Are car rental employees rewarded for finding dings and dents on your vehicle?

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Christopher Elliott

The allegation that car rental companies have turned the damage claims process into a profit center is so common, I could probably write an entire blog on it.

I just covered one big case with Thrifty — still unresolved — that triggered some discussion. Here’s another interesting Thrifty case. And here’s yet another incident.

But one customer now alleges that car rental employees are being offered a 5 percent kickback every time they find a new ding or dent on a rental car. I think that’s worth investigating.

The charge comes from Juanita Ruf, who recently rented from Enterprise in Las Vegas. She writes,

When I pulled in to get the car it had multiple dings and scratches. The guy who checked me in kept saying, “Don’t worry about that, that is small, we don’t worry about that.”

I rent often from Enterprise or Budget, I am a 59-year-old CPA and very careful. I’ve never had a problem before. When I pulled in to deliver the car I noticed something very strange about the gentleman’s behavior who was checking me in. He ran around the car several times and saw a small dent that was near the right rear well and said that I had caused the damage.

The only thing I can think of is that this is one of the double-dipping fraudulent issues. My cell phone doesn’t have a camera, so I borrowed a cell phone camera from a young man who worked for another rental car company. The dent was very small, and can hardly be seen on the picture. The young man who I borrowed the cell phone from said he had heard they get 5 percent when they find something.

I’ve never encountered anything like this. Although I have insurance, I don’t want to pay for damage I didn’t cause. What can be done?

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I contacted Enterprise to get its side of the story. A representative said Ruf’s case would be closed in the interests of providing good customer service. As to the kickback allegation,

Apparently one of our competitors, who shall remain nameless, made a comment to this customer that employees receive some sort of 5 percent kickback — complete nonsense, of course. I believe the customer now understands this is simply not true.

What do you think? Are car rental companies rewarding their employees for finding damage to their vehicles, that can then be turned into a claim?

Are damage claims a profit center?

I’ve been covering this business for a while, and I can say this: The reputable operators probably wouldn’t dream of doing something like this.

But maybe there are smaller, ethically challenged companies, who see this as an opportunity. I wouldn’t be surprised if a car rental company somewhere was offering this kind of incentive to its agents.

(Photo: Spider Hill/Flickr Creative Commons)

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.

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