• Report: #768392
Complaint Review:

Island Cruisers, Inc.

  • Submitted: Mon, August 22, 2011
  • Updated: Thu, November 29, 2012

  • Reported By: Emily — Philadelphia Pennsylvania United States of America
Island Cruisers, Inc.
26248 NC Highway 12 Salvo, North Carolina United States of America

Island Cruisers, Inc. Hatteras Island Performance These Swindlers Rent Old Unsafe Beach Vehicles on Cape Hatteras and Charge Customers for Expensive Repairs on Transmissions using the $500 Deposit. Salvo, North Carolina

*REBUTTAL Owner of company: Renter was charged for preventable damage. Renter admits she had problems operating the vehicle and did not call. This has nothing to do with safety of the vehicles which all pass state inspection.

*Author of original report: Trying to protect other consumers

*Consumer Comment: Complaint Not Valid or Believable

*REBUTTAL Owner of company: Response From Island Cruisers Inc.

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For my birthday (over Memorial Day Weekend), my boyfriend took me to Cape Hatteras. He's a pilot of a small plane, so we sometimes travel up and down the East Coast in the summer. We wanted to stay in Cape Hatteras and needed a vehicle delivered to us at the small regional Billy Mitchell Airport, so that we could get around this very rural area and go out on the beach during our 24-hour stay. I called Valerie, the owner of Island Cruisers, Inc,  and she pleasantly helped me pick out a vehicle.

Valerie's husband runs Hatteras Island Performance, the company that does the repair work for Island Cruisers. I believe they are probably scamming a lot of people with their setup.

Together they dropped off a vehicle for us to use on the beach, and explained all of the rules about driving it. They also had us both sign a bunch of papers, including a blank slip with the impression of my credit card. I should have been given a copy of that blank piece of paper. Because I didn't know to ask for it, I was unable to contest the charges they later billed me with using this signed blank slip. If you rent anything from them, be sure to get a copy of the slip before the total is filled out so you can prove that they added the charges at a later time. This was my biggest mistake.

Upon trying to operate the vehicle I realized that it was very old (later found out it was a 1998 Geo Tracker) and not very safe to drive.  Valerie had told me over the phone that renting a 4x4 to use on the beach would be expensive because of the high cost of repairing damage to the transmissions to their vehicles. Now I know how they pay for those repairs.

The car was rusty and old, didn't handle well, had brakes that barely stopped the car, and it had problems shifting through the gears. I thought it was old and worn out. It was also the last car they said they had in their fleet and there were no other local places to get another car, so we used it anyway.

We drove the car on the beach for maybe an hour total in the whole day we were there. There was so much holiday weekend traffic out on the beach that we couldn't do anything wrong, like driving crazy or donuts or anything that we were asked not to do. We followed all of their recommendations, drove the vehicle slowly (under 15mph), in a straight line, and kept it away from wildlife and other vehicles, with the correctly lowered air pressure in the tires.

The next day we dropped it off at the airport and took off. As far as I knew, everything was fine. We expected to be charged about $300 for a 24 hour 4x4 rental plus the charges for drop-off and pick-up to the airport. We also didn't fill the gas tank, so expect some kind of $50 fee for gas or whatever.

Later the following week I opened the receipts from Island Cruisers, Inc. to find a letter from Valerie stating that we were being charged an extra $500+ (total price over $800) for damage that happened to the transmission of the vehicle while we were driving it. First of all, they put this huge charge on my credit card all at once, using the slip I had signed, so according to Capital One's and Visa's rules, it was considered an "authorized charge," even though I've disputed it because they filled in the slip later on. Because I don't have a blank copy Capital One, the bank that holds my credit card account, won't help me in the dispute.

Valerie and her husband justified this huge $500+ charge with a statement that there was sand found on the battery up inside the car, so we must have driven it aggressively, causing a transmission leak.

