Car rental employees at San Diego International Airport stopped a man who was attempting to steal a vehicle from Payless Car Rental and the airport’s consolidated rental car facility Tuesday night.
Payless CFO Shawn Hack said his staff noticed a suspicious looking man checking out vehicles around 9:00 p.m. Briana Rodriguez, a valet and administrator at the San Diego location, said the man appeared to be under the influence
“He looked like he was stumbling,” she said. “The gentleman hopped in the car and he drove the car up to the booth and we stopped him there.”
Rodriguez and a coworker asked him if he had a contract, at which point the man said, “Yes,” but then kept insisting the vehicle was his. At this point, Rodriguez told the man to go downstairs to get a contract, in an effort to get him away from the rental vehicles.
The man, described as being in his mid-30s, eventually turned off the car and exited, but put the key in his pocket as he walked toward the stairwell that leads to the roof where overflow cars are kept.
Sensing the gravity of the situation, Michael Vargas, a fleet supervisor at neighboring Green Motion, stepped in and was able to stop the man from getting on the roof. Vargas said the man kept saying that he worked for Payless, and began belligerently cursing.
While Rodriguez called police, Vargas grabbed the keys from the man, kept him seated in the stairwell, and was able to give him some water and oranges to snack on.
Once police arrived, the man was arrested for being under the influence in public. Hack said he won’t be charged with anything relating to the rental cars, since no damage was done to the vehicles or the kiosk.
Hack praised his employees for stopping the man, and Vargas for coming to their aid, even though he works for a rival company.
“That’s what makes to whole thing, at least to me, really pop out,” Hack said.
“I didn’t want anything happening to Briana, I didn’t want anything happening to Shawn’s property," Vargas said. “He wasn’t going to go anywhere, not as far as I could help it.”
The situation is making Hack rethink safety protocols and procedures. Currently, the larger operators such as Avis and Budget have gates at their rental exit areas, but Payless does not.
“Hopefully it’s enough for the airport authority to look at and say, ‘Hey, let’s work with these companies and get a gate there,’” Hack said. “…Obviously when these things happen, it makes you kind of go back to the drawing board; not be so concerned about the money… I can replace a car, but I can’t replace a person.”