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Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

Salt Lake City, Utah
posts: 6
Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

I recently travelled to the DC Metro area and rented a car through Alamo. Upon pick-up at the Dulles airport, I was brought out to the dimly lit garage where the attendent asked me to choose a car. Upon choosing a car, the employee simply handed me the keys and asked me to sign. He performed no inspection of the vehicle, and did not ask me to perform any sort of inspection. I was in a hurry, and I've never had trouble with rentals in the past, so I didn't think about how odd it was that the employee did not inspect the vehicle or ask me to. I drove the vehicle to my parent's home in a quiet, safe neighborhood where it remained parked for nearly a week. No damage whatsoever occurred to the vehicle, and I returned it at the Baltimore BWI airport, where I was to catch my return flight. There was no Alamo employee on duty, and signs simply directed me to park the car in a garage and leave the keys in side. That was it! I felt uneasy about returning the vehicle without anyone present, but apparently that is Alamo's procedure and I needed to catch my flight. 2 weeks later, with-out a phone call, I received a letter in the mail from Alamo's "damage recovery unit" claiming I owed $914 in damages to the vehicle, with 2 pages detailing all the extensive work that would need to be done, which was absolutely ridiculous. I know that no damage occurred at all, and I feel like I was taken advantage of. I feel like it was the employees responsibility to inspect the vehicle or at least ask me to inspect it upon check-out. I've never had such a problem with other rental car companies. Upon further research online, I've found that this sort of scam is common with Alamo/Enterprise, as many consumers have been ripped off and scammed into fraudulent "damage" charges. I can't believe this company is allowed to carry a business license. I've since filed complaints with the BBB and the Attorney General in the state of Maryland. I refuse to pay these fraudulent charges. I'd just like to warn other consumers about Alamo/Enterprise and their scamming techniques. Be careful!

Pacific Palisades...
posts: 3
reviews: 2
1. Re: Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

I too had the same problem.

I rented a car with Alamo in February, 2011. My reservation was via Priceline at a very reasonable rate which I was pleased about.

Following my check in, I was provided with a dirty, muddy car. Presumably, it was on purpose to cover up any damages. Shame on me for not looking more closely as I rent frequently and generally have never had an issue. But this time, I did not notice scratches/damage to the right rear bumper.

Upon returning the car, a team of no less than three (3) Alamo employees swooped in on me to identify the damage. I knew it was not caused by me and denied having done so.

The manager walked up to me and stated, "it's no big deal-- we can take care of it and buff it out. This is normal procedure." and attempted to assure me it would not be an issue.

They were attempting to scam me and hold me responsible for damages I did not cause.

A few weeks later I received a letter to my home with an estimate for damages. I first called the location directly and asked to speak with the manager. Instead, I was referred to their collection unit. The agent over the phone at the location even stated, "Trust me. Most customers just submit it to their insurance to make it go away. That's what management hopes will happen."

I sent several dispute letters to their collection unit with my rebuttal as to what happened including e-mails as well as the comments from the employees at the location. Alamo merely sent a responsle letter saying they were investigating my claim and would get back to me. I never heard from them.

Following that, I received a collection letter. I refused to pay and currently am in mid-dispute with a collector over the charges.

Avoid them at all costs. They will attempt to try and scam you into paying for things you aren't responsible for. I've learned my lesson and will never rent with this company again.

Maryland
Destination Expert
for Las Vegas, Washington DC, County Donegal, Western Ireland
posts: 34,743
reviews: 49
2. Re: Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

So the one thing in common that both of these posters have is...neither one of them inspected the cars they were given before leaving the lot.

Walking around the car for 30 seconds can save a lot of trouble later. Or refusing to take a dirty muddy car...

Maryland
Destination Expert
for Baltimore
posts: 3,541
reviews: 13
3. Re: Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

Must be a scam--same thing happened to this guy :-)

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60811-i165-k45526…

Salt Lake City, Utah
posts: 6
4. Re: Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

In response to IrishFan- you're right, the other poster nor I completed a proper inspection before leaving. However, I had never rented by myself before, and when the employee handed me the keys and said "you're good to go", I felt I should be able to trust him- after all, Alamo is a big company that thousands do business with everyday, right?. Also, I only ever signed for the payment, before I even saw the car. They never presented an opportunity for me to declare the condition of the car. I was not familiar with the process and did not understand that I should speak up and say " hey I need to inspect the vehicle and sign something declaring the condition!" - that's ridiculous. Alamo should assume it's the first time for every customer and explain proper procedure, but no- they were being deceitful, and taking advantage of their unknowing customer. Even if I was responsible for the scratches they claimed, $914 to fix them?? Yeah right.

