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Budget- Smoking Fee on Car Exchanged Because of Smoke Smell

Discussion in 'Avis/Budget' started by Swati, Apr 18, 2017.

  1. Swati

    Joined:
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    This has been a very long saga over 3 days, and I am truly upset with the way things have been handled.

    I rented a car through Budget at the Columbus Airport, OH on Sunday the 16th. I was asked about the insurances, and saw that the LDW was marked as I had accepted it. I asked to have that taken off, since I wanted to decline it, as the credit card I was putting the rental on already covering that. I was assured it was taken off and signed. I was then just told the spot number of the car, and that the keys were in the car itself. I was never given a walkaround, simply told the number of the parking spot of the car, and that the keys were inside. Upon getting to my hotel, I noticed the backseat was dirty and that the car (Hyundai Sonata) had the scent of smoke?I do not smoke, never have. I tried to call the Budget desk at the airport, but they never picked up, and I was getting sent to "Reservations" who told me to call in the morning.

    On the morning of Monday the 17th I again called the Budget desk at the airport, was routed to "Reservations," and spoke to a woman named Aliana who told me to visit the nearest Budget location to my hotel, and that they would exchange the car for me. I went there in the morning, and was taken care of by Sam. I explained that the car was dirty and smelled of smoke, and showed him the car, which he sat in and looked around. He asked me for the walkaround slip from the airport, which I did not have as I was never given a walkaround of the car, or a slip. Sam exchanged the Sonata out for me and gave me a Jeep. AT NO POINT DID HE SAY HE WAS CHARGING ME A SMOKING FEE. While processing the Jeep paperwork, I saw that I the LDW insurance on the car was listed as accepted, even though I had declined it. Sam suggested I again call Customer Service both to explain about the dirty car and that I had been charged insurance that I did not want.


    That night I called Customer Service, and explained about the LDW insurance. I was told that it would get taken off of my bill, but only if I went back to the airport Budget desk where I initially received the Sonata. I was given a case # to refer to once I got there.

    So I went in the evening of the 17th back to the airport Budget desk, gave them the case number, and asked them to take off the LDW insurance, which they did. When they printed out the bill, it was still extremely high and they at first could not figure out why. They then did the math and saw that the difference was $250, which must be a smoking fee put on for the original car (Sonata) I received, that I had exchanged BECAUSE it was dirty and smoky. I explained what had happened with the car exchange and that I do not smoke, so the smoke was there from the person prior who also left the stains. I was told by the manager of the airport location that there was nothing they could do about the charge, and that I needed to call Corporate, which I did. The man I spoke to at Customer Service said that they would need to speak to the
    Budget where I had the car exchanged to get further info from them to "investigate further." I was given a case number and told that I would receive an email when it was investigated. Email back says they cant change active rental agreements, and to speak to the manager when returning the car.

    I went back to the Busch Blvd. Budget this morning, 4/18, and again spoke to Sam. He said that the car smelled like smoke, and because I did not have an initial walkaround slip from the Sonata, he could not prove that I didn't smoke in the car. I find this to be absolutely ridiculous.

    So my question is what to do now. I have the car until Friday. Is there any hope that the fee will disappear by then? If not, do I fight it when returning the car to the airport, or do I just dispute the charge on my credit card and hope it gets sorted out?
     
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  2. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    This is exactly how these companies get away with these excessive charges. Since no one did a walk around with you, that means that no one did a walk around when the car was returned by the previous renter. Ask them for the copies of the 5 rentals before yours so you
    can see how the car was inspected and who checked it in with the dirt that was on the back seat. I am betting that car was brought back that morning and no one did the walk around at all.

    When you take it back, tell them you want copies of the previous 5 rentals to see the inspection when it was brought back before you took it. You want to know the time and date it was checked in and who inspected it.

    I know you aren't lying either because the last car rental we took had a big dent in the back of the fender. I asked the kid in the rental booth to mark it and he refused to come out of his booth. He told me to have it marked when I left the garage. I took pictures of the entire car when I picked it up and brought it back and when I left the airport, told the woman in the booth about the dent and asked her to mark it. She didn't even get out of the booth, she just asked me where it was and marked it and signed it.

    This happens so much we have a thread on what to do - follow the instructions in this to a T-
    http://forum.elliott.org/threads/how-to-deal-with-a-car-rental-damage-claim.1514/ if they refuse to take off that charge. And take down the names of everyone you speak to. Take pictures of the car when you return it too.
     
