The ‘I Didn’t Think of the Roof Rack’ Excuse
(Submitted by Cindy Fiebiger, rental manager at Hiller Ford, Franklin, Wis.)
It’s the fall of 1998 or 1999, and our rental fleet includes Escort wagons. One of our customers with an extended service plan needs a car for a couple of days. On the second day, he returns the car and has a funny look on his face. He’s dressed in camouflage, reminding me that bow-hunting season is open.
“I tried to wash off the blood, but I didn’t have access to any water in the woods,” he says. He’d gone bow hunting that afternoon and shot a deer.
I look in the back of the Escort and there’s blood everywhere — the headliner, seats and floor mats. I couldn’t believe it. When I point out that the wagon has a roof rack, he responds: “I never thought of that.” Duh.

The Provoked Dog Excuse
(Submitted by Denise Brazell and the staff at Subrogation Management Team, the contest winners)
A customer rents a new Volvo while her Lexus is in the shop. She parks the car in a busy mall parking lot. While she is shopping for a couple of hours, her little white Westie, Angel, chews and claws every square inch of the leather upholstery in the Volvo. Even the headliner has chew marks.
The renter’s insurance company refuses to pay, arguing that the renter isn’t to blame. It is not even Angel’s fault, the adjuster says. The entire blame is placed on the dog in the car parked next to the Volvo. That “bad dog” incited Angel into a leather-eating frenzy.
The case results in an honest-to-God lawsuit that’s settled out of court. The insurance company and its attorneys base their denial on the “provoked dog” defense.
During the scope of our investigation, we ask the Lexus dealer why the renter’s car was in the shop. We learn that little Angel had chewed every speck of leather in the renter’s new Lexus.
At a much later date, we decide to call on the renter, with whom we have become fairly friendly. When asked about Angel, the renter says the dog is fine but she is looking for a new ranch hand because he let Angel chew the daylights out of her new truck.

The ‘Girlfriend With a Strong Right Hook’ Excuse
(Submitted by Bernie Bradley, Budget Rent A Car, Lansdale, Pa.)
We rent conversion vans and display them outside our Budget location. As Mr. H is returning his rental car after-hours, he smashes into our conversion van out front, causing $10,000 in damage to the van and totaling a Mountaineer. His excuse: “I was having an argument with my girlfriend and she punched me in the face, so you should go after her.”
The bottom line is that he had limited tort coverage and his insurance company paid only $5,000. My insurance had to pay the rest and I had to pay my deductible. The case is in litigation and I’ve not received a dime.

The ‘Mystery Babe at the Tracks’ Excuse
(Submitted by Wanda Reyna, Subrogation Management Team, San Antonio, Texas)
“I met this very nice woman at the horse race track. She asked me to rent a car for her, so I did. Now she won’t return my calls and the car is nowhere to be found.”

The ‘Long and Fickle Road’ Excuse
(Submitted by Elyse Hernandez, operations manager with the National Car Rental licensee in El Paso, Texas.)
A customer rents a car and two days later calls the 800 number for roadside service. He tells the agent that one of the tires is flat. He changed the tire, but the spare has also gone flat.
The agent transfers him to the counter to set up a tow. While talking to the agent, the customer mentions he’s on a dirt road. After the agent informs him that he’s responsible for the tires because driving off-road violates the rental agreement, he changes his story. He claims he is on a paved road — the other one was made of caleche.
When we get the car back, it’s obvious that’s there’s no way the renter was on a paved road. The car is trashed! When the customer got the car, it had less than 400 miles. When we get the car back, it looks like it’s been through a war zone. We are still battling with the customer over payment for the damages, which total $4,000.

The Buffalo Stampede Excuse
(Submitted by Brenda Fauth, Dollar Rent A Car, Rapid City, S.D.)
“We were stopped on the road when we saw a herd of buffalo. Someone driving from the other direction spooked them and they stampeded the car, denting the two front fenders and the hood.”

