as good as the OPs money? I just don’t get this one. I have seen it happen where my car gets hit, the adjuster estimates a few hundred, and the body shop finds hidden damage and it’s over a thousand. But if this were the case Hertz would have proof of this. I guess Hertz is on the scammers list now too.

  • Asiansm Dan

    It seems Hertz try to pull a scam. I rented in Honolulu Airport at least 50 times with different renters, all cars have dings, scratches everywhere around because it’s a windy island and not all the roads are paved. I pointed its at the beginning of the rental and they said, don’t worry, it’s “wears and tears” and they tolerate more than the renters on the continent, knowing the conditions of the islands. I never had a problem.

  • emanon256

    They can’t sue, place a lien, or garnish wags without a preponderance of the evidence, but they can sure damage your credit. I worked in A/R for a long time, and any time someone was past due and unwilling to work with us, we reported it to the credit bureaus. When I sent them to collection, we had the agency report them as a collection account as well. I had my staff do our due diligence and we only did this when we found no way to work things out, but it’s very easy as a creditor to tarnish a debtors credit. I woudl be just as scared as the OP in this case. A company can easily trash someones credit, even if the company is wrong.

  • John Baker

    The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives the consumer outs. The reporting company still has to prove that you owe the money and include any dispute you have with a report.

    http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans

    http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/articles/pdf/pdf-0096-fair-credit-reporting-act.pdf

    So they can’t trash your credit if you don’t owe the money. Otherwise, I could decide you owe me $1,000 and report you even though we’ve never met.

  • Joe Farrell

    I often get called names because I refuse to pay any one a dime for any claim they might have until they sign a release in exchange for the money – I’ve traveled enough to put the occasional dent or ding in a car rental, and given my high deductible and reluctance to file a claim pay the small $500 dings myself.

    When presented with estimates and after negotiating the final amount I present the rental company with a release- they sign it – or they don’t get their money. It has representations that they have charged no one else for the damage and have made repairs they deem necessary to the vehicle and agree to charge no one else for the same damage in the future – interestingly enough, over the last ten years, the two times I have a damaged a rental, and once each for my wife and mother – in -law [in such a fashion that its normal wear and tear for my personal vehicle but obviously rental companies think differently] the company has refused to sign the release three of the four and has walked away from the money. . . . .

    Think about that for moment . . . minor damage and they the refused to sign a release that stated that I did the damage and they would not and have not charged anyone else . . . .

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Yes, that’s the paperwork that I was referencing. However, it appears that did not happen in this case, hence the second bill.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Advising a client to be dishonest is a good way to lose your license to practice.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Trust me. It’s not the claims person who should be fired. He or she is just acting according to the directions of hire ups. No one submits bogus claims without managements approval (unless the claims person gets a percentage)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    What type of business? Financial services get special privileges when it comes to credit. Most other industries are not supposed to damage credit if the debt is disputed timely.

  • Raven_Altosk

    MTE. Sounds like someone at the rental office is dippin’ into the til.

  • emanon256

    In my case, if the customer was working with us, we flagged their account, if they were 90 days past due, and didn’t have their account flagged, we sent an extract to the credit bureaus indicating they were past due. We sent another extract when those reported were paid in full. This was not for revolving accounts, so we didn’t report balances. The customers could dispute it with the agency, but I never once saw this happen.

    We then reported the dept to the collection agency, who sent out 30 day pre-collect notices. If someone worked out arrangements with us, we flagged them. After 30 days, we reported those who were sent the pre-collect and didn’t work with us. Each customer had 30 more days to dispute the debt with the agency. We then had to provide a record from our transactional system showing when the charges were incurred as proof. That was all the proof required. After 30 days if the customer didn’t dispute the debt, or if the customer did and we provided our records, the collection agency reported it to the credit bureaus as a collection account. Again, the customer could dispute it with the bureau, or submit a letter to the bureau, but it didn’t really do much.

    In your example, I don’t think the credit bureaus or the collection agency would take your claim if you wanted to collection on one person. However, if you are a licensed business and have several thousand customers, and want to report 600 people who owe thousands of dollars each, they would all negotiate contracts with you for reporting and collections.

  • emanon256

    This was all education related. See my post to John abotu the timley ness, I posetd our time lines there.

