Need advice on nightmare experience with Dollar in Spokane

 
Old Oct 23, 11, 2:40 pm
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Need advice on nightmare experience with Dollar in Spokane

I rented a car from Dollar Rent a Car at the Spokane Airport on 8/18/2011. I arrived late (nearly midnight). When the gentleman at the counter (an employee named Jacob) processed my contract, it was about $100 more than my reservation amount. When I questioned why it was so much more than my reservation, he told me that it was my "frequent flyer miles and prepaid gasoline" and that the amount was correct. I indicated that I would fill up the gas tank and to remove the prepaid tank. Although I explicitly asked to have it removed, they said they don't trust customers to fill up on short trips so they require it for everyone, despite the fact that it was not part of my reservation. I insisted that they match my reservation dollar amount and remove all optional insurances. The man attempted to attribute the difference in cost on my reservation as the "cost of frequent flyer miles." After I asked for the frequent flyer miles to be removed, he admitted that he'd charged me for roadside assistance insurance, despite my explicit request that it be removed. I left the office frustrated, but tired and desiring to move on. I drove to Grand Coulee and parked the car. I didn't drive it again until early Saturday, when I returned it (8/20/11). There were no problems with the car.

A few days after my rental, I called their rental counter to share the experience I'd had with their counter salesperson, Jacob. I specifically asked to speak with the manager, George Brown, but was told he was unavailable. I shared my negative experience with the person who answered the phone.

About a week later, I received notice from an insurance company in Utah stating that I'd "damaged the rocker panel of the car." I did not damage their car in any way. When I returned the car, no damage was mentioned by their staff. It was clear that this was retaliation by the local employees as a result of my complaint. Irate at their false claims of damage, I contacted their main office and spoke with Lynne Bennett, the office manager. I related the details of my story and she indicated that she would look into the situation after speaking with the owner, Bernadette Curry (who also owns Thrifty Rent a Car in Spokane). I received a call from Bernadette and she told me that the damage was minor and that it would be dismissed. In the course of that conversation, I indicated that I was appreciative of their responsiveness, but I intended to take my weekly rental business to another rental car company. A few weeks later, I received a call from their insurance person, Ricky Nelson saying that I was responsible for the damage. Upon sending an email to Lynne and Bernadette, they both responded that they would "take care of it" and dismiss the claim with the insurance processor. They both sent emails confirming that the issue was dismissed.

About a week ago, I received a call from someone in their office (Jeanette) once again asking me to return my weekly business to Dollar. I again indicated that I'd moved to another company, and had no intention of going back to Dollar.

Two days after refusing to go back to Dollar for my future rental needs, I received a second call from Ricky Nelson saying that Dollar had changed their minds, that the damage to the car was "significant" and I would be responsible for $2000+ in damage. He was unable to provide any details regarding specifics or pictures.

At no time during the nearly 2 months that I'd been talking to Dollar did they ever indicate that there was significant damage to the car. It wasn't until I rebuffed their advances for future business did they claim that I'd significantly damaged their car. It's clear that this is retaliation. There are two issues at hand here –

#1. The business is forcing the bundling of their optional insurance and prepaid gas. A quick google search for this specific company will show a number of reviews and customer comments that this is a common business practice of Spokane Dollar Rent a Car.

#2. The company is attempting to retaliate against me for taking my future business elsewhere. They’re attributing damage to me that I did not do. They’ve escalated the condition of the damage from minor to major once I said I was going elsewhere. I just got a $6,363 bill from them for damage I didn't do.

I'm genuinely stunned that they're trying to pin this on me. I've been documenting the details at www.dollarnightmare.com

I've contacted the BBB and AG's office of Washington. I'm in the process of working with an attorney, but I'm wondering if there are any other best practices I should consider to fight their dishonest behavior?
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Old Oct 23, 11, 3:29 pm
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This sounds like another case of buyer beware with franchises. Other posters have said that Dollar/Thrifty franchises elsewhere also like to tack on pre-paid fuel.

Here's what I would have done differently:

Don't ask "Why is this rate so high?" but rather "Why is this rate different than what I booked?" That reinforces that the reserved rate should be honored, whether it's low or high. Low and high are relative terms, and hence ripe for counter agent interpretation and attempted persuasion.

