Alamo charged me for two extra days — after I returned my car and flew home

When Rachel Lipnoski returns her Alamo car rental and dashes off to catch her flight home, she neglects to hold on to her receipt. This becomes an expensive problem when days later she receives an updated bill — one that charges her for two extra days.

Question

I rented a car from Alamo rental company for a weekend in Chicago for $119. My flight out of Midway left at 9 p.m., so I returned the rental car around 8 p.m. on Monday night.

The car was not processed as a return until Wednesday night, leaving me with a staggering $379 bill that I have no intention of paying since it was not my error.

I have tried disputing this with my credit card company, but they have the official paperwork from Alamo documenting a return on the Wednesday instead of Monday. The only thing they will accept to resolve this in my favor is that tiny slip of paper they hand you while you are running late, frantically trying to gather your belongings out of the car. By the time I started to dispute the charge I was unable to locate this receipt.

Alamo keeps sending me back and forth between corporate and the actual rental center at the Midway airport. Nobody has been able to rectify this, and they always promise to call a manager and have them call back, which they have yet to do after many, many calls.

I am outraged to get stuck with this bill. I have been trying to get my money back since February. At this point, I am desperate, even a credit will suffice. I can’t lose $260 for an error on the part of Alamo. Their customer service has been terrible thus far, and their follow-through even worse. Can you please convince Alamo that a mistake has been made? — Rachel Lipnoski, Salem, Mass.

Answer

I have always loved puzzles — finding those stubborn missing pieces is all part of the challenge. And I often approach cases in the same way.

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Unfortunately, the cornerstone of your puzzle was missing. That little receipt that would easily prove your case beyond any shadow of a doubt was nowhere to be found.

Attempts to convince Alamo of its error

I read through your paper trail and I could see that you had fought an ardent battle trying to convince Alamo that you had returned the car as scheduled.

Using our Alamo executive contacts, you implored the rental agency to return your money. You expressed your bewilderment that the company marked the car as returned on Wednesday. At that point, you had already been home for two days.

Despite your efforts, Alamo would not budge.

An unsuccessful credit card chargeback

After your attempts to resolve your problem directly with Alamo failed, you reached out to your credit card company for help. You filed a chargeback for the additional $260.

Alamo fought the chargeback and provided a return receipt for your car. This receipt showed that Alamo marked the car “officially” returned on Wednesday. Your credit card company informed you that you would be responsible for the extra charges.

Case closed? No, not so fast.

You had one more trick up your sleeve. That’s when you contacted our advocacy team.

Although you didn’t have your receipt, I thought we might be able to find some alternative ways for you to prove that you had returned your rental on time.

Proof 

A boarding pass and any Boston-area credit card receipts would prove that you had arrived home as scheduled. And if you had arrived home as scheduled it would have been impossible for you to have kept the car for two extra days. These documents made a strong case for your position.

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I contacted Enterprise, the parent company of Alamo, on your behalf. I forwarded your boarding pass that showed you took a 9:55 p.m. flight home to Boston on Monday night. Additionally, I sent credit card receipts to show that you had made purchases in Boston the next morning.

The good news

It’s hard to take a look at your evidence and refute the fact that you could not have kept your car rental in Chicago for those additional days. It would seem that your case was the result of a scanning error at Alamo.

Our executive contact at Enterprise agreed. The company has now refunded the $260. You are pleased with this final outcome and will be certain to guard your future car rental return receipts.

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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