Capps Rental Bilks Katrina Relief Volunteer

Joel rented a van from Capps Rental to help out victims of Katrina down near New Orleans. He did good work down there. When he went to return the van, there was a small ding in the side. He offered to pay for it, because that should be about $200 to pop out. Instead, Capps replaced the entire door and is now charging him $1,277.76

After the jump, his story and a second angle on the dent. We can’t see the dent in the second picture.

Capps has sent the bill to collections agency. What can Joel do to fight back and not pay the exorbitant amount?

“The story follows. Apparently they have since forward this to a collections agency, having claimed to have never recieved a letter from my attorney.


“I rented a cargo van from Capp’s Rental service on September 9th as part of my work as a volunteer relief worker in the Katrina-affected Gulf Coast area. I used the van during the following two weeks to haul a variety of medical and relief supplies to shelters, as well as in our work to establish Wi-Fi networks for use by other relief workers, affected citizens, and journalists. At no point was the van used in any ‘unauthorized’ ways, such as taking it into areas without roads, for instance.

When I attempted to return the van to the Capp’s Rental office in Houston on the scheduled date, I was informed by the employees at that office that they were evacuating Houston in anticipation of Hurricane Rita’s strike. I was told, essentially, that I wasn’t going to be able to return the van until the workers returned to Houston, which at that time was projected to be heavily damaged by Rita. I was also told I might be liable for any late fees, despite the fact that the city was being evacuated.

Rather than leaving the van unattended in Houston, I worked out another option with the help of Capp’s collections manager to leave the van at the Capp’s office in Austin, Texas, despite there being no official option from Capp’s to leave vehicles with offices other than those from which the vehicle was originally rented. At the time I was under the impression that Capp’s was trying to work with me considering the unique circumstances.

When I dropped off that van at the Austin office near the airport, they informed me that there was a dent in the right cargo-area door and that I would need to fill out an accident report. I explained that I had never seen the dent before then, and indeed as the pictures show, the miniscule, approximately 1-inch ding was all but invisible from most angles. Since I was scheduled to leave on a flight just a couple of hours after dropping off the van, I didn’t have to time to argue with the employees and filled out the ‘accident report,’ clearly marking on the form that I had absolutely no idea when or where the ding occurred.

At the time, I even offered to pay for a body shop to pop out the ding if the company would forward me a reasonable estimate. It has been my experience that door dings of that size can often be popped out with the use of dry ice or suction for less than $200. I felt my gesture to be in good will considering that Capp’s was willing to work with me regarding the drop-off location, and that while I had no idea of when or where the ding occurred, it was in the realm of possibility that it had happened as I drove through the hurricane-force winds of Western Louisiana and Eastern Texas to return the van by its return date.

I was charged $1,203.07 on 9/28/2005 by Capp’s for the rental of van. This was money that came directly from my pocket for my work in the Gulf Coast region and I do not dispute this amount at all. The van was a great asset during my trip.

Later, I was informed that Capp’s Rental had placed a claim against my insurance for repair of the door in excess of $700. I was then served with a bill for the costs of my $500 insurance deductible (which Capp’s had assumed), ‘Loss of Use’ for $479.60, ‘Diminution of Value (15% of Physical Damage)’ for $94.32, and a $75 ‘Administrative Fee.’ Of course, because only the cost of the repair was billed to my insurance, I am currently being held liable for $1,277.76 in charges from Capps.

$1,277.76 for a door ding. A door ding that did not in the least affect the ‘rentability’ of the vehicle. A door ding that occurred, if not before I took possession of the van, during the relief effort of the very area which Capp’s Rental serves or the 12-hour trip through a land-fallen hurricane. A door ding that I offered to have repaired, which was instead forwarded through a process clearly designed to extract as much money from the customer as possible.

It’s obvious to me that the entire door was replaced because of this easily-fixed ding. This is an irresponsible use of Capp’s resources and I refuse to foot the bill for it. I have expressed my concerns to the collection’s manager at Capps who was very understanding, but unwilling or unable to remedy this issue.”