If you call the location to complain, merely ask whomever answers if there is a manager around. Giving your name and other complaint details to the counter staff might make them defensive of their friends, and of course they will say no manager is available.

After they dropped the damage claim, I would not have said anything about taking future business elsewhere. I would have said it to persuade them to drop the damage claim, but not after they agreed to drop the claim of their own accord.

Of course take your business elsewhere, but quietly. As in, don't make any new reservations with them, and cancel online the ones you still have pending. Eventually the location will see it in their computer, but by then it could be harder for them to retaliate, especially if the damage claim was long closed. Speaking up about it alerted them to watch for a sudden and steep loss of business, while they were processing the damage claim. Any drop in business will be a heavy loss for a small franchise. That's probably why they called begging you to come back.

Expecting an unsatisfied customer to return is silly. But at the point they decided to retaliate, they probably figured you're not coming back anyway, so further angering you doesn't bother them. They just want/need your money, however that's achieved.
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Old Oct 23, 11, 4:13 pm
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thanks... yeah, in hindsight, I agree with everything you've said. Lesson learned. It became clear that once I said I was moving to Avis, they were done with me and intended to retaliate. You're right, it would have been best to just go quietly.

I received a claim from PurCo this weekend. If it's gone this far, they must have some damage on the car, I just can't prove that it was NOT during my car rental period.

They're claiming "off roading" and undercarriage damage to the tune of $6k, which is completely absurd since the car sat in a parking lot at a hotel, except for the time it was being driven to/from the airport.

Since it's clearly retaliation (damage claims only after I rebuffed them), I'm wondering if there are any other remedies available?

If nothing else, since forcing insurance/gas seems and making false damage claims seems to be a pattern with this specific franchise I want to make sure that others don't fall into the same trap in Spokane.
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Old Oct 23, 11, 4:41 pm
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I'd report them and their practices to the State of Washington Attorney General.
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Old Oct 24, 11, 9:49 pm
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Thanks. Yeah, I did that. I also reported them to the BBB.
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Old Oct 24, 11, 9:59 pm
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I had the same prepaid fuel nonsense at Dollar in MIA, my guess is there is decent breakage on fuel returned unused and they get a commission on it.

For me it was ridiculous, I did about 150 miles in a Dodge Charger with a full tank prepaid and took it back about 7/8 full

The same guy also lied through his teeth to me telling me that I needed a toll pass when I was 100% certain that I didn't.

Screw 'em, I won't be going back, and thanks to the OP for warning FT about their sharky practices too
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Old Oct 25, 11, 6:06 am
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Dollar at MIA is corporate. (look at their FL driveout) Prepaid fuel is usually a losing proposition for the customer.

The toll pass depends. In south FL, there are a lot of non-interstate toll expressways, that no longer accept cash. If you stick to I-95 or I-75, that shouldn't be a problem, but those don't go everywhere you might want to. The other rental companies have a different, many would say better, toll system: You use it, you pay the cash rate, plus a $2.50/rental day fee. Dollar has pre-paid tolling, which means you pay $6.99 upfront, no matter what the tolls. South FL is not NY or NJ. Tolls are usually 75 cents to $1.50. The Dollar customer likely overpaid.
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Old Oct 25, 11, 7:50 am
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Originally Posted by Auto Enthusiast View Post
Dollar at MIA is corporate. (look at their FL driveout) Prepaid fuel is usually a losing proposition for the customer.

The toll pass depends. In south FL, there are a lot of non-interstate toll expressways, that no longer accept cash. If you stick to I-95 or I-75, that shouldn't be a problem, but those don't go everywhere you might want to. The other rental companies have a different, many would say better, toll system: You use it, you pay the cash rate, plus a $2.50/rental day fee. Dollar has pre-paid tolling, which means you pay $6.99 upfront, no matter what the tolls. South FL is not NY or NJ. Tolls are usually 75 cents to $1.50. The Dollar customer likely overpaid.
In my case I was only driving up to Boca on the I-95. The agent at MIA offered me the sunpass because "the turnpike no longer accepts cash" which correct me if I am wrong but it is $6.99 per day (not clear from your post) I actually don't know the way on the turnpike, hence I was going up the I-95, I told him this.