First of all, the car wasn't shifting well to begin with, but the brakes weren't working well either, and the whole car was rusty, sandy, and very very worn to begin with.  Secondly, the transmission might have already been messed up when they gave us the vehicle. It was delivered on a trailer bed, so we don't even know if they drove it first. Third, they work together. The person fixing the car is married to the owner of the rental shop, so whatever money he makes from repairs is directly charged to the Island Performance slip. How convenient.

In my book, when you're spending an extra $100 to rent a 4X4 vehicle for beach driving, you're paying the extra money because, like Valerie told me, they often need to do repairs on the transmissions of beach vehicles that are used in the sand. Our extra money should have gone toward the general upkeep of their vehicles. Instead, they charged us the the full deposit amount that they took at the beginning for a repair that we can't even know actually occurred. We don't even know if there was anything wrong with the vehicle, but I'm fairly sure that transmissions are normal wear and tear repairs, and can't be attributed to any one driver, especially with a 1998 Geo tracker that is regularly driven on the beach by renters. After doing some research I discovered that a used car in the condition we rented it in would cost $800. I could almost own the rental vehicle for the amount of money that was charged on my credit card.

Think twice and then a third time before trusting Island Cruisers, Inc. They charge high prices to rent customers old, unsafe vehicles, and then charge as much as they can squeeze out of those customers for basic repairs that need to be done anyway. It is so unfair and deplorable to treat their customers like that. $800 for a one day rental of a vehicle that sucked.

I am SO disappointed. It was supposed to be a fun birthday. It was at the time, but the hours I've put into disputing the charges from this debacle have completely stressed me out and ruined it for me. In the end, they are so good with their operation, they get to keep all of the money and there's nothing I can do short of suing them. Which I probably will.

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 08/22/2011 03:27 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/island-cruisers-inc/salvo-north-carolina-27972/island-cruisers-inc-hatteras-island-performance-these-swindlers-rent-old-unsafe-beach-v-768392. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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 I would like to start by saying I have debated heavily about whether or not to post again about this incident.  Due to the fact this will be posted forever (unless I send "Rip-off Report" a check for $2,000.00 and hope they will "look into the situation"), I have decided to respond once again.  Seeing as "Rip Off Report", in their own statement, does not filter any incoming info to their site but offer "in house" arbitration services for the above mentioned fee, there is a bit of debate about this being a scam in itself.  This site gives a voice to people that are done wrong as well as people who are doing wrong.  I do feel that consumers need rights as well.  Trust me, I am a consumer and I have been disappointed in the past.  I do not run to damage a businesses reputation just because they followed their policies even if I did not agree with them.

We certainly feel sorry for this poster's misfortune.  We did in fact (as stated in our first post), attempt to contact her with a certified letter that she refused.  At that point we determined that the poster was not willing to correspond with us.  So we have made no other attempts to contact her.

We feel that the opening statement of this report is speculatory and accusational. This customer is using the opening statement to scare future customers because she is bitter and it has nothing to do with the point we are focusing on here which is the damage charge.  We do not rent "unsafe vehicles".  One would have to question why the renter chose to stay in the vehicle their entire rental while feeling "unsafe"?  This does not sound logical to me.  I would want to get out of a vehicle that was unsafe and would call the rental company immediately which is not what happened.  We are not swindlers, we simply will charge for PREVENTABLE damage when it happens (which has been five times, over the eight seasons we have been in business).  Because this poster chose to continue to operate the vehicle the entire rental while having an issue, she caused greater damage, that could have been prevented had she called and let us diagnose what the original problem was.  We did not have the opportunity to save her from the damage that happened while she had the vehicle and we were just as disappointed as she was. Preventable damage includes, overheating/loss of fluid from engine or transmission, running over objects that damage wheels and undercarriage, driving through saltwater, etc.  Non preventable damage includes, starter, alternator, battery going bad, wheel bearing, u-joint wearing out, etc.  Even though we do check all fluids before a vehicle goes out it is the customer responsibility to make sure they do not do anything that would cause the vehicle to lose any of those fluids. If so, it is then their responsibility to stop and call.  If a renter chooses not to call, this is what could happen.   We are not sure what made them think it was okay to leave the vehicle at the airport without telling us anything was wrong?  The fact that it was damaged with no mention of an issue is the problem we have here. 