  • emanon256

    The agencies I used to contract with loved it when someone immediately disputed the debt, and then sent a letter via certified mail asking them to stop contacting them. That meant they had located the debtor and the debtor had resources. Those were the easy ones. Once they request no contact, the only recourse is to take them to court. Those cases immediately went to small claims court and they usually paid in full before the court date, when they didn’t, they always put on quite an entertaining show in court and we always got a judgement against them and it was almost always paid it.

    The ones who never responded were much harder to collect from, and I found it wasn’t worth our time to take them to court. They didn’t show up, and we got a judgement. But they also didn’t have a home, or a steady job, so I couldn’t place a lien on any property, and it was almost impossible to garnish their wages. They also really didn’t care about their credit being trashed, so that was money I never collected.

    OF course in my case, they did legitimately owe the money, and I had proof. If Hertz isn’t willing to show proof, they have no chance of winning in court, but there is still a good chance they can hurt the OPs credit.

  • emanon256

    In a personal example with me, someone hit my car, and the insurance estimator stated it would be a few hundred. They cut me a check, and I took the car in. They never asked me to sign anything, and they said the claim would stay open in case additional damage is discovered. The body shop found more damage that was not visible until they removed the fender which bumped the repair up to over $1,000. I called the adjustor, who paid the difference directly to the body shop.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Okay I’ve scrolled through all the current comments, and I’m surprised I don’t see anyone else mentioning the first thing that popped into MY mind when I read this (unless I scrolled too fast and missed it somewhere): it seems pretty obvious to me that the reason Hertz wouldn’t send proof of payment to the body shop is because they don’t have any proof, because didn’t get the car fixed! And why didn’t they? Because they just got themselves a nice little profit center. The next unlucky renters who get this vehicle will be charged $420 for the damage that they supposedly caused.

    Why would Hertz fix the car, when they can play the fake damage claim scam over and over again?

    Notice that, rather than just send some docs that would get them that $420 out of Amex insurance for this customer, they chose to drop the claim. Why? Because actually getting the car fixed means no FUTURE $420 claims to be paid on this same vehicle.

    What’s $420 when they can milk this for thousands? And I’m quite sure they will. We’ve all read of this scam too many times…does anyone really question this?

  • Ward Chartier

    If it has not already been done, if a customer is in a lawsuit regarding damages to a rental car, request the entire maintenance log and financial transaction register for that car. It would not surprise me if some car rental companies charge more than one customer for the same damage. I have no idea if that practice actually takes place. If it does, I have never read about it. Could be grist for an energetic journalist.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    Well, I, and my family members, were supposedly such easy marks on many occasions. Strangely, we never — in every — case heard back. No exceptions.

    I think I’m going to continue to recommend what works for me: immediately dispute the debt. As the debt collector’s initial letter says — and you know it — if you do not dispute within 30 days, the collector can, under the law presume that the debt is valid and not in dispute. Which can, and certainly will be, introduced as evidence in court.

    So I think the advice to not answer the debt collectors and fight them would be exactly what a debt collector would be expected to recommend. For some reason, I don’t think they would really have my interests in mind…

  • LeeAnneClark

    Someone who is Thoroughly Amused arriving to dispute something we all know is true in 3…2…1…

    Hashtag carentalagencyapologists. (And that’s from someone who hates “hashtag-speak”! (And doesn’t even use Twitter to boot.) ;-)

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL did you read my comment right above yours? Of COURSE they’re gonna charge more than one customer for the same damage! That’s what they do. We read about it in here every week. The only surprise would be if they actually got the car fixed, thereby eliminating their opportunity to use it as an ongoing profit center.

    That’s why they wouldn’t send proof of payment to a body shop. That’s why they were willing to drop a $420 claim rather than simply send a document. Because there IS no proof. Because they didn’t get the car fixed

  • Joe_D_Messina

    But in this case none of that would help the OP, who is getting charged for costs about an incident they themselves reported. The claim from Hertz MIGHT be in error, but it’s not a slam dunk that is going to get the collection agency in any sort of trouble. The OP could have their credit seriously dinged trying to sort this out.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Can you read? I said multiple times I believe that Hertz had no business sending out a 2nd bill. I know that you are desperate to make yourself look like you know what you are talking about, but you just look stupid. Stop embarrassing yourself. Then again, you didn’t accuse me of being a rental agent this time, so you might be learning how to properly interact with other human beings.

