I get a call from a friend in Boston — he’s arriving in Fort Lauderdale, and needs a lift to the car rental agency. 

No problem, man.  Hey, how about those Patriots?

“Fuck you, asshole!”

That cost him Sunday morning breakfast for me, Guido, and himself at the Floridian.  Three amazing omelets — he wanted the heart-stopping cheddar, I got the Greek, Guido went for the Eye-tie (naturally).  

This friend and I go ‘way back — nationally, he’s emerged as one of the leading intellects behind education of the deaf, while, me, I just don’t listen —  but this thing called the Real World causes him a  lot of problems.  

After breakfast, he needs a ride to the car rental agency. I know this place.  They have a pure south Florida business model that would wag the head of a hardened Mafioso.  Or at least, that’s how I figure it.

The place is actually two businesses.  One is, you’re going out of town for a while, either on by plane or a cruise.  So you drive your car to their lot, park, and they pick you up in your own car when you return.  You pay by the day.  Neat, clean, efficient.

The second business is car rental.  You arrive in Fort Lauderdale, you need a car, they pick you up at the airport and put you in a rental.  Same as Hertz, Avis, and Dollar, right?


The scam here is that the car that they rent out is the same one the air and cruise passengers leave in their lot.  Their inventory of rentals consists of the cars that air and cruise customers leave with them.  They’re charging rental fees to both the customers who leave them their cars, and the customers who want to rent a car for the week or month.  Their biggest overhead item is the scumwad they hire to turn back odometers and keep his mouth shut.

Brilliant.  Fucking brilliant.

My pal had reserved a mid-size, but he ends up in a huge Mercury for the same price.  “Sorry, man, that’s all we got,”  says the agent, whose resemblance to a weasel isn’t limited to his clothing or physical appearance.  It figures.  Lots of old farts in south Florida drive Mercurys, and they go on cruises a lot.  They’ll never know their car has been driven all week by a stranger, any more than the stranger knows he’s driving some old fart’s personal car.

Okay.  This is speculation on my part.  I really don’t know that this is a scam, let alone the details.  But I’ve lived in south Florida for a long time.  What do YOU think?

PS  My pal found a stash of Metamucil tablets in the glove box of his “rented” Mercury. Did I already say “Heh”?
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7 Responses to Wheelin’

  1. Ted End says:

    I rented a car once and found what I thought might be Anthrax in the glove box but it turned out to be those little packages of mositure-preventatives that you’re not supposed to eat.

  2. Mister E says:

    I know that place on US-1, which actually has 3 names on 3 separate signs which always struck me as a bit wack — you might be on to something. There’s also a sign advertising “Complimentary Valet Service — $8.” I wonder if they have any clue what “complimentary” means.

  3. Elemenno P says:

    Wow. Maybe that’s what’s going on and maybe it isn’t — but I think you have a pretty cool business plan working here. Insurance might be a problem, though.

  4. Joe Balls says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me even a little bit. I remember seeing something on TV where there was a deal like this — they parked cars for people leaving town for extended periods, then used them to drive hookers around for in-car sex. Any time you leave your car and the keys with a stranger you’re asking for all sorts of trouble.

    • Barbara Ganousch says:

      Joe: My own brother pulled this move on me when I had a job that took me out of town for 3 weeks per month. I gave him custody of my car in return for his picking me up and taking me to the airport. He used it as a pimp mobile and was dumb enough to get popped. It took me over 2 years to get the car back from the court system, and it was totally trashed. Meanwhile, my brother cut a deal that sent him to rehab instead of jail, and he paid me back for the car. Happy ending, if you’ll forgive the expression.

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