Dear PoP – DC Trash Collection Damaged My Brand New Car

IMG_4917, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

“Dear PoP,

I am so livid right now I can’t tell if I want to yell or cry. I just brought a brand new Chevy Aveo yesterday. This is my first new car. It is obviously in pristine condition. Until the DC trash collectors came through this morning and collected the garbage. I park my car in a driveway off the alley behind my house. My car is always pulled in well out of the way of anyone driving through the alley. For the last few weeks I have noticed the garbage cans have become increasingly beat up after the garbage collectors come through. The cans are often broken and laying all over the alley so I have to actually get out of my car to move them before I can get to my house.

This morning I came out and there was a can laying down right next to my back bumper. I looked closer and there is a sizable scratch and chip now in the paint on the bumper of my day old car. I called 311 to find out how I can report this claim and they referred me to the claims department in the office of risk management. I called and there was no claims adjuster in the office at the moment. I have been promised a call back within the day though.

Have you gotten any other reports like these. Is this common? What can I do to make sure the message that this is not acceptable actually gets to the garbage collectors themselves and is not just tied up in the office of risk management. Is there someone else I should call and complain to?”

I’m very sorry to hear this. I’ve never owned a brand new car but can imagine how frustrating this must feel. I’ve always ascribed to the notion that cars will get dinged a bit in the city but so soon is understandable painful. Eventually your bumper is going to get dinged up. That just happens. I’m not sure it’s worth going through all the aggravation to fix this damage. I really hope that doesn’t come across as callous. I would be supremely pissed for sure. But this is gonna happen again. Though, it does look like the scratch on the bottom is pretty deep and might be worth fixing. Ed. Note: I’m very good at equivocating…

What do you guys think? Will the city pay to fix this? Anyone have a similar experience?

49 Comment

  • First I’d try to buff out the scratches on the top part with a little compounding, very gently. For the deeper chip at the bottom, I’d get factory touch-up paint from the dealer. We’ve got a vial of the stuff for our Mazda, and it really helps with little chips and scratches.

  • Wait till the snowploughs come by. Every time I think of replacing my 1990 Chevy Prizm, it gets another scratch, dent, etc. It’s kept me from wasting money on a new car and incurring much frustration.

  • Please consider yourself on your own here and don’t look to the city for satisfaction. Find joy where you can find it.

    Recently a guy I know told me the story of how he quit the DC government. His company was hired on an IT contract. The manager was unhappy that his best friend’s company wasn’t hired. The contract’s offices were set up in a loading dock. That’s right, they sat in a loading dock. They had to deal with certain kinds of equipment purchasing. A woman in customer service was rude to them, but started making racist and sexually threatening comments. They decided to record their conversations. They did and caught her saying things on 5 occasions. They took the tape to the director as a whistleblower case. The director acted very interested in it and collected all the evidence.

    Nothing happened.

    They went back to demand to know what transpired and the director played dumb, claiming there was no tape, no evidence, nothing. When they protested, he called them racists and said he had been documenting how they treated staff of color. It was decided that they would be better off working at their company’s offices for the remainder of the contract year. They went back to their office and never got another assignment again. They spent their last three months working on internal company IT issues. Their contract was not extended but their company was bidding on a bigger project and naturally didn’t want to sue the District.

    If you don’t want to live in a corrupt city where city employees hate you, move to Montgomery County. I have no doubt in my mind that the scratch you received was intentional.

  • Correction – it is a 2000 Prizm, 38 miles per gallon. The last big ding was from parking in an $18 per day garage – give up.

  • DC street sweeper hit my parked car. I saw it happen, chased him down, called the cops, got a police report, filed a claim with Office of Risk Management, got a check a few weeks later. Keep trying to contact them…you’ll get through.

    On the other hand, you bought a NEW Chevy Aveo — ignoring what kind of judgment that decision represents, any car parked in DC is going to accumulate its share of bumps and scrapes. Just accept it, do what you can to minimize it, and learn how to use polishing compound.

  • I had trash collectors damage my deck, twice. They would throw the empty trash cans back onto the deck and twice they splintered the wood. I filed a claim with the city both times and was rejected. One time, I saw the trash can hanging off of the fence – it was hung up by a wheel on the can!

    I hope you have better luck.