    #2
    technomage1 likes this.
  3. Swati

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    Thank you for such a quick response! It does all seem to be one giant scam. I've been to so many levels of customer service representatives, from managers all the way to corporate, and they all keep denying there was any issue, and that it's my fault. I find it horrendous that because someone didn't do their job, I have to pay for someone else's sins. Literally. And they get away scot-free.

     
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  4. CheeseHead

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    Hey Swati, I feel your pain and I agree this is ridiculous that Budget would even try to treat you this way. It burns me that this could possibly happen to an innocent person.

    I am new to this forum, but I read your thread while dealing with an inaccurate rental car damage claim from Budget/Viking. (Here's my related thread).

    However, your situation sounds different from most of the other rental car damage claims on this thread, because Budget already put the smoking charge on your bill before you have returned the vehicle. For most of us, we are getting a claim letter weeks or months letter from Budget/Viking claiming that the car was damaged and we owe them money for it.

    I think Neil's advice above is good about keeping notes on the dates/times and names of each person you spoke to.

    If you still have the vehicle, the ideal solution would be to try to get that $250 smoking charge removed from the bill before you turn in the rental. If you haven't already done so, I would speak with the most senior manager possible during the day at the Columbus airport location, explain the situation and ask to have the charge removed. Call during the day so that you're dealing with the top staff, and make sure you are talking with the top manager at the site.

    Also if you haven't already done so, call during the day to the Busch Blvd Budget where Sam works, ask to speak to the most senior manager at the site, and try to have that charge removed.

    When dealing with both of them, be friendly and professional, but also make sure they know you are taking notes on the call, getting their names, etc to document the discussion.

    If that doesn't work, I am guessing that you have an auto insurance policy with a vendor and also that you are probably paying for the rental with a credit card. I would try contacting both of them, explain the situation and see if one of them is willing to engage with Budget to try to get this resolved before you return the rental car. They may have an existing relationship with Budget, so maybe they can help get this straightened out.

    If that doesn’t work, I wouldn’t waste more time with Budget customer service or management trying to get this resolved. I’m still assuming you are paying via credit card. Let’s hope so! After you return the rental car, if the $250 smoking fee is charged to your credit card, immediately follow up with your credit card company. Explain the situation and tell them you are considering the entire charge to be a “disputed charge” until the issue can be resolved. At that point the credit card company may require you to fill out some paperwork, sign and return it. Or maybe you can complete it online. Whichever the case, make sure you get that completed promptly so it protects your right to dispute the charge.

    At that point, it is most likely that the credit card company will engage to get the issue resolved.

    If they don’t, please respond back to this thread because I also think it would be worth complaining to the BBB (I know Neil doesn’t agree) and Neil also recommended we can complain to the state Attorney General. I doubt it will need to go that far.

    Good luck, and please keep us informed regarding your situation!
     
    #4
  5. Swati

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    Thanks for the help! I harassed Budget customer service enough that they gave me the following: I return the car on the return date (later today actually) and get charged the full amount, including the smoking fee. In 48 hours, they credit me back the $250 smoking fee. I took names and employee ID numbers of the people I spoke to who suggested this, Fingers crossed!! I intend on calling my credit card company today, and let them know the situation, and may ask them to place a hold on the charge until they see the credit back. I'll post again and keep you updated.Thanks for the help!
     
    #5
    Mike Z likes this.
  6. Mike Z

    Staff Member Advocate

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    Fingers crossed for you Swati, and please let us know the final result. If you need help above and beyond, we have company contacts which have been helpful in the past for our readers.

    If it makes you feel any better Enterprise deals with the same thing. I rented a car last year when my car was in the shop. They at first gave me a stripped down Elantra which didn't have hands free phone use. So I came back in and the same lady who left when I had arrived pulled back in and demanded a different vehicle because it reaked of smoke. She got a different car and I was asked if I wanted the one she had because as the guy put it, I don't smell anything in there. As soon as I opened the door you could smell it. It was as if a chain smoker had owned the car for 3 years. I accepted but made sure they noted on the contract that it had a bad odor of smoke. (Windows cracked and a $.99 air freshener goes a long way)
     
    #6
    VoR61 likes this.
  7. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    But they didn't give it to you in writing anywhere?

    You have certainly covered yourself with names and i.d. numbers and I sure hope that they do what they say, but why wouldn't they give it t you in writing if that is what they were going to do? .Let us know when that credit comes across. But without it in writing, I am not sure you can prove what they actually said. You should have used your phone to tape the conversation.
     
    #7

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