The Upset Aura Excuse
(Submitted by: Bernie Bradley, Budget Rent A Car, Lansdale, Pa.)
Mr. Z calls me up to rent a 15-foot box truck, asks the rate and says he’ll be right over. He arrives but when the subject of loss damage waiver comes up, his wife suggests he call their insurance agent. Since he doesn’t know the phone number, he decides to go home to make the call.
Though the contract is already printed and the unit number assigned, Mr. Z specifically says he’s not going to sign the rental agreement but will return in 15 minutes.
Fifty minutes later, another customer comes in to rent a truck. We have another truck at a different location, but before I give Mr. Z’s truck away, I call and leave a message on his voice mail. I then rent the truck to the gentleman at our counter and ask the other location’s staff to send another truck.
Mr. Z shows up as the other customer is pulling out and is upset that I rented his truck. I calm him down and our other truck arrives 20 minutes later. (Remember, he specifically said he wasn’t signing the rental agreement.)
While renting the second truck, Mr. Z damages a McDonald’s drive-thru, even though we warned him about the truck height when we reviewed the rental contract with him.
His excuse: I upset his aura for that day because he had to wait an extra 20 minutes. He and his wife couldn’t go home for lunch and had to eat out.

The High-Speed Police Chase Excuse
(Submitted by Natascha Steffan, Auto Rental Etc., Lafayette, La.)
A renter returns our Nissan Sentra damaged. When asked what happened, the renter replies: “Well, this dude was being chased by the poooleeeze and he was speeding through town. Then all of a sudden, he just jumped out of the speeding car and rolled on the ground just like in the movies. The car comes wrecking right into your car! Bam! The guy took off running with the cops chasing him, but they never caught him.”
When asked who was driving the rental, the customer replied no one — it was parked. When asked whether the customer got a good look at the driver of the other car, the response is: “No, I wasn’t there. I didn’t see nothin’!”
Just another day in Louisiana.

The Half-Ashed Inspection Excuse
(Submitted by Duane Beaudry, Thrifty Car Rental, Canada)
A federal government customer drives 738 miles in three days. The returned car has a “hit” the size of a silver dollar, right in the middle of the windshield. There are long horizontal cracks on either side of the break. The renter insists a previous customer must be responsible.
When we point out that he’s the first renter to drive this car — it had just four miles on it when he rented it — he claims the car must have come that way from the factory.
We explain that both the dealership and our shop had inspected the car, and that the customer himself had signed a damage-free condition report. He responds with a new line of defense. He becomes adamant that there’s no way possible that any inspection could guarantee 100% accuracy; that would be humanly impossible. And to back up his position, he claims he found a small ash in the ashtray.
“If your guys missed the ash, their incompetence likely resulted in their missing the windshield too,” he says.
Needless to say, every new car now has the ashtrays inspected — twice.

The ‘I Am Not Bound by Reality’ Excuse
(Submitted by Linda A. King of Linda A. King and Associates Claims Management Inc., San Diego, Calif.)
One of the most interesting accidents we have handled involved a totaled vehicle rented from Budget Concord.
California Highway Patrol arrive at the scene of an accident in which the vehicle rolled off the road, down an embankment. The totally nude renter cannot explain which direction or which road he and his female passenger were traveling on. In fact, he believes he was piloting a plane.
Neither the driver nor the passenger is hurt. A vibrator plugged into the cigarette lighter is still running at the time of the accident investigation.

The ‘All I Did Was Go to the John’ Excuse
(Submitted by Michael Marconi, Champion Car & Truck Rental, Philadelphia)
A customer renting a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica declines coverage at the time of the rental. On the second day, she calls us to report the vehicle stolen.
While driving the car with a man she just met 20 minutes earlier, she decides to stop by home to use the bathroom. Her newfound friend waits in the car with the motor running. When she returns, the Pacifica is gone.
We tell her to report the vehicle stolen to the local police department and contact her insurance company. When she does, she discovers that her father, embroiled in a nasty divorce battle with her mother, dropped her from his policy the day before the car was stolen. She has no coverage.
Because she voluntarily left the keys with someone she knew, she must file a try-and-locate request, rather than a stolen car report. As a result, the car isn’t placed on the stolen list until 48 hours later.
Two weeks later, the vehicle is returned to our lot after-hours with no key. There’s major damage to the front end. We call the customer to come in and take a look since she is ultimately responsible for the damage. She arrives with her mother. When we mention how careless the customer was to trust someone she just met with a running car, the mother’s eyes light up. “That’s not the story you told me!” the mother says.