Rental operators are used to finding unwanted or forgotten items left behind by customers in their vehicles. But for Josh Stahley, a six-year veteran of the car rental industry, discovering a dead, smelly, 4-foot python in one of his cars was more than he ever expected.
According to Stahley, the location manager for a Dollar Thrifty outfit in Allentown, Penn., it all started in early May when a customer returned a Toyota Corolla to the lot. The car was cleaned, prepped for service and returned to the rental lot. Nothing unusual was found in or around the car. But as a few days passed and warm weather persisted, a very noticeable foul odor started to emanate from the car.
"The car had a bad stench that kept getting worse to the point of making you nauseous," Stahley said.
He took the car to his service station to find the cause of the odor. The service guys took the car apart and found the dead, 4-foot python inside the center console wrapped around the shifter linkage.
Stahley called the customer and asked if she had left the snake in the car. The customer said no. "Renters never admit their mistakes. She probably had the snake in car with her, couldn't find it and just left it," Stahley said.
The dead snake had started to decompose, so Stahley had the dirty task of cleaning the reptile's "guts and goop" from the car. He removed the center console, took it apart and cleaned out the individual parts. "I found a couple of bones, so the snake probably ate some mice," Stahley said.
He let the car air out for several days and shampooed it three times to remove the dead reptile's stench. The entire cleaning process took the car out of service for 27 days and it returned to the lot Friday.
If he had to choose between finding a dead snake or a live one again, Stahley said he'd choose the latter because the smell wouldn't be as bad and the clean up would be less messy.