Overcharged 1k+ for extension and key loss by Budget staff

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Jul 12, 2017
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#1
I was recently overcharged approximately $1000 by Budget, in addition to the amount I had already prepaid for my rental.

Originally I had reserved a rental June 19-26, and later extended it to June 27. On the evening of June 27, I returned the car, locked it, and left keys in the key drop. I checked that the keys had fallen into the box and did not stay in the "drawer" compartment per their instructions. I did not get receipts or notice of the car getting checked in and so I called back and also went back in person on July 1. Staff there said they had seen the car but not the keys on June 28 morning and had let the reservation remain open for 3 extra days past my return date.

I ended up being charged for the loss of key, and extra fees for the 3 day extension I neither asked for nor was aware of. I was also charged for towing fees, although I only ever got 1 key on the key chain from Budget so they would have had the other one and would not have needed to tow the car.

It is unreasonable and irresponsible to hold me liable because (1) if I could lock the car, I had the key when I got off the car, (2) it is virtually impossible to lose the keys during the 20-second walk from my parking spot to the key drop, (3) security cameras and my boyfriend who accompanied me, can attest the fact that I left the key in the key drop and (4) I have no incentive to return a locked car and keep the key.

I am currently waiting for Budget to
(1) conduct a thorough, timely and proactive investigation into this incident including reviewing security camera footage, communicating with their staff, and tracking the location of the remaining key and car,

(2) retract their charges for a key I did not lose and a reservation extension that their staff unilaterally made without my consent (or carelessly forgot to close).

Consumer forums, articles and blogs tell me that car rental companies regularly provide flawed after-hours return systems to trusting customers, and then shirk all responsibility when the systems get abused by people with ill intentions, or staff who simply want to cover up their careless mistakes (such as forgetting to close a reservation or misplacing keys), and simple inexplicable malfunctioning. Budget's policies and contract terms about using key drops may protect them from legal liability, but they won't protect company image, so it is to their best of interest to take a more proactive, preventive approach to this issue. For example, a bar code might be added to keys so customers can check them in themselves when they drop them off at the key drop. This allows better documentation and distinction between what is the company's responsibility and what is the customer's.

When car keys are stolen or lost, consumers are put in a very vulnerable position because they cannot file a police report - they do not own the keys. And while Budget is in the position to file a police report, they have no incentive to because they have charged you already. Their staff will not have incentive to get to the bottom of things either, because they will be charged instead of the customer if they admit to foul play or simply an honest mistake. This puts consumers in an extremely vulnerable position.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
6,852
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#2
I didn't think that things could get worse in the car rental business, KESC, but this is a new low. Blatant fraud. The companies are all doing it, anything to increase the station's bottom line. The employees have to be getting extra compensation for generating the extra revenue. Use our information on how to deal with a bogus car rental bill. It may take some patience on your part, but we've had great success with extricating innocent consumers from the clutches of these sleazy rental car companies.
 
Dec 11, 2016
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#3
Wow, it never occurred to me that in addition to videoing the car and mileage before and after rental, that I would also need to video me inserting a key into the drop box location after hours. I plan to rent a car in a few weeks, so good to know.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
13,331
13,024
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#4
We have a thread about protecting yourself when renting a car including taking pics when you pick up and drop off.

You shouldn't have to think about doing all this recording- but these car rental companies and their unethical practices have made it a requirement unfortunately.
 
Likes: jsn55
Jul 12, 2017
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#5
I would really appreciate advice from people who have had experiences like this or who have ideas about next steps. This is what I have already done:

1. Filed a compliant with Budget: say the are investigating this.

2. Consulted an attorney, who said that if I wanted to go the legal route I could go to the small claims court, but that legal representation will cost more than the money I've lost.

3. Talked to the police, who said I cannot report this as I do not own the keys.

4. Spoken with the security company in charge of the parking ramp: They say they don't show security camera footage to outsiders unless police is involved. They did say that if a tenant of the facility they are in charge of asks, it may be possible. I recorded this conversation.

5. Spoken with some newspaper reporter: He said that because the facts cannot be verified in my case, it would be hard to cover this in a consumer's column or

6. Filed a request for assistance to the Attorney General in my state: this is undergoing review

7. Emailed and shared my experience with communities like this one

8. Disputed the charge with my bank (unfortunately it was a debit card).

What else can I do? Should I go back to the location and ask the staff questions about why and when the car was towed when they had the other car key, if they have clarified the actual return date of the car yet, and urge them to report the loss of key to the police? Is that safe or advisable for me to do? Should I bring a witness with me or record the conversation if I go back? Will my attempts to investigate this myself botch the investigations Budget themselves will carry out (e.g. alert a dishonest employee to cover up their mistakes/intentional misconduct)?
 
Jul 12, 2017
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#6
Wow, it never occurred to me that in addition to videoing the car and mileage before and after rental, that I would also need to video me inserting a key into the drop box location after hours. I plan to rent a car in a few weeks, so good to know.
I would just not use the key drop at all. Or if I must, put that on Facebook Live so nobody can dispute that I did return them. But even then, the terms in the contract say that it is our responsibility of the keys mysterious disappear between the time they are in the key drop and when they are checked in.

If I hand the keys over to the staff there, I would ask them to check the car in right away, show me, and forward me the receipt and proof that both car and key had been returned immediately.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
13,331
13,024
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#7
The chargeback is your best bet right now. Did they ever find the key?

You should use our company contacts and escalate this up the executive chain. Tell them the police won't take a report and the garage said that only Budget can request the surveillance tapes and you want them pulled to prove you dropped the keys when you said you did.

Start at the very first executive we show and tell him the story and what you want. Give him a week to respond. If he doesn't or says no, move to the next one. Repeat weekly is necessary.

