Bizarre: Avis Allegedly Steals Car From Customer

Bizarre: Avis Allegedly Steals Car From Customer

36

I don’t even know what to make of this, other than feeling bad for the customer…

Avis car goes missing during rental

Tarikh Campbell took to Twitter to share an absolutely bizarre experience he had with an Avis car rental. Essentially his car disappeared from outside of the home where he was staying in Teaneck, New Jersey. Everything pointed to the car being stolen, though in reality it seems like it may have just been Avis repossessing the car, for unknown reasons.

Here’s a summary of what happened, according to Campbell:

  • On Friday, August 13, Campbell flew to New Jersey for the weekend to visit family and friends, and rented a 2020 Toyota Camry from Avis at Newark Airport
  • On Saturday, August 14, Campbell was planning to meet some friends at around 10:30PM, so he was trying to access his car, when he realized it was no longer where he had parked it; the car was allegedly parked on a quiet, safe, suburban street with free parking, outside his childhood home
  • He called the local police, who confirmed there was no impound order on the car, so he then called Avis, thinking that maybe the company could track the car with GPS
  • He waited on hold for over an hour on the emergency assistance line, only to be told that Avis couldn’t track the car, and he should file a stolen vehicle report with the police
  • A police officer came over to file a police report, and at this point it was 2:30AM, and he had a flight out the next morning at 9AM
  • In the morning he took a Lyft to Newark Airport, and told the Avis branch exactly what happened; he was informed that he’d continue to be charged until the car was returned, as he was liable
  • When he returned home, he had the idea of checking the EZPASS activity, since he had his transponder in the rental car; the transponder suggested the car exited at Newark Airport at shortly after 10:30PM the night before, around the time that he noticed the car was missing
  • At this point he became suspicious — if someone stole the car, why would they drive to the airport, where the car came from?
  • At this point Campbell’s aunt, who lives on the same street where the car was stolen, reviewed her home security camera, and saw a red tow truck had towed the car the night before
  • Four hours after Campbell had been at the Avis office at Newark Airport, Avis’ app suddenly showed the car as having been returned, and Campbell was still charged for a late return fee
  • Long story short, Campbell couldn’t get in touch with anyone at Avis, which is why he took to Twitter; now that the story has gone viral, Avis has refunded his rental and is “investigating”

How on earth did this happen?!

This is such a strange story, yet at the same time is reflective of the overall customer service in the car rental industry. I’m curious what an investigation reveals, though a few things come to mind:

  • It seems that Avis had a way of tracking his car, since Campbell didn’t provide the address of where he was staying, and nothing else related to the rental was associated with that address
  • The only theory I can come up with is that somehow there was an order for the car to be repossessed; maybe someone rented the car in the past and didn’t return it, and Avis works with a third party for repossessions, and they never got the memo that the car was eventually returned
  • I’m sure there are some other possible theories, and I suppose it could be that Avis wasn’t involved, but I can’t think of any logical explanation
  • Regardless of the explanation, Avis’ customer service here was absolutely awful, though that’s the story of so much of the car rental industry

Even though Avis has now refunded Campbell, they owe him a lot more than that — a refund of his Lyft, some sort of compensation for the inconvenience and aggravation, and an explanation of what actually happened, and how it will be avoided in the future.

Bottom line

I don’t have high expectations of service from car rental companies, but this Avis incident is on a different level. Someone rented a car from Avis at Newark Airport, and it was towed from outside the house where the customer was staying, for an unknown reason. Avis didn’t even acknowledge that this happened, but rather claimed that he’d keep being charged until the car was returned.

Avis is allegedly now investigating the incident, and I hope the findings are made public, because this is a major screw up.

What do you make of this Avis car rental incident?

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  1. Alex

    Had a similar (ish) situation with an Avis/Budget rental in Italy two years ago. Went out for dinner and the car had some sort of engine issue when trying to leave the restaurant. Eventually it started and drove all the way back to the hotel, but experienced the same issue in the parking lot. Called the office at FCO airport that it was rented from to let them know we had a problem. They decided...

