BY CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT
Q: I recently rented a car with Enterprise in Miami. While I was using the vehicle, I lost my engagement ring. I told an employee about it, and he agreed to look for my jewelry.
The next day, I called Enterprise to see if they had found the ring. An employee told me that they would charge me for some repairs while looking for the ring and that the ring was “a hazard.”
Two days later, I found my engagement ring at home. Eventually, I received a bill from the Enterprise department claims for $452, for damage done to the car while looking for my ring. I told them I didn’t think that was fair. I returned the car exactly as I had picked it up. Can you help me? ─ Carmen Santos, Miami
A: I’ve had plenty of cases involving renters damaging their cars. But this is the first story of a car rental company charging a customer for their own damage.
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Enterprise’s bill is interesting. It charged you almost $100 for “scanning” the vehicle. Then there’s work to the glove box and the instrument panel, with almost eight hours of labor. It looks like the car rental company took your rental apartment to find your engagement ring.
I’m not saying these charges are bogus. But someone from Enterprise should have apprised you of the extra charges for finding your ring. Unless you told the company, “Do whatever it takes to find the ring; I don’t care about the cost” ─ which you didn’t ─ Enterprise should have obtained approval before tearing the car apart.
Your case offers a lesson in the importance of effective communication. If you ask a company for something, make sure you get a price before it starts the work. If the price is right, try to get an estimate in writing. Otherwise, you could get broadsided by the final bill.
You might have sent a brief, polite appeal to Enterprise in writing, noting that you did not know the order of work performed on the car. If the company insists on charging you, then you could have appealed to one of the Enterprise corporate contacts I list on my website at Elliott.org.
I contacted Enterprise on your behalf to find out more about your charges. The company contacted you and said it would drop the $452 bill. Keep an eye on your engagement ring the next time you rent a car.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at [email protected]