  • I used to live on the 1500 block of upshur and every day after the trash was collected all us neighbors had to search the alley to find out where our trash and recycling bins went. they never put them back, sometimes they were scattered all over the alley and you actually had to weave your car around them like traffic cones. although i had no incidents of car damage due to the trash guys throwing bins about.

  • Google “Marion Barry”, “champagne-colored Mercedes”, and “Metrobus”.

  • I witnessed a trash truck (not sure if it was city or otherwise) completely f*ck up a car that was a tad too close to the alley. The truck sped off. I left the owner a note as to what happened but never heard from them. I assume in their case they knew their insurance would pay easier on a hit and run than the city ever would. It’s an idea – pay the deductable, get it fixed if it bothers you, and hope that the city eventually reimburses you.

  • Get used to the scraches. Whether it’s city employees or some beat-up car parking behind or in front of you, your bumper is toast in the city. Someone side swiped my car while it was parked a number of years ago. When I got it fixed, the body shop resurfaced my bumper for a few extra bucks. It looked nice and shiny….for about a week. Since then, it looks like something’s gnawed on it. I’ve accepted it and it’s one of the reasons why I still drive a 1990 car, though mostly bike.

  • This happened to me a couple of years ago. One of those leaf-collector trucks (we call them Leaf Snuffalupaguses in my family) came down the street with its hose swinging loose and dented several cars on the block. Good news: I did everything through my insurance company. The insurance people arranged for the damaged to be fixed and said they would go after the DC sanitation people themselves; if and when they succeeded in collecting from DC, they’d refund my deductible. Well, I figured fat chance of that and say goodbye to my deductible, but lo and behold a few weeks later I got a check in the mail from the insurance people with a letter saying DC had paid up. It’s worth a try!

  • Its a car in the city. Get over it. It will be bumped 1 million times in any parking spot in the city. If scratches on your car make you cry get a garage and never drive it.

  • Thanks for all the advice. As for the many comments about not owning a new car in the city. I totally understand but I need a dependable car since I use it for work (not just going to and fro but carting around camera equipment). And this car was cheaper than buying many of the used cars because of all the rebates GMC is offering and the money you get for cash for clunkers. It’s a funny market right now.

    I’m waiting to hear back from an adjuster with the Office of Risk Management to file a claim. So far it sounds like I just need to get two estimates and the city should reimburse the cost. It’s just frustrating that several neighborhoods away they set the trash cans back down on the ground where as in our allies they toss them all over so you have to get out of your car to move them. And I’m always amazed at how much trash ends up on the ground instead of the truck when they’re through.

  • No. Don’t “get over it.” I’m sick of people thinking that since we “live in the city” we should expect less out of people. It’s not ok to ding the cars of other people. If you don’t know how to parallel park, then find a garage. What is with everyone’s low expectations? What we need is more accountability in this city – not less.

    Be the change you want to see in this world.

  • It’s amazing how many jerkoffs comment on this blog. It wasn’t a scrape caused by the normal wear-and-tear of city driving. Rather, a city-owned garbage truck damages a privately owned vehicle (yes, even a scrape is considered “damage”) and a bunch of you tell her to get over it. Nice.

    Lazy-ass city employees get away with too much of this crap; they won’t stop until more people call them on it.

  • I am not going to say “get over it” because if the city damaged your car, it’s their fault, and it’s your choice to pursue gratification. However, at the same time there is a lot of truth to the fact that you are going to get dings in your car. You need to ask yourself how much time, energy and money you are willing to put into maintaining a nick-free paint job.

    You may very well be able to get the city to pay for this. But it will take a lot of legwork to be sure. If this was a huge dent, maybe it would be worth it, but this is something that can be fixed with a plastic sponge to take off the white paint, and a touch-up paint from the dealer, for about 5 bucks. Compare that to hours of frustration, possibly with the result of getting nothing. And there is no question you will get dings in the future – many of them – that you won’t be able to pin on anyone.

    If I were you I’d just suck it up and wait until someone really messes up your bumper to get it repainted, because it will happen.

  • @ Home-Owner and [email protected]: Totally agree with you guys. Just because we “live in a city” doesn’t mean we should expect our personal property to be damaged. I bought a brand new car in March and expected bumps/scratches, luckily none that terrible so far, but it’s bad that you’re happy when something *doesn’t* happen to you car!

