Alamo and Enterprise Car Rental — hail damage claim
On July 7, 2013, my family rented a GMC Yukon (Colorado plate #240-702) from Alamo Rent A Car at the Denver International Airport. The initial desk agent who processed our reservation did not walk us to the vehicle. A second employee standing in the parking lot only pointed us to a row of SUV's and instructed us to select one and to drive to the exit gate. She also did not walk us to the vehicles. We walked to a row of SUV's which all had keys in the iginition and the engines running. The vehicles were parked in an outdoor uncovered parking lot.
We selected a GMC Yukon and I immediately made a reasonable, good faith inspection of the vehicle. Anyone who has ridden in a GMC Yukon knows that it has a high ride height that requires passengers to step up into the vehicle. To the best of my knowledge, the vehicle height is approximately 76.9" (close to 6-1/2 feet tall). I am an average height man (5'9"). I inspected all surfaces of the vehicle that were reasonably within my view, which included the tires, windows, doors, hood, and all other vehicle surfaces that I could reasonably view while standing on the ground.
I did not crawl on the ground to inspect the underside of the vehicle, and I did not climb up onto the vehicle to inspect the roof of the vehicle, as neither surface is readily visible while standing on the ground. I did not have access to a stepladder to view the roof of the SUV, and I am not reasonably required to endanger myself to climb under or on top of a vehicle as tall as this SUV. I was able to view and did inspect the hood of the vehicle which had no visible damage. With no visible damage to the hood of the vehicle, I had no reason to suspect any potential damage to the roof of the SUV. The only visible damage I observed was a dent near the driver's door handle.
The third employee we encountered was at the parking lot exit gate. He quickly reviewed our rental paperwork, and made a note where I indicated to him that there was a dent on the driver's side door. The employee did not step outside of the booth he was in, and the employee did not complete an inspection of the vehicle's exterior surfaces.
On July 12, 2013, we returned the vehicle to the Denver International Airport. We accidentally pulled into the Enterprise rental return lot, but were told by the outside employees that they could process our return as Alamo, Enterprise and National are related companies. We appreciated what appeared to be an attempt to make our return process faster and easier. What happened next, however, was completely unexpected and very disturbing.
A young man with a clipboard approached and began to inspect the vehicle while a female employee was processing our rental paperwork and generating our check-out receipt. The young man then approached me and told me that he had found hail damage on the roof of the vehicle, and he would be submitting a damage claim report. I was stunned, and my wife and I both denied to him that the vehicle had been in any hail while in our possession. The young man did not ask where we had driven the vehicle during our rental period, and he did not identify the location of the alleged hail storm which he was certain the vehicle had been exposed to during the rental period. I specifically asked for the location of the alleged hail storm, but he did not provide it. However, he was certain that this vehicle had been in a hail storm while in our possession.
I then asked him to show me the location of the alleged hail damage. He climbed up onto the back bumper and pointed to alleged hail damage on the roof of the vehicle. I climbed up on the fender beside him and asked him to point out the alleged damage to me. He pointed to an area on the roof. I looked and saw nothing. I told him I saw no damage, and wiped the spot he had indicated with my finger. I felt no damage and only saw and felt dirt. I told him I saw absolutely no damage to the roof of the vehicle, and only saw dirt. He told me has was "trained expert" to identify hail damage. I do not know what his training consisted of, but I find it hard to believe that his training provided him with special vision that enables him to see damage on a vehicle with his naked eye that I could not see with my naked eye while standing on the back fender of the vehicle next to him. To be clear, I saw no damage. Any damage the employee claims he saw was invisible to the naked eye.
It is also amazing to me that the roof of the SUV could have sustained alleged invisible hail damage but there was no alleged invisible hail damage reported by the employee to the hood of the vehicle. That would have had to have been a pretty tiny isolated invisible hail storm to have only caused invisible damage to the roof of the vehicle while leaving the hood of the vehicle untouched. Equally more amazing, if the alleged invisible hail storm was so tiny that it only impacted the roof of the SUV, how would the employee have even known about a hail storm that was apparently so small that it only allegedly impacted the roof of the SUV while sparing the hood? An alleged hail storm that tiny (confined to the roof of the vehicle) would not have been large enough to have shown up on any area radar.
I asked my wife to see if she saw any damage. She attempted to climb onto the back fender but was unable to reach a handhold on the roof without a boost from me to push her up. My wife is also average height (at least 5'5") and she was unable to inspect the roof of the vehicle without assistance from someone to enable her to climb up onto the back fender. She independently inspected the roof of the vehicle and reported that she saw nothing but dirt. She swiped the roof with her finger and again reported that she only saw dirt on the roof of the vehicle.
