Sorry, wrong address: Enterprise turns down Expedia customer at the counter

loganReaders of this site are probably familiar with car rental companies’ no-rent lists. But did you know that there are other instances in which a company might refuse you a car — even if you have a completely legitimate reservation?

David Larson stumbled upon one of those reasons when he tried to rent a car from Enterprise in Boston recently. He explains:

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I recently made a reservation with Enterprise Rent A Car at Boston Logan Airport. I made the reservation through Expedia. I live in Boston proper and this location is open late nights when I wanted to rent the car.

Upon getting to the airport counter the agent and then the manager told me I wasn’t allowed to rent a car from the airport location because of Enterprise policy. They wanted proof of having flown into the airport, something that wasn’t mentioned on the Expedia site. Even after repeatedly mentioning the valid reservation from Expedia (with whom I would assume they have some marketing agreements), the manager wouldn’t rent me a car.

I had to wander around the airport parking lots at 10 p.m. and finally got a car at almost three times the cost at Alamo (which Enterprise owns, ironically).

Is this policy discriminatory and/or illegal? Could I contact the State Attorney General?

I checked Enterprise’s site to see if I could find any information about its don’t-rent-to-locals policy. I couldn’t.

Is this policy discriminatory? Absolutely.

Illegal? I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer, but I think the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office might be able to answer that question.

I contacted Enterprise on Larson’s behalf. A few days later, I received the following update:

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I received a phone message from Bill Fobiano at Enterprise at Logan Airport. He said he would be sending me a refund for the difference in costs of the car from Alamo, about $70 via a check to me in the mail within about a week.

He said it is standard policy to shuttle people to Alamo in cases like mine, where someone who doesn’t have an airline ticket shows up to rent. I think this is a crock.

The gentleman at Alamo that night was well aware that this policy had sent many individuals to their location and that almost all were very angry on arrival. The Enterprise agent at the time, never mentioned a courtesy shuttle or a discount as Mr. Fobiano had indicated on the phone today.

I also happen to know this policy exists at other Enterprise airport locations throughout the country. I think it has to do with the fact that only relatively recently has Enterprise broken into the “on airport” market. I suspect a non-compete clause with Alamo and National at the time of their acquisition. That doesn’t make it legal though from a public standpoint.

I think this policy is illegal, the notion of me contacting the State Attorney General frightens the management and they generally could have cared less if it weren’t for someone in the media (you).

I still intend to write a formal letter to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Attorney General. This would have far reaching consequences for Enterprise if the ruling were upheld in my favor.

I agree that Enterprise’s policy is troublesome. At the very least, it should be clear about its apparent rule of not renting to people with a local address at an airport location.

(Photo: David Larson/Flickr Creative Commons)