    Had a similar (ish) situation with an Avis/Budget rental in Italy two years ago. Went out for dinner and the car had some sort of engine issue when trying to leave the restaurant. Eventually it started and drove all the way back to the hotel, but experienced the same issue in the parking lot. Called the office at FCO airport that it was rented from to let them know we had a problem. They decided the correct course of action was to send a tow truck at 3am and remove the car without letting us know.
    After waking up and discovering the complete lack of car, we had to figure out where to get a replacement. Avis/Budget Italy customer support was useless, could barely get through to them let alone find out where to get a car. Ended up having to take a ferry to Piombino, go to the Avis/Budget office there. They only had one car, something tiny (we started out with a seven-seater family car). But the woman in Piombino was super helpful, checked to find out the Lucca office had an identical car to the one we originally had, and gave us the tiny one to drive up there and get it.
    Ended up spending a whole day on this ‘adventure’…all because Avis/Budget thinks the appropriate response to one of their cars breaking down is removing it in the middle of the night with no warning and no replacement. ‍♂️

    1. Alex

      Not sure where that symbol came from at the end, I didn’t mean to type it

  2. Dustin

    lol car rental companies are pure trash

  3. Rk

    Last I’ll say on the matter but I NEVER said Avis was not at fault. I simply don’t think enough information is available to make all the superlative comments about how bad rental car companies, related experiences, etc. can be (or simply “is” , per the article). This type of dramatic description has been all too present and unnecessary lately. For example, Solaz review: “obviously paid actors…doucecanoe from north of the border”. Why is that...

    Last I’ll say on the matter but I NEVER said Avis was not at fault. I simply don’t think enough information is available to make all the superlative comments about how bad rental car companies, related experiences, etc. can be (or simply “is” , per the article). This type of dramatic description has been all too present and unnecessary lately. For example, Solaz review: “obviously paid actors…doucecanoe from north of the border”. Why is that relevant and what kind of person refers to another in that sense? And f** off to the person telling me to get another job - I’m quite proud of my decades of taking care of my guests, of which the majority are incredibly wonderful people with a proper moral compass. Doesn’t mean I don’t encounter those who look for a windfall compensation anytime the slightest deviation to their expectations takes place…those are so easily identified the moment they open their mouths, or type a word or two - as I often see here.

    1. Eskimo

      @Rk

      How you survived in this industry for decades is a big mystery to me.
      For someone who is in the service/hospitality business you sure handle feedbacks from others pretty well. Especially telling them to f** off. You are a great example of why I don't want to or like to deal with people like you but I have no choice because you're still in the service/hospitality, where you and the customers have to...

      @Rk

      How you survived in this industry for decades is a big mystery to me.
      For someone who is in the service/hospitality business you sure handle feedbacks from others pretty well. Especially telling them to f** off. You are a great example of why I don't want to or like to deal with people like you but I have no choice because you're still in the service/hospitality, where you and the customers have to interact.

      Second reason why someone shouldn't be in service/hospitality is when someone considers their guests are looking for a windfall compensation the moment they open their mouths.

      Third reason, if someone can't even understand why Avis, 'regardless of sufficient information or fault', will always be at fault shouldn't be working in service/hospitality.
      And because that someone wouldn't understand I will translate it for you.
      When there is a weather delay, do you think customers blame the airline or the weather, or god?
      And I'm sure we can all agree no airline can control weather so the airlines shouldn't be at fault.

      Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the service/hospitality industry. But like the authoritarian flight crews I called out, I always respect their jobs and uniform, but in those few instances, I lose respect for the person (improperly) doing their job.

  4. Jerry

    I kind of had the opposite issue. While I had the car rental, I get a message saying I returned the car. I went and double checked they didn’t take it ahead of time but they didn’t. When I returned the car a day later they were so confused since the car was labeled as returned. They had me talk to the person inside and they were confused too so I ended up paying only...

    I kind of had the opposite issue. While I had the car rental, I get a message saying I returned the car. I went and double checked they didn’t take it ahead of time but they didn’t. When I returned the car a day later they were so confused since the car was labeled as returned. They had me talk to the person inside and they were confused too so I ended up paying only 2 day instead of 3 since it was considered returned early. I wonder if the screwup for the person who actually returned a car but was wasn’t considered returned got screwed over.

  5. Randy

    Has anyone here actually read the T's and C's of the rental agreement., which you agree to when you pick up the car. One item says:

    "11. Repossessing the Car. We can repossess the car at any time in our sole discretion for reasons that include, but are not limited to the following:"

    Also - Avis has a big list of DMV check items
    that that if not met violate the agreement.

    All that...

    Has anyone here actually read the T's and C's of the rental agreement., which you agree to when you pick up the car. One item says:

    "11. Repossessing the Car. We can repossess the car at any time in our sole discretion for reasons that include, but are not limited to the following:"

    Also - Avis has a big list of DMV check items
    that that if not met violate the agreement.

    All that said - Avis should still try to call you - assuming you have a phone, unless they suspect some kind of fraud.

  6. shootfire

    I work for the largest car rental company in the world. We don't repo cars unless they're hundreds of dollars in arrears, and not without first calling multiple times (including emergency contacts), emails, texts and what not. After attempting to repo the vehicle at known addresses, if we are unsuccessful, the vehicle gets reported stolen with local authorities. This process takes many days. It is worth noting that many GM vehicles are what we call...

