Budget and the chain of evidence
Go Public, a consumer advocacy show on CBC, has produced a show on Budget Rent-A-Car overcharging customers for minor repairs.
This rang a bell with me.
In May of 2009, I rented a car from Budget, in order to travel to give a seminar. Having had troubles with various car rental companies before, I did my own “walk around” and made sure I got a copy of the damage report before I left. There were two marks on the driver’s door (a small dent, and a scratch), but the Budget employee refused to make two marks in that spot of the form: he said that the one tick covered both.
When I turned in the car, I was told that the tick was only good for the one scratch, and that I would be charged $400 for the dent. I was also told that, since I had rented the car using my American Express card, I was automatically covered, by American Express, for minor damage, so I should get them to pay for it.
Since I was neither interested in paying myself, nor in assisting in defrauding Amex, I referred to the earlier statement by the employee who had checked the car. (I had a witness to his statement, as well.)
Thus started a months-long series of phone calls from Budget. They kept trying to get me to agree to pay the extra $400, and get Amex to reimburse me. I wasn’t interested.
The phone calls finally stopped when, on one call, I informed the caller (by now identifying himself as someone in the provincial head office for Budget) that I had kept the copy of the original damage report form. The caller told me that it clearly stated that there was a scratch on the door. When I asked him how he interpreted the tick mark as a scratch, rather than a dent, he said that the word “scratch” was written on the form.
Well, of course, it hadn’t been written on the form originally. I guess the caller must have been reasonable high up in the corporate food chain, because he knew what that meant. I had the original, and it proved that they had messed with their copy. That breaks the chain of evidence: they had no case at all.
(I still have a scan of that form. Just in case …)