Received in the Mail Yesterday

Coinciding painfully close to Kip’s recent entries on web merchant scandals, I’ve found myself in the midst of similar stupidity on the part of a brick and mortar¹ merchant. Last August, while in Seattle, Danielle and I rented a car from Alamo. We landed close to 1:00am at SeaTac. When picking up our rental car, Alamo’s reservation system was down. As such, they couldn’t verify my credit card. The clerk wrote my credit card information on the rental agreement to charge later. All good, I thought.

Yesterday, I received a letter from Alamo that I haven’t paid my invoice. The letter said this [emphasis in original]:

Dear Sir or Madam


You have not been invoiced for this rental.

This is your FINAL NOTICE. If we do not receive payment immediately, your account will be placed with an outside collection agency for further action. In addition, you will not [sic] longer be eligible to rent from Alamo Rent A Car or National Car Rental. Any further attempts to rent will not be honored.

To avoid this action, send payment in full in the enclosed envelope today.


Alamo attached a copy of the original rental agreement with this friendly note. I quickly figured out that the clerk at SeaTac wrote the digits from my street address in place of the last four digits of my credit card number. Fascinating, but what should be clear is that this was not my error.

I’ll probably resolve this easily enough by sending them my correct credit card number. I’ll first verify that their system didn’t charge my credit card using the correct digits I entered when renting the car, but the solution is clear. It sucks to get hit with a $410 charge now when I’d assumed I already paid it. But whatever.

In response to this letter, though, Alamo need not worry about honoring any future attempt from me to rent a car from them. None will be forthcoming. The same applies to National.

I can understand an error. But do not sit on this for more than 6 months and then, in your first communication to me on the matter, threaten me with collection action. Implying that you’ll damage my credit because you’re too stupid to write down my payment information and too stupid to send me a letter for more than 6 months brings out my inner Mr. Garrison Mr. Hat: “You go to hell! You go to hell and you die!”

¹ I know Alamo isn’t a brick and mortar company in the context of that term, although I think it qualifies. But I figure if that’s what their employees have where brains should be, the term fits well enough.

2 thoughts on “Received in the Mail Yesterday”

  1. Dispute it as a matter of principle. I had a similar problem with a local bar which, through a machine error, neglected to charge the entire night’s business. Accountants caught the $25,000 error at tax time, 6 months later. My portion of the bar’s business that night was a small fraction of that sum, – but I disputed it and got off the hook.

  2. I don’t think I could because I think the underlying contract is still valid. Also, Alamo has a lot more resources to make my life hell. That and the time factor aren’t worth the cost. However, I am tweaking them in my conversations to resolve this.
    Yesterday, I spoke with the woman who sent me that letter. She tried to trick me into agreeing that it hadn’t been paid, but I was having none of that. She asked if she could call me back next week after I’ve researched it. I asked her if, by “next week”, she meant July or September because her sense of timeliness is distorted. She didn’t like that, so I enjoyed it immensely.

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