    I work for the largest car rental company in the world. We don't repo cars unless they're hundreds of dollars in arrears, and not without first calling multiple times (including emergency contacts), emails, texts and what not. After attempting to repo the vehicle at known addresses, if we are unsuccessful, the vehicle gets reported stolen with local authorities. This process takes many days. It is worth noting that many GM vehicles are what we call 'connected cars' in that data is reported from the vehicle to our computer systems (fuel level, mileage, etc). Additional info is transmitted, but is only accessible by corporate staff with a need to know basis. Toyotas are not connected as far as I know. So... with all that being said (which I hope is helpful info) - this was definitely an Avis screw up. The guy definitely deserves a refund, reimbursement of his Lyft, and a free rental coupon.

  7. Barry

    Don’t rent from Avis no more

  8. Bear

    We also had a recent bad Avis experience athe the DTW airport.
    I prepaid a rental for 4 days $560.+61 airport fees. When I returned home I received a charge on my credit card for $1250. Latter I received another charge $450. For a total $2321 for 4 days. I made several fruitless efforts to contact Avis by phone to no avail. I sent a email to customer service. Finally I protested additional charges...

    We also had a recent bad Avis experience athe the DTW airport.
    I prepaid a rental for 4 days $560.+61 airport fees. When I returned home I received a charge on my credit card for $1250. Latter I received another charge $450. For a total $2321 for 4 days. I made several fruitless efforts to contact Avis by phone to no avail. I sent a email to customer service. Finally I protested additional charges to my credit card company .
    Thankfully I had my contract fromAvis and flight boarding pass. One month latter I received a trite letter from Avis saying I been assessed a $450. Cleaning fee for animal hair in the vehicle.
    I had been to a Funeral and no one else was in the car. Strange.
    I think Avis has lost control at it’s branches.
    After 3 months the credit card resolved the issue finally.I will never rent from them again I have been a preferred Member for over 25 years…
    I blocked Avis from using my credit cards.

    1. Eskimo

      "I will never rent from them again I have been a preferred Member for over 25 years…"

      Congratulations, this is one of the rare cases where I'm sure you won't be renting from Avis again.
      Because Avis won't let you, LOL.

      You did a charge back. So you might have block Avis from using your cards (if that's even possible), but Avis probably already blocked you from renting their cars.

  9. JFB

    Sort of the same thing happened to me with Hertz, although they didn't tow the car - because they had the car.

    So, I rented Hertz at SMF, used the car for the day and returned it. I went from SMF to PDX and rented another car there and drove it to Eugene, getting in late at night.

    About 7:30am, way before I wanted to be woken, my phone rings and the first thing I...

    Sort of the same thing happened to me with Hertz, although they didn't tow the car - because they had the car.

    So, I rented Hertz at SMF, used the car for the day and returned it. I went from SMF to PDX and rented another car there and drove it to Eugene, getting in late at night.

    About 7:30am, way before I wanted to be woken, my phone rings and the first thing I hear after saying hello was "You stole our car and we want it back. You are a thief and will be arrested." I had absolutely no idea what this was about and finally figured it out that this woman was from Hertz (it took several questions to get this out of her for some unknown reason).

    I told her I returned the car to SMF. She told me I was a liar - and a thief. Her tone was really ugly. She kept insulting me and telling me I was going to prison. I finally said, "I'm sure you have cameras all over the SMF facility and you will see me return it and talk to the attendant". She doubted it and I hung up.

    Two hours later, I got an email from Hertz. It was the receipt for the SMF rental.

    I wrote everyone I could find at Hertz to complain about this madness and only got back boiler-plate responses saying they appreciate my feedback.

    Then, I rented cars weekly from Hertz. Now, I rent from Avis. So, now I have to be careful about Avis too. Great. Maybe National?

  10. Nino

    I was an Avis First Class member back in the day before they rejiggered elite statues as we know them today. My story goes like this...I picked up my rental at DFW a Toyota FJ Cruiser (Avis assignment not my choice) and did a drop off at DAL. Everything was fine when I returned the vehicle (full gas, no damage etc.)

    A couple months later I receive a letter in the mail from Avis saying...

    I was an Avis First Class member back in the day before they rejiggered elite statues as we know them today. My story goes like this...I picked up my rental at DFW a Toyota FJ Cruiser (Avis assignment not my choice) and did a drop off at DAL. Everything was fine when I returned the vehicle (full gas, no damage etc.)