I asked to speak to the manager, but the young man told me he was in charge. I informed the employee that I saw no damage to the vehicle, aside from the dent in the driver's door that I had reported when we initially took possession of the vehicle. I also told him that I considered this claim of invisible alleged hail damage to be a blatant act of insurance fraud. The employee completed an Express Incident Report with a brief handwritten summary. His summary was not an accurate summary of what I had stated to him, so I added the statement "insurance fraud" to the report.
I also took a picture of the roof of the vehicle with my smartphone. I have forwarded this photograph to my insurance company who confirmed that the roof of the vehicle is plainly visible in the photo and the quality of the photograph is good. It was a sunny day and the photograph clearly shows no signs of any alleged damage to the roof of the vehicle. At the time we returned the vehicle there were no visible signs of damage to the roof of the vehicle. Any damage that may miraculously arise and be claimed since that time was not present when we returned the vehicle.
We have date and time-stamped receipts from our trip showing our itinerary and our locations within Colorado during our entire trip. We have also researched the location of any potential hail sightings in Colorado during our vacation in the state. A hail map based on data by the NOAA shows hail was reported on July 10, 2013 approximately 5 miles north-northeast of Colorado Springs at 8:45 pm. Based on our receipts we were approximately 25-30 miles (roughly a 35-40 minute drive) south-southwest of the location of the reported hail sighting at the time it occurred. We have receipts that show our payment of a vehicle entry fee to an outdoor tourist attraction at 8:07pm and a later purchase at the gift shop at this same location at 9:02pm. Since the attraction we were visiting is an outdoor tourist attraction, we would have been fully aware of any alleged hail in our location during that time. Unless we are able to bend the laws of physics (which we cannot), there is no way we could have been in the same vicinity (a location at least 25-30 miles away) at the time of the only recorded hail activity we were able to find evidence of during our vacation in Colorado.
No Alamo agent or employee conducted any inspection of the vehicle at the time we took possession to identify the presence or lack of any damage to the SUV at that time. There is no evidence that any alleged damage (invisible or otherwise) to the roof was not already present on the vehicle at the time we took possession. Alamo rented the SUV to us with visible damage to the driver's door (which we reported when we took possession of the vehicle), so it is entirely possible that the SUV already had the alleged invisible hail damage to the roof as well. Even if the alleged hail damage had been present at the time we took possession and we had been provided with a stepladder to inspect the roof of the SUV, due to its invisible nature, and the need for an employee who is a "trained expert" to see invisible hail damage, we still would not have been reasonably able to view and report the alleged invisible damage at the time of pick-up. We reported all damage that was reasonably visible to us based on a reasonable inspection of the surfaces of the SUV that were visible to a person of average height. We were not provided with a safe means to view the roof of the SUV, nor were we provided with "expert training" to view and report invisible hail damage that may have already been present. We acted reasonably and in good faith, and request that Alamo/Enterprise/National now do the same.
My wife and I are honest people, if we reasonably believed the vehicle had been damaged while in our possession, we would take responsibility. We were shown no evidence at the time we returned the vehicle of any visible damage to the roof of the vehicle. If there was true damage, it should have been visible to the naked eye. It was not. We deny the vehicle suffered any damage while in our possession, and the employee was unable to show us any evidence to the contrary at the time we returned the vehicle. Simply pointing to an invisible spot that can only allegedly be seen by an employee because he asserts he is an alleged "expert" is wholly unreasonable.
I have left several voice mail messages with Enterprise in an attempt to speak to someone to resolve this erroneous and potentially fraudulent claim of alleged invisible hail damage. I have received no response but silence from Enterprise. The only communication I have received is a form letter from the Damage Recovery Unit notifying me of the claim number (#[protected]) and providing me with basic boilerplate information on an overview of the claims process.
This incident soured what had otherwise been an enjoyable family vacation to Colorado. My wife and I felt ambushed at a time when the company knew we were under time constraints to catch our plane, and we were completely taken aback that a company would attempt to claim damage that was not visibly present on the vehicle to the naked eye at that time.
This may just be a misunderstanding and error on the part of the employee, but based on our treatment so far, in our opinion, it feels like a potential scam and is starting to also feel like potential insurance fraud and/or potential unfair business practices. If this is how Enterprise/Alamo/National conduct business, we will not utilize their car rental services again. We rented a vehicle from Alamo in good faith, and expected good faith business practices in return. We did not receive them.
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