    Editing to add: The owner of a car who has had their property damaged by another is under no obligation to actually fix the vehicle. If you damage my car, you have to pay for the repairs and the value of a replacement vehicle, but I’m under no legal obligation to fix the car. I can take that money and buy a jetski if I want to. So please, stop throwing around ideas which aren’t true. Do a little basic research, please.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Thanks for the response. What you are referring to is a supplement, which is a repair above the initial estimate. That happens all the time and is perfectly reasonable and legitimate, since damage can be discovered after repairs have already started. What’s questionable about this is that they tried to go after her AFTER repairs had already been completed. Maybe Hertz needs to find a better body shop?

  • emanon256

    Yeah, that is very odd in this case. But you mention they should have Hertz sign that the matter is closed in order to receive the payment. Wouldn’t then prevent Hertz from begin able to get a supplement if it cost more?

  • Thoroughlyamused

    They didn’t drop the claim. Amex paid them for the 1st claim. BTW, Amex does not hand out money for simply filling out a claim form. They demand lots of proof including past rental agreements and they have the clout to get it. What Hertz dropped was the additional money they asked for AFTER AMEX already paid.

  • emanon256

    I never said you shouldn’t answer the debt collectors. In your case, it sounds like the creditor didn’t have any evidence of the debt, which is why nothing ever happened. However, if you really due owe the money and the creditor had proof, then they more than likely would go after you after you dispute it. Its also very easy fro Hertz to damage someones credit should they choose to peruse it if they have evidence.

  • MarkKelling

    Who said any repairs were actually done to the Hertz rental? If the damage was as minor as the OP indicates, Hertz has no real reason to fix anything unless driveability was impacted.

    This could be a case of Hertz collecting for the damages but failing to mark in their records that this renter was charged so they sent another bill.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Supplements are filed while the car is being fixed, not afterwards. This is for the reason you mention, body shops often find more damage when they take the car apart. What I imagine happened here is that the body shop delivered the car to Hertz saying it was finished, then Hertz either found or invented new damage to charge the OP for. That is not the proper way to handle a supplement.

  • Travelnut

    Wow… it sounds like you enjoyed your job a little too much?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I just knew that the two of you would get into this argument. Your posts had contained good analysis and supported your opinion. Those I enjoyed. There was no need to escalate matters; you weaken your own position of authority in doing so.

    I don’t want to be an Internet “nanny”, but c’mon, be civil.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow. Struck a nerve, did I?

    Hey Mods…doesn’t this go pretty far over the line in violating terms of service? Would directly insulting and calling another commenter “stupid” fall within the category of ad hominem attacks?

    Seriously…angry much?

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Yes, that’s also a possibility. Most rental car companies buy brand new cars at fleet discounts, then sell their cars after a certain amount of time. Scratches on the bumper, depending on how deep they are, can decrease the value of a vehicle. She freely admits they happened while she had the car. Hertz most certainly should keep their cars looking as good as possible. Even if you take the car sale out of the equation, customers expect undamaged cars.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Fair enough. I’m a little annoyed that she continues to call me out.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I’m actually laughing right now. No joke, not the least bit angry, it’s Friday, after all. It’s just really, really funny how misinformed you are about this.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And now, without including a single direct persona insult in my response (try it sometime, it’s far more effective), I will respond to the content of your comment that doesn’t involve direct personal insults:

    I read all of your comments. Of course I did…they are always entertaining. :) I was of course happy to see that you recognized that they had no right to send a second bill, although I would be surprised if even you tried to justify that one.

    That wasn’t my point at all. My point was simply that they could have received that $420 if they simply sent proof of repair…which they didn’t. And my OPINION (yes, I recognize it’s opinion, because I wasn’t actually involved in this case, nor were you, so these comments are all opinion), is that they didn’t send it because they don’t have it, because they didn’t get the car fixed, because that would negate the opportunity to continue to profit off it by charging future renters for this damage.

    I realize that you don’t actually believe that rental agencies do this. How quaint. ;)

  • Thoroughlyamused

    You called me out as a car rental agency apologist. Again, this is an attempt to belittle and discredit my opinion. I’ve stated I’ve worked for a rental car agency in the past. Everyone knows it. You just are desperate to discredit my opinion so you keep bringing it up. It’s an attack. And you threw the first punch.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I call you out only because you’re so predictable, so I find it amusing to see you always repeat your denials of something that we all know happens, because the evidence of it happening is overwhelming.