We do rent used vehicles.  With this being a seasonal tourist area, it is not a feasible business decision to purchase and make payments on brand new vehicles that rent for four months out of the year.  What I can assure you of is that in addition to all our vehicles passing a yearly state inspection, they are all taken care of personally by me to insure we see minimal issues.  This is our family business.  It is how my wife and I support our family.  I want and need every single guest to have a great experience.  It honestly, does me zero good to just charge someone for the heck of it.  I would never have knowingly delivered a vehicle to someone that had any sort of mechanical issue.  I have been a well respected mechanic for over 20 years.  I know these vehicles inside and out.  Just last week an owner of a 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with 5,000 miles rented from us because he had a problem with his Jeep after towing it behind his motor home.  He rented a vehicle from us that had 178,000 miles and performed flawlessly for him.  We also have a 1954 Dodge in our fleet with less than 38,000 miles and it drives like a new car.  So I would have to say when correctly maintained, older vehicles have no problem performing properly.  I can assure you the owner of the Jeep probably did not think he was damaging his transmission when he towed it behind his motorhome, there are procedures for this and some vehicles simply cannot be towed behind a motor home without damage, but it was his responsibility to make sure he was doing things properly.

The vehicle that this poster rented is still in our fleet.  In fact, just a couple of weeks ago the guests who rented it, stated, "What a nice little, well maintained vehicle it was".   Two days ago we did finally have another issue with the vehicle that Ms. Bridges rented.  So, it's been a full 2 years after this poster's incident and this vehicle has had no problems nor has anyone mentioned any of the issues this poster alleged the vehicle had.  In this incident, the coil in the distributor went bad causing the vehicle not to run. Just to be clear, this would be in the "unpreventable damage category".  The renter did nothing to cause this issue so NO DAMAGE CHARGES WERE MADE.   Upon a call from the renter, I immediately went to see if the issue could be corrected in the field and it could not. I quickly took him a replacement vehicle and helped transfer his handicapped wife to the new vehicle.   A short while later this renter then inadvertently got himself stuck in a soft sand area that he could not get himself out of.  Again the renter called and I went quickly to help him out.  Because the renter did not try to continue to drive through the sand, while only having 2-wheel drive, the vehicle suffered no preventable damage and he was not charged, not even for my time.  At the end of this rental we even discounted him for the trouble he had with the little red Geo.  In addition, I went to the renters RV where he was having a problem with his cruise control.  I diagnosed the problem and gave him a brief explanation on how to change the part so he could stop and do it on the way home for their 10+ hour drive.  How much did I  charge him for this? NOTHING because that is the type of businessman I am.  

In the case of this poster, the vehicle was transferred to their possession with no known issues.  As previously stated, my wife met them during the rental to deliver a book and then the vehicle was left at the airport in Frisco, NC for us to pick up.  At no point during the rental did they make any attempt to tell us about any of the problems (not until we made the charges), which she claims they had from the get go.  Don't be fooled here.  If this customer was truly looking out for other consumers she should have made us aware of the issues she claims to have had with the vehicle which she clearly had no intentions of doing.  Furthermore, I find it very interesting that with her boyfriend being a pilot, they did not stop as soon as they felt something was not right, which is our policy and just plain common sense.  Instead, they assumed it was just old.  It is not normal for an old car to not accelerate properly.  Even in her second post she claims that they could not drive very fast because something "sounded loud".   Whether I was in a plane or a car I would certainly think this would be the time to call the rental company.  She clearly and openly stated that they were having a problem, yet she did nothing about it.  Other renters are quick to call even if something as simple as a check engine light comes on which can happen if the gas cap is left loose.

