How Budget Rental Accused Me of Fraud Over Their Mistake

This is a story of corporate greed. Or maybe just uncaring incompetence. I’m not sure if anyone in this story cares enough to actually be motivated by greed.

We rented a car from Budget in Seattle last June during our vacation. Then in October we received a letter about glass damage on the rental car and we apparently owed $558.99.

That sucks, I thought. I didn’t remember getting any chips in the windshield, but anything’s possible. I figured we’d have to pony up, but on a whim I emailed Budget back asking for proof of the glass damage. It seemed odd that it would take them nearly four months to find the damage and bill us.

Budget’s response was basically, oops, our bad. Nevermind. There was no damage and we wouldn’t be charged.

That’s great!

Except we were charged $558.99 for glass damage.

OK, no problem, Budget will refund it. I followed up on it and they said no worries, we’ll refund it.

A few weeks later, it wasn’t refunded. So I followed up again. Budget said no worries, it’s refunded.

Um, no it’s not.

I followed up again. Budget said if it’s not refunded, it’s a problem for my credit card company, Citi Bank. So I called up Citi Bank looking for a refund, and they had nothing.

So now we challenged Budget’s charge on my credit card. Citi Bank swiftly issued a refund for the $558.99 charge while it got sorted out.

A month or two later I get a lengthy letter with Budget’s response to the challenge. They went to great lengths to prove that I rented a car and had agreed to pay for any damages. None of that was in question. Budget didn’t offer any proof that we damaged the car.

Furthermore, Budget accused me of committing “friendly fraud” by filing a spurious claim against the $558.99 charge.

As maddening as this all was, Citi Bank’s response might be worse. They looked at Budget’s flimsy, bullshit argument and basically said, yeah, that checks out. They reversed the $558.99 refund unless I could prove otherwise.

With a two-page letter of meticulous bullet points and dripping scorn, I made my case. It included quotes (that read like a spam email: “after carefully review your case we find no evidence can proof the damage was cause by you we are terrible sorry”) and screenshots from Budget correspondence.

Another month and half later, and Citi Bank basically said, ope, you’re right. They reinstated the $558.99 refund and said the matter was closed. They bottom of the email from Citi Bank included the marketing line, “Citi is at your side before, during and after every purchase.” Sorta, I guess.

This whole mess could have been avoided at any point along the way if someone just looked at the case and paid attention to what was going on. Multiple customer service reps from Budget were involved in the correspondence and admitted fault. Anyone could have looked at the paper trail and stepped in to clean it up. Instead they just kept passing it down the line. Citi Bank could have made this a simple process as well, or at the very least actually read the response from Budget and realized what transparent garbage it was.

Seems like there’s a lesson here about corporate greed or laziness or something. The lesson for the consumer is document what happens and fight back. I could have just swallowed that $558.99 charge, as painful as that would have been, but asking a simple question got me out of it.

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