    But notice that I didn’t call you stupid or personally insult you. For someone who purports to be “amused”, you just seem, well, angry. Hey, we’re all entitled to our opinions. You wish to believe that rental agencies don’t play the fake damage claim game. I believe they do (having been a victim of it myself, saved only by my date-stamped photos of the prior damage they accused me of inflicting myself).

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Agreed. I respect LeeAnne and generally enjoy her comments, but the two of you just don’t play together well when it comes to discussing rental cars. Maybe if you show yourself to be the bigger person and apologize, it will help calm this down. Like I said, you are making excellent points about procedure (I know this from a prior life in insurance), but don’t undercut yourself. ‘K?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Really? So even YOU agree that apologizing for car rental agencies is something to be ashamed of? Interesting! I personally don’t recall seeing that on a list of insults (although I do believe calling someone “stupid” fits the bill).

  • JH

    I think that while you are correct in saying that one should not be dishonest, it is a tad indelicate of you to do a character attack in a public forum.

  • cowboyinbrla

    The question that should be asked is – not whether one should be dishonest, but whether one owes an obligation to the car rental company to point out things their own inspectors didn’t notice. From an ethical standpoint, yes. But I don’t think it constitutes dishonesty to return the car and see what they say.

    For what it’s worth, I once returned a Hertz rental after having accidentally cracked one of those red plastic tail light cover pieces. I told them about it, filled out the forms – and they never charged me. But that was six or eight years ago, and they’re all apparently a bit more aggressive these days.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    When you go to the bank, and the teller hands you $100 too much, is it unethical to tell them about the mistake?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Jeanne, take note that the worst thing I ever said about TA is that he is a “car rental apologist”. How that’s considered an insult is beyond me…maybe it’s something he’s not proud of? Who knows. He says I threw the first punch, but as punches go, calling someone a car rental agency apologist seems a rather weak one. But directly calling someone stupid? Yowza…

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Sigh…I’m not explaining this again to you, you’re never gonna get it. It’s an attempt to attack and belittle my opinion. I never called you stupid. I said you looked stupid by saying that I was going to dispute that the 2nd bill was wrong.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well I’m awfully glad I was misinformed enough to take those photos of the big ol scratches on the trunk of that car I rented from Avis that one time, so that when I returned it and they demanded that I take responsibility for them and pay for the damage, I was able to laugh in THEIR faces and show them the photos of the scratches when I picked up the vehicle.

    But that never happens, right?

  • cowboyinbrla

    As noted above: there is an obligation to be honest; it would clearly be wrong to lie and claim the damage was pre-existing. There’s not necessarily a legal obligation to disclose, and if the damage were so minor that the returning agent didn’t see it, perhaps a rental company needs more eagle-eyed agents to scrutinize the returns.

    Considering that it’s just as possible that the company might choose NOT to fix the damage, fail to note it on the next rental, and try to stick THAT customer with the damage too (same point about disclosure: it’s the renter’s obligation to inspect the car and point out any visible damage before renting), I would say it probably washes out, or comes out in the company’s favor.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Oh, I believe that car rental companies play the fake damage game. To my knowledge, it never happened where I worked, but it does happen. I also believe that customers have damage that they know happens on their watch, then try to lie about it so they don’t have to take responsibility. Justin even commented that it might be best to be dishonest when it comes to rental damages.

  • Travelnut

    I would say you are correct as an individual; however, for a rental car company to do this is pretty crappy. If Hertz thinks the damage is bad enough that they can’t rent it out again (i.e. the damage is not wear-&-tear but bad enough that it makes the car look bad), by all means charge me for the damage, but repair it. if it’s not so bad and the next renter would not be bothered, then there should be no need to charge for the damage. The last car I rented had a pretty serious scrape and a small hole; I wondered at the time if they’d charged the renter.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Read my response below regarding damage.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Which is why I took him to task, and not you directly.

    But you did wave the red flag . . . :-)

  • cowboyinbrla

    It is ethical to tell the bank of its mistake. It is unethical to NOT tell the bank of its mistake. In fact, there may be a legal obligation to notify them. But that’s covered by a different set of laws than car rentals, in any case, which are governed by the contract of rental more than anything.

    And my point is that there are ethics, and there are laws. Violating ethics doesn’t necessarily mean a violation of the law.

  • Justin

    Omission isn’t lying. Think litigation or criminal defense. Do you tell the people you’re representing they’re defenseless or try to work within the confines you’re given. Stretching the truth…

  • Justin

    Glaring damage is hardly a miss. I’d say 420 dollars is quite a dent or scratch. Either the car wasn’t in pristine shape at the time of rental or the agent was lackluster. Neither the ops fault nor cause to voluntarily admit fault.

