The Travel Troubleshooter: A “little dent” adds $500 to my car rental bill

Question: We rented a car from Enterprise in Phoenix. When we picked up the car, a representative inspected it with us. My husband noted a couple small marks, but she said we shouldn’t worry because “anything under four inches” was waived.

We drove on some dirt roads, so the car was quite dusty when we returned it and to say the representative eagerly went around the car like Sherlock Holmes looking for clues would be an understatement. She found a small scratch on the left rear bumper, which appeared to be possibly from someone backing into us, as we knew it wasn’t done by our usage.

Before one could blink, we were hauled over to the processing office and our $256 bill jumped to $772 — of course, taken from our credit card without our authorization. Trying to get through to the rep assigned to handle our claim is impossible as she never is available on the phone. But her assistant was very helpful in informing us that the bill for repairing what he even admitted from the photos was a small, quite insignificant flaw was more than $500.

When I challenged him on how in the world a small dent could cost $440 he said actually anything under a thousand from a shop is a bargain.

This is a total preplanned scam and the way the check-in rep went over ever square inch of the car with such enthusiasm there is little doubt these folks are being cut in for finding things wrong with the cars.

We are reasonable people and understand that even if someone backed into us if there was a small scratch we would be willing to pay a small amount to cover what is fair for repairing it. But more than $500, including an “administrative fee” is totally unacceptable. — Carri Schoeller, Orlando, Fla.

Answer: Your suspicions are understandable. Why would one employee waive you off, while another one goes over the car with a fine-tooth comb? And why deduct the $500 from your credit card immediately when the full repair costs aren’t known yet? Whatever happened to the damage estimate? Weren’t you entitled to receive a repair bill, detailing the work that had been done on your rental?
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