Story & Photo – Joseph Boyle
This past September I rented a car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and drove up and down the East Coast between Washington D.C. and Boston, Massachusetts. In the eastern United States they have lots of toll roads managed by a governmental agency commonly called the Toll Authority. Some goofy politician or administrator decided to start charging a new toll in the amount of 10 cents.
While it seems to me a new toll for 10 cents violates common sense, as a West Coast guy, I am willing to go with the flow and pay the dime.
Guess what? When I arrived at the toll booth full of good toll paying intentions, I found no one inside the toll booth. The toll booth jockey may have snuck off with his girl friend; I don’t know. I started to feel like Sonny Corleone just before he gets “clipped” at the Jones Beach causeway toll booth in the movie, The Godfather.
I looked around for one of those coin funnels thinking I could toss my dime in and thereby regain my freedom. They had not modified the tollway to include coin funnels, probably because a dime toll would not support the expense of remodeling the toll booth. They did not have a self-addressed postage paid mailer envelop either. I looked for an envelope because I thought anyone dumb enough to try collecting a dime toll should be dumb enough to pay 46 cents postage to collect the dime.
I thought about breaking the glass out of the toll booth door so I could get inside and leave my dime with a note, but my rental car does not include a tire iron for breaking out toll booth windows. Naturally I ruled that out.
Had I possessed a spray can of paint, I could have left a graffiti message expressing my displeasure. I wonder if that is what the term, “toll painting”, refers to?
So, what would you do in case like this? Yup, that is what I did. I drove off without paying. Otherwise, I might still be stuck in the tollway. I wanted to be home in time for Christmas.
Two and a half months later I received a letter from Enterprise informing me of their plan to charge my credit card account $18 for a service fee, plus 10 cents for the toll. $18 on 10 cents is 18,000 %. The Mafia does not collect that kind of grease. Is it possibly true I could be better off working with the Mafia than state government and Enterprise Rent-A-Car?
You, my readers, know me well enough to guess I am not going to pay the $18 quietly. To me there is little difference between a governmental agency or business “penciling” me out of $18 or a street thug sticking a gun in my face and taking my $18. At least the street thug is straight forward about his business. “Give me your money and nobody gets hurt.” Some governmental agencies and some corporations are sneaky about stealing our money. I can fight with a street thug and possibly teach him some manners, maybe grabbing his wallet and I.D. for the police. It is not as easy to fight a government or business predator that uses a number 2 pencil to steal my money.
What a con. They set up a 10 cent toll and give me no way to pay the toll.
I called Enterprise Road Toll Violations Department. I anticipated the staff was already being abused by angry citizens cussing and threatening to hurt the staff and burn their houses down. My strategy did not include any “kill the messenger” kind of behavior.
I intended to be calm and polite, while leaning on them like an elephant. I had plenty of detailed questions lined up along with reasons why I did not plan to pay the $18, all of which were designed to waste $18 worth of their time.
If they took the $18.10 out of my credit card, I was going to use my credit card company dispute system to block the charge If the charge was not waived I planned to keep the Enterprise phone number. They might take my $18 but I would not rent any more of their cars. I planned to call them every time I rented a car from their competition to let them know the $18 was going to cost them another $600 in lost rental car fees. I would keep it up until I spent enough money with competitors of Enterprise to cost them 18,000% X $18.00 in lost rental revenue or $3,240. Of course as a courtesy, I would provide Enterprise with a running total of their cash flow loss each time I phoned.
With my protest plan well in mind, I made my call to Enterprise. The nice lady at Enterprise indicated the 10 cent toll problem was obviouisly just plain goofy, which had not been caught by their computer since the computer, like some government officials, lacks common sense. Before I could start having fun with my verbal protest, she waived the entire charge, including the 10 cent toll.
While I was prepared to fight for a fair outcome, it turned out Enterprise was prepared to be fair without my having to put up a fight. Because they were businesslike and fair in solving my problem, I wish to continue doing business with Enterprise. I am not yet prepared to back off my comment calling the 10 cent toll an example of goofy government.
I wonder how many victims paid the $18.10 instead of calling their rental car agency to protest the con?