November 22nd, 2005

Wedding day

"The rental car came with somebody else's family still in it."

One of the merchants whose account we handle is a car rental. They get a lot of business because they're inexpensive, and they generate a lot of disputes because their service is incredibly poor. I'll tell you who they are if you ask me in person, but it's not really important, since they have only one location and it's not even in this state. The better thing to do would be to ask me my advice on renting cars, and it is simply that you should examine the car and the contract before you sign anything.

Apparently nobody ever asks to examine the cars, and the cars are in terrible condition. You know that Volkswagen Rabbit your friend Paul drove in high school? The one with the broken seat and duct tape around the windows to keep them from leaking? Well if you cleaned the Big Gulp cups and Quarter-Pounder wrappers off the floor, you'd have the cars this company rents. No, you don't have to bother vacuuming -- they certainly don't. I've read letters from their customers alleging everything from "the car had no windshield" to "a previous renter spilled cottage cheese all over the back seat, and no one cleaned it up."

It's usually hard to feel sorry for the rental when I read letters like this, but it's even harder to feel sorry for the cardholders when I read letters like the one I got today which states that the rental is "run by retards and foreigners who got deported by their own countries and are free now to scam Americans - God's chosen people." The cardholder goes on to claim that the rental operates using "what are commonly known as bad business practices." This is one of the least helpful statements I've ever read in my life.

He doesn't go into any more detail than that; the rest of the letter is just insults. I have little doubt that he got screwed by the car rental, but it's hard for me to feel any level of compassion for him. As per usual, I'm going to send his letter to the rental, and the rental is going to send me a copy of his contract and maybe a letter explaining their side of the argument. Unless there's more here that I don't know (which is not at all unlikely), this fits into a gray area where the cardholder's not happy, but the merchant didn't really do anything wrong. Either one of them is eventually going to give in and accept the charge, or (more likely) it's going to go to Visa for "impartial" arbitration. I put those quotes there because Visa's rulings are incredibly skewed toward their cardholders (Merchant: "Well, the cardholder's signature and voiceprint match the ones we have on file, we have proof that the card was physically present, and here's our security tape showing the sale." Visa: "Who cares? You have ugly letterhead.").

Presumably Visa splits their rulings when everybody's wrong, but there's more to the story than what I've read, and I just know that they'll rule in favor of the cardholder on some stupid technicality.
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