3 ON YOUR SIDE (3TV) - Stephanie Schwencer and her husband like vacationing in Tampa, Florida.
"I let him do the fishing, and I do other stuff," Schwencer jokingly told 3 On Your Side.
The couple has been to the Sunshine State two years in a row to meet up with relatives for kind of a mini-reunion.
"Yeah, we go down so we can see our nieces and nephews and my brothers," she said. "You know, we just want to enjoy some peaceful time together."
So, this past May when the couple flew to Tampa, they rented a Ford Taurus from Budget Rent A Car. They filled out all the normal rental paperwork and drove off to rendezvous with relatives.
And, that's when Schwencer says family members discovered a tail light on the back of her rented car wasn't illuminated. Schwencer says she thought the light bulb had simply blown out.
"I didn't worry that much about it because we weren't driving around a lot at night. We were only going a couple of blocks to dinner and doing stuff like that," she said.
A week later when Schwencer returned the car back to Budget, she told a rental representative there about that light bulb.
"I notified him that the light bulb was out, and that seemed pretty simple to me. And, you could look at it and see that it was just a light bulb," she said.
Schwencer and her husband arrived back here in the Valley to reminisce about that great Florida vacation.
However, when she went to the mailbox recently, surprising news had just arrived.
"I go to the mailbox, and I see something from Budget, and I'm like that's really odd," Schwencer said.
According to the letter, Budget was billing Schwencer $610.04 to repair that light that was out.
Apparently, Budget claimed it had to replace the entire lamp assembly which amounted to just over $610.04 and Budget was passing the repair bill on to Schwencer.
"I just didn't understand. I'm sorry, but there was no damage to the light. It was just a light bulb. I don't know why you're charging me for your maintenance," Schwencer says she remembered telling a Budget representative over the phone.
3 On Your Side got involved and we asked Budget, which is owned by Avis, to investigate.
They did and, in this email, a spokesperson said Budget "...determined that the Schwencers were charged in error for the damaged tail light assembly."
As a result, the Schwencers will not have to pay the $610.04 bill. The couple says it only happened with the help of 3 On Your Side.
"I kind of felt like the small fish in the big sea," she told 3 On Your Side. "I didn't know how I was going to get this taken care of. It's kind of a helpless feeling. I'm so excited that I don't have to worry about this anymore and it's all taken care of."
If you rent a car, it's always a wise idea to inspect it thoroughly inside and out before you leave the rental lot. Make sure to document any damage you notice and ensure the rental company knows about the damage, even if it seems minor. Also, take the extra step and use your cell phone to record video of your rental car. Again, do the exterior as well as the interior. Taking the extra three to five minutes to do this can really help.
3 On Your Side appreciates Budget looking into the issue for us and coming to an amicable resolution.
Below, you'll find the unedited statement from a Budget spokesperson.
Thank you for letting me know about the problems incurred by the Schwencers during and after their rental from our Budget location at the Tampa International Airport. I am always disappointed when I learn that a customer has found some aspect of their rental experience with Budget Car Rental to be less than satisfactory.
At AVIS Budget Group, we take pride in providing our customers with well-maintained vehicles. We value our customers and recognize that travel can sometimes result in some frustrating experiences. Being committed to providing our customers with efficient and friendly service, AVIS Budget Group tries to minimize problems by making the rental experience trouble free.
I’ve reviewed the Schwencers rental and the documentation provided by the location regarding the charges for damages. The location fixed the problem in house and did not take it to an outside body repair shop. However, in doing this, they neglected to follow the appropriate processes for documenting damage charges that are assessed to customers for in-house repairs. Because of this, I have determined that the Schwencers were charged in error for the damaged tail light assembly. I have issued a credit of $610.04 USD to offset the erroneous charge.