One thing to note is that if you filed a dispute they might stop talking to you.
 
Jul 12, 2017
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#8
The chargeback is your best bet right now. Did they ever find the key?

You should use our company contacts and escalate this up the executive chain. Tell them the police won't take a report and the garage said that only Budget can request the surveillance tapes and you want them pulled to prove you dropped the keys when you said you did.

Start at the very first executive we show and tell him the story and what you want. Give him a week to respond. If he doesn't or says no, move to the next one. Repeat weekly is necessary.

One thing to note is that if you filed a dispute they might stop talking to you.
Wait - do you mean if I dispute the amount already charged on my debit card with the bank, they will stop talking? why? Should I cancel that dispute to keep the conversation going then?

I have emailed two of the people on the executive lists - thank you so much for putting it there. I didn't follow the order though, I just emailed people whose titles seemed like they would be responsible for dealing with such issues. No replies yet.
 
Aug 28, 2015
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#9
The rental company seems to take opposing positions and charge for both. If it had the car without the keys then it charges for key replacement but may not also charge for a rental extension. It actually probably is not as uncommon as one would think to leave a locked car and head off to the airport, keys in pocket. That sounds normal- but the agency has the car so it shouldn't charge for days. I know making a fresh set is costly, but not copying an existing set.

I have locked hotel doors with traditional keys and found the keys in my apartment months later, after paying a fee. It happens but I didn't have to pay extra days for the room.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
13,331
13,024
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#10
Wait - do you mean if I dispute the amount already charged on my debit card with the bank, they will stop talking? why? Should I cancel that dispute to keep the conversation going then?

I have emailed two of the people on the executive lists - thank you so much for putting it there. I didn't follow the order though, I just emailed people whose titles seemed like they would be responsible for dealing with such issues. No replies you through
Yes they can stop speaking to you and only deal with you through the dispute process.

Do NOT email more then one at a time and wait a week before emailing a second contact. You need to move up in the order they appear so you give the lower execs a chance to fix the problem before moving to someone higher. If someone higher on the chain says no, you can't get another executive under them you skipped over to try to fix it.

Please follow the directions exactly as I told you to- start at the bottom and work your way up one by one weekly. If you get to the CEO and don't get satisfaction let us know. But write once a week rxectkybin the order we tell you- don't pick and choose who you think sounds like they are responsible. Listen to what we tell you- that's the way to make it work.
 
Jul 12, 2017
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#11
I am still waiting for the things to be processed through the billing and customers services department, but when I returned to the location itself, the staff there was empathetic and patient and took considerable time to clarify things for me. He showed me how keys are collected from the key drop and then brought back to the office for check-in and safekeeping, showed me how the key drop functioned, and calculated the exact amount of refund I should ask for at billing. He promised that if I called the billing department, he would vouch that I'd returned the car on time. When I asked, he also agreed to try and check security camera footage for clues of how the keys could have mysteriously disappeared from the key drop before he had a chance to collect them. He also directed me to the parking ramp lost-and-found, but I did not find the key there.

Since the key probably will never be found, I can only expect a refund for the 3-day extension I did not ask for but not the loss of keys. And if this happens, I will still need to wait for a couple of weeks as the information moves through the large bureaucracy.

However, I would like to clarify a few things about staff at the specific location: Both staff I have spoken with were patient and polite when I mentioned the problem. They also said they'd called immediately upon noticing the loss of my keys, but got redirected to some recorded message. We will probably never know why that was, or where the keys went. But to be fair, I would like to say that I found them both willing to do what was in their power when I asked for help.
 
Jul 12, 2017
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#12
Yes they can stop speaking to you and only deal with you through the dispute process.

Do NOT email more then one at a time and wait a week before emailing a second contact. You need to move up in the order they appear so you give the lower execs a chance to fix the problem before moving to someone higher. If someone higher on the chain says no, you can't get another executive under them you skipped over to try to fix it.

Please follow the directions exactly as I told you to- start at the bottom and work your way up one by one weekly. If you get to the CEO and don't get satisfaction let us know. But write once a week rxectkybin the order we tell you- don't pick and choose who you think sounds like they are responsible. Listen to what we tell you- that's the way to make it work.
I see how that sequence of emailing makes strategic sense now. A Mr. James Tucker is now following up on this, he is not somebody I emailed and I do not know if this was because of my emails, my complaint through customer service, or my reviews on various consumer sites.

Thank you, as a lone international student in this country, this situation really made me panic. This forum has helped me feel calmer and less helpless in this situation.
 
Likes: mmb

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
13,331
13,024
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#13
I am glad that the employees seem to be trying to help you. I think the key here is that they need to review the security tape. That is the only way to prove you turned it back in. Isn't it possible that maybe one of them dropped the keys after collecting them from the box but before they got to the office?

There are too many "if's" here and the benefit of the doubt should be in your favor. I would include all of this information when you have to escalate this.
 
Jul 12, 2017
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#14
I am glad that the employees seem to be trying to help you. I think the key here is that they need to review the security tape. That is the only way to prove you turned it back in. Isn't it possible that maybe one of them dropped the keys after collecting them from the box but before they got to the office?

There are too many "if's" here and the benefit of the doubt should be in your favor. I would include all of this information when you have to escalate this.
Yes, given that the key drop is metal and locked, I cannot imagine how the keys could have been taken out in the middle of night. The employee even let me inspect the key drop to see if the key could have gotten caught in a crack or something. The possibility of the employee losing the keys after they'd opened the key drop did occur to me, perhaps they dropped it in one of the other cars they were inspecting that day etc. But I felt bad for suggesting this because they were being so reassuring and putting in so much time to help me at the location yesterday.