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National charging my family and I more than $3k in damages we did not do.

Discussion in 'Ent/Nat/Alamo' started by Chong, Jun 14, 2017.

  1. Chong

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    My family and I are from California and made a trip to the east coast from May 25th-May31st for my brother's graduation. We flew in to and out of Newark Liberty International Airport and rented an SUV from National at the airport.

    When asked if we wanted insurance for the SUV, my father said that our insurance should cover it. My father even made a call to Progressive to double check. The agent asked us multiple times whether we were sure that our insurance will cover a 2017 Ford Expedition. (I remember the car because I was quite excited about it being a 2017 car.) And every time he asked, we said we were sure.

    When we got to the garage and handed the woman our rental papers for our car she left and returned with a Chevrolet Tahoe. From my experience and my father's, they usually allow us to select a car from their lot that is similar to the one we reserved, but we were not given a choice. Since we are also using our own insurance, my father later told me that they were supposed to do a run through with us to check for any of the damages that may have already been made to the car, we were not given a run through before we left. There were eight of us, 5 adults and three small children and each of us had a luggage. The Tahoe barely had any luggage space so we asked the woman about getting a bigger car. Though I'm sure I reserved a car with more luggage space, but I cannot find my online confirmation to prove it.

    This next part of the story is very suspicious. After talking to her about getting the bigger SUV, she said with all the paperwork, it’ll be an additional $120-180. However, if we were to pay her cash she can help us out and we will only have to pay $80. After giving her the $80 cash, I asked for a receipt and she told me we didn't need one. She told me she already called the guy at the exit and that he will let us out. I asked her for the receipt again and she said she was "helping" me out. She brought us the 2017 Ford Expedition that the agent at the front desk asked us multiple times if we had insurance for...we landed at Newark about 8:30PM and had a 3 hour drive to Providence still to make, so with the exhaustion from the trip, I just went with it.

    During our trip, there were no wiper fluid, it was completely empty when I tried to clean my windshield. The "change oil" sign came on a few times too, reminding us that the car is due for an oil change. This shows that they don't even take care of this car. I should have taken a picture or got some sort of proof for this but I didn't think they would mistreat us at the end because I've always had great experience with rental cars.

    When we returned the rental car, one of their agents said we made damages to the roof of the car. My father looked and he said he didn't see anything, and told the agent that we did not cause of damage to the roof of the car. The agent noted that down and we thought that was the end of it.

    On June 2nd, my father received an email from their Station Manager and in the email it reads, "When returning the vehicle our return agent noticed a change in condition to the vehicle's roof and noted down the change. We at National just wanted to let you know that you will not be held responsible to the change in condition to the vehicle and we hope this does not deter you away from us."

    A few days later, my father received another email saying they are opening an investigation to the damages. And then on June 13th, they sent him an email stating we owe them $3,288.88 in damages. The description of things they need to fix range from windshield, roof panel, liftgate assy, to side air bags and so much more.

    I do not think this was fair to us at all. Knowing we didn't have time to dispute this at the time we returned the vehicle because we had a flight to catch, and then sending us a bill for more than $3k in damages is absurd. They just said damages to the roof, and didn't explained what kind of damages (dents, scratches, etc.). It was scam after scam and this is totally unfair to us. Every thing from the beginning set a bad tone, I should have been smarter and taken photos for proof. I just didn't know there were people like this, people out to get others they think do not have a voice to stand for themselves.

    Please help us. We are a family of 15, primarily little ones and students, and cannot come up with that amount of money. Our family trip to celebrate my brother's accomplishments have made a turn for the worse. We are sure we did not make those damages to the roof of their vehicle. Please help us.
     