Again; the vehicle was left damaged without explanation. I can only speculate what motion made the damage happen.  As previously stated, several mistakes could lead to overheating a transmission.  This is no different than a car overheating while trying to climb a hill too fast.  We have all seen the vehicles going slow in the right lane on a hill, and occasionally you will see a car fully overheated along that same hill and those are, unfortunately, the folks that did not know they were causing damage. I think in this case; yes, it very well could have been unintentional.  I do not believe that the renter deliberately damaged the vehicle; none the less, it was damaged while in her possession.

Final point: when renting (as stated in our original post), should you have a problem (any problem) or you just need local info - just call!  We are always happy to help.  We do not recommend continuing to drive our vehicles (or any, for that matter) when you feel something is wrong or if something "sounds loud" and you "cannot drive very fast".   Then, do not leave the vehicle at the airport without explanation as this will result in a damage charge.  Considering this is the only form of contact for this customer, we will make one request (as I believe they will allow an author to modify their post).  If this customer was to change the opening statement to; "Island Cruisers, Inc. charges for preventable damage done to a vehicle while in renter's possession" and she could recommend that folks call when they have an issue as this could prevent the situation that she found herself in.  Most of her posts are a distraction from these points.  If she was to do this, we will not pursue the case of slander and defamation against her for the untrue statements in the opening headline. Even though this goes against principle, IF THE POSTER WAS TO REMOVE THESE FALSE ACCUSATIONS FROM THE INTERNET WE WOULD REFUND HER CHARGES RELATED TO THE VEHICLE RENTAL but the damage charge will remain.

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#2 Author of original report

Trying to protect other consumers

AUTHOR: Amil - (United States of America)

Time has passed, but no effort was ever made to make things right by the owners of Island Cruisers. 

I just wanted to add that although I may have been emotional when I wrote my report, I stand by my word that the vehicle was driven slowly and carefully the entire time it was in our possession. Imagine using a vehicle responsibly and then being charged hundreds of dollars for damages you didn't make. Isn't that everyone's worst nightmare? I wanted to let other customers know about this so that the same thing doesn't happen to other people that happened to me.

The previous poster alleges that my boyfriend drove wrecklessly. If that were the case, I would be fine with paying the extra money and moving on without taking the time to file a report like this. The problem is that I was there, and the vehicle was never driven over 15mph on the beach, where we used it only for a very short time (an hour total). On the roads, the vehicle was also driven very slowly because the car wouldn't go much faster without sounding loud. My boyfriend is a pilot. He is a patient and competent driver and has has extensive training as a pilot in safety. It's not easy to get that license, and pilots are known to be excellent low-risk drivers, which is why FBOs at airports allow them to sign out crew cars on a regular basis.

Was there a problem when we rented it? Yes, I believe there was a pre-existing problem with the transmission that we took to be normal for the vehicle, having never driven it before. We could tell that it was worn down, but that made sense with all of the other things that were worn out on it. Saying it was old and worn out was not meant to be an insult - that's normal for a 1998 rental 4x4 vehicle that spends most of its time on the beaches of the Outer Banks. If damage happened to the transmission while we had the vehicle, it was normal wear and tear, something caused by previous drivers. If we contributed anything to that it wasn't due to recklessness on our part, it was due to the age and previous age of the vehicle. 

What's not normal is being charged $500 extra for something that you're not responsible for. It's the principle of the thing. That's the frustration here, the reason for writing a report for others to see. I feel that I was ripped off, that's why I filed my report. Not to get revenge or to just randomly say mean or illogical things about the owners of the company, who until they charged us for the repairs, had been very pleasant and helpful. 

I can understand the need of a small local company to protect its reputation, but maybe they should have thought about it before they did what they did to me. Or at the very least, maybe they could have called to talk it through with me before they charged my credit card, or worked it out with me when I disputed the charges or any time since.  I have nothing against the owners personally - there is no reason to write my report other than because they charged me unfairly. Which is something others may find helpful to know.

I'm a consumer that got ripped off for repairs that needed to be made anyway, on a vehicle that was probably not in a condition to be rented. This forum is for consumers who have been through these things to communicate the dangers to other consumers, which is exactly what I did. It's not a personal attack on anyone - it's an effort to help other consumers know what they're possibly getting themselves into.  

