Update on “Stolen” Rental Car

I shared a story from one of my dad’s friends yesterday who was stopped by the police with guns drawn because the rental car he was legitimately using had been reported stolen. Of course, Hertz refunded the rental fee, but beyond that, there weren’t a lot of facts yesterday. It was still enough of a bizzarre story that I wondered if anyone else had experienced something similar. Today I have a few more details.

One of my hypotheses was that this car had been reported stolen, recovered, and then rented out again while the original theft report was still on file with the police. This is pretty much what happened. At some point Hertz had reported the vehicle stolen. Hertz claims they have safeguards in place to make sure recovered vehicles are no longer in police databases, but in this case the recovery was never reported. So the police were still on the lookout.

But what makes it worse is that the officers who stopped his car were under the impression that the car had been stolen by someone who was armed. And it was a giant yellow sports car from the Hertz “Adrenaline Series.” You can imagine the picture in your mind of a cop looking for a stolen, bright yellow muscle car zooming down the street with an armed driver. Not good. So with that information, it shouldn’t be surprising that not one, not two, but TEN officers responded when the vehicle was spotted, and my dad’s friend was ordered out of the vehicle at gunpoint.

Yes, everyone agrees that a waived rental fee isn’t sufficient in a case like this. Part of the problem is that he had two of his friends with him in the vehicle, and you can probably appreciate that all of them deserve some compensation for this experience, not just the renter. They’re still negotiating with Hertz. I’ll keep you updated if I learn anything new.

I gave him my usual advice when requesting compensation:

First, DO NOT act belligerent and claim you will never do business with them again. It doesn’t matter how awful the experience was. The company’s goal is to smooth things over with a valued customer. If they’ve already lost the customer, they don’t have much incentive beyond their legal obligation. Too many complaint letters start out angry and lose sight of the reason for the complaint and what the company can do to make the customer happy again.

Second, DO suggest non-financial forms of compensation. Any business is more likely to offer you some form of elite status or credit toward a future transaction instead of cash you could use with someone else. If you are willing to do business with them again, a $200 voucher is just as valuable to you as $200 cash, but to them a $200 voucher costs them much less because it reflects both expenses and a profit margin. There’s also a chance that you will spend more than the voucher (more business for them) or less than the voucher (“breakage”).

Have You Ever Driven a Stolen Rental Car?
Singapore Airlines First Class SFO-ICN (SQ 15)
  • ClearedCustoms

    The “Adrenaline Series” you say? It sounds like Hertz delivered on the name.

    • Dad

      That was my friend’s first comment. He and his two friends in the car definitely got their adrenaline shot for the evening. In sleepy San Jose / Cupertino no less!

  • HockeyCoachBen

    I think this situation is far beyond simple telephone/email negotiation. This is a legal matter. Hertz’s actions, or lack thereof, put lives in danger…both of the police officers and of the driver and his friends.

    Sure, it all turned out ok in the end, but suppose the driver resisted because he was obviously innocent, he could have been tased or shot because the police assume he’s a dangerous individual. Or suppose the driver of the rental car was in fact a dangerous person innocently driving a rental car, gets pulled over, panics and does something stupid thus injuring innocent police officers.

    This is corporate negligence at its finest but this time it wasn’t harmless despite the outcome. Hertz needs to pay up big time!

  • Craig

    As an attorney I can state that this definitely is a legal matter. Both the renter and the passengers have a cause of action against Hertz for negligent infliction of emotional distress. A settlement in a case like this is easily worth several thousand dollars.

    • Scottrick

      That may be necessary. It’s definitely beyond the usual inconvenience.

    • Ann

      IIRC, negligent infliction of emotional distress requires some sort of physical injury.
      Really, the courts aren’t the scariest threat here: the media is. Reporters would have a field day with such a story, and it would be extremely damaging to Hertz.
      It’s been a week, any updates?

      • Scottrick

        Sorry, no. I’ll ask my dad, see if his friend told him anything new.

  • Blaine

    I’d make a simple request to keep the fun yellow sports car. No hard feelings :)

  • dina

    My husband has been arested yesterday because he was driving a rental car reperted as stolen. So… he didn’t pay for his rent and they reported as stolen car. I was wandering what is next. He is in the jail right now. He thought that they charge him automatically. This is the only reason why he didn’t pay. Not because he wants stolen this car. Please help me somebody! I don’t know what to do and how to help him.