Chairman Of Advantage Rent-A-Car Investigates 49-Day Repair Claim, Waives It

Earlier this summer, we wrote about how Paul was being gouged by Advantage Rent-A-Car on repairs that had to be made after his rental was damaged in a hit and run. Paul was willing to pay the repairs on the vehicle, but Advantage wanted almost double the amount. After we posted his story, Paul was able to get in touch with a higher-up at Advantage who passed him along directly to the Chairman. Here’s what happened.

I wanted to follow up with you about my situation with Advantage Rent-A-Car and the “diminution of value” charge. I called Lauren Wilson [the director of sales and Marketing]. Lauren listened to my story, took down my info, and said she would look into it and get back to me.

Within minutes, she emailed me saying that she had spoken with the Chairman and Owner of the company, Denny Hecker, and that he was interested in speaking with me. We scheduled a call for the following day.

When I spoke with Denny he was polite and understanding. He understood my frustration, but was concerned about my perception that “diminution of value” was a scam. He explained that when cars are damaged, they are unable to sell them back to the dealer under their contracts, and that they can lose money. I listened, explained that I understood the principle, but that I felt that the charges were unreasonably high. Denny said that he wanted to look into the situation on his end, which was understandable since the issue had just been brought to his attention the day before.

Long story short, Denny and I spoke again and Denny decided that he was going to wave the entire thing – not just the ~$2500 in diminution of value, but the ~$4500 in repair charges as well. He said that customers are very important to him, and that he wanted to ensure that I left a happy customer. I thanked him, but insisted that I (through Visa) cover the damages to the vehicle. After all, the vehicle was damaged and I had no problem being responsible for the physical damage. Denny and I had a laugh, he explained that he wouldn’t turn my money down, but that he wanted to be clear that he was willing to walk away from the the entire thing. That it was that important to him. I said I understood, but would pay the damages, just not the diminution of value. Done.

While obviously I would have preferred to have never gone through this, I was impressed with the way Lauren and Denny handled it. At the end of the day everyone makes mistakes, people and businesses, and in many cases what’s important is how the mistakes are handled. Advantage’s mistake here was contracting with Subrogation Management Team, which profits off Advantage’s customers, and not keeping close tabs in the impact this has on their reputation. In this case, in my opinion, Advantage made a mistake but when confronted with it, Denny went above and beyond by offering to wave the entire charge, including the physical damage. He also indicated that he would be reviewing their relationship with SMT.

All-in-all I will probably give Advantage Rent-a-Car another shot and rent from them again, though this time I will probably buy the insurance :)

It’s always interesting to see how the people at the top behave when confronted with unfair business practices. Now if only they could find a way to pass that one-to-one sense of customer service downstream to every customer.

We’re glad Paul was able to get the outrageous $2500 charge waived, because it was calculated by assuming that 49 hours in the shop somehow equaled 22 days of labor. We just hope that whether the fault lies with Subrogation Management or Advantage, they fix it so others aren’t hit with the same high fees.

(Thanks to Paul and Debbie!)
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. Deeter2 says:

    Similar thing happened to me with Bugdet in Campbell River, British Columbia: hit a deer in a remote area which disabled the car, cracked the windshield, etc. My insurance (Allstate) covered the repairs but Budget came up with a $8500 bill altogether which included 29 days of lost revenue. Fortunately I’d paid with Visa and they covered most of the difference with their rental insurance (check it out!). Budget had charged the full amount to my CC immediately (how did they know that it was going to take 29 days to repair it?).
    In the process I learned from the Investigators that it is a common scam by the rental companies and waived if you purchase their Super-Expensive insurance. They spoke to the auto repair shop and learned that the car was in there only 6 days…

    • bwcbwc says:

      Nice to see a happy ending to a situation that started out very ugly.

      @Deeter2: See, I knew that “fleet utilization log” would come in handy.

  2. catcherintheeye says:

    Good for Paul willing to meet in the middle and handle what he felt he was responsible for, many would have taken the money and run.

    Good work on both ends.

  3. trujunglist says:

    That’s cool that they did that, but you have to wonder if other people are or have gotten taken by the same thing and they just didn’t know that escalating would get the problem solved.

  4. dakotad555 says:

    This guy deserves the customer-of-the-year award. I don’t think I would have paid the part the company offered to waive. That’s going above and beyond as a consumer.

    • god_forbids says:

      I love hearing stories where both the customer and the company act responsibly, honorably and courteously. I try to have everyone come away feeling like their faith in humanity has been affirmed. But that’s just me.

      Not every interaction with corporate America needs to be antagonistic.

  5. 6a says:

    That’s impressive on both ends of the story, it’s nice to see some happy news every now and then.

  6. oldgraygeek says:

    I hope his credit card issuer (who is apparently on the hook for the repairs) doesn’t read this and decide he had no right to turn down the ‘freebie’ on their behalf.

  7. Trick says:

    This very well may be a wake-up-call for Advantage. They source out some work and are happy with the amount of money SMT “recovers” for them. But at what cost? How many customers did it cost Advantage before this though?

    Ultimately the buck stops with the CEO and he or she should be aware of the companies that deal with them and represent them.

    That said, the case was settled very well and the CEO did the right thing..

