Trying to Rent a Car From Lemon Grove Enterprise Without a Credit Card

As an attorney, I occasionally must attend court hearings in Imperial County, and when I travel that far east in this heat, I want a car with a good-working air conditioner.  My ten year old PT Cruiser doesn’t pass that muster so, I decided that since I had a hearing at 1pm on August 14th, I had to ride to El Centro with a car with good coolant. I mean, my god, El Centro in mid-August!

First, I called Enterprise rental cars in La Mesa – thinking naively that my home town of Lemon Grove was too small to have its own rental car office. But was I wrong. I spoke to the guy at La Mesa Enterprise and told him I needed a compact car with good a.c. and that I did not have a credit card, but I did have a debit card.  No problem, he said, all I needed to bring with my debit card was a utility bill with my name and address on it.

Well, I responded, I live with my partner in Lemon Grove, it’s her house and the utility bills come to our house with her name. Oh, the guy says, if you live in Lemon Grove, he advised, call Lemon Grove Enterprise and they won’t require the utility bill.  Great, I thought, how convenient.

I called Lemon Grove Enterprise and spoke to Joey – a pleasant young man at the other end of the phone. After explaining my situation, Joey assured me that if I was indeed a resident of Lemon Grove, then I did not have to show a utility bill, just the debit card.  Great, I said, and I went ahead and reserved a compact for $40.99 a day for the Tuesday of next week.  Call a couple days early just to confirm, Joey said.

Understanding that the world revolves around credit cards, I had given them up about five years ago – and swore I’d never have one again after racking up late charges galore and going into debt with the criminal rates they charge. I recall getting out the scissors and cutting all of my cards up. I have not had one since.  But I do have a good, solid debit card with one of the largest banks in the country.

As the weekend was coming up, I called Lemon Grove Enterprise on Friday to confirm my car for Tuesday.  Daniel told me everything was good – they’d even come by and pick me up and drive me back to their office. Sweet, I said.

But over the weekend the attorney I work for informed me that the hearing in El Centro was moved up to 8:00 a.m. – this meant I had to leave very early on Tuesday and actually had to have the rental on Monday.

Monday morning, I called Lemon Grove Enterprise to let them know I had to rent their car early.  I  had Richard on the phone and he told me he was the manager. I explained that I had reserved a compact for Tuesday but now needed it Monday, today. No problem, he said, just come in with your debit card and utility bill in your name with your address.

Oh, I said, I was told since I was a Lemon Grove resident I didn’t need to show a utility bill.  But you do, he answered, it’s policy and as the manager he certainly knows the policy.  Listen, I tried to explain, I am a lawyer and live with my partner – and it’s her house, so the utility bills do not come in my name. Well, it’s policy Richard kept repeating.  I told Richard the manager that Joey had assured me that I didn’t need the utility bill. Oh, well, says Richard, he’ll have Joey call me back and explain the policy to me.

I didn’t want to get Joey in trouble but I thought Richard was being a tad unreasonable.  Okay, I was calm, and I tried to lay out the problem to Richard.  I pleaded, look, I have a cell phone – and cell phones are utilities – and the cell phone bill comes to my house in my name, isn’t that enough. No, Richard said, he needed a bill for a landline.

Landline, jesus, I thought. How about all the people, I asked him, – especially young people who don’t have landlines. Didn’t matter, says Richard, not budging.

Okay, I said, starting to feel reddening, I have bank statements that come to my house – isn’t that enough? No, says Richard. I have an account with a major bank – and my checks have my address on them as well. No, says Richard.  What about my California Drivers License – it has my address on it.  Not enough, says Richard.  Well then, I replied, I have a Border Crossing Card with my ID – how about that?  No, says Richard.

We kept going back and forth. By this time, I was getting pissed off.  I said, “Dude, dude, you’re being unreasonable. A lot of people don’t have land lines, my cell phone is a utility and I get the bills in my name at my address ….”

Richard interrupted me: “My name is Richard.”

“Oh, okay, I’m sorry, Richard.”

“It’s policy; if  you don’t have a credit card, then we need a debit card with a utility bill.” He hadn’t changed his position.

“Richard, you’re being unreasonable,” I asserted. “I have a California Drivers License with my name and address, I have bank statements and bank checks with my address, I have a cell phone bill – that’s a utility, Richard, with my name and address, and I have a Border Crossing Card with my identification.” I was getting emphatic, plus I was repeating myself.

Richard started to say his mantra once again, so,  I interrupted him: “So, what you’re saying is that I have identification and documents that are good enough to drive, good enough for the California Superior Court, good enough to cross the border and back … but just not good enough for Enterprise!” and I slammed the phone down, having come to my end.

Immediately, I began looking for other close-by rental car agencies … and while during this I received a call from Daniel at Lemon Grove Enterprise.

“Yes?” I ask, feinting incredulity.

“Are you coming in today to pick-up your compact?” Daniel asked.

Whaaat?? Blinking back confusion, I then calmly and politely explained to Daniel what had happened – my interaction with his supervisor, Richard – not the dude. And that I thought he was being unreasonable, that I had been assured that I didn’t need any stickin’ utility bills (I didn’t really say that –  I was polite) and blah blah blah – by this time I was getting tired of the story – plus I still needed to get a car for the desert. Daniel must have said he was sorry ten times before we hung up.

Getting back to looking for a car, I did call Avis – and yes they had a compact for $38 and some cents, and no they didn’t require a utility bill – although they would scan your credit score.  We hopped over there, got the white Chevy Sonic – checked the air – it was very good – and drove home, getting ready for the next day’s hearing.

I hate credit cards – they are what – or part of what – got me trouble financially back in the mid-2000’s. I was borrowing credit card money to pay rent – and egads! don’t ever do this – but I was so broke I was using credit card money to pay credit card bills. Holy ……!

Because of this painful past, I throw all credit card applications into the recycling bin. But yet, I cannot rent a car – I cannot rent a car easily without a credit card.  Perhaps I should save one someday, fill it out, have it just for these occasions – occasions when I have to prove who I am and where I live  to corporate America – in this case, rental car agencies. I guess it’s better than having a bar code tattooed across my forehead – thank goodness! we’re not there yet.

So, with my good a.c. I will heading off to El Centro – it’s only expected to be 110 degrees – and it’s a dry heat, a dry heat.

A lawyer and grassroots activist, I was finally convinced by Patty Jones to start the OB Rag, a blog of citizen journalists, after she got tired of listening to my rants about the news. Way back during the Dinosaurs in 1970, I founded the original Ocean Beach People’s Rag - OB’s famous underground newspaper -, and then later during the early Eighties, published The Whole Damn Pie Shop, a progressive alternative to the Reader.


  1. avatarOB Mercy says

    Frank, I would Yelp this story if I were you and make sure you do it under that particular location. As you know, Yelp carries a lot of weight. If owners/mgrs of businesses are smart, they read them & sometimes contact you & make amends. Remind me to tell you how I got $200 credit from a sushi place recently!

  2. avatarDeb Hysell says

    Frank, I just had the same experience with Enterprise in Columbus, OH. I argued as you did with the manager and got no where. I rented a car –quite easily from Budget without bills and whatever else. When I later called Enteprise “customer service” to complain, the “customer service” rep indicated that I should also have been asked for a pay stub. Quite amazing since most people now get paid electronically. I also emailed a comment to Enterprise, which does not include complaint or feedback as categories on the “customer service” form. I am really amazed that they have become the largest rental car company in the world. Usually companies with such disregard for customer convenience do not thrive.