Alamo! Enterprise! Dent! You Pay.

How not to rent a car

I traveled to Ireland last week. “Uuuuh…Ireland…that must have been a fun trip!” Naaah….not really. I love Ireland. However, a pressing family matter needed all of my attention this time around.

In order to be mobile I rented a car. What was advertised and sold as a $76.99 car rental for 5 days ended up a $600 extravaganza.Mistake #1:

I hired the car through Hotels.com (hoping to get a better bargain). Hotels.com then “found” me a booking at Cork International Airport through Alamo Car Rentals. Price: $76.99. Seemed reasonable…too reasonable. It told me that Alamo rentals would be serviced by Enterprise Car Rental.

Once I landed at Cork (on time) I headed to the Enterprise rental stall. No agent in sight. The sound of crickets……This was odd since at the time of booking the car, I was asked for my flight number in order to make sure everything was timed well and somebody would be there at the time of my arrival. Another couple from the States was in front of me who used the desk telephone to call for an Enterprise agent. About ten minutes later the agent, lets call him “Brian” for our purposes, showed up, apologized and got the couple on their way.

It was my turn. Brian and I chatted for a while….“Really, you studied at UCC?” …it was all very friendly and jovial.

Right, down to business: “Oh, you rented through a “third party”. Do you want the collision insurance with that? Insurance is not included with the price you paid.” Paranoid me thought “If things can go wrong, they usually will”. “How much?” I asked. At this point Brian, sitting behind the desk fiddled with things, made some calculations….“What? You don’t have a standard rate?” I thought. The insurance cost $249.44 for the 5 days (the actual price was in Euros, the price I list here is what showed up on my credit statement). The insurance had an excess amount (deductible in the US) of $277.37. It all seemed rather steep to me…but, alright, we have come this far. I’m tired (20 hour trip and counting), just get me into the damn car.

Had I gone through an actual company website, insurance might have been an option at checkout.

Mistake #2:

“Grand! Initial here, here, here and here and sign here”.

First off, the printer that Enterprise used must have been old and dilapidated. NONE of the information that was printed on the top copy (Brian’s copy), showed up on my pink copy. I asked Brian to write the rate in by hand, which he was glad enough to do.  What I did not realize at the time but noticed much later was that I had initialed the “Condition Agreed to” box. You know, the box that has a little diagram of the car you are about to rent. You mark all the dents and scratches on that diagram so you and the company knows what condition the car was in when you got it. Well, I initialed it, showing that the car had NO dents and NO scratches.

Wait a minute! I have not even seen the car yet, and I already signed off that it was in perfect condition.

Brian also pointed out that when I returned the car, the “other” agent might be there, lets call him Dennis.

Mistake #3:

Brian took me outside and showed me the car “Ohhhh, Its an Opel!!” I had not seen an Opel in a loooong time and feelings of home and familiarity swept over me…..as I would find out the moment I set off in that car, these were misplaced feelings. The automatic transmission takes about 2-5 seconds to shift up or down, during this eternity your entire body gets lunged forward because the car rapidly looses acceleration during shifting…. so as you are trying to go faster you actually go slower for the time it takes the gearbox to make up its mind. As far as cars go, a nightmare.

As Brian showed me the car he pointed out some fairly severe scratches on the wheels and the body. I thought “Sheesh, who treats a car this way?” Brian assured me that all these scratches were within Enterprise’s tolerance limit and I should not worry about it. Brian came to the drivers side rear door. And here is the clincher: I vividly remember him kneeling down and pointing to the door panel. “Here is a larger dent. We know about it. Its in our system and we will get that fixed at a later time”. Me: “Sure, no problem!” After all, I am dealing with friendly Brian here, we are in Ireland, everything is more relaxed, what can possibly go wrong?!

The 5 days came and went. I stayed at Casey’s of Baltimore. An outstanding hotel…more on that in another post.

I returned the car to the Enterprise stall, where Dennis greeted me. Dennis was nice enough, took the keys and said goodbye…I asked “Don’t I need to sign anything?” the answer was “No.”

It felt wrong, usually after I drop a rental car off, we walk around the car and make sure everything is to everybody’s satisfaction. I also said to him “You are aware of the dent on the driver’s side?” He said “Yes, we know, no problem”. Dennis was kind enough to show me where to wait for the hotel shuttle.