    Sometimes the less one says the better.

  • Annie M

    That is terrible advice. OP has to live with themselves and I wouldn’t want to be the one with this on my conscience. It is always better to be honest. Being honest is always the best policy, even if it results in something like this that was easily corrected by Chris.

    I am a bad liar and I always think karma comes back to haunt you if you are dishonest. I never have to remember a story if I am honest.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Um…methinks you may benefit from learning about the proper rules of debate. Guess what? It’s okay to disagree with someone. It’s okay to attempt to discredit their opinion. That’s what debate is: discussing differences of opinions. You and I have different ones. And that’s okay!

    What’s not okay is belittling, attacking or insulting the PERSON. That’s called an ad-hominem attack. (Google it.) And that is NOT an acceptable form of debate. In fact, it’s actually not even allowed in this comments section…purportedly, anyway. Although you’ve been doing it to me for months and the mods never stop it.

    Note that not once have I called you stupid, or any other personal insult. I disagree with your “opinion” that car rental agencies don’t use minor damage on cars as profit centers. Of course that could be because it happened to me! LOL!

    We each have reasons for our opinions…you used to work at a rental agency, and you say you never saw it happen, so you believe it doesn’t happen. I had a rental agency attempt to scam me. So I KNOW it happens. ;)

  • Justin

    If a bank gives you too much, they’ll deduct the excess from your account. Odds for prosecution are slim since proving the money was knowingly kept is difficult. You take out 1000 bucks and there’s 1020, it’s easily missed if an extra $20 sits within the pile.

    If you do notice, the amount should be returned.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I don’t think I ever claimed it was illegal. I think it’s a scummy thing to do to have damage happen, know about it, return the car, not say anything to the rental agent who’s dealing with a line of 50 cars full of impatient people who need to get on a plane, then deny everything even though you know full well the damage happened.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes I did. As I note in a comment above, we have starkly different opinions about whether or not this actually happens. He says he worked at a rental agency and never saw it happen, so it doesn’t happen. I had a rental agency attempt to inflict this scam on me, so I know it happens.

    And I feel that Chris’s readers need to know that it does happen, in spite of what any former rental agency employees might say, and they should do what they can to protect themselves, as I did.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I’m not Justin…I certainly didn’t say that. But hey, this is the first time I’ve seen you acknowledge that it does happen! So that’s progress! Maybe we aren’t so far apart in our opinions as we think!

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I’ve already said that I believe it DOES happen. Out of the thousands of people that rent cars daily, there’s bound to be a few mishaps out there.

    Maybe the stupid comment was out of line, although I would appreciate it if you stopped calling me out on EVERY case involving rental cars.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I just did! So we’re actually in agreement! What are we fighting about? And why are you calling me “stupid” for saying something you agree with?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yeah, just saw that. So now we’re in agreement! That’s AWESOME!

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I don’t think it’s as widespread as you seem to think it is. I also don’t believe someone simply because they wrote to Chris. Apologies for calling you stupid.

  • Justin

    Friend wears an ugly dress / suit . Do you hurt their feelings or “white lie” if asked?

    Expensive technology or X purchased item breaks under warranty, but not under a reason covered. However, they wont be able to tell how it broke. Do you accept the loss or send it in under warranty?

    I doubt every here is a perfect angel. Plenty of occasions people stretch the truth a little.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And MORE progress! Wow. This is a banner day. I’m thinking I should play the lottery today. :)

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Yeah, because lying about hundreds of dollars worth of damage to a rental car is totally the same as telling your friend that the ugly suit looks fab.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I’m going to request that you no longer call me out, as you have on this article as well as past ones.

  • Justin

    See second example… You break an item that was just purchased and was expensive. They’ll never know the true cause and warranty covers.

    I’m going to believe you fess up and say heck, I’ll chalk up the 1000 dollar loss and buy another….

  • LeeAnneClark

    They did drop the second claim. Go back and read the end. They dropped the second claim for $420 rather than submit proof of payment to the body shop.

    As to why they didn’t submit proof of payment to the body shop, it is my OPINION that they didn’t because they didn’t get it fixed, so they can use that damage as a profit center.

    But we all know what they say about opinions… ;->

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well now that we’re in agreement, I don’t need to! :-D

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I was responding in that they didn’t drop the claim altogether, just the 2nd one.

