Sticker Shock

Earlier this year, I stopped at one of my favorite places for Nashville Hot Chicken. A delicacy of the Middle Tennessee region, it's a lot of things at once, with a crap-ton (official quantity) of cayenne powder and is greasy. When one's driving a rental Hyundai Sonata with light gray cloth seats, it's horrendously inadvisable to drop an order of hot chicken on the car's seat. Yet here I was, looking at a bright red stain on a light gray driver's seat. And this is just one of the examples where members of the AutoSlash team had to act quickly to avoid additional fees to the rental car company; these incidents are separate from (and in addition to) the instances where a rental car has been physically damaged while under our care.

This is very visible on a gray seat.

The younger members of our team have fewer "eventful" rentals. There have been times when Andrew has caught himself pulling into a carwash on autopilot, to then recognize that he's in a rental car and the car -- albeit dirty -- hasn't gone racing through enough mud to incur a cleaning fee. Eric once had to clean out the bed of a rental truck after his mother asked him to haul a load of dirt, again cognizant that there might be a cleaning fee. Yet the younger members of our team have (fortunately) never faced the prospect of hundreds of dollars in additional expenses on a rental car.

AutoSlash Founder Jonathan once got to a TSA checkpoint to realize that he still had a set of rental car keys in his pocket. Fees of $200-$350 for unreturned keys are common in the rental car industry, so this could have been a big deal. What did he do? He called the rental car station, which dispatched a shuttle driver to meet him curbside. The shuttle driver was exceptionally happy with a $20 tip, and Jonathan was exceptionally happy to avert the crisis for just $20! 

Chris prefaced his note with a "this doesn't really fit the theme", then gave an example that fit the theme exceptionally well. On a rental in Brazil, he arrived to return the vehicle within the published grace period. Then waited 45 minutes in the check-in line. Then had a return agent try to charge for the extra day plus interior and exterior cleaning. Of course, these charges were bogus. Chris knew it and rental car agent knew it. The return agent had the gall to ask for Chris' credit card, to which he politely but sternly replied that's the reason the rental car company takes an authorization when the rental began! If he handed over the credit card a second time just to cover the "extra day" and "cleaning" fees, that would have been tantamount to approving the charge to his credit card, and he was virtually assured of losing a potential credit card dispute. There's a critical lesson there for everyone -- there's no need to hand over a credit card at the time of returning a rental. After a bit of back-and-forth, Chris ended up saving $230 (plus taxes and fees), which is no small amount.  

So how did my situation end up? I visited a Wal-Mart en route to locate some Shout Advanced to make the red seat gray again. We don't endorse products in our blog but if we did, Shout Advanced would be near the top of the list! I didn't know how much the red driver's seat would have cost me but I'm pretty sure it was going to be more than $3.25! And it was a perfect excuse to sing Tears for Fears.

Let it all out. Stains are the things I can do without. Come on, I'm talking to you.

After a multiple step process of scrubbing Shout gel on the entire seat, brushing out stains, tamping the seat with wet towels, and blow-drying the seat (my return was within hours), I can proudly state that not only was the hot chicken stain removed, I even got rid of pre-existing stains. Of course, the rental return agent didn't notice that the driver's seat was spotless while the passenger seat had almost a year's worth of stains ... 


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