He replied that the "I-95 now has tolls and they only accept sunpass" which is a barefaced lie pitched at someone that has just turned up from overseas that may not know otherwise. Upselling one thing, lying is quite something else.

Edit to add: In such an instance I don't really recognise what the relevance is of a station being franchised or corporate
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Old Oct 26, 11, 12:46 pm
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Originally Posted by BrandonJ View Post
Thanks. Yeah, I did that. I also reported them to the BBB.
Sorry to hear about your experience. Sounds like a true nightmare and I hope it get worked out.

Good call reporting it to the State Attorney General and documenting everything. Many people only call the BBB, which is one of the great jokes in the business community.

Mike
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Old Oct 26, 11, 6:50 pm
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In my case I was only driving up to Boca on the I-95. The agent at MIA offered me the sunpass because "the turnpike no longer accepts cash" which correct me if I am wrong but it is $6.99 per day (not clear from your post) I actually don't know the way on the turnpike, hence I was going up the I-95, I told him this.

$6.99 per day. You're right.

Edit to add: In such an instance I don't really recognise what the relevance is of a station being franchised or corporate

Franchises often have unusual rules, with limited corporate oversight. So the Dollar franchise in Spokane can do certain things, like requiring pre-payment for fuel, being very attentive to minor scratches, etc. that corporate Dollar locations do not do, and thus most people are not expecting.
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Old Oct 26, 11, 6:59 pm
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Try touching base with the Spokane Convention & Visitors Bureau as well as Greater Spokane Inc -- the chamber of commerce.

Also check out the local newspaper's website, www.spokesman.com and send an email to one of the business reporters.

Another possibility, touch base with the airport director, Lawrence Krauter, 9000 W. Airport Dr. #204, Spokane, WA 99224. (509) 455-6455. He would be in charge of the county/city board that has the contract for them to use their on-airport space.

Last edited by dgreen12; Oct 26, 11 at 7:06 pm
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Old Oct 27, 11, 6:03 pm
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Originally Posted by JohnnyColombia View Post
I had the same prepaid fuel nonsense at Dollar in MIA, my guess is there is decent breakage on fuel returned unused and they get a commission on it.

For me it was ridiculous, I did about 150 miles in a Dodge Charger with a full tank prepaid and took it back about 7/8 full

The same guy also lied through his teeth to me telling me that I needed a toll pass when I was 100% certain that I didn't.

Screw 'em, I won't be going back, and thanks to the OP for warning FT about their sharky practices too
Yeah I wonder what is up with that? I work for a Rental Car Company in D.C. and I have seen one way customers being charged for this when there was not a physical pass. Even the management did not know what was going on.
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Old Oct 28, 11, 12:06 pm
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Originally Posted by dgreen12 View Post
Try touching base with the Spokane Convention & Visitors Bureau as well as Greater Spokane Inc -- the chamber of commerce.

Also check out the local newspaper's website, www.spokesman.com and send an email to one of the business reporters.

Another possibility, touch base with the airport director, Lawrence Krauter, 9000 W. Airport Dr. #204, Spokane, WA 99224. (509) 455-6455. He would be in charge of the county/city board that has the contract for them to use their on-airport space.
Great ideas... hadn't thought of any of them. Thanks for that.

What's interesting is that I got a message from the person that handles their claims earlier in the week asking if I'd turned it into my insurance yet. I called him back and reiterated that I didn't do the damage, so why would I submit to my insurance?

I imagine that 99% of the time when someone is falsely blamed for damage, they don't want the hassle and just turn it over to insurance. If this hadn't come on the heels of them forcing their pre-paid gas and insurance on me, I probably would have as well.
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Old Oct 28, 11, 12:18 pm
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You might be required by your insurance policy to inform them of the claim.

Sometimes your own policy will provide lawyers or investigate, so you might want them to be involved.
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Old Oct 28, 11, 12:24 pm
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Don't forget your own auto insurance

Make sure that there isn't a time limit for notification for your own auto insurance and same for the credit card used and any other coverages which might exist.

First, these are pros at spotting and dealing with fraud. Your own carrier may be your most powerful ally.

Second, in the final analysis, if you lose, you don't want to be stuck eating 100% of the claim personally.

Third, if this was work-related, make sure your employer's carrier knows. Again, they can be helpful and, if the claim against you succeeds, better to have coverage than not.
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