    A couple months later I receive a letter in the mail from Avis saying I owe them close to $2,500 for damages, repairs and rental fees for returning the vehicle with damage. I called them up and asked them to send me photos of the damage (I didn't lead on that I have photos of when I picked the vehicle up) they couldn't and said either pay now or this is going to collections. I asked the typical question we all ask, "may I speak to you supervisor or manager?" which was a blessing. We chatted and I asked can you please tell me the license plate number and he said sure, he sent a photo. It wasn't even the same car let alone vehicle class, was a Ford Taurus!!!!! I told him I have my emailed receipt showing I returned Toyota FJ Cruiser so, sent it to him and he said okay, we'll close this. Not a, "I'm/we are sorry for doing this to you and wasting your time, what can we do to keep your business" etc. NOTHING

    This level of customer service I dealt with was when the industry was kicking butt and wasn't dealing with COVID so, spare me this industry bashing pity party, the travel industry needs to be doing better than before especially when screw-ups like this, repo-ing the car on rental, take place and MAKE IT RIGHT FOR THE CUSTOMER!!

  11. Bob

    And if this story didn't get the attention that it did avis' response would have been "according to our records which we can't prove nor would we ever allow you to examine because we probably don't even have the records but we are in the right and it's all your fault and by complaining we're adding more fees to your bill".

  12. Rose

    No matter what happened or who’s fault it should if been communicated , they had his phone number , address, toll tag come on stealing back a car rented if it was an error why continue charging him when they had the car no excuse ,

  13. Rose

    Boycott until it is satisfactory settled and compensated

  14. beachmouse

    Last month I had a Hertz rental from SFO. Charge for the rental pinged on my Apple Watch notifications as we exited the ramp so I assumed all was well. When we returned the car 12 days later, it turned out Hertz had cancelled the rental and refunded the charge to my card the day after I’d picked it up. It eventually got straightened out and Hertz knocked $50 off the bill for the 20...

    Last month I had a Hertz rental from SFO. Charge for the rental pinged on my Apple Watch notifications as we exited the ramp so I assumed all was well. When we returned the car 12 days later, it turned out Hertz had cancelled the rental and refunded the charge to my card the day after I’d picked it up. It eventually got straightened out and Hertz knocked $50 off the bill for the 20 minutes it took for that but it would have been really not good if they’d sent the repo truck for it when we were in the middle of Kings Canyon National Park with no alternate transportation options.

  15. 767

    Had 2 bad experiences. Once with Hertz at LAX, I returned the car but there was no agent. I noted the miles and gas and dropped off the keys. One week later, I received a huge bill. I called customer service and they asked me to send a copy of my boarding pass. Now, whenever I rent a car, I always print a boarding pass at the kiosk.

    Second, dollar at MCO. I did not...

    Had 2 bad experiences. Once with Hertz at LAX, I returned the car but there was no agent. I noted the miles and gas and dropped off the keys. One week later, I received a huge bill. I called customer service and they asked me to send a copy of my boarding pass. Now, whenever I rent a car, I always print a boarding pass at the kiosk.

    Second, dollar at MCO. I did not need a rental so attempted to cancel online. I kept getting an error. Didn’t think much of it until they emailed me a bill. I told them I didn’t rent the car and that was that. It must happen often. Now I always make sure to cancel rentals, especially those that already have my credit card on file.

  16. Rk

    @Vladiator if you read my comment you would know that one possibility is that Avis did not know this person had possession of the car (checked out but not under his name as new rental, for example) so how could they call him if that was the case???? @Randy gets that concept.

    @lol I think the phrasing in this article… “..overall customer service in the car rental industry” which links to another article about...

    @Vladiator if you read my comment you would know that one possibility is that Avis did not know this person had possession of the car (checked out but not under his name as new rental, for example) so how could they call him if that was the case???? @Randy gets that concept.

    @lol I think the phrasing in this article… “..overall customer service in the car rental industry” which links to another article about how bad renting a car is and includes clips from Seinfeld and other rants. Just a few points later in this article it is notes that “Avis’ customer service was absolutely awful” and again without knowing all the facts. LOL not.

    1. Marcus

      Let's poll the blog readers - would you rather rent a car or have root canal treatment? ;-)

    2. Luis

      Let's go with your premise and say that Avis didn't know that this person had possession of the car. Highly unlikely but let's go with it. So then whose damn incompetence and fault is that? Is it the customer or Avis? No matter how you break it down, Avis is at fault here.

    3. Roman

      How would they continue charging him if they did not know he had the car? How were they able to refund the renter if they did not know he had the car?

