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Clerical error leads to rental car nightmare for frequent flier

Travelers need to take time to secure proof of rental’s return/condition
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Posted at 12:09 PM, Mar 30, 2022

SARASOTA, Fla. — A Sarasota couple reached out to Taking Action reporter Jackie Callaway after the car rental company they've used for decades reported their rented SUV missing days after they dropped it off. The couple said National Car Rental told them it could be reported as stolen.

Frequent flier Amy Hullinger estimated she used National Car Rental hundreds of times over the years. She's a card-carrying member of the company's loyalty club.

Hullinger, from Sarasota, said she never had any trouble with her rentals until recently.

She and her husband, both avid golfers, took off for Arizona to watch the Phoenix Open in February. They rented a BMW SUV at the airport and returned it on Valentine's Day.

"We even talked to the person. She said everything is fine. She scanned the code on the car and we thought everything was fine," said Hullinger, who rushed off to catch her plane without getting a receipt.

She received an email from National Car Rental days later that said the vehicle was overdue. They requested immediate action from Hullinger.

"I am thinking, not only am I going to get charged for extra days, but now I am responsible for finding this car," Hullinger said.

She said calls to the Phoenix Airport location and the corporate offices didn't fix the problem. She recounted one person telling her, "if you don't return this car, you could have a sheriff at your door. We could be reporting it stolen."

Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott advises travelers to allow extra time to document a vehicle's return. Take pictures, and don't rely on the company to email a receipt.

After a week with no progress, Hullinger reached out to Callaway, who contacted National Car Rental's corporate office, Enterprise Holdings.

A day later, the company called Hullinger, apologized and ordered a full refund.

Then Enterprise Holdings sent an email to ABC Action News that stated. "....We apologize for the miscommunication in this matter. We reached out to our customer in this case to work this out directly and have taken care of all charges associated with this rental."

The $324 in rental costs appeared as a credit on Hullinger's credit card within a week.

She said National Car Rental told her one of its employees made an error when they checked out the vehicle, so its return didn't appear in their system. Another reason it's wise to take pictures of the vehicle upon return so prove you delivered it in good condition.