  • Justin

    Omission versus lying. If asked did he cause the damage, OP readily says yes. Agent didn’t notice. So we’re talking a grey area.
    Clearly OP choose to admit and Hertz rewarded the honesty with a chance at facing collection and/or ruined credit.

    What happens if OP didn’t know of Chris Elliott? Then he’d be out of luck….

    Maybe there’s enough headaches in life without creating more. If asked, say yes. If not, saying nothing.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I was referring to the larger question of honesty not being the best policy. As far as criminal defense, you never ever ever coach your client or a witness to lie, shade or stretch the truth and if you suspect that he or she will you must either not put that witness on the stand or withdraw from the representation if the client insists.

    And of course I tell my client if their case is hopeless. Any honest attorney will give them an honest, professional appraisal of the merits of their case and the likely outcome(s). They make then make an informed decision whether of not to hire me.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I doubt, but don’t know for a fact, whether there is a legal obligation to proactively notify the bank of its mistake. But I don’t think this discussion is about law, but rather right and wrong, which hopefully tracks the law, but not always.

  • emanon256

    According to Dante’s The Divine Comedy, the lowest ring of hell is for those who knew and did not tell.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Let me ask this. If I borrow your car and return it with a scratch that you didn’t notice. If I don’t tell you, would you consider me an honest friend?

  • LeeAnneClark

    I could not disagree more. Ever hear the saying, two wrongs don’t make a right? Just because rental agencies are well-known to milk damage by charging multiple customers for it, that doesn’t give you the right to damage their property and not take responsibility for it.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Its different to know what’s right, even if you have a failure of conscience, as opposed to believing what is wrong is actually right.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Exactly what I was gonna say!

  • Thoroughlyamused

    NOW I know we’re in the same book, if not on the same page. Haha

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    OMG!!! Did you two just agree. I called me pastor and he confirmed, Hell hath frozen over.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Maybe knowing that I had a very uncomfortable encounter with a couple of Avis managers who tried to keep me from leaving the lot when I dropped off my car (that I DIDN’T damage, and had proof the damage was pre-existing) helps to explain why this particular scam irritates me so much.

    But I would never consider that an excuse for behaving unethically myself.

  • LeeAnneClark

    We should all buy lottery tickets today!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes. I break something myself, I most certainly am NOT going to bring it back and demand they replace it. Do you really, actually believe that’s okay?

    If so…well, nuff said I guess.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I think he’s made it clear where he stands. And it’s most certainly not on the side of being honest and ethical if it can save a buck.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yup. Agreed.

  • Bruce Lo

    Hertz in Jackson Hole did something to me as well last summer. Several weeks after the rental, they claimed scratches under the front bumper, to the tune of $800! Our before and after cell phone pictures by us did show anything at all- the car would have had to be on a lift to even see the scratches that they sent us pictures of as proof…. We did not hit anything during use.

    Anyway, we had primary rental collision coverage through our Mastercard, who paid approximately $500 of the claim. Mastercard insurance was also willing to pay the additional $180 in “loss of use” portion of the claim, but Hertz refused to submit requested documentation to substantiate the claim. They claimed this information was “proprietary”, some thing the Mastercard rental folks was crazy, as they received this information all the time from brands other than Hertz.. Hertz also assessed a $125 “administrative fee” as part of the claim as well, which of course MAstercard would not cover.

    Of that remaining $300 total balance, I was able negotiate it down to $200 (Purco, their “Fleet Management Services representative was threatening to go to collection). It was inferred during the conversation that I should have taken “their” insurance (at $20+/day!) to avoid having to pay these fees. This is ammunition when they try to force you to take their own expensive coverage, rather than CC insurance. I also have to wonder if we were more of a target due to having “won” the rental on a last minute priceline bid that was much lower than the prevailing rental rate at that time.

    In any case beware of Hertz! They will NOT work with outside insurance companies, and will hit you with fees in case of a claim that outside insurance will not cover!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes, you owe an obligation to the rental company to point out damage that you caused. And I’m stunned and dismayed to see that there are people who don’t get that. Here we are, constantly railing against the dishonest rental agencies that attempt to stick us for damage that we didn’t cause…and you’re saying that it’s okay to not take responsibility for damage we DID cause?

    Wow. Just…wow.