    #1
  2. Carrie Livingston

    Staff Member Advocate

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    This situation happens frequently with the car rental companies. From this point forward, make sure all communication is in writing. We have several threads with advice on how to deal with the claim. Please review these. At the top of the page is a link to Company Contacts. Locate National's and start with the first contact. Do not email all contacts at once and wait a week to ten days before moving to the next contact. Make sure your correspondence is concise and use bullet points. Remove emotion from your claim. If you would like use to review your email prior to sending feel free to post it here. Good luck and let us know how you progress.


    http://forum.elliott.org/threads/how-to-deal-with-a-car-rental-damage-claim.1514
    http://forum.elliott.org/threads/how-to-protect-yourself-when-renting-a-car.1314
    http://elliott.org/the-navigator/dont-let-next-rental-car-go-flat
    http://elliott.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-car-rentals
     
    #2
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2017
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  3. kenish

    Staff Member Advocate

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    Congrats on your brother! I made the same trip from SoCal to PVD a year ago for son's graduation from Brown.

    The June 2nd email from the station manager saying you are NOT held responsible is crucial. Be sure to retain it...you didn't retain other important documents and the email will probably be pivotal to your case.

    As @Carrie Livingston stated above, greatly condense your email and use the process she referred to. For right now, I would not bring up the switch of vehicles (it's very suspicious but has nothing to do with the damage charge). Simply state you picked up the car, the agent would not do a walk-around, they claimed the roof was damaged upon return, and the station agent emailed that you are not responsible. Please keep us updated.
     
    #3
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  4. Chong

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    A woman from National contacted my father via phone and said because of their email on June 2nd, we will not have to pay the fines but they want the name of the woman that we paid $80 to. She wants me to call her back because my father wasn't fluent in English. Any thoughts?

    And thank you so much everyone for the support and advice. I really appreciate it. I'll keep everyone updated. If an email has to be sent, I most likely would post it here first for advice.


    Chong
     
    #4
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  5. kenish

    Staff Member Advocate

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    My thought is diplomatically secure the release of responsibility *in writing!!!* first. Then you can segue into the employee who collected the $80...that's very suspicious and shady.

    Although we recommend NOT to call, in this case you're probably best to call back and request an email releasing your responsibility. Tell the agent you will be happy to provide details and work with them on the $80 matter by responding to their email. (Make sure you're satisfied with their "release", you can run it past us if you wish).

    Glad it's looking good.
     
    #5
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  6. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    Do you have any idea of the womans name? I would give it to them regardless because what she did is illegal and she can be doing this to other people as well. She needs to be fired. But get the statement in writing.
     
    #6
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  7. kenish

    Staff Member Advocate

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    National can figure out who it was from the rental contract and/or the time the transaction took place. A physical description and a name if available will help them.

    Every car rental facility has a guard at the exit who cross-checks the rental paperwork, the actual vehicle, and the driver's ID. If the woman switched the SUV but not the paperwork, or she altered the paperwork, then the guard may be in on the scheme.
     
    #7
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  8. jsn55

    Staff Member Advocate

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    Chong, it looks like things are turning out OK for you with National ... my colleagues are giving you complete guidance. We have long been aware of the rental car companies (all of them, from your neighborhood car lot to the national names) but this is the first I've heard about an employee accepting your cash and cheating her employer. These people are in an interesting position, dealing with customers who have flown across the country, are tired, have a flight to catch ... they're preying on innocent people. I hope you pursue this after you get the release of damage responsibility. The cheating of customers is really going too far and we all need to work to get it stopped.
     
    #8
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  9. George M

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    Maybe management had told the employee to give @Chong the damaged SUV in the dark (setting up the spurious charge later) and to grab a few extra bucks for herself in the process.
     
    #9
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  10. Chong

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    Hei Neil, unfortunately didn't get her name. Thinking back, I should have.
     
    #10
  11. Chong

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    She told me she told the guard and that we were good to go. So I'm not sure if he was in on it, but he most likely could have been as well.
     
    #11
  12. Chong

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    I absolutely agree!! Once the release of responsibility is released this will be my next move. Thanks so much for all the support.
     