Anyways- I called them, wrote letters directly to Alamo offices, filed complaints various places online, filed a complaint with the BBB, the attorney general of Maryland, and threatened legal action. At first Alamo acted like they wanted to put up a fight but then with my overwhelming offense on the matter, they quickly sent me a letter saying they would not pursue charges.They know it's deceitful business practice to do what they do. I just hope my story helps others avoid the situation I got into.I learned my lesson about Alamo and rental car companies in general. Before leaving the lot, do an incredibly thorough examination, get pictures with meta-data (time-stamp) and video of the Entire car. It sounds nuts, but it's worth not having to go through hell fighting these guys.

Pacific Palisades...
posts: 3
reviews: 2
5. Re: Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

Hi IrishFan,

I see your point - I didn't inspect the car. Lesson learned.

I've worked in the service industry (specifically the travel industry) for the past decade. I truly believe that the best service organizations believe their customer. The ones that give their customers the "benefit of the doubt" reap the rewards with return business and goodwill. The ones that sit in fear of their customers "taking" for them will inevitably lose in the long run by alienating customers with good intentions. In addition, the ones that can successfully recover their customers from these problems tend to get even more loyalty.

Alamo made an assumption I caused the damage when they themselves did not inspect the vehicle nor did they advise me or give me an opportunity to fill out any paperwork regarding damages.

As chadnicol stated, I expect there to be a certain degree of expectation of cleanliness and quality of the vehicle before I am issued it. When that quality is lacking, I don't expect the same company to blame me for it.

Baltimore, Maryland
Destination Expert
for North Conway
posts: 10,967
reviews: 40
6. Re: Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

I really don't think this is a scam and the characterization is unfair even if the actions towards you were wrong as well. Unfortunately, too many renters treat cars like throw aways. purposefully bring back the car at night or dirty to hide their damage in the hope the next person has the problem. Alamo is being scammed as well. The companies are entitled to return of a car with reasonable wear and tear. The prior renter should bear your wrath.

Pacific Palisades...
posts: 3
reviews: 2
7. Re: Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

I absolutely think it's a scam. I think companies like Alamo seek to recover damages from "innocent" customers in order to make it easy on themselves. Alamo should be responsible for going after the prior renter. Not me.

When I called to speak to the employee at the rental location, they advised me that this is their method of operation - they push these claims on unsuspecting customers to try and recover damages from our insurance companies.

Ultimately, Alamo failed to respond to my side of the story. That's possibly my biggest disappointment. I disputed the claim several times. In fact, I received a letter from Alamo stating that they would further investigate the claim and look into who caused the damage. They failed to yield any response.

Curiously enough, I received a response from Alamo not long after I posted these messages attempting to resolve the complaint. I'm still awaiting a follow-up.

It's sad that it takes someone to have to post this information on the internet for a company to pay attention. Companies like Alamo should be more concerned about retaining and recovering customers rather than trying to pursue damages for their innocent customers.

Lockport, New York
posts: 2
8. Re: Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

Well you can add me to the list. In late May 2011 I flew into LA and rented a car from Alamo in order to attend the wedding of a relative. I too, like an idiot, didn't check the car out before I drove off. It was late, I was tired and just wanted to get to the hotel. The car remained at the hotel until I drove it back to the alamo return center in LA. The attendent found some "scratches" on the front left bumper and called for a supervisor. I explained that I hadn't driven the car more than 25 miles total and that I didn't cause the scratches. The supervisor tells me, "no problem, I'll take care of it, your all set". Three weeks later I get a letter with a claim number telling me I owe $637 for the repairs. I called to state my case and was told they would look into it. Then I get a second letter with a seperate claim number for $1778. The letter sites damages on the mirror and doors.

Beleive me there was not damages to these areas. Imagine two claims for one incident. I call again to state my case and to get a answer to the question: "why do I have two claims for one incident?" Again, I'm told that they will look into it. Two months later I get a letter telling me that the claim for $637 is dropped and that the other one for $1778 stands. I've been calling and fighting with them ever since. Yesterday, I got another letter that I have ten days to pay or they go to collections. I've called three times and can't get a hold of anyone. I'm so angry I could just spit! Not sure what to do as I just started getting my credit rating back in line and know that if this goes to collections it will take a dump. Almost $1800 and I did nothing to their vehicle. My God!

Edited: 5:00 am, January 26, 2012
Salt Lake City, Utah
posts: 6
9. Re: Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

Sorry to hear about your situation as well, I dont understand how they can continue to operate. Check out my follow up post above- you need to overwhelm them by really throwing a fit- better business buruea, state attorney general, direct letters to all of their addresses you can get a hold of threatening legal action. Good luck.

Lockport, New York
posts: 2
10. Re: Beware - BWI Alamo Rent A Car "DAMAGE" Scam

I called my insurance company rep. who is going to get involved with me over this thing. She had an interesting question. She asked: "when they threaten to go to collections if not paid in ten days, do they actually do it if you don't pay?"

She was guessing that they don't make the jump for fear of exposing the scam. She thinks it may be a scare tactic. Can anyone here speak to this?