  8. Geekybiker says:

    I just wonder how visa (and their insurance) will react when they catch wind of him turning down having all fees waived.

  9. emptydarkone says:

    Good on ya, Paul! It’s nice to read about a customer that knew he was responsible for damage and was willing to pay a fair price even after the offer to have the whole thing waived. Sure don’t see that on Consumerist very often.

  10. Aisley says:

    “…it was calculated by assuming that 49 hours in the shop somehow equaled 22 days of labor.”

    Hey, hey! Anybody knows if there’s an opening in that shop? Working two hours a day sounds great to me. I have no experience with car repairs whatsoever. But punching for just two hours, how much damage could I do?

    About the CEO, a tip of my hat to him. The man seems to understand that when this type of non-sense happens, it is HIS name on the line. Good one C.

    To Paul, it’s comforting to find out that everything is not lost. There’s still people that have a very strong sense of responsibility and honesty. You’re a winner in my book, Paul.

  11. Jevia says:

    “He explained that when cars are damaged, they are unable to sell them back to the dealer under their contracts, and that they can lose money.”

    My question about this is that rental companies seem to try and ding the customer for small damages to the vehicles all the time. Is there some limit as to how much ‘damage’ a car can take before the dealer won’t take it back? Or do the rental companies end up making more money by claiming these little damages against the customer even if they ‘lose’ money when it comes time to get rid of the rental car? Are these vehicles still going back to the dealer, just under a modified contract?

  12. keleka says:

    I got screwed by Budget the same way. Paid the bill and included my cut-in-half frequent renters card. They lost more in a month by screwing me than if they’d eaten the entire repair bill.
    It’s not like there aren’t plenty of competitors for my business.

  13. ModernDayGilligan says:

    …Denny Hecker also owns the majority of the dealerships Advantage Rent-A-Car buys/leases their cars from in the Nidwest.

    • stpauliegirl says:

      @ModernDayGilligan: You beat me to mentioning that. Also, his face is plastered all over just about every bus in the Twin Cities. Even though he does extend loans to people with poor credit, which can be a little shady, Denny himself seems nice. I remember a few years ago a girl at the Univ. of MN had her car flipped and torched during a hockey riot while she was at work near campus, and he gave her a new car. He knows how to work the PR!

  14. scudly says:

    What’s odd is that almost all of the major rental companies will sell a wrecked rental to car dealers around the country.

    I know this because I worked for a long time at a company that enabled rental agencies to sell cars online to dealers. There could be complete wrecks to cars with a little bit of cosmetic damages that they’d sell online, sure I bet they ate some of the initial cost, but if there wasn’t a lot of damage and the car was new they’d make almost all of it up.

    Now I don’t know if AAdvantage does this because we didn’t deal with them specifically, but we did deal with National, Budget, Avis and some of the other bigger car rental players, but I can’t imagine they don’t. Most of the rental cars are new and there are almost always people willing to buy them. Especially when a dealer can get a year old car with a little bit of damage for about $2k.

    So it’s a bit bullshit of Advantage to even try to claim they were trying to actually repair the car.

  15. dorastandpipe says:

    If this chairman and owner of Advantage is the same Denny Hecker as the one we have in Mpls area, he is primarily known here as a car dealer and I would not be surprised if he waived the fees. He is probably leasing the vehicles for his rental companies from his own dealerships. I am not saying he is doing anything wrong, I am sure he can see the value of keeping a customer happy because that seems to be the kind of guy he is, but I am equally sure he is not really losing anything either…if it is the same guy…which I can not confirm.

  16. unoriginal says:

    I hope if he is willing to pay for the damage that the money comes out of his own pocket and not from Visa’s. It’s always easier to make a deal with money that isn’t yours.

  17. gibbergabber says:

    Kudos to Paul. I would have thanked Denny effusively, then taken my money and run. I guess that makes me a bad consumer.

  18. HiEllie says:

    This is a classic example of how a customer will act with courtesy if they are given courtesy. I enjoy reading these positive endings to unfortunate stories.

  19. erratapage says:

    I’m pretty sure it is the same Denny Hecker. If so, the good karma he gets on this one can offset the bad karma he’s gotten on his used car lots. This Advantage branch advertises during Judge Judy that they’ll rent to kids without credit. I’m suspicious about most companies that advertise during Judge Judy.

  20. hardtoremember says:

    Wow, great resolution! Makes me glad to see both sides taking responsibility.

  21. MrEvil says:

    Sounds like they treated you right. I don’t know if there’s an Advantage Rent-a-car in my kneck of the woods or not. Might have to consider them next time I need to rent a car.

    Its funny how Rental car companies can get away with this “Diminished value” nonsense, but I as a private citizen will just get a nice “GTFO” from an insurance company if I try to claim it when their insured hits me.

  22. skloon says:

    I wiped out a 5 month old rental totally, the insurance through my credit card and employer covered it but they did charge for the remaining 7 months of lease payments on the car as ‘a contractual obligation’ but as I wasn’t out of pocket I wasn’t too concerned. Oddly I returned a rental to Enterprise back in May missing a hubcap and with a wicked hole in the grille from a rock and they never charged me or commented on it. Avis in Germany includes a little diagram of your rental with all the damage noted, and I was pressed to find any of it.