Q: 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, while 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.
Enterprise policy appears to hold a renter responsible for all damage even if both the renter and the site manager have considered the vehicle to be free of damage before renting and upon return of the vehicle. If that’s true, then the company should clearly inform the customer of that fact.
A: I’m a big believer in photographing your car before and after you rent it, but I can’t bring myself to tell readers to get under their car for a shot of the undercarriage, although in your situation, you would have saved yourself a big headache.
Enterprise is one of the most aggressive car rental companies when it comes to damage claims. It is also the largest car rental company in America.
Why would a manager call you back after four hours and claim you damaged the Hyundai? I have a partial explanation for that. Damage isn’t always visible when someone returns a car, and before it’s washed. So the manager couldn’t have possibly given you the “all clear.”
But damage to the underside — I don’t know about that. Also, the fact that Enterprise was immediately willing to remove all the assorted fees didn’t exactly bolster its claim, at least in my opinion. The black-and-white photocopies didn’t help, either. Put together, I had enough reason to believe this bill wasn’t supported by all the facts.
I contacted Enterprise on your behalf, and it dropped its claim.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at chris@ elliott.org.