A car rental damage case takes a strange twist

Here’s an update on a car rental case that was denied and then un-denied. It involves a Rent-A-Wreck franchise, a customer from Philadelphia, and corporate Rent-A-Wreck.

I can hardly believe the way it ended, and neither will you.

Back in October, I wrote about Tom Brouillette, who rented a car from Rent-A-Wreck in Albuquerque, NM. He’d bought car rental insurance, but when one of the tires on his vehicle blew out, the franchisee tried to charge him for the damage.

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After the post appeared, corporate Rent-A-Wreck decided to cut Brouillette a check for $117, covering the cost of replacing the tire in full. It apparently didn’t consult with its franchisee before making the decision, but the move made good PR sense.

But there was just one small problem: Brouillette had already disputed the $117 charge on his credit card. He’d also cashed the check from corporate, and now the car rental franchisee was faced with the time-consuming process of answering the dispute and reversing the credit.

That’s when Rick Voccio, the president of the Rent-A-Wreck franchise in Albuquerque, contacted me. He explained the situation and said he’d tried to persuade Brouillette to drop his dispute, but hadn’t heard from him.

I’ve never mediated a case for a supplier, but I thought Voccio could use some help. So I suggested that he start a paper trail, and copy me on the correspondence. Obviously, Rent-A-Wreck shouldn’t have to pay $117 twice to Brouillette, or anyone else.

Here’s his first email to Brouillette:

I am contacting you today to resolve an issue that we have discovered. It appears that you disputed the amount of $117.92 on November 6, 2011 with your credit card company with regards to your vehicle rental between August 5, 2011 and August 17, 2011.

As a result, they have deducted this amount from our account and refunded it back to you.

However, Rent-A-Wreck of America stated they contacted you on October 31, 2011 and agreed to refund you; they sent you a check on November 1, 2011 in the amount of $117.

Would you be so kind to contact your credit card company and rescind the dispute so that they will refund us back the $117.92?

Brouillette didn’t respond. So I tried to contact him. Here’s what I wrote to him:

Hi Tom, I just heard from the Rent-A-Wreck franchise you were dealing with. I’m told that corporate refunded your tire and that you then disputed the other charge for the tire. They are asking that you drop the second dispute, since you would otherwise be compensated twice.

Have you heard anything from Rent a Wreck since your story ran?

I received no response to that, either.

Was Brouillette trying to double-dip on his car rental claim? I’ll never know, since he didn’t respond to my email.

Sometimes, customers feel as if any extra compensation they receive can be for “pain and suffering.” This is particularly true for travel insurance claims, which can be so tedious that travelers often feel they deserve to be paid for the trouble of filling out the forms.

Brouillette may have also thought that corporate Rent-A-Wreck was sending the $117 as a goodwill gesture, although that would be a little bit of a stretch.

But the bottom line is, it’s wrong to keep the extra money.

A few weeks later, I received an update from Voccio.

I hope that you were able to view the emails that we Bcc’d to you regarding Mr. Brouillette. He has not answered either email to date.

I did check with Visa to see if maybe he called them, but just didn’t bother letting us know (which I was hoping) however, they confirmed that he did not call to cancel the chargeback.

So, at this point, he has been paid twice for his claim…we believe he knows it also. We will need to send all the documentation into Visa for their review and wait to see if they will refund us.

And then, last week, Voccio reported that the matter was closed.

Just wanted to let you know that we did not hear from Mr. Brouillette; however, based on our documentation that we submitted to the credit card company, we were refunded the chargeback originally deducted from our account in the amount of $117.92.

I’m really unhappy with the way this case ended. While I think Brouillette’s car insurance should have covered him, and that it shouldn’t have ever come to a dispute, I can’t believe that he’d ignore requests by both the franchisee and me to drop what appears to be an invalid credit card dispute.

Update (Feb. 21, 2012):

Brouillette responds:

Thank you for your work on my behalf. I was unaware that there was anything about my situation actually posted on your web site regarding my dispute with Rent-A-Wreck in Albuquerque. I had heard that you did this kind of mediation from a friend of mine, who suggested I write to you about the dispute. I never followed up by looking on your web site to see if anything was there (I know you asked if you could write something for it, and I said yes, but that was the end of it and I never looked at what had been written–until today*).

I had no impression from Mr. Voccio that any kind of pressure ever influenced him. He never apologized, or took any responsibility. Rent-A-Wreck corporate headquarters sent me the $117 for the tire, but also assumed no responsibility. I never asked HQ for any money–I didn’t see it as their responsibility. I only hoped that the Albuquerque franchise would feel some pressure to reimburse me. Mr. Voccio seemed uninterested in a resolution in my favor. I didn’t even know that what you had posted had made any difference: neither he or Rent-A-Wreck mentioned anything about that, and I wasn’t reading your web site, either.

My reply in the long list of comments more-or-less sums up what happened afterward. By the time Corporate Rent-A-Wreck had agreed to send money, I had already started the charge-back. I waited to make sure the check would arrive. Then my work life became intensely busy. Mr. Voccio contacted you claiming that he was being treated unfairly, when there was no intention for me to do that. I thought that Mr. Voccio would simply re-run the credit card for the amount and that I did not need to do anything further (I thought that was the usual protocol). Mr. Voccio finally did ask me to contact the credit card company to let them know they should pay him, and I got around to this back in December. Mr. Voccio says that he got his money after presenting “documentation.” However, he told me that I had to take some positive action. My own busy life was the only thing in the way of making the call. I assume the money issue has been fully resolved for about two months now.

However, your posting about this taking on a “strange twist” is defamation. Your using his erroneous comments and the fact that you didn’t hear from me as fodder for your web site is actually the strange twist. You and subsequent commentators make a number of assumptions about what I did or did not do. Why did you write this? That I did not respond to you was only a function of not seeing your emails. Here is what you post:

*****

Brouillette didn’t respond. So I tried to contact him. Here’s what I wrote to him:

Hi Tom, I just heard from the Rent-A-Wreck franchise you were dealing with. I’m told that corporate refunded your tire and that you then disputed the other charge for the tire. They are asking that you drop the second dispute, since you would otherwise be compensated twice.

Have you heard anything from Rent a Wreck since your story ran?

I received no response to that, either.

Was Brouillette trying to double-dip on his car rental claim? I’ll never know, since he didn’t respond to my email.

*****

You do obviously valuable work, but inferring by your question that I may have been “trying to double-dip” is irresponsible.