In June my husband and I went to NYC to photograph a wedding and enjoy a few days in the city. Originally I hadn’t planned on renting a car but since the wedding was in New Jersey with a lot of travel between the getting ready location and wedding venue, we decided to rent a car to make things a bit easier so we didn’t have to get a taxi or try to navigate public transportation with all of the gear. Originally I had rented a car through Enterprise but decided to give Hotwire a shot on a whim at the last minute to see if I could get a cheaper rate as I was balking a bit at the $400+ rate for the 5 days. I thought it was lucky (ha!) that I ended up “winning” a full size car for $200 for the 5 days – half the price!
The day of our arrival we got to the Avis location at LaGuardia airport without incident. Check in took forever as there were few people working and many people waiting. After a bit of a wait we finally started to get checked in, waiving their insurance as our car insurance as well as credit card both have coverage for rental cars. When we were done checking in with the woman who was not very friendly, she told us where to find our car and said the keys were in it. I said that’s it? and her reply was that was it and to give the paperwork she handed me to the gate guard when leaving the lot. We walked out into the lot and saw the car – a Ford Fusion. My husband is pretty anal about taking pictures of any damage he sees on rental cars before we drive off so he took a picture of a minor scrape on the bumper that had a red paper dot nearby before we left the lot. The gate agent asked for the paperwork, which we handed over and he gave us back our copy and we left. Never once did he – NOR the lady checking us in – ever mention we were supposed to do a walk around with him for the car. Typically I’ve always had the person checking us in do this but often there are places that don’t even do that due to being understaffed and I’ve never had an issue.
We drove the car very little during our stay. We drove to New Jersey to our hotel for the early part of our stay and drove to the bride’s parents house twice (rehearsal and day of the wedding) and then into NYC to the Waldorf where we stayed and used public transportation for the remainder of the trip until returning the car. There were no incidents and the car was never in any danger of being damaged nor was it damaged during our use of the vehicle.
When returning the vehicle to the LaGuardia location, I asked the person who was checking cars in, Derek, what I could do about the fact that I had paid for a Full Size car but was given a Standard car. He immediately got an attitude and said that he didn’t know about where I come from but at Avis a Fusion IS a full size car. This got me more irritated as I had checked with their website online their car grades in case I was mistaken and it plainly states on their site that a standard car is a Ford Fusion or similar. When I mentioned this Derek got even more upset then goes, well what do we have here – and starts in on the scrape on the bumper. We quickly informed him that we picked up the vehicle like this and he said that we hadn’t. We again insist that we hadn’t done the damage and had pictures to prove it and he asked if the gate agent had gone around the car with us. When we said no, he told us we had to pay for the damages then – unless we had purchased their insurance. We then had to go inside and fill out paperwork stating the incident where I stated we did NOT do the damage and that we had photographs to prove it. At this time (thank god) my husband went outside and took more pictures of the car, with the damage matching up to the picture from his FIRST picture the day of pickup. Despite seeing this, the manager still made me fill out the report. It took well over an hour to do all of this and we almost missed our flight. I was furious about not only the horrible way we were treated by Derek but by the fact that they were trying to rip us off.
Yesterday in the mail (which I got today as I was working yesterday), which is 5 weeks after the incident, I received in the mail a packet from Avis stating that I owe $304 for the damages done to the bumper which I am responsible for. Furious doesn’t even COVER it. Included are images they took of the damages, which now includes a rather large scratch that was NOT there when we dropped off the car when this whole mess started. Thank GOD my husband went back out and took pictures when they started up with this nonsense because we wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, AGAIN, if he hadn’t. There was $205 in charges for the repair of the bumper and $99 in fees for admin and loss of use. I am planning on contacting a lawyer tomorrow as well as following up with a body shop to get an estimate on the charges. I will update this as I hear more.
Talk is cheap so they say and the proof is in the pudding, right?
The picture of the damage to the rear bumper when we picked the car up. This image was taken at 6/14/12 at 12:54PM, our check in process started with Avis per their paperwork at 6/14/12 at 12:49PM.
This is a full size crop of the damage from the image above, the same damage we would later be charged for doing to the car, despite having proof we didn’t do it.
A copy of our paperwork showing that even Avis knew we had paid for Full Size and were being given a standard sized vehicle for rental. Also note that the car in the agreement is NOT the car we received (we were given a WHITE Ford Fusion) and are being charged for damages on.
A picture of the car when I was inside filling out the paperwork regarding the damage and arguing my case. Note the insert showing a full crop of the damage on the bumper that is identical to the damage on the car when we picked it up. The date and time of this image is 6/19/12 10:14AM.
This picture is included in my bill for the repairs done to the car for the damages that they are claiming that I did. Notice the scrape below the circular sticker that was NOT in the image above upon our return and also notice the date of the image – 6/20/12, one full day AFTER we returned the car.
The full bill for the damages.
The breakdown of the damages to the car and the repair work done.
UPDATE 7/30/12 @ 9:30AM: I just got off of the phone with Peter from the Claims department and he’s the first nice person I’ve dealt with at Avis during this entire mess. He said that it was good that we took pictures and seemed surprised that when the pictures were shown to Derek and the manager that they still held us accountable. He also agreed that the red dot near the damage seems to indicate that they knew there was damage even though there was nothing notated on the car’s history. I emailed him the pictures and he said so long as things all match up with what I am claiming they will write off the bill against me. Fingers crossed!
UPDATE 7/30/12 @ 10:45AM: They closed the claim! *happy dance*