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#3 Consumer Comment

Complaint Not Valid or Believable

AUTHOR: Braxton - (United States of America)

I, too have done business with Mr. Eric Stump and Hatteras Island Performance/Island Cruisers, and found them to be a reputable and honest company that caters to customers with caring detail.  Mr. Stump came to my rescue when I became stranded due to the recent damage to N.C. Highway 12. 

He was prompt, courteous, overly attentive to my safety and to the protection of my vehicle, and I think he UNDERCHARGED me for the difficult and dangerous services he rendered. 

It is clear from my personal experience, and after having read the letter of the complainer and the very rational and professional response from Mr. Stump that this "rip-off report" was written by someone with other issues that ruined her vacation.  She probably should vent her bile to her boyfriend for his reckless use of a rental vehicle, not to the business that provided full disclosure of their policies. 

Mr. Stump and Hatteras Island Performance is a respected community-based business on the Outer Banks, with solid family roots on Hatteras Island.  One vitriolic review by a disingenuous and careless customer should not be used to judge this business or its owners.  
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#4 REBUTTAL Owner of company

Response From Island Cruisers Inc.

AUTHOR: Island Cruisers Inc. - (United States of America)

Hello, my name is Eric Stump.  My wife, Valerie, and I own & operate a small 4x4 and auto rental business on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  I appreciate the opportunity to clarify and respond to the situation Miss Bridges has creatively reported.

First, let it be known; it is our standard protocol for each unit to endure a thorough safety and performance check.  Inspection of all fluid levels, suspension, drivetrain componennts, functionality of all lights, gauges, radio, & A/C, and condition of interior / exterior are performed and recorded before and after every single rental.  This inspection includes a 12 - 16 mile test drive on the street for 2-wheel drive units and on the beach for 4-wheel drive units.  In addition, every rental unit has to pass a state inspection.  Each unit is also completely cleaned inside and out prior to delivery.  We do this because we want our guests to have an enjoyable and memorable experience.  One that they will want to revisit each year, as most often is the case. 

On Sunday May 29, 2011, protocol was followed (as stated above) and the vehicle was delivered to a small airport, where we unloaded it and gave it final touch up shine an hour prior to meeting Miss Bridges and her accomplice.   This is important because in one of Miss bridges statements to her credit card company she said she watched us unload the vehicle.  The couple seemed excited but not very attentive and initialed the paperwork too quicky to have fully read all of the important information.  This is why we go over it verbally as well.   We clearly stated, several times before departure (as we do with all of our guests), "If you have ANY problems or should need anything AT ALL, please call us. Even if you think it's a silly question - CALL.  Even if you just need directions or a place to eat, call; we're here to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable time."

Valerie had given an Island Cruisers shirt to Miss Bridges for her birthday and when doing so, accidentally picked up the guide book that goes along with the vehicle.  Once this was discovered (aproximately 40 minutes after drop off), Valerie turned around and met her 19 miles from where the vehicle was delivered, to hand over the book.  There was no mention of any kind of a problem, on the phone nor in person. Had Miss Bridges given us a call to address the many issues she claims to have had we would have been able to figure out what they were doing, and (depending on the timing of the call) could have stopped the action that caused the transmission to overheat and start leaking from the front pump seal. This could have been caused by simply putting the shifter into a lower gear than the "DRIVE" position and operating on the highway.  We still see people occasionally that cannot shift out of park because they are not pushing the brake.  So in a vehicle that one is not familiar with, shifting into a wrong gear is a possibility just as much as driving on the beach improperly which was our assumption at first.  I cannot assume which action was actually done, I can only know how the damage is caused.  In fact, it is irrelevant.  Like I said, either would have the possibility of ending in the same result; an overheated transmission that leaks fluid which is NOT normal wear and tear. 
Miss Bridges has a lot of inaccuracy between her rants but I will try to sort some of them out.   The vehicle is actually a $2,500.00 1996 Geo Tracker, not a 1998 as she has stated.  The next inaccuracy is that she states she was told the higher cost of 4x4 rentals is due to the high cost of repairing transmissions; this is untrue.  The price of a 4x4 is based on the expenses incurred for additional clean-up, safety checks, and maintenance required; not to cover damage to drivetrain components caused by driver error / negligence.  Furthermore, this is the very first time we have had to make a charge for a damaged automatic transmission, so I hardly feel like we have a scam going on here.  

