Enterprise is defying logic and I'm the victim.
May 9, 2006 7:22 PM   Subscribe

How can I avoid letting Enterprise Rent-A-Car's Scam in Process Succeed?

My wife took our new Saturn Vue in for service last week. We were promised a loaner vehicle. However, the car they had for loaning was promised to two people, so Saturn called the local Newark, Delaware Enterprise Rent-A-Car and they delivered a cheaply made Kia Rio to my wife. My wife declined the optional insurance since paying $20 a day for a "free" loaner seemed like a bad proposition to her.

The Enterprise rep and my wife walked around the car and noted all the cosmetic damage -- there was a lot of it. It was a really bad car, more than the 44K in mileage would indicate.

We had the car for a day and a half. One the day we were to return it, literally hours before we were to return it, my wife parked for lunch and locked the car. Upon returning to the car, the door would not unlock or open on the driver's side. From then on the driver had to crawl in and out of the car through the passenger side door.

Annoying, yes. And we complained to Saturn when we returned the car. A cheaply made, badly maintained car failed us.

After returning from dropping off the car and picking up our own, we had a message on our voicemail. It was Enterprise, telling us they needed our insurance information because of the "damage to the driver's side door."

I called them back and told them I would not be giving them my insurance information, because we did not damage the car, it failed us. In fact, I said, I had already complained because it was very annoying to have to drive a car with a door that wouldn't open for the driver.

He said that "unless it's a mechanical failure, the customer is responsible." I asked for a definition of mechanical failure and he couldn't give one. I told him that I thought mechanical failure was when a mechanism failed while being used in the manner which it was designed to be used. I added that I thought that locking a door was a proper use for the door lock.

It ended with me standing firm in that we weren't accepting any fault for this whatsoever, and would not be providing insurance or credit cards or anything for them to get payment. They said they would be in touch by letter.

Since then, I have told the Saturn dealership of the ordeal, and asked them to please contact Enterprise.

Any other ideas for me, what should I do? I really don't want to pay and don't think I should. Am I out of line? Also, isn't the Kia likely still under warranty anyway, why are they after me?

another thing: The car only had a quarter tank when we received it. And actually it was below the E after 8 miles. Not knowing how long our car would be in the shop, we filled it. . then returned it hours later. So they already made off with $30 in free gas! I complained about that too, with no response. "I'm sorry sir, with high prices in gas it is our policy to only put a quarter tank in every car." Not that this is really related to the door issue, but well they have already taken money from my pocket.

posted by visual mechanic to Shopping (20 answers total)
It sounds to me like they don't have any way to charge you. They don't have your credit care number and they don't have your insurance. All they can really do it make threats, and, maybe eventually sue you, though this would seem a long way off.

I would either (1) blow it off, because it is very unlikely they are actually going to take any action against you; or (2) write a letter to Enterprise's legal deptarment with a cc: to the Saturn dealership setting out the facts. If you do the letter, you should set out the facts in a concise manner: dates, times, and specific events such as when you picked up the car, when the door stopped working, etc. Don't get into a bunch of finger-pointing, it will make you sound defensive. Conclude the letter by stating that you're sure they will agree that you are not responsible for the door situation. They will most likey drop it.
posted by Mid at 7:33 PM on May 9, 2006

It might be worth getting a letter from a lawyer. They either decide to hassle you, or they don't. I have a feeling they know pretty well what they can get away with. But a letter from a lawyer might be enough to convince them that hassling someone else would less trouble than dealing with your lawyer.

I've heard that they're real bastards.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:47 PM on May 9, 2006

Best answer: Also, isn't the Kia likely still under warranty anyway, why are they after me?

The warranty terms for a vehicle used for commercial purposes are different. For example, the powertrain warranty is normally for 10 years; for vehicles in commercial use, it's only 5 years. (The reasoning is that if you don't own the vehicle you're driving, you're not going to be as careful.)

That said: I agree that you're not responsible for the car's problem, and that you should write a detailed and factual letter (and cc the local Enterprise folks, too). (But I wouldn't go the lawyer-letter route until/unless you get pushed hard by Enterprise; why spend the money?)
posted by WestCoaster at 7:54 PM on May 9, 2006

Best answer: I have to say that I've rented from Enterprise numerous times and never had any problems. So I don't think that they're scammers, in general. They do sound a bit slimy at your local Enterprise office, though. Or maybe it's just incompetence.

