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help! A budget employee kept my phone and I can prove it.

help! A budget employee kept my phone and I can prove it.

One day last July, I was dropping off a rental car at the Budget location at Boston Logan International Airport when I lost my iPhone. As far as I remember, I left it in the car when I went to throw out some garbage, but neither my wife, nor I, nor the employee who was helping us could find it. After the flight home, I began tracking the phone using Apple's Find My application, and after a trip to western Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the phone traveled from an apartment building in Lynn, Mass., to the budget office in Logan. Started going. , I reported this to both Budget and the airport police, but the police told me they could only take action if Budget told them the names of any employees living at that address, and Budget would not help. I want Budget to return my phone or pay for a replacement. Can you help? John, Jacksonville, Florida.

Apologies for the nickname, but I need a way to distinguish you from another traveler named John, who had a surprisingly similar story about losing an iPhone while returning a rental car at Alamo at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Had written.

Alamo John did not immediately notice that his phone had gone to the agency and he went to catch the flight and reported the loss to Alamo from the airport. A few days later, when he downloaded his iCloud data to an old iPhone that his daughter had lent him, he noticed that someone had saved a number in his contacts – with a name he didn't recognize – And then called him four times within a few hours. After losing the phone.

So, using the innate detective skills apparently common among people named John who leave iPhones at car rental agencies, Alamo John called the number and spoke to a man who spoke very little English, but knew the address. Enough to establish that he was related to an Alamo employee. (It turned out that he was, in fact, an employee.) Alamo John then reported this to the rental car agency, but Alamo repeatedly told him over the following weeks that they had not found his phone.

I wrote to Budget and Alamo, and both companies immediately contacted their respective passengers to apologize and reimburse the cost of the new iPhones — $1,076 for you, Budget John, and $770 for your Alamo counterpart. But it's one thing for big companies to spend some cash to avoid bad publicity, and another to have to explain to me — and the readers of the Times — what happened, and to the agencies to prevent similar debacle in the future. What will you do?

Budget, which is part of Avis Budget Group, responded to my fourth email with a one-line statement from Maryam Etedali, a director at the public relations firm Edelman. “After review, Budget has apologized to the customer” and reimbursed him for the cost of his phone, the email reads. The response did not answer my questions about why Budget failed to report the apparent theft to police, what went wrong along the way and whether they disciplined or fired any employees.

We actually know something about Budget's processes, thanks to an email sent to me by an Avis Budget employee who put you in touch with a senior manager of customer advocacy named Justin Bryce.

Mr Bryce apologized to you and said: “As we have completed our investigation, there is reasonable suspicion that it may have been an ABG employee who took your phone. Based on that, I would like to cover the cost of your replacement iPhone 15.

You also stated what Mr. Bryce told you on the phone, that Budget “did not follow customer service protocols in your case” and “will work to improve this going forward.”

I wrote to Mr. Bryce and Ms. Etedali to see if they wanted to dispute the authenticity of the email or your characterization of the call, but they did not respond. As far as the protocols described to you by Mr. Bryce are concerned, major rental car companies like Alamo and Budget have procedures for missing items, including dedicated lost and found websites Which allows customers to report and track the status of items left behind. And I hope those protocols also include cooperating with police when a customer provides the possible address of a person who may have stolen the phone.

In the case of Alamo John, I received a faster and more detailed response from Enterprise Holdings, which owns Alamo. But it was confusing. Company spokesman Michael Wilmering sent a statement saying the company had apologized and compensated the customer, and also said an auto detailer had found the phone while cleaning the car and had followed protocol. “They reported the phone as found and turned it over to management, which is our standard policy for found items,” Mr. Wilmering wrote.

That's when things become either mysterious or suspicious. Alamo John sent me a long series of emails indicating that the rental car agency staff made considerable efforts to locate the phone, but did not shed any light on why the phone went missing or whether Alamo had recovered the phone immediately. Why there was no change, which the company had claimed. Found and then lost.

“Unfortunately, the phone call went wrong,” Mr Wilmering wrote. “It was a mistake on our part. We are able to return most lost items to their rightful owners but in this case we are unable to do so.'

He did not explain why the new number and name were saved on Alamo John's phone and why the device was used. He also failed to discuss when this happened – before or after the auto detailer was turned on in the phone.

Another thing that struck me was in John's exchange with Alamo employees at the Seattle-Tacoma airport: “We have hundreds of items left in vehicles every day,” one employee wrote, in describing the process. Asked to be patient. Which lost items are listed in the database.

Apparently, I'm not the only person who leaves an average of two charging cables, a pair of sunglasses, and various souvenirs behind when leaving a rental car.

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