Budget Rent a Car/PurCo damage scam

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Feb 7, 2020
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On August 23-25, 2019, my wife and I rented a GMC Acadia SUV from the Budget Rent a Car location in Missoula, Montana for a weekend retreat that I was to speak at. We had a lovely time, returned to the Missoula airport at 4:30 pm on August 25, and at the direction of a Budget employee, we parked the Acadia in a stall marked with Budget signs in a publicly accessible airport parking lot and turned over the keys.

On September 5, I received a call out of the blue from a representative of PurCo, a contractor of the Budget Missoula location, claiming I had damaged the Acadia during the rental and wanting to facilitate payment of money to PurCo. As I recall, the PurCo representative couldn't even tell me what the damage was, and I told her I would not be providing my credit/debit card information over the phone.

Over a month later, on October 10, I received a claim packet from PurCo, which I tried to attach here, but I got a message saying that it was too large for the server. My wife and I spent a few weeks reviewing it and responded in detail and in writing on October 31. We noted the following:
-We fundamentally do not believe we caused this damage
-No photographic evidence of any damage was provided
-No pre-inspection paperwork was provided
-There was a full day--almost 24 hours--between when we returned the car and when the alleged damage was noted by a Budget employee
-No proof of repairs was offered, meaning no loss of use has been established
-The redundancy of three days of loss of use on top of repairs and the administrative fee
-A $300 discrepancy in the alleged damages between PurCo's cover letter and the attached estimate

That email was never responded to. I contacted the Better Business Bureau and the Montana state attorney general's consumer protection office. A manager from PurCo responded in November to my initial BBB complaint with a boilerplate letter that did not address any of the concerns above that I laid out in detail. An new claim packet was also sent along with the letter, which was the same except for two new additions: one photograph of a car bumper with no identifying information, and a pre-inspection damage slip, purportedly initialed by me (we'll circle back around to that). The $300 discrepancy remained in the new claim packet.

In December, I received (through the BBB) a letter from an attorney on behalf of PurCo and Budget's Missoula location, and I drafted a two page letter in response, which again reiterated the lack of substantiated evidence of damage, the nearly 24-hour gap between when we returned the car and when the damage was noted (during which time the car was sitting in a publicly accessible lot with parking spaces on all sides of it), etc. The attorney's letter cited the September 5 conversation in such detail that I have to assume that either contemporaneous notes or a recording were made of the conversation. The latter possibility is especially troubling, as Washington state (where I live and work) is a two-party consent state, and I do not recall giving my consent to being recorded, nor did I answer that phone call in a public place (I was in my office).

At this point, in accordance with the advice give at elliot.org, I also began contacting Budget's corporate executives until one of them put me in touch with Mr. Joshua Yount, who emailed me on December 10 with the following: "My name is Joshua and I am writing you from the Avis executive offices in regards to your feedback pertaining to your recent rental at Missoula. I apologize for the issues that you encountered during the course of your rental. We have contacted the senior management for the Missoula location regarding the circumstances of your clam and requested that they open an inquiry into the issue. Once the investigation is complete you will receive an update from either the senior management for the location or from myself. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly by phone at XXX.XXX.XXXX or via reply to this email if I can be of any assistance to you in the interim." After tweeting about my treatment by Budget, I was also contacted by a Sara (no last name given) who conveyed a couple of emails from a manager at the Missoula Budget location that were entirely uncooperative.

In response to the two-page letter I wrote outlining my ongoing concerns and the issues raised by PurCo's handling of this entire matter, the PurCo manager simply responded through the BBB by re-sending the same letter I had responded to and a note that reads as follows: "I have attached a copy of our previous response, our position has not changed. This response was submitted to the Office of Consumer Protection in Montana back in December. We are more than happy to discuss a good faith negotiated settlement of this claim with Mr. Atcheson and or his insurer. If they wish to do so they can call the Claims Specialist assigned to this claim at XXX.XXX.XXXX or myself at XXX.XXX.XXXX." The BBB has since unilaterally closed my complaint.

Not long after--and almost two months after he emailed me--Mr. Yount at Budget's corporate offices emailed me the following: "Thank you for contacting the Budget executive offices. Our record indicate that this rental and the pursuant damage claim are related to transactions that occurred at an independent Budget licensee. Please be advised that all attempts to resolve this issue should be coordinated directly through the licensee location who will handle the issue according to their internal processes and procedures."

Because of my suspicion that I was recorded without my consent--and that the conversation subsequently found itself being quoted by a lawyer--I am deeply suspicious of calling PurCo and have insisted that all of our correspondence take place in writing. The repeated refusals to offer additional documentation of the alleged damage beyond the sole nondescript photo, and to offer any verification of repairs (and, by extension, loss of use) communicate bad faith, not good faith. Additionally, I am reasonably sure I did *not* initial the pre-damage slip, because in order for Budget/PurCo to have such a slip, I would have had to inspect the car outside the building, then turn around, return inside the terminal, and drop the form off at the Budget desk, which I am almost certain I did not in fact do.

My wife and I are convinced that we are not responsible for this alleged damage, and PurCo's handling of this on Budget's behalf has, from start to finish, felt evasive and deceptive. However, with both the BBB and Budget's corporate offices unilaterally shutting me out, I'm not sure who else to go to. I've read elliot.org regularly, so I suppose you can consider this a "longtime reader, first-time caller" post, and I turn to y'all now for how best to move forward. I have all the relevant documentation available even though the files are apparently too large to upload here. Thanks, y'all.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,042
23,001
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
Have you written to the CEO of Budget? Did you request the mileage at the time of the supposed damage they found and compare it to the mileage when you dropped it off?

Did you take pictures of the car at pickup and drop off?

It’s possible another car might have hit your return after you dropped it and without pictures you have no proof. Did you ask if they had surveillance video of the garage?
 
Feb 7, 2020
4
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Have you written to the CEO of Budget? Did you request the mileage at the time of the supposed damage they found and compare it to the mileage when you dropped it off?

Did you take pictures of the car at pickup and drop off?

It’s possible another car might have hit your return after you dropped it and without pictures you have no proof. Did you ask if they had surveillance video of the garage?
I wrote up the chain of the Budget execs as published here, per the site's advice. The person right before the CEO was who put me in touch with Mr. Yount, I believe. The mileage at the time they found the supposed damage was included in the claim packet but I didn't take pictures--including of the dash--when I dropped off--we've got a one-year-old and were worried about being late for our flight, and we didn't take photos (believe me, we do now, no matter what).

A significant part of that two-page letter I drafted dealt with the possibility of another car hitting the Acadia. I did not ask if they had surveillance video--it's not of a garage, though, it's an outdoor parking lot.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,042
23,001
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
Write to the CEO. They still should have surveillance video.
In the future- never rush yourself at pick up and drop off. You must document the car at pick up and drop off with pictures or video to protect yourself. If you find damage before you leave- tell them you want another car of force them to mark your paperwork.
 
Feb 7, 2020
4
0
1
34
Write to the CEO. They still should have surveillance video.
In the future- never rush yourself at pick up and drop off. You must document the car at pick up and drop off with pictures or video to protect yourself. If you find damage before you leave- tell them you want another car of force them to mark your paperwork.
I will write to the CEO then. Email, snail mail, or both?