That’s how Judy Nagy, one of our forum advocates, responded to Michael McDougall when he shared his ridiculous, improbable, and apparently unresolvable case involving a frivolous claim on a Budget car rental.
McDougall rented a car in Fort Myers, Fla., last year.
“While checking us out of the parking garage, the attendant, whose name was April, notified us that she saw a small dent in the vehicle and asked us if we would like to switch to a different vehicle or just have her document the pre-existing damage on this one,” he says.
McDougall said he didn’t mind. But a month after he returned it, he was broadsided by a bill.
“It was vague in detail, just stating we returned a vehicle with damages and that we owed over $600 for the repair,” he says.
McDougall’s case turned bizarre — yes, I’ll use the word, too — when Budget told him by phone that the claim was a mistake, but then referred the matter to a third party.
“I received a letter from Viking Collection Services stating my case was sent to collections,” he says. “It lists the creditor as Avis/Budget and references an amount of $660. The letter is again pretty vague, but it states the rhetoric about having 30 days to dispute the claim and they have to send you documentation about the original creditor.”
And you know what they say? Don’t mess with the Vikings.
But McDougall did mess with these Vikings. His forum thread continues for several months until he persuades Budget and Viking to abandon their collection efforts. It’s fascinating reading.
The story doesn’t end here. It turns out other renters have had similar run-ins with Viking. Some of them report the same frustrating experience of a vague damage claim, accompanied by threats to pay up — or else.
Viking has a long track record of questionable practices. I had to stop reading the stories after the one about the woman who was killed in a car accident and whose family received a call from a Viking representative at the funeral home.
Debt collection is a legitimate business, but there are illegitimate ways of practicing it. Based on the comments I’ve read, I’d say Viking may need some ethics remediation.
The question that remains is: Why would any car rental company do business with these predators? I mean, it isn’t as if the car rental companies don’t have enough reputation problems already. Why add to it by sending in these Vikings?
Budget isn’t being true to itself. Consider its mission statement, which promises:
We will consistently deliver a quality product, friendly service and great value that make customers confident that Budget is their best car rental choice.
Quality product? Friendly service? Great value?
I think McDougall would dispute that. Our forum advocates would dispute that. I would dispute that, too.
Associating with a debt-collection sweatshop like Viking does not align with Budget’s mission. Full stop.
In the meantime, here’s what you can do to stay out of trouble:
- Don’t accept a damaged car — ever.
- Take “before” and “after” pictures of your car — always.
- Insist on proper documentation of any alleged damages — every single time.
For more information on handling frivolous car rental claims, check out our frequently asked questions about car rentals.
Stay out of trouble when you’re on the road, my friends. And avoid Vikings — if you can.