    I’ve come to the conclusion that all garbagemen (city or private) are absolutely wreckless with everything and anything they are around. Just this morning I had to yell shutup out my apartment door to the garbagemen who were yelling from our lobby out the door and across the street. They just don’t care. I really hope you get something out of this – and I agree – I hope it goes further than just the office, the workers should have to know that charges or whatever were filed against them. (note: I was the one that posted about the noise of banging garbage cans up the stairs in our lobby a few months back)

  • My two cents:

    It certainly is a disappointment to have a new car scratched, especially so soon after you bought the car. That really sucks. Sorry!

    I would try to get the city to pay for it, but who knows. Although it might be easier just to fix it yourself than to deal the government, it probably won’t be as fulfilling as having them right the wrong.

    When I brought a used car to DC when I moved here, I just realized that the car was going to get scratched, scraped, broken into and possibly stolen. It is an unfortunate side effect of the place in which we live. Since my car was one that I plan to “ride til it dies”, I’m not so worried about the appearance as long as I can get from A to B.

    In my humble opinion, having a car that you care about in DC will end up in frustration.

  • I live in a carriage house (in an alley) and the trash trucks repeatedly ram into my building. Seriously, crash hard, tearing up the brich and concrete ballustrades. Even after providing the city with photos of the truck actually making impact with the house they said I didn’t have enough information. Eventually we settled for the cost of brick repair, but they would not give me a permit to do it (I live in historic district so I need to go waste a day getting a permit to repair the city’s damage). Nor would they install a post or other means of preventing the repeated damage. THey conceded that they would have ot pay again. My battle with them involved hundreds of emails, photos, interactions with the trash dirvers (who could not have cared less). Also, FWIW

  • Mel and Home-Owner…

    you really have unrealistic expectations out of life.

    You want garbage men – who are underpaid, understaffed and have to rush to even have any ability to finish their routes collecting your garbage .. to manage to navigate the city streets with the delicate grace of an ice skater.

    I bet you also expect mc donalds employees to prepare your meal with the expertise of an iron chef.

    WELCOME TO LIFE — where the things you want come at a higher price.

    oh whats that? you cant afford a house with a driveway to keep your car safe from scratches? Cry me a friggin river.

    I am assuming you are mildly successful since you are a home-owner in the city and own a car as well. Which means it is the very gap in the standard you live by and the standards others live by which allows you to be wealthier than others ( like garbage men ) in the first place. If everyone held themselves to such high standards there would be no one to pick up your garbage in the first place.

  • I have a very good friend who is a District trash collector and I can tell you that they work hard at their jobs every day…and they do it no matter how hot it is, how much it’s raining, how cold it is, etc. Do they do their job to everyone’s satisfaction all of the time? No, but find me anyone at any job who does….

  • If you are seriously concerned with scrapes/dings/chipped paint/etc. then look into getting one of these. They are horribly ugly, but you only use it while your car is parked. It only protects the rear bumper, but you can get the rubber adhesive strips that attach to the front bumpers.

  • Don’t buy new cars. If you buy a new car and are obsessed with keeping it in pristine condition, either keep the car in the suburbs or in a garage. If you keep a car in an alley next to your garbage cans, then it will get dinged. I can empathize with the frustration you feel but you can’t expect to keep a new car ding-free in the city without taking measures to protect it.

  • Fellow Petworthian…

    is this a serious thing? — whats next – a cover to protect my shoes from getting dirty?

    I mean are you serious people? ITS A BUMPER— ITS INTENDED PURPOSE IS FOR BUMPING to protect other things in the car.

    Are you going to buy a bumper bully cover to protect your bumper bully?
    Is anyone else getting the ridiculous irony here?

  • Actually, I don’t own a car. I prefer to walk or take public transportation. When I must drive, I use ZipCar.

    I understand the point you make, Anonymous @ 9:27, but I think it is a sad truth. Essentially what you are saying is that people who are successful choose to set higher standards for themselves and work hard in order to be successful and people who are less successful choose to set lower standards for themselves and end up less successful but that we all must live in the same world, so the successful people have to deal with the lower standards of less successful people. Sad.

