A good samaritan makes up for a bad Thrifty car rental

Sometimes, things need to go bad to reveal the good.

The bad was Janice and Lewis Weisblum’s recent car rental experience in Hawaii. It ended with Janice Weisblum leaving her passport in the vehicle.

The good? Her name is Stephanie Rodriguez, the next renter of the same car – and a medically-challenged single mom from Alaska. She found Weisblum’s ID, tracked her down on her own, and personally saw to the passport’s safe return.

More on Rodriguez in a moment.

But first, a shoutout to the TSA for letting Weisblum through security using just a Costco photo ID. That is not formally listed as acceptable ID by the TSA. Who knew shopping in bulk had other benefits?

While I’ve heard of such flexibility, this could have easily gone the other way. With a lot of bad press, it is nice to see the TSA exercising good judgment.

Cheers to the Weisblums for not just telling us about what went wrong, but even more importantly, what went right about their extraordinary Samaritan.

And jeers to the cold and uncaring Thrifty Car Rental office.

The bad news

After Rodriguez found Weisblum’s ID, she contacted Thrifty to try to reunite her with her passport. But she says Thrifty didn’t care to deal with it.

A Thrifty rep referred her to its impersonal online reporting form. But time was of the essence. After all, we’re talking about someone’s passport.

Here’s the kicker: The Weisblums are loyal Blue Chip Express Rental Program customers. And this is how their loyalty is rewarded?

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Tsk, tsk.

But that pales in comparison to the Weisblum’s actual rental experience with the clunkers Thrifty gave them in Hawaii.

Yes, clunkers – plural.

The first one was very high mileage, riddled with dents, and unsafe.

“While in Kona, Hawaii, we rented a wreck from Thrifty with 56,000 miles and dents all over the car,” says Janice Weisblum. “It drove like a wreck, also.”

But after exchanging it for an even worse clunker, they were stranded.

“We exchanged it for another wreck that lost its brakes while we were driving to Akaka Falls State Park,” she added. “We waited there all morning while a tow truck came with a different car.”

And then, the final insult.

“When I contacted Thrifty’s customer service, they sent me $50 in coupons for a future rental — like that might ever happen,” she remembers.

Ouch. It makes you wonder what Thrifty might have done if the Weisblum’s were not loyalty program members.

But wait – enough with the bad news. I’m the good news guy. Hang in there.

The good news

When Rodriguez called the Weisblums after everyone had returned home, they learned the passport might not even have been found if not for Rodriguez’s companion: her attentive 11-year-old son, Skyler.

“Skyler discovered the passport on the floor of the car,” says Weisblum.

(Wait – didn’t Thrifty check over, or minimally clean, the car after the last rental?)

Many of us might have just dropped the passport off at the nearest Thrifty office.

Rodriguez had every reason to say, “Not my problem.”

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She’s a struggling single mom preoccupied with medical challenges from a double lung transplant. The Hawaii trip was a celebration on the five-year anniversary of her surgery.

When Thrifty was unwilling to disclose the Weisblum’s private contact information to Rodriguez, she remained determined. She took the passport back home to find the Weisblums on her own.

“Thankfully, she took the time and effort to track me down,” Weisblum explained. “Quite late at night, I picked up a message from Stephanie Rodriguez, who said she was looking for Janice Weisblum. That’s me!”

The rest is history.

“The passport came, and I sent her a ‘thank you’ card and a gift. She restored my faith in people and I so appreciated that she went to the trouble to track me down,” Weisblum added.

At a time of personal challenges most of us couldn’t comprehend, Rodriguez focused on someone other than herself for no other reason than to be kind.

“I never give up,” said Rodriguez.

This story originally appeared July 24, 2015.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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