I must point out that the roads were wet that day and the muddy spray from the front wheel made the dent look worse. The more recessed part of the dent had less mud on it compared to the rest of the car, thereby really pointing out how deep the dent was. When the black car was clean, you could barely notice the damage.

As I was waiting for the shuttle , Dennis and Brian were looking at the car and called me over to the Opel. I was told that the same dent on the rear door had not been there before. “We would have never let the car go out like this!” Dennis said. “But you remember the dent”, I insisted. Brian replied “We know there was a dent but it was somewhere else”. At this point he was looking for a dent on the driver’s door, which was not there. Then Dennis came up with a working theory: “Maybe somebody backed into you”. We are grasping for straws at this point. Brian said “Look, you are covered with the insurance you bought.” and that I had to pay my deductible/excess fee of 250 Euros.

Right, there we were. Two agents insisting that I had put a dent in the car, a “Condition Agreed” box initialed by me, the hotel shuttle waiting. Me, exhausted from the trials and tribulations of the week. I was done. Brian reached out with his hand “Are we good then?” he asked. I said “Well, its your word against mine, but, yes, I guess we are good.” I just didn’t have it in me to argue with these two anymore. Before I left, Brian reached to shake my hand again. I thought that all that hand shaking was a bit over the top, considering the conversation we just had.

I hopped into the shuttle. The driver told me that the hotel was undergoing remodeling and that the restaurant and pub were closed. “Perfect!”, I thought, “Just perfect! What’s next?”.

That evening I though “Fine, lesson learned! Always mark all dents and scratches on the Condition Agreed box before, and never, ever, ever, and I’m a stupid arse if I do that again,  initial that box without seeing the car.

Upon returning home the issue kept nagging me. I wrote to Enterprise. They notified Alamo who then send me a nice message in a timely manner, saying that they have forwarded my complaint to the Manager of the Cork office.

The Manager contacted me the next day, when I got to explain my situation again.

Now, at this point I thought. Clearly, I’m expecting them to say: “The dent may very well have been there, we should not have let you initial the Condition Agreed box without seeing the car…we are sorry that you did not have a great experience. Please come back next time you are in Cork, we appreciate your business, allow us to refund your 250 Euros.”

Well, here is the e-mail I did get back (I changed the names to protect the innocent and the guilty):

“Thanks for your feedback Marcus,

If no one was at the desk I apologize for the delay I can see your contract here.

I have spoken to both Brian and Dennis in relation to this issue. Brian did get you to sign the vehicle before inspection but when he showed you the vehicle the damage he showed you was all below our damage evaluator which is why these mark’s you refer to on the wheels and around the vehicle were not marked. Brian didn’t mark any damage on the contract as none of the damage was above our damage evaluator.  There was no damage recorded on the driver side rear door so Brian didn’t mark any. We have checked previous contracts and can confirm this damage was not on the vehicle.

When you returned the vehicle Dennis returned the vehicle and he said he would check your vehicle while you got information on your bus from the information desk, then he would meet you immediately at the exit doors. When Dennis say (sic) the damage on the driver side rear door which was a significant size dent taking up the majority of the driver side rear door panel. Dennis then asked Brian to confirm if this damage was here and Brian confirmed the damage was not there when being checked.

On inspection of the CCTV footage, we can 100% say with out any doubt that this damage to the driver side rear door was not on the car leaving the airport. If you wish for access to view CCTV please contact Cork Airport Authority.

After Brian wrote the damage report he also said questioned if you were happy with the service and you responded that you were happy with the service and you shook Brian’s hand on 2-3 occasions confirming you were happy with this which was confirmed by Dennis. This was also recorded on our return’s log when we record every single customers response to how was the service.

Kind Regards,”

Now,

  1. We all know the high definition qualities of CCTV
  2. I shook hands to be civil, not to be agreeing that everything was hunky-dory.

Will I ever rent from Enterprise or Alamo again (and I know I will have to rent cars from Cork airport again…my mom still lives in West Cork)? I think not. Will I recommend their (dis-)service to others? Nah. So, enjoy your 250 Euros guys.

Ironically, the motto at the end of their e-mail communication reads:
“Meet and Exceed Customer Expectations”.

And there you have it Sports fans. I rented a car for $76.99…and paid $603.80. I should have taken a taxi.

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