  • @ Anonymous927 – I don’t expect them to be perfect at collecting garbage, but to damage personal property and homes (CAHBF – that really really sucks) is definitely out of line. If it was a one time thing, that’s different. I have seen garbage collectors damage the same thing time and time again and not even pause to assess what they damaged, and I have seen this all across the city. And when I do go to McDonald’s, I know what I’m getting. I’m not expecting an iron chef you prick. With garbagemen, I’m expecting personal property not to be damaged. Do we get that? No. Garbage collectors across the country are all in a rush. I’ve never witnessed this kind of behavior in any other city I have lived in.

    And to the mentality of buying a new car in the city – I needed a car that was going to last me for more than 5 years and my old car was crapping out – wouldn’t accelerate out of second gear. I don’t expect it to be pristine, I expect the random bumper marks from parking and such, but to have a trash collector damage your car is beyond the “damage expectations”.

  • @ Anon at 9:27 a.m. The person who wrote to PoP clearly states “I park my car in a driveway off the alley behind my house”. I don’t think it takes navigating the city streets with the delicate grace of an ice skater to avoid hitting vehicles parked off the street or off the alley. I park my car in a driveway off an alley and it has never been dinged, scratched, dented, etc by trash collectors so it seems that some workers in waste management consistently manage to avoid hitting vehicles off the street.

  • Good point, Home-Owner. These “get over it” attitudes are a pretty good reasons why DC has been such a sh*thole for so long.

  • Why did cars move away from metal bumpers? Mine still has them, and I can just ram into things without consequence – I was able to push a friends car home up 9th street one day without any damage. But these new cars, with the painted and plastic bumper covers (i’m guessing it is still metal underneath) just have the cover fall apart on impact. Do any new cars still have the old bumpers?

  • CAHBF – which alley system do you live in? I’ve never seen a trash truck run into our carriage house, but I have seen a hook and ladder get wedged between it. It was one of the ones with two steering wheels, and they were able to get out after some back and forth.

  • @tonysmallframe – the plastic bumpers have styrofoam underneath… Yes… Styrofoam. And when I actually don’t know if any new cars have metal bumpers – mine doesn’t and my previous car didn’t. Sucks cuz it doesn’t dent (yay?) but it f-in CRACKS. Lame.

  • @Anon 9:40: Yes it is serious, but I do not own one nor do I advocate getting one. Just putting the info out on the blogosphere. I drive a 2002 Saturn (which is a car completely made of plastic, BTW) and my bumpers look horrible, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The less desirable my car looks to the would-be car thieves the better.

  • Wow! IIHS rates cars after having a 6mph crash – like a tap to the front bumper. The Aveo is on there, and does pretty well. After a 6mh bump, it has $1,071 of damage., but the Chevy Cobalt has $3,654 worth of damage. After a 6mph bump. Honda Civic has $4,328, and the VW Rabbit has $4,078 worth of damage. Does that just seem wrong to anyone else?

    They also do a corner test at 3mph – The Infiniti G35 has $3,544 worth of damage after a 3mph hit. The Aveo has $1,437. This is at 3mph. You might as well not be moving, or have a normal sized teenager bump into your car.

    No wonder insurance on new cars is so expensive – why are bumpers so fragile these days?

  • there are many models of modern cars that don’t have any rear bumpers at all, such as the toyota rav 4. In those models, the rear-mounted tire is the bumper.

  • Modern car bumpers are designed to basically disintegrate to transfer the energy of a collision into the collapse of the materials, and not to the snapping of your neck. That’s why they are trashed after even a 6 mph collision. In the old days, the energy from a collision had nowhere to dissipate except the not very conductive steel bumper and auto frame. So now, you pay $3000 for a new bumper instead of $10,000 for an emergency room visit.

  • anon 9:27… any job worth doing is worth doing right, and your argument is the exact problem. waste managers arent due anything other than a paycheck for doing their jobs, so dont act like we owe them something just because they arent paid as much as they would like to be, ESPECIALLY when the ones referenced here show little regard for the actual duties of those jobs. if you dont want to be a low paid garbageman, then change your career path…dont take it out on my vehicle and then complain about me wanting better service and not wanting to pay for it. my taxes ARE paying for it!

  • I would be incensed if this happened to me, so I am completely in sympathy with the OP. But, I would also say “get over it,” not because I think that garbage collectors are such great folks and I’m sad about their plight (I suspect they are decently paid for their work — they have a union, right?), but because you’ll get more dings soon, and life is short.

    Now, that’s just me. Some people are very good at negotiating what seems to be excruciating process