Helping Win Hearts & Minds on
the Battlefields of Online Media
Upset He Had to Pay
(on major review site)

Roger B.'s Review

Beware! Check every ding on the rental car and make sure it's listed on the rental agreement. They will charge your credit card after the fact for repairs if they find any damage that's not accounted for. They will tell you, "Someone has got to pay for the damage and it's sure not going to be us!" And do not let them fill out the damage form while you're inside, to save time. Make sure to check over the car together before you leave your rental return! I got a big surprise on my credit card statement after renting from them and it's not possible to challenge the charge if the damage is not recorded as prior damage on your rental agreement! You should not trust them to get it right!

Response Case Study:

Damages Rental Car, Smears
Company for Charging Him

    This review by Roger B. is basically a smear with a lot of misleading innuendo, and no specificity. Nevertheless, responding to it was a bit tricky, because we needed to deflect from the real issue. In a communications battle, if you're weak on the core issue, you try to move the discussion to other issues as a distraction. If your opponent is weak on the core issue and you're strong, then you try to keep the discussion focused on the core issue. In this case we were weak, due to special circumstances.

    The real issue at the heart of Roger B's review, from our client's perspective, is the accusation that Car Rental XYZ charged his card after the fact. Our client explained to us that they're not supposed to do this. If there's damage, the policy is to address it with the customer during check out. If a customer were to ask for a charge back on an after-the-fact charge, the customer would likely win.

    The reason this car rental wasn't dealt with correctly is the renter of the car had his employee return it instead of returning it himself, and the employee just left the car at a location and told Car Rental XYZ to come pick it up. This was a regular customer, although for reasons we won't detail here, not a good customer and no longer a customer. The review was published months after the rental occurred.

    You can see from just this scant explanation that trying to explain the situation in a written response would be confusing, raise a lot of questions, and mire the client in defensiveness. It wouldn't sound highly credible. So instead, we use some rhectorical legerdemain: we evade the main issue by asserting a different main issue for the reader.

    XYZ Car Rental's Response

    We're one of the rare car rental companies that don't charge to fix "dings." The damage to Roger B.'s rental car, however, was not a "ding." It was a cracked windshield. A cracked windshield must be fixed before the car can be driven again. Would you want to rent a car with a cracked windshield? When a vehicle is damaged, we get it repaired at an auto body shop, just like everyone else. We do not charge markup to our customers. We only charge "cost." Fixing the windshield of Roger B.'s rental car cost $198. Factory glass, by contrast, costs more than $600.

    Our pre-rental and post-rental inspections are standard, i.e., the same as every other car rental company in the world. There is nothing unfamiliar or deceptive here. Before you rent a car, you inspect it and make sure there's no damage not already noted on a piece of paper, which you then sign. Roger B. acknowledges making this inspection and signing off on the car's condition.

    Roger B.'s upset here is likely due to a miscommunication, because Roger B. did not return the vehicle. His employee returned it.

    We're a small independant rental company with low rates and friendly, personal service. We don't pressure you into upgrades or insurance you don't want. You won't find long lines at our counter. We pick you up and drop you off. We want long-term relationships with our customers. It's not in our interest to trick you into paying for damages you didn't create.

    We set out by telling readers that the issue is a cracked windshield vs. a ding, and that it's unfair of Roger B. to expect XYZ Car Rental to pay to fix it. This frames the entire response.

    We take advantage of Roger B.'s vagueness and use of the term ding to discredit him. It probably surprises many people to learn, right away, that XYZ Car Rental gives customers a free pass on dings. This should garner immediate sympathy and credibility, which is then buttressed by learning that Roger B. had the gall to try to pass off something as serious as a cracked windshield as a ding.

    We ask a rhectorical question directly to the reader: Would you want to rent a car with a cracked windshield?. Well, of course not. This sets the reader up against Roger B.: If this deadbeat had his way, I'd have to drive around in a car with a cracked windshield because he didn't want to pay to fix it. This is an emotional appeal.

    We explain how the pre-rental and post-rental inspections work, which is understood by everyone who rents cars. The implication is that Roger B. is too stupid to understand or too unreasonable to accept the system. One can imagine the reader nodding his or her head in agreement while reading this paragraph of the response.

    Then we seal the deal by appealing to the mind, to rationality, with the explanation that Roger B. didn't even return his own car, but left it to an employee. This led to a miscommunication, and it's clearly Roger B.'s fault.

    At the same time, we take the opportunity to convey a lot of positive messages about XYZ Car Rental. It's a small independent with personal service. It seeks long-term customers. It picks up and drops off. Heck, it doesn't even charge for dings. And if it has to charge for something major like a cracked windshield, it only charges cost—no mark-up.

    Doesn't this sound like a place you'd like to rent a car from?

    The response ends with a final appeal to rationality: It's not in our interest to trick you into paying for damages you didn't create. Well, of course not, confirms the reader, who by now should see Roger B. (with only one review) as a sourgrapes deadbeat and defamer.