We were instructed by our bank and our lawyer to obtain a signed credit card imprint for multiple reasons.  We cannot fill in the amount until the vehicle is returned and checked over for mileage, fuel, and as in this case, damages.  Unforunately, when you run a business like this, occasionally, you will run across people that will damage the equipment.  Whether it is due to inexperience, incompetance or blatant disregard doesn't really matter.  Damage is damage and the responsibility of those who cause it. 

How we could run a business for 6 years with old, rusty, ill performing vehicles is beyond me.   We have many guests come back year after year to enjoy our honest, reliable services without any trouble. (See our Feature in Southern Living Magazine).  On the contrary, we take great pride in the vehicles that we have and are often complimented on how well they are cared for and how great they perform on the beach.  That was the last econo sized 4x4 we had for the Holiday weekend, but we would have gladly upgraded her to a full size that might have been easier for her to operate had we received any indication that there was a problem. 

I invite anyone to come try one of our vehicles; they all show and perfom well. 

Next, she goes on to say, "We don't know if there was anything even wrong with the vehicle".  So in this post I have read both that she says there were problems and now she says they don't know, well which was it?  I continue to digest the letters she wrote her credit card company saying we never tried to contact her, when in reality we did - she refused our certified letter in response to hers.  I have to say to anyone else running a business out there watch out for this one, we didn't see it coming.   She did threaten us that she would smear our name all over the internet and wherever else possible if we did not refund her money, that part is true. 

This was a very unfortunate situation.  One we do NOT take pleaure in.  What sense it makes for us to just charge guests for whatever we want is uncomprehendable.  These are our family owned and operated businesses that we have worked very very hard to put where they are and continue to do so in an effort to sustain and progress.   The saddest part of this story still is the fact if she had given us a call the moment she had a problem she would have saved her money and our labor to repair the vehicle by figuring out what they were doing wrong and in turn, avoiding this entire mess.

Ok, I  will move on to the part where she says, "The next day we dropped it off at the airport and took off. As far as I knew everthing was fine."  Well which was it?  In the beginning of the post she says the car was rusty and old, didn't handle well, had brakes that barely stopped and had problems shifting.   She is attemping to go one of two routes here, out of sight out of mind meaning if we don't say anything maybe they won't notice the transmission issue or if we make up a bunch of other stuff wrong with the vehicle it will sound like its not a good car. Sorry, neither of these will fly with me.  Post and prior to her rental the only issue reported was a clogged windshield washer nozzle which had been corrected before she had the vehicle but no mention of any of the other issues she claims it to have had.

We only charged Miss bridges for a repair to the transmission that she damaged, we did not charge her for a new transmission, that would have been about $1500 itself.  We did not charge her for loss of use, which considering the time of year we lost money not having our full fleet available until I returned it to service.   All of this shows that we are attempting to be reasonable considering Miss Bridges probably is just not that farmiliar with automobiles as much as some people are.  She also makes a statement about whether the transmission was repaired or not. The transmission had no leaks when she took it, after her rental it was a full quart low and making a large puddle everywhere it was parked.  After the repair there are no leaks.  Miss Bridges attitude says everything, "we also didn't fill the gas tank so expect some kind of $50 fee for gas or whatever."   It is perfectly fine to leave the vehicle not full but yes we charge to fill it up not for whatever!   It's all these little bits that make me wish we would have never rented to Miss Bridges.  That is the only thing that we did wrong here.  We feel ripped off as well!  
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