You didn't say who you talked to at the Saturn dealer. Was it just a service writer or the manager. For starters I would talk to the Service Manager. These Enterprise places get a ton of business from a dealership so it's in their best interests not to piss off the dealership. Saturn is who has the real leverage in this saga. You can even talk to the manager of the whole dealership if you have to, but I think the service manager will solve the problem for you.

And, as someone pointed out, they've got nothing without your insurance info. Don't give it to them. I'm surprised you didn't have to tell the name of your insurer to pick up the car. And be sure to talk to the manager at Enterprise too and not some kid.

You're right. It's just a busted door mechanism or whatever. It's mechanical. They can fix the damn car themselves.

And if a letter comes, do lay things out in writing and send the letter by certified or registered mail so you have a receipt of when it was received and by who.

I don't think you need a lawyer yet. This problem is probably going to go away if you talk to the managers and let them know that you're not a patsy. Stay calm and don't let them get your blood pressure up. They aren't worth it.

Good luck. :)
posted by bim at 8:22 PM on May 9, 2006

If you want to play hardball, cc the state attorney general.
posted by caddis at 8:25 PM on May 9, 2006

Uneducated guess: Forget about it. If they drop it, (hich I suspect they will) fine. If they don't, their next step is probably a debt collector (only without any threat to your credit rating!), in which case you go down to the local small claims court, file a summons or whatever (probably cost you about $30) claiming you owe them nothing and they owe you $30 in gas, they drop the case like a hot potato (too costly to have an employee off the job to show up for some mediation or arbitration thing). If you want to push your luck, you might be able to get an order that they owe you the gas and your court fee, but that would presumably involve more of your time in paperwork than it's worth.

I'm not sure about the system in your area, but most places I've been have had a low-cost court system for disputes over small claims, it typically offers mediation first to get the parties to settle it themselves (cheaper and more effective than adversarial court), but these car guys aren't going to want to show up to some mediation thing. They'll drop it, their bluff called.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:26 PM on May 9, 2006

From personal experience I would suggest not just 'letting it go'. You want to get some kind of confirmation in writing that you have been absolved of damaging the car, because that local Enterprise branch will likely refer the claim to a third party company for collections. If you're confident they only have the information from the dealer instead of yours I guess you'd be ok, however I would imagine that they have a photocopy of someone's drivers license. Personally I would not risk it as a little effort on your part now can prevent a dumb situation from being worse when you get a letter in the mail six months from now from a collection agency.

Your claim seems valid, and while it's annoying to have to follow up it's probably worth just speaking to someone a little farther up the chain at Enterprise who is empowered to resolve this. Be sure to request something in writing making it clear that you are not responsible.
posted by bcnarc at 8:30 PM on May 9, 2006

Better Business Bureau complaints are great, You had better believe that corporate Enterprise will be mightily pissed if there are unresolved BBB Complaints against the local office.
posted by hatsix at 8:58 PM on May 9, 2006

They tried to pull this on me a few years ago. I picked up the car in a dark lot, where we couldn't see it well. The car had about 40,000 miles on it, and wasn't running very well.

Next morning, I noted that the hood was slightly ajar. The latch had been damaged. (I'm sure that's why they had me pick it up on the dark side of the lot.) I tried to close it, realized it was stuck or broken, and didn't mess with it further. When I returned the car, I told them I thought it needed fixing.

A few weeks later, I got a letter in the mail that I was 'liable' for $600 in damages, because they'd had to 'replace the hood'. I wrote them back a letter by certified mail that:

A) I picked it up in a dark lot and wasn't able to inspect the car to begin with;
B) I tried exactly once to reclose the hood, because I thought the mechanic had left it ajar. After one try, I realized it was broken, and didn't touch it further.
C) The car had 40,000 miles on it, and a broken latch was very likely to be from simple wear and tear, since they open the hood every time the car is rented.
D) Replacing the whole hood for a $5 latch is ridiculous.
E) I'm not liable, and if you want to go to court about this, I'd be perfectly happy to do so. I took good care of your car. Your suit, if you filed one, would be so unreasonable that it seems likely the judge would award defendant's attorney fees as well.