  17. Randy

    Many Avis cars are constantly connected. Avis knows where cars are, how much gas is in the in car, the mileage, likely speed, etc. Many times when turning in an Avis car - they only have to scan the label on the windshield - the mileage and amount of gas auto collects. You can even look in the Avis app and see how much is gas is left in the car.

    I really doubt Avis would go out and retrieve a car unless there was something wrong with the rental agreement.

  18. lol

    @RK,

    I imagine you think you're helping by awkwardly pretending to be the victim and doing everything you can to white knight for avis, but you just look kind of crazy and every sane person will realize Avis was probably at fault here and not just desperately grasp at straws to defend the service industry. LOL.

    1. Vladiator

      Hear, hear. Even if there was a problem with the rental agreement, confiscating the car without calling the customer was dead wrong.

    2. Never in Doubt

      This^.

      There's both an information gap (nothing from Avis) and a potential credibility issue (people lie), but I can't imagine a situation where scooping up a car without notice was the right thing to do.

  19. Zymm

    Also due a refund of the toll charged to his EZ Pass

    1. jb

      Seems like theft of the customer’s EZ pass hardware and account.

  20. Rk

    I wouldn’t be so quick to lay fault entirely with Avis, though you just love to excessively bash the service/hospitality industry lately, one of which I am part of. Perhaps this renter had an error in checking the car out, maybe the renter didn’t even realize it, but with the style of “pick any car” at the lot these days it’s easy to happen - happened to me and Dollar didn’t even know I had...

    I wouldn’t be so quick to lay fault entirely with Avis, though you just love to excessively bash the service/hospitality industry lately, one of which I am part of. Perhaps this renter had an error in checking the car out, maybe the renter didn’t even realize it, but with the style of “pick any car” at the lot these days it’s easy to happen - happened to me and Dollar didn’t even know I had the car until I returned it. So let’s see what comes out of this first before you go on your latest customer service bash - it’s really getting old and you come across as spoiled and completely oblivious to our industry and the struggles we face with trying to survive, let alone get back to a pre-pandemic environment and economics.

    1. Chris202

      I think you need to look at the situation more critically. Even if what you say happened, happened, it’s still Avis’ fault for not correctly logging the car when he left the lot, and not flagging it in the system that it had been repossessed.

    2. Klaus

      Yes, I also noticed the constant bashing here. Thank you for bringing this up.

    3. Rrapynot

      Provide better service and you might survive.

    4. DC

      As someone who works in customer service, I don’t see anything wrong with Ben’s comments as of late. The things he has commented on are situations that should never occur. I will always defend the industry when I can, but the scenarios that he covers are blatantly unacceptable.

    5. Mike

      It’s Avis - after my last horrible experience with them (in which they threatened to send me to collections for damage to a car, when even the paperwork they sent me said that I paid for the LDW, and after I pointed this out to them twice), I can believe that this was purely out of their own incompetence.

    6. Byzantine Dixie

      I don't disagree. Avis was always my go to rental car company. They were fantastic compared to the others. However in the last few years something has changed dramatically. We had an instance where the car had a mechanical problem yet we had to pay for the tow truck service and no amount of explanation changed their minds that it was their responsibility to provide a roadworthy car (battery wouldn't stay charged)! The only good...

      I don't disagree. Avis was always my go to rental car company. They were fantastic compared to the others. However in the last few years something has changed dramatically. We had an instance where the car had a mechanical problem yet we had to pay for the tow truck service and no amount of explanation changed their minds that it was their responsibility to provide a roadworthy car (battery wouldn't stay charged)! The only good thing about having bad customer service is that when they send out that email warning after booking demanding proof of employment at the check out counter for that old employee discount policy the guys checking out the cars forget to ask about it!

    7. Eskimo

      @Rk

      Your way of denying things is exactly what's wrong with the service/hospitality industry. You should find a different industry. I suggest law enforcement, politician, or robocall scammers will suit your "deny any wrong doing until proven guilty".
      With job shortage, I'm pretty sure you can easily find a new job. I root for you very much, so I can rest assured that I don't have to deal with people like you in the service/hospitality industry.

Featured Comments Load all 36 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Luis

Let's go with your premise and say that Avis didn't know that this person had possession of the car. Highly unlikely but let's go with it. So then whose damn incompetence and fault is that? Is it the customer or Avis? No matter how you break it down, Avis is at fault here.

Chris202

I think you need to look at the situation more critically. Even if what you say happened, happened, it’s still Avis’ fault for not correctly logging the car when he left the lot, and not flagging it in the system that it had been repossessed.

Vladiator

Hear, hear. Even if there was a problem with the rental agreement, confiscating the car without calling the customer was dead wrong.

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