On second thought | TSLN.com

On second thought

In 35 years of renting cars I have NEVER taken out the insurance. At least that I knew of. There was that one time in Minnesota when the agent flashed the contract briefly in front of my eyes before demanding that I initial and sign the document. Come to find out I had purchased enough insurance to buy General Motors.

To me, buying insurance on rental cars is like an elephant’s typewriter or a luggage rack on a hearse: it’s just not going to get used that often. Even though my personal insurance covers rental cars those agents behind the counter can almost scare me into buying it. I’ve had agents threaten me with everything from having to pay for the car on the spot to going to jail if I had a wreck and didn’t have the insurance. I had an agent one time try to charge me for a “dent’ that was actually part of the styling of the car. It must be a big profit center for them, just like selling gas, and from what I’ve overheard at rental car counters the agents are often successful in selling people insurance they already have. I think there must be more bad decisions made at rental car counters than in Congress or tattoo parlors.

Recently I asked some of my road agent buddies if they ever bought the rental car insurance and was not surprised to find that the insurance option was used less than the juke box at the senior citizen’s home. Although, my friend Jim said there had been one time when he bought the coverage. And was he ever glad he did! To check out a string of yearlings for sale Jim flew to the nearest airport and rented one of the best road cars ever made: a Lincoln town car. At the counter the agent used every trick in the book to strong arm Jim into buying the coverage and he finally gave in.

On that trip Jim did have a wreck but it wasn’t of the crash and crunch variety. Once at his destination Jim picked up the rancher with the cattle for sale and they drove out to see the cattle. At the top of a steep hill the rancher said they’d have to park the car and walk. I know that you’re thinking, that Jim didn’t set the brake and the car went over the cliff. But that’s not what happened.

Now, Jim is a cattle buyer, not a mountain climber, but after hiking for what seemed like hours they were able to catch occasional brief glimpses of the cattle for sale. As Jim and the rancher returned to the car, foot sore, hot and worn out by the ordeal they saw several horses congregated around the Lincoln Town Car with several of the equines CRIBBING ON THE CAR. I kid you not!

If Jim wasn’t such a reputable guy I wouldn’t have believed him that horses will crib on an automobile but I’ve checked with several non-cattle buyers who have concurred that horses will indeed put their teeth on a car and suck air. Anyway, when Jim returned the car he was sure glad he didn’t have to explain how the landau top got ripped to shreds and why there were what appeared to be teeth marks all over the hood.

I had a similar thing happen to me only it wasn’t horses that nearly destroyed my rental car but a feed mill. I left my rental car in the parking lot of a feedyard once for a couple days and when I returned the interior was covered with cattle feed because I had left a window partially open. The outside of the car appeared to be covered in a molasses-like gunk and the whole thing smelled like, well, it smelled like a feedlot.

Back at the rental car place the manager assessed the damage, locked me in a back room and began drilling me with questions. I did what I normally do in these situations and pretended to play dumb. (Surprisingly, this is relatively easy for me.) The questions were like Chinese water torture. He wanted to know why popcorn came out of the vents when he turned on the heater and what the “funny” smell was that permeated the car. The interrogation seemed to go on for hours when I finally reached my breaking point. “Okay, okay,” I screamed. “You win. I’ll take the insurance!”

email lee pitts at itsdapitts@charter.net


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