Case dismissed: The valet service damaged our rental, but we got the bill

Car rental damage cases are usually disputes between two parties — the renter and the agency. But not always.

Ron Goldstein recently rented a car from Thrifty in Los Angeles. He left the car with a parking valet at the DoubleTree by Hilton Guest Suites Santa Monica. It’s a decent hotel about a block from where the 10 freeway ends, and street parking isn’t really an option.

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And then things took a turn for the worse.

He explains,

When we were leaving the hotel, we noticed the front bumper had been damaged by the valet and filed a damage report with the hotel and valet service. Also, took pictures of the damages.

When we returned the car to Thrifty, we filled out the damage report and their subrogation department sent us a bill. We explained the situation, that the valet service was at fault, and they said Thrifty would bill the service.

In other words, the car rental agency agreed to take up the matter with DoubleTree’s valet service. I’ve never heard of a damage claim being handled in that way, and I think it’s nice of Thrifty to consider a third party in this claim. Unfortunately, DoubleTree’s valet didn’t pay up.

Four months later we get a nasty collections call from Thrifty saying that they did not get payment from the valet
service and that if we did not pay the bill it would go to collections and we would be put on a national “no rent” list.

Is this a common occurrence and have you heard of others having this issue?

The answer is, no. It’s very uncommon, to have a claim handled in this way. Hotel valet services don’t like to pay claims, and the responsibility for any damage to a rental car is with the driver, ultimately.

I did, however, think it was worth contacting Thrifty about this case. Maybe it had additional information about Goldstein’s first damage claim that led it to take the matter up with DoubleTree.

A representative shared Thrifty’s conclusions:

Although our subrogation team agreed to contact the third party as a service gesture, the claim remains the responsibility of the renter.

The hotel has not responded to our requests to assist with the claim. Unfortunately, Mr. Goldstein will have to negotiate the claim and pursue the hotel on his own accord.

So Thrifty was just being nice about this claim, at least initially. DoubleTree stonewalled their request to pay up, and the responsibility for the bill reverts back to Goldstein.

If the valet service acknowledged the responsibility for the damage, and there’s a paper trail to prove that it did, then Goldstein should have no trouble convincing it to pay. He might apply a little pressure by contacting one of DoubleTree’s executives.

I would be a little put off by a “nasty” collections call from Thrifty and the threat of being placed on a “do not rent” list. But let’s take a closer look at both points made by the caller. If this goes on Goldstein’s credit report, the damage would probably be minimal. Collection agencies have a tendency to exaggerate the likely effects of a dispute and routinely omit important information about your rights.

As for the “no-rent” list — puh-leeze! There are plenty of other car rental companies out there. That’s the equivalent of a customer saying, “I’ll never fly on your airline again!” As if that will make the company change its mind. (It won’t.)

I’m handing this off to DoubleTree and its valet service, which should pay for the fender bender.

(Photo: hij ukal/Flickr)

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