  • Justin

    Listen, I’m playing devil’s advocate. Fact stands the industry pulls the wool over customer’s eyes. I’m not saying two wrongs make a right.

    However, I do believe the culture of fleecing the customer and expecting the customer to be 100% honest is a tad lopsided.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Tried to prevent you from leaving? Damn. My guess is it didn’t happen in the States.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Don’t backpedal. You said yourself that honesty isn’t the best policy when it comes to rental cars.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Justin, LIFE is lopsided. Getting fleeced by a company does not make it any less wrong to attempt to fleece them yourself. Dishonesty by others does not make dishonesty by you any more acceptable.

    I’d like to believe that your claiming “devils advocate” means that you wouldn’t actually do this yourself. But the fact that you’re arguing on the side of dishonestly leaves me little choice but to believe otherwise.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow, good call! It was actually in Aukland, NZ. But I have read of cases in which similar things happened here in the states. If that happened to me in the states, I would call 911 and report that I was being illegally detained! But in NZ, I had no clue what to do. It was not a pleasant experience.

  • Justin

    Thoroughly,

    The actions of Hertz are dispicable. OP willingly admitted fault, only to be fleeced.

    What motivation is there to be honest if those who come forward are treated like a criminal? Hertz should have thanked OP, gave him a CORRECT BILL, and not tried to rob the piper.

    Instead… well you know the story.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I guess the part I have problems with is the idea that the despicable behavior of others is an acceptable excuse for behaving despicably yourself.

    I personally do not allow others’ bad behavior to water down my own personal ethics. But that’s just me, I guess.

  • emanon256

    I had a glass top Maytag stove a while back, a few weeks after we bough it, the MIL was visiting and shattered the glass (still not sure how). As we broke it, it’s not covered under the warranty. I called Maytag, told them we broke it and that I know its not covered since it was our fault, and asked to to come out and repair it. They quoted me $300. The repairman showed up, and when it came time to pay the bill, he said that his manager was so shocked that we were honest with them, that they decided to replace it under warranty anyway because they have the leeway to do so, and wanted to because we were honest with them.

    I was amazed. Now honesty doesn’t always reward me like that, but I still do it because its the right thing to do.

  • LeeAnneClark

    GREAT story! No, honesty and personal ethics are not always rewarded. But for me, the reward is that I can look at myself in the mirror. And I can rant about those who are dishonest without feeling like a hypocrite! ;-)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    +1000

  • jim6555

    About 18 months ago, I rented a car from National Car Rental. On the next to last day of the trip on a dark road, I drove over a curb that I could not see and damaged the left front wheel and tire. I was going back home the next day so I put the doughnut spare tire on the car. The next morning, carefully drove the vehicle back to the airport rental facility. The guy checking me in immediately noticed the spare tire in use. I told him what happened and he had me sign a statement admitting responsibility. The next day, I contacted my insurance company and filled out a form they sent me providing them with information about the incident. Each month for the next six months, the insurance company sent an email to National (copying me) telling them that they had an open file and were waiting for a claim to be made. National never responded to the reminders.

    When my insurance policy came up for renewal, my rate was raised about $150/year based on my having provided information to open a claim file even though money was never paid out. This incident makes me wonder whether I would have been better off not reporting the incident with the hope that it would just go away. A report could then be filed only if National did take action.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I try not to ever rent a car outside the US. Cars and drivers tend to be cheaper elsewhere in my experience. I also can’t drive manual and when I looked at car rentals in Europe auto transmission rentals cost exponentially more.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Hard to get around New Zealand without a car. Not a lot of public transport on the North Island! (Dunno about South Island…I didn’t make it there.)

  • Thoroughlyamused

    Hertz definitely acted improperly, no doubt about that. I don’t think anyone disagrees. However, the solution to a few situations of rental companies acting dishonestly is not to start acting dishonestly ourselves. If you know that damage happened while the car was in your care, then don’t say anything and hope the rental agency doesn’t notice, it’s dishonest.

  • JenniferFinger

    Me too. She notified the Hertz agent of the damage and paid it. If they want her to pay more, they should provide her with documentation of why.