I sent that back by certified/return receipt mail, and heard nothing further from them.
posted by Malor at 9:14 PM on May 9, 2006

Best answer: I'd sic the dealer on 'em. One time I had my Elantra in for service and the dealer got me a car from Enterprise. Well, I was interested in trying out a Prius so I asked what I'd have to pay extra to upgrade and decided to go for it, it was only like $10 over what the dealer was paying. The dealer, however, went berserk on them and made them issue me a refund! I felt like calling Enterprise to apologize. So, yeah, assuming your dealer is a good one, let them deal with the issue.
posted by kindall at 10:03 PM on May 9, 2006

Enterprise must vary a lot from area to area. I've always had great experiences (Twin Cities, NC, Texas...everywhere except in Chicago).

That said...bcnarc has the best response so far.
posted by gimonca at 5:42 AM on May 10, 2006

I have to say that I've rented from Enterprise numerous times and never had any problems.

The same is true of me, but that was several years ago, and from caddis's links it sounds like they've gone downhill. Too bad; they used to be cheap, reliable, and friendly.
posted by languagehat at 5:45 AM on May 10, 2006

We rented a car from Enterprise over a weekend (let's say it was the 9th and 10th of the month). A couple months later we received hate mail from the Chicago Police for a parking ticket that had been applied to the vehicle we rented, but on the 20th of the month!

The Chicago Police informed us that Enterprise had provided them with my name, address, driver's license number and credit card. I don't know how on Earth the jerks at Enterprise decided that it was yours truly who had earned the ticket. Needless to say, I won't rent another car from those bastards.
posted by daveleck at 6:16 AM on May 10, 2006

Best answer: Saturn fucked up by not having a loaner for you too. If it wasn't for the dealership, you wouldn't have ever had that rental. Call the GM of the Saturn dealership and be polite, but firm with it being their problem, not yours.

If it would have happened to me, I would not have accepted the car in that condition. I would have told the dealer that the loaner was unacceptable. If all that Enterprise branch had available was that POS Kia they gave you or a new Lexus, they'd give you the Lexus and charge Saturn their rate to keep their business. If they couldn't have resolved it with Enterprise, I'm sure they'd "find" a car on the lot that you could have used for the day or they could have called another rental agency. If they couldn't, I'd get my car back -- if it was operable and safe to drive of course back, and said I'd be back the next day for the work. I would also call the dealership GM to tell him about the situation.

It is in the Saturn dealer's best interest to make sure you're happy because whatever the rental cost of that car for the day it is far less than losing your future business. Of course this all history now, but don't let people take advantage of the situation. You spent a lot of money on your car, and they promised a loaner for service appointments. They didn't.

Definitely don't ignore this since each Enterprise is franchised and that branch will try and screw you. But go through the dealer since they have the deal with Enterprise. They also have the most to lose if you decide that this is a reason to remove that dealership from your choice for your next car -- and if you get static from the dealer, then call Saturn corporate.
posted by birdherder at 7:00 AM on May 10, 2006

Enterprise in Northern Virginia was always terrific-- friendly and affordable.

hatsix's advice on the BBB, and bcnarc's advice about not just letting it go, sound sensible to me, as does others' (malor et al) advice on cc'ing letters to the dealer and state atty gen.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:03 AM on May 10, 2006

Enterprise is not franchised. Which, I think, is to your benefit as you only need to get one person in corporate to care about your issue and he/she can direct the local office to leave you alone without any sort of corporate/franchise turf battle.
posted by Mid at 7:47 AM on May 10, 2006

I own a kia and that type of mechanical issue should be covered under their warranty, unless they do not get that full warranty for fleet sales. Good Luck
posted by johnd101 at 7:49 AM on May 10, 2006

This is a common way for the Kia Rio to break. My brother just went through this same issue, but of course it was covered under the warranty.

I would argue that a known mechanical defect in the car is not your problem.

Good luck!
posted by Sheppagus at 10:14 AM on May 10, 2006

sheppagus is right - it's fairly common.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 1:42 PM on May 10, 2006

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