Donna Akin decided to spend the holidays on the road catching up with friends. She flew to Memphis, rented a car with Avis, and spent a few days enjoying Blues and BBQ then drove east to Hendersonville, Tenn., to visit friends and return her rental car, but there was a problem.
"I sat there for a minute and looked at it and was like year this place is clearly closed," said Akin.
She found a dropbox where you can leave keys for a car.
"I said I'm not comfortable putting this in there, so I called the number on the building and they said 'yeah, fill it out, put in in there and we're fine.' So I did that and drove away thinking everything was fine," said Akin.
A check of her credit card statement showed an extra $178 charged on her account. Avis said since no one there to verify when she actually returned the car, she would be charged until the office reopened two days later.
Donna's reservation clearly shows she was scheduled to return the car on a day and time when they were closed.
She says the telephone agent never said there would be a problem. She took it to corporate, disputed it with her credit card company, but Avis insisted they were justified in charging her for the extra days.
She called NBC 5 Responds for help, Wayne Carter reached out and Avis gave her a refund.
"When a location is closed, our reservation system will not allow the customer to book the reservation... We have looked into Ms. Akin's matter and found that there was a system error... We pride ourselves on delivering an excellent level of customer service, and regret that on this occasion there was breakdown in the handling of this matter," Avis said.
Sure enough when trying to book a reservation online Avis' website warns you against this, but Donna had made her reservation over the phone.
NBC 5 decided to do the same. We called and scheduled a return during a time the office would be closed to see if the system wouldn't allow it like Avis claimed.
Turns out, we were in fact able to make the reservation when the office was closed, just like in Donna's case.
Avis even emailed us a confirmation showing we were to return the car outside of hours, something again the system is supposed to prevent.
This time Avis said, "Some locations allow rentals to be returned after-hours and others do not. We thank you and Ms. Akin for bringing this matter to our attention. We will be implementing an alert system to notify our reservation agents and customers who call our reservation center when a selected rental's return time is outside of operating hours."
Donna is glad to help others avoid what happened to her and of course be made whole again too.
"I appreciate your help getting my money back," said Akin.
There is no clear way to tell what will happen with after-hours returns and this scenario isn't limited to Avis.
We heard similar complaints at other rental agencies.
Always double check that the location is open and staffed when you plan to return your car to be sure you want get any surprise charges.
NBC 5 will check on Avis promised alert system to see if it helps warn consumers of a potential problem.