12:18 PM EST, February 13, 2013
It can happen to anyone. You return a rental car and mistakenly leave something important behind.
Every year, thousands of items are forgotten in rental cars. But, do they always get returned?
INSIDE EDITION’s I-Squad wanted to find out what would happen if we left a shiny new iPad in a rental car. Would it be returned, or end up in someone’s home?
First, we had Jason Cecchettini from BaitBike.com install tiny tracking devices into the iPad's case. They allowed us to constantly monitor an iPad’s location – even if the device was turned off.
Then, we rented vehicles from all the major rental companies. But, before we returned each vehicle , we intentionally left an iPad in the backseat. Each iPad case was clearly marked with an INSIDE EDITION producer’s name and phone number, making it very easy for anyone to return the iPad.
When we returned a rental car to the Avis Car Rental at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, in less than thirty seconds, Jonathan Scheck, a supremely honest employee ran up to the shuttle bus our undercover producer had just boarded and returned our iPad.
"Did I forget that" our undercover producer asked the Avis employee as he handed over the iPad. "It's not mine," he replied.
Across the country, in Orange County, California, we left an iPad in a Budget Rental Car at the airport. It wasn’t long before we found it was on the move away from the airport.
INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero used some high-tech tracking devices to hone in on the missing iPad. "We're about five minutes away from the last known location of where the iPad is," Guerrero explained.
According to our tracking device, the iPad was inside a home in Los Angeles – 40 miles away from where INSIDE EDITION had originally left it behind.
So, who lives there? It’s a guy named Osvaldo Estrada. He works for Budget Car Rental, but he is not a thief. It turned out, Estrada had already reported finding the iPad to his boss, and showed us an email to prove his story.
Estrada read us the email he sent his boss that said: "…found an iPad in the vehicle last night."
Another good man passed the INSIDE EDITION honesty test with flying colors!
"You can understand though that some people would take it and keep it," Guerrero told Estrada. "But, you're not doing that - clearly."
"I’m honest," he said.
Back at LaGuardia Airport on the East Coast, we observed an Enterprise Rent-A-Car worker clean out the rental car we had just returned. The iPad was in the back seat. He apparently never turned it into the office.
Two days later, an INSIDE EDITION producer reported the iPad missing to Enterprise.
"Have you had anyone return an iPad?" our producer asked the manager.
"I have not," he said.
INSIDE EDITION’s Guerrero tracked the iPad to an apartment building in Brooklyn – 20 miles away from LaGuardia Airport. And, guess who we found there? The same Enterprise employee we saw cleaning out our rental car.
"Do you work for Enterprise Rent-A-Car?" Guerrero asked.
"Yeah. Why?" the employee responded.
"We left our iPad in one of the cars, and we have reason to believe that you took it," Guerrero said. "Did you find a lost iPad?"
"Yes. Why?" he asked.
“Where is it?” Guerrero asked.
"It’s at home," the worker admitted.
He then called a young woman who lives in his apartment. And, a few minutes later, we had our iPad back.
“"Why didn't you give it to your manager?" Guerrero asked.
"You're right. I did not give it to my manager. I was wrong for that. You’re right. I didn’t."
A lesson learned: before you think about stealing anything, beware. The INSIDE EDITION I-Squad could be tracking you!
Of the 13 iPads we left in rental cars, only the one at Enterprise was taken.
Enterprise told us the guy who took our iPad, a contract employee, lost his job. The company sent INSIDE EDITION the following statement:
"Our employees take great pride in their work and in exceeding the expectations of car rental customers every day. As a result, when something like this happens – even if it involves a contract employee – we are all terribly disappointed."
Here is what we do to prevent such issues:
1. We plant items of value in cars to ensure that our employees and our contract labor partners hand them in. We operate a zero tolerance policy.
2. When our team hands in items of significant value they are rewarded for doing so – we have asked our contract labor partner to do the same; they can demonstrate that they have complied.
3. When customers report items as lost they are comprehensively investigated – we have cameras at the pumps.
4. When investigations uncover unethical activity, it is dealt with – again, zero tolerance policy.