Don’t Open That Trunk

Freud would have a field day.

Auto Rental News surveyed our readers on the strangest things found in a returned rental car. You responded with some funny, eerie and downright bizarre stories. The things you found offer a peek into the lives of the renter—and an often unwanted look at the human condition at that.

The stories varied, but some patterns emerged. Who hasn’t found all manner of sex and drug paraphernalia? If a Martian’s one job on Earth was to clean returned car rentals, it would think we’re a bunch of sex-craved drug users. As the typical car renter represents a cross section of the American populace, maybe we are.

Whatever you’ve found, kudos to you, your counter reps and cleaning crew. You tackle the nasty cleaning jobs. You go out of your way to return the items. And you keep a straight face at the return counter.


Ooh, That Smell



A lady on an isolated island had given birth in her home, and they had to rush her here to the hospital in Ketchikan. The doctor asked her to bring the afterbirth (placenta). She did but forgot it in the trunk, and the car was returned to us. She never picked it up so we had to dispose of it.
Diana, Alaska Car Rental
Ketchikan, Alaska

We rented a van to a meat dealer. He returned the van and something stunk to high heaven. A week later we found a goat’s heart in the wheel well. He said it must have fallen out of one of his packages.
Jack Kelly, VERC Rentals
Weymouth, Mass.

We found a severed deer head. The customer had gone hunting and forgot the head in the car. The customer never picked it up. We couldn’t get the smell out for about a month.
Wayne Harrison, Thrifty Car Rental
Shreveport, La.

People have left eggs that went rotten. We tried to move them; they broke, and released a nasty smell.
Mitch Harris, Rent 2 Save
Glendale, Calif.

What comes from the human body is a constant “leave behind,” though some things are less common than others.

You know what I find all the time that drives me nuts? Finger and toe nails. People pick and cut their nails in the rental cars all the time. It’s really disgusting. My customers are local people and friends. Do they not realize that I’m cleaning this up? It’s very odd.
Carolann Malley, Hertz Car Rental
Lebanon, N.J.

As unpleasant as that is, you told us that non-human remains are far worse.

Some guys went fishing and had a Styrofoam cooler with a small leak. You can imagine what dead fish smells like. We tore out all of the carpeting from the trunk and we had to pull the seats out of the car. I shampooed the carpeting and it sat in my garage airing out for a week.
Karen, Lulloffs Car Truck & Van Rentals
Manitowoc, Wis.


All Creatures Great and Small



Someone could start a zoo with the animals found in rentals. You reported a live hamster in the glove box, a petrified dead salamander in the center console, a snapping turtle under the passenger seat and a live chicken that flew out of the trunk.

And who hasn’t spent valuable employee time removing strand after strand of animal hair?

Cat hair is rough. We get that in the Penske trucks. I swear—to rent a Penske truck you have to own a pet. We had a renter we called the cat lady. The passenger seat looked like a fur seat.
Dave Haas, Rent a Wreck
Deptford, N.J.


Keystone Cops

Those that protect and serve are human too. Does that make you feel any better?


Law enforcement officers leave guns in cars more often than criminals. Because they can’t drive with them on their belts, we find them in the console between the driver and passenger seat, or in the trunk under the spare tire.
Jack Kelly, VERC Rentals
Weymouth, Mass.

The Toledo police chief left his police-issue 9 mm pistol in a car at the airport last year.
Jim Westmar, Avis
Toledo, Ohio

We used to rent to Brinks Security. An employee left a shotgun.
John McLelland Discount Car & Truck Rentals
Winnipeg, Manitoba

A federal agent forgot his gun in the car. He said it was bugging him on his belt so he put it under the driver’s seat.
Ayub, Dollar Rent A Car
Ridgecrest, Calif.


How Could You Forget?

Many of you reported finding various types of underwear. Wouldn’t they want that back before they returned the car?


Jack Kelly of VERC Rentals in Weymouth, Mass. reports that women’s purses rank highest on the most commonly found list. “That’s almost an extension of a woman’s arm. How could they leave that?” he says. Some extensions are even more valuable—an Enterprise employee found a prosthetic leg. It’s good to see renters are finally paying an “arm and a leg.”

Cell phones are also high on the leave-behind list. At least someone is putting them to good use:

We have half a dozen cell phones here, and when people don’t claim them, we donate them to the Rotary Club. In our area, Rotary runs a program for battered spouses to have a cell phone pre-programmed to dial 911.
Dave Haas, Rent a Wreck
Deptford, N.J.

CONTINUED:  Don’t Open That Trunk
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