General Etiquette > Life...in general

Car rental fees - who should pay?

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loopyluna:
This happened a few years ago, but I've always been a bit curious about it. It's a little long, but I wanted to be sure it had enough detail to make sense.

When I was in college, I didn't have my own car but instead signed up for a car share service where I could rent a car by the hour. If you returned the car late, even by a minute, you had to pay a rather hefty fee. If you need to extend a reservation, you can do it through text message. The service was great because my school was just far enough outside the city that getting around without wheels was a hassle. My friend Lucy went to the same school but did not drive. We had a mutual friend Allison who went to another school nearby; her school was maybe 15 minutes away by car without traffic or 2 hours away using public transportation. Lucy was closer friends with Allison than I was.

Lucy and Allison hatched a plan that Lucy and I needed to go visit Allison one afternoon. Lucy started talking to me about how inconvenient the train was; I took the hint and offered to drive us using the car share. I did not ask her to split the cost since I was okay absorbing the cost of a short rental to visit my friend. I reserved the car for three hours and made it very clear to Lucy that we would have to leave by such-and-such time so I could return the car on time. When I told her the time we needed to leave, I added a little extra to account for traffic. I emphasized that "leave" meant in the car and moving, not wrapping up our visit and wandering back to the car. Let's say the reservation expired at 1pm; I told her we needed to leave at 12:30. She understood my reasoning and agreed.

We drive over and have a lovely visit with Allison. We get lunch about a ten minute walk away from the parking garage. Allison knew what time we needed to leave. At 12:15, I started to clean up lunch trays and pack my things. At 12:20, I start to say my goodbyes, reminding Lucy about returning the car. Lucy hemmed and hawed but made no move to leave, even as I was standing up to go. I didn't know how to get back to the parking garage without Allison, and I didn't want to leave Lucy stranded; I could not just walk away. At 12:25, I say, "Allison, this has been a wonderful visit. We need to do it again sometime. Lucy, we're going to be late getting back if we don't go now." Lucy tells me to relax, that we still have plenty of time. I point out that lunchtime traffic on Saturdays can be unpredictable and no, we don't have plenty of time. We waste another five minutes arguing about whether or not we have time, while I keep edging closer and closer to the door. Finally, at 12:30 Lucy and Allison stand up and follow me out. We get to the car at 12:40. I apologize to Allison for seeming impatient, but we really do need to go. Lucy drags her feet a bit more, and I tell her, "I'm not paying a late fee for this car; get in." We finally roll out. If we don't hit traffic, we can get the car back on time.

What happens? We hit traffic of course, which is exactly why I allotted extra time, except my extra time was used up because Lucy was so slow leaving. I ask her to take my cell phone and text to extend the car reservation by half an hour, the minimum I can request. Once she has my phone, I start giving her instructions (which contact to text, what wording to use, etc.), but instead she bean dips me. Won't send the text. I can't do it while driving, and traffic is heavy enough that I can't safely pull over.

We reached the parking lot at 1:01, one minute late. I was optimistic that whatever tracking system the car used would see us as arriving on time. No such luck; I checked my car share account the next day, and sure enough, they'd hit me with a $50 fine.

The next time I saw Lucy, she started talking about what a great visit we'd had with Allison; I agreed but added that I was a little miffed we hadn't been able to leave on time. I told her about the late fee for the car, hoping she would recognize her role in the situation and offer to split it. Wrong--bean dip. I didn't know if I would be rude in asking her to pay half of the fine, so I let it drop.

Note that if we had been late because I got lost, I would have been okay paying the fine on my own. That would have been my responsibility and I would not have mentioned the fine, though I still would have asked her to send the text and would have been irritated if she didn't. In this particular case, I thought our being late was a direct result of her actions.

My questions:
Was she rude in dragging her feet so much when the time came to leave, even though she knew exactly why we needed to go at a certain time?
Was she rude for not sending the text, which would have prevented the fee in the first place? (preemptive--she knew how to use my phone)
Was I rude for telling her about the fine?
Would I have been rude asking her to pay half the fine?
Was she rude not to offer to pay half the fine, since she was responsible (delayed our departure, wouldn't send the text)?
Assuming I would not have been rude to ask, would she have been rude to refuse?

Lucy and I are still close friends, and neither of us bring up this incident. I'm not trying to solve some years-long argument over who was right and who was wrong; I'm really just curious. It's more of a thought exercise at this point than anything else.

JenJay:
She was definitely rude to refuse to leave at the agreed upon time. I probably would have said "Returning the car late is a $50 fine, are you offering to pay it?" Bet that would have got her buns up and moving.  :-\

I don't understand why she refused to send the text. That's just odd.

I think you would have been okay asking her to pay half the fine, but I'm not surprised she didn't offer because it sounds like she was pretty inconsiderate of you to begin with. Did you ever drive her somewhere again?

Deetee:
Yes, she was rude by not offering to pay, but you were a bit spineless. Instead of edging towards the door, just get up and say a firm goodbye and walk out. Then, when she refused to text and just bean dipped, you should have been very, very clear that not sending the text would cost her $50 (but that you were happy to pay the overage for the extra 30 minutes)

Hmmmmm:
She was would and I would have told her she owed you $50 in late fees.

loopyluna:
Deetee: I was definitely spineless in my youth. This particular experience was something of a turning point, since it was the first time my being a doormat ended up costing me money.

JenJay: I haven't driven her anywhere since then. These days she's more considerate in general than she used to be, but I still won't put myself in a position where she could do something like that again, however unintentional.

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