Archive for September, 2005

Replacement car

September 1st, 2005

After the car accident my car was nicely smashed on both ends, and suffered from radiator damage. So doing anything with it beyond getting it to the garage (which I did) was certainly out of the question. Fixing all that damage took time, during which I was left without a car.

Getting stuck without a car isn’t much fun, let me tell you. I could, and did, borrow my mother’s car, but it’s not a perfect solution, since she does use her car occasionally. But this is why insurance policies have this great patent called a replacement car.

Or rather, this is why they claim to have it. The actual provision of the replacement car varies widely between insurers, and it pretty much never does what a sane person would expect it to mean. That is, it never does mean that you get a replacement car from when your car becomes unusable and up to the time you get your car working back again.

Instead there are all sorts of time limits, conditions, personal participation, and all sorts of fun stuff like that. Take for example my own policy, which isn’t at all bad compared to some of the stuff out there. First of all, it has this incomprehensible requirement for three days personal participation, meaning that at best I’d only receive the car for three days less than the time I’ll actually need it.

Second, the duration for getting it is determined by an estimation of an assessor of the time it would take to repair the damage. Any relation to the actual repair time is just optional. If the estimate is that it would take actual six days’ labour to do the repairs, it doesn’t matter if there are parts that need to be ordered and shipped, or if the garage actually have some other things to do beyond this one repair. The replacement car is only allotted for the estimate of the repair time (minus those three days, naturally) by a fully stocked and dedicated garage. Not very realistic, is it?

Not to mention that any duration before the car enters the garage doesn’t count, even though I’m without a car at the time. My accident was on Friday noon, meaning that the insurance company and the garage were already closed for the weekend. Sunday morning the insurance company was open, but I still couldn’t get the car to the garage before speaking with the insurance company, going over the details, and getting their approval for a repair. At which time it was impossible for me to get the car physically to the garage, since I wouldn’t have had a good way to actually get back home, or to work. So the car only entered the garage on Monday morning, and all this time I had to do without a replacement car.

All in all, for being two whole weeks without a car, I received just three days of replacement car. Hardly seems worth the trouble, is it?

But after considering we decided that releasing my mother’s car for even three days would be a good idea, so I went to pick the replacement up. The car was of course not delivered to me, I had to be pick up from a rental agency. Well, nothing to it, just have to go, sign a few papers, and get the car.

So I went there early on the morning, to be able to get the car and drive to work early. I was the first client there. Heck, I was there before the employees arrived, and had to wait a little. OK, I admit, that wasn’t just me wanting to be up and about, but the hour in which I could get a ride to the rental station…

Eventually some nice employees arrived to the desk, and I approached to start my quick rental process. No such luck. Oh, they were very willing to help, but the car wasn’t there. As a part of the procedure they take the cars to a wash. So the car was being washed, and I had to wait until it would get back. And it’s not as if I had an option. Like I said, I was there first, and the car really wasn’t there. They parked the cars someplace else, so it wasn’t possible to get them to give me the car unwashed, even if they would have agreed. Which they wouldn’t have, since they have procedures.

So I waited. At least the waiting time wasn’t entirely wasted (and not just because I’m always carrying an emergency book). The wait proved to be an educating experience, so I can’t really complain. They had a new worker, you see, and one of the older hands was showing him the ropes. Or more specifically, at that time he was showing him some of the computer systems. Computer systems which were password protected, both the computer itself, and some of their programs. Good to know they pay attention to security.

At least, the ones making procedures pay attention to security. The others are probably a little unclear on the concept. The guy giving the new employee initiation sure was. How do I know that? Because I heard all of the passwords except one, since the guy was explaining things out loud, including the exact strings needed to be typed at the password request screens.

“Ah,” you’d say, “but at least he didn’t say one of them out loud, did he? So it’s not all bad, right?” Wrong. The reason he didn’t say it was because he didn’t have to, it was written on a piece of paper that was stuck to the computer’s monitor. All he did was tell the new guy to type in what’s on the paper. Had I wanted to, I could have easily reached there and read the paper. And the paper stays there when they leave the office at night, or for the weekend.

Fast forward about 40-45 minutes, and the car finally arrived. With the car there, I could finally go on with the paperwork. I started to go over the details, and at some point the guy at the counter asked for my credit card number. I asked why, since everything had to be paid by the insurance company, and was told that it’s not for payment but as a collateral. They needed to reserve 2,500 ILS. That’s a nice sum, but I have the money, so I didn’t see any problem with it, and presented my credit card.