    #12
  13. Chong

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    Thanks so much Carrie. I have not received a call back from the woman that called my father last Thursday about dropping the damage charges. I've been trying to contact her since Thursday but cannot get a hold of her and she's not returning my calls. If I don't receive a call from her tomorrow, I'm going to proceed with your steps of emailing National directly. I'm going to start the email draft and most likely will be posting it her for everyone to chime in on and edits. Again, thanks for much for all your help thus far.
     
    #13
  14. Carrie Livingston

    Staff Member Advocate

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    Put down the phone and start emailing. Even if you don't have the woman's name, a description of her should suffice when emailing National corporate.
     
    #14
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  15. sas80

    Staff Member Advocate

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    I'm speechless..... this roof damage and under the car fender damage thing is out of hand!
     
    #15
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  16. Chong

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    Here's the draft that I put together with the help of the links provided. If anyone can help give some advice on it, it would help a great deal. Everything is very new to me and I never had to deal with anything like this before. Thanks everyone.

    **Things in parenthesis are notes I have, it'll be deleted in the final draft.

    Also, the first contact is the customer service email, will that be the first email I send to or should I start with the executive contacts?


    To Whom It May Concern:

    This email is in reference to claim #XXXXXXXXX, Rental Agreement #XXXXXX. As discussed with the return agent when the vehicle was returned, we did not incur any damages to the vehicle while it was in our possession. We received an email from the Station Manager, [name of station manager], on June 2nd, 2017, stating that we will not be held responsible to the change in condition of the vehicle.

    Below I have a list of requests that I have concerning this claim.

    1. A copy of my original agreement and a copy of the paperwork given to me when I returned the car.

    2. Time stamped and dated pictures of the car before the car was in my possession and of the damaged done after my rental. (requesting before pictures because they did not do a run through with us before we left the lots)

    3. The rental agreements from the five people who rented the car before and after it was in my possession. (they told us of we caused the damages upon returning the car, not sure if I need the 5 individuals that rented the car after us, but let me know if I should still request it).

    4. A picture of the mileage indicator showing the mileage on the car when the damage was noted.

    5. A copy of the fleet utilization log.

    6. A copy of the incident report.

    7. A copy of the receipt showing the car was repaired and the cost that was paid for the repair. (in the email they sent to us with the total cost of damages, they included the estimation form with all the cost, should I still include this?)

    8. A copy of the license plate number on the car to ensure it is the car you rented. (in the email they sent us with the total cost of damages, they included multiple photos of the car, some included the license plate, however they just told us damages to the roof, and never indicated what these damages were.)

    Thank you.
     
    #16
  17. VoR61

    Advocate

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    This seems unnecessary in your case, as some of it does not apply. As @kenish pointed out, the manager's email stating you are not liable is the key. So I would simply tell them something akin to this:
    • We reserved a 2017 Ford Expedition at the Newark Liberty International Airport for May 25th-May31st
    • When we returned the rental car, one of their agents said we had damaged the roof of the car. We examined it on the spot and could not find any damage, which the agent made note of.
    • On June 2nd, my father received an email from their Station Manager stating that we would "not be held responsible for the damages", which were not present when we returned it.
    Attach the email your father received and wait for their response. If they refuse to drop the claim, I would then ask for items 1, 2, 4, 6, 7 in your latest post.
     
    #17
  18. Chong

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    Thanks! I'll update you guys on if I receive a response! I appreciate all the help!
     
    #18
  19. sas80

    Staff Member Advocate

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    If you were me....
    review your contract and determine if arbitration, mediation or small claims court is called out as a remedy and then....

    Reply to them, attaching a copy of the dismissal letter and informing them that the matter has been reviewed and dismissed, and you would like them to reply, acknowledge this, and stop contacting you.

    Then inform that that, should they choose to ignore the dismissal, then you choose arbitration/mediation/small claims court as per the rental contract states and ask them to set a court date, inform them that you will counter file to have them pay your legal fees, and ask them to stop contacting you until that date.

    Yep, you are pushing back hard on them but they will understand that they will loose in court and most likely drop it.
     
    #19
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