  • Ward Chartier

    How do you know “that’s what they do”? If there was incontrovertible evidence of systematic double charges for damage by car rental companies, then there would have been criminal prosecutions launched by attorneys general and class action suits. Have either taken place? I do not know, but I have not heard of such prosecutions or suits. If you have evidence, please post the links so we can read more. Opinions can be interesting, but facts are convincing. I am suspicious, but not yet convinced.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    You can always report Hertz for insurance fraud. Normally the state’s Attorney General will investigate.
    You can fill out the form online and give all the pertinent information – date of loss, date of claim, claim number and other information.
    Insurance fraud is a felony in many states…trust me…Hertz would never try double billing again for a one-time loss.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    And in this case, it sure sounds to me like the alleged debt was bogus.

    The key word there is “proof”. Proof would certainly include a signed loan agreement of some kind. Or a court judgement. I would even say that a signed damage report, with some pictures.

    But, the impression I get is that iron-clad cases like these would only happen in a small minority of debt collection cases you’ll hear about here, or on other consumer forums. Consumer complaints, by their very own nature, will be about bogus claims. Even in this case, which arose from, apparently, a valid damage claim, it still appears to be a bogus case of double-dipping.

    This is typical of debt collector complaints: the overwhelming majority tends to be debt claims of somewhat dubious nature. The debt collector has no proof; and the usual situation is that the debt collector bought the alleged debt for pennies on the dollar, and is simply looking to squeeze as much as the collector can, from, shall we say, “unsophisticated” folks. I recall one instance, a few decades ago, when I told one bogus debt collector that I’m disputing the claim — it was bogus; I never heard from that clown again, but a few months later I got a demand letter for the same alleged debt, from some completely different agency. Big no-no. Once a debt gets disputed according to FCRA, debt collection activity must cease, as you very well know. This would certainly include selling the debt to another collector agency, without informing them that the debt was in dispute.

    It was painfully obvious that they were just simple shysters, trading bogus debt cases with each other — looking for easy marks. I told the second guy to sod off too. Nothing ever appeared on my credit report.

    In the simple, typical, majority cases, a returned certified letter would be handled by crossing off one name, and moving on to the next mark, looking for an easy default judgement from someone who’s not going to show up in court.

    But, yes, a valid debt is another story. But that’s not the case here, so my original statement — that the problem would’ve been solved much sooner by a simple certified mail letter, still stands.

  • polexia_rogue

    so true. I once skipped a toll in NJ (in a alamo rental car) and when i got back to my hotel i tried to see who i could possible call to ask. Alamo’s site was no help, and when i tried to call my only options were “have you been in an accident” or “do you need to cancel a rental” so i decided- screw it, they’ll bill me when they bill me.

    some situations are more trouble then their worth; it’s like making your child return a candy bar he stole; yes, it’s the right thing to do, but will it be an easy process- no way (especially at places with “we prosecute all shoplifters” signs)

  • Bill___A

    Troubling. Renting a car should be straightforward and fair. Hertz has always been good to me, as I have said many times. I hope that continues.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I am not in the industry, nor am I an attorney, so I do not know if there have been prosecutions nor do I know of any links about any that may have occurred. Feel free to do that homework yourself, however.

    As for how I know it occurs, how about this “evidence”: because IT HAPPENED TO ME. I would say that being a direct witness of this happening is pretty strong evidence that this happens. Fortunately I was already well aware that this happens, so I had the presence of mind to take date-stamped photos of the various scratches on the vehicle before I drove it off the lot. Then, when I returned it and the manager demanded that I take responsibility for the scratches on the trunk, I was able to pull out my camera and show him the photos of the very scratches he was trying to get me to pay for. And even so they tried to prevent me from leaving.

    So yeah. It happens. They do it.

    As for additional evidence…hmmm, are you new to this blog? Christopher writes a column about this car-rental damage claim scam almost every week! Seems to me that direct reports from dozens of people in just this one blog is pretty strong evidence.

    Still not convinced? Go do a google search on “car rental damage claim scam” or similar phrases and read the literally HUNDREDS of reports out there of this happening to people.

    Still not convinced? Well, then I can’t help you. But your lack of being convinced in spite of the overwhelming evidence doesn’t change the fact that, guess what, it happens. And it happened to me.

  • Ward Chartier

    Your example is not evidence of an auto rental company charging two or more customers for the same damage. That was my question when I first posted. Finding that evidence would require access to rental records, access to repair records, and access to credit card transaction histories. I would not expect an auto rental company to surrender these without a court order. Still, I speculate that such an investigation could yield some very interesting results.

    On the other hand, there is ample evidence of auto rental companies attempting to charge customers for damage extant before the customer rented the car. I need no convincing about that. Your experience is one more data point demonstrating the trend.