A little typing into the computer, and the guy had a concerned look on his face. He picked up the phone and called what sounded like a support centre for their credit card processing company, trying to get help about a problem he had in getting the card details through. Eventually he turned to me and told me that the card was not approved for making this deposit.

This was surprising, since like I said I have the money, and the card’s limit is much above that sum. I asked for a phone, and called the support line of my credit card’s company. I explained the problem, and was asked to provide my ID number to confirm my identity (Because anyone getting my credit card details would find it so very hard to get my ID number, oh, yes, for sure). Once this was done the person at the other end of the line did some checking, and informed me that the collateral deposit was not approved because the entered expiration date of the card was wrong. Turns out the guy at the rental agency had some trouble distinguishing between an 8 and a 6, and tried to type in the wrong year. Time to get new eyeglass, buddy.

I told that to the rental guy (minus the eyeglasses remark, I decided to let him figure that out on his own), who made a second attempt, which was successful. Then he and another women working there said how absurd it is, and that they don’t understand why the credit card processing company didn’t tell them exactly what the problem was instead of merely saying it wasn’t approved.

I tried to explain, I really did. How this is meant to prevent crimes and false withdraws, so that someone who managed to get only partial card details will not be able to gain access to the money. So if not all of the details match, they can’t tell to the one making the attempt what is wrong, because that would be akin to telling thieves and fraudsters exactly what it is they need to fix.

But to no avail. Neither of them was able to understand the problem. The guy even told me that the centre knew he was from the rental company and legit, so had no reason to hide that from him. Ignoring the fact that an employee of a car rental company (I’m sure their employee screening is terrific, amazing, and no bad person could slip through the cracks ever. Maybe just slow ones.) can be involved on some crimes on his spare time, I asked how are they supposed to know he’s calling from the agency. Of course, listening to his previous conversation with them I had an idea at to what he was going to say, but wanted him to actually say it.

He did. He pointed to another paper stuck to his desk, right next to the phone of the processing centre, and told me that this is the rental agency’s client number, and that he tells it to the processing centre on each call. Which is true, he did tell it to them. And he expected me to agree that this indeed indicate that they should know he was legit. Boy, was he surprised. I told him that it’s very nice, that he’s completely right, and… that oh, BTW, I both saw this number, and heard him tell it to the processing centre on the phone, so now I could call them myself, give the number, and they could be certain I’m working for the rental company, right?

He didn’t have much to say to that, but still refused to understand it’s a good thing he wasn’t told the exact problem. If anything, maybe it was even too easy for me to find that out, since all I needed was a relatively easily obtained ID number. But every little thing counts, and it would block some people, so I guess overall that’s a good thing.

With that over, everything went smoothly, and we reached the car inspection part. This is the part when the renter, in this case me, goes with an employee of the rental company and generally inspect the car. Every obvious damage found is then written down on the rental agreement. This is because new damages at the return time are charged to the renter, and listing everything beforehand spares the arguments of whether the defects are new or old.

Of course, the car rental employees make a great show of looking everywhere, but are often a little shy of actually noticing all the details. A problem they don’t seem to be having when you return the car, when they notice right about everything. Several years ago I worked at a company who rented (well, leased, if you want to be a stickler for details) a few cars for employees. At the time when several people were let go, and the cars were returned, the agency wanted compensation for the damages of a few scratches on some of the cars. Scratches that were there from day one. When taking the cars nobody bothered writing that down since they were only small scratches. Eventually the company had to pay, though, since there were indeed scratches, and they really weren’t listed in the agreement.

We started the inspection by noticing some large scratches, which the women assigned to this duly noted. Then we kept going around the car, and noticed three more places with small scratches, and a place were a plastic pane was also slightly scratched. I told her to write it down. She replied that there’s no need because they are only small scratches. Being both experienced, and a great believer in the nature of men, I told her to write it down anyway. I insisted. And instead of listing all the exact defect, she was so taken aback that she instead wrote down something like “scratches all around the car”. Thereby essentially granting me a license to scratch the car as much as I like while being able to claim it’s prior damage. No complaints on my end. I did not, however, take advantage of the opportunity when using the car.

We then went on to inspect the inside of the car, where I again insisted on her listing a large stain on the back seat (No, I don’t know what it was, I didn’t want to know, and I had nothing to do with the back seat in general and that stain in particular), and a plastic pane that was somewhat loose. She looked quite annoyed over listing those needless details, so I told her the story. And mentioned that it might even have been with the same company (which it was). This mollified her, though in any case it’s not like she could have objected.

With that we finally signed all the papers, and I went out with my brand new used shiny scratched car. Which I happily drove for three days.

In this series (Chain reaction car accident):

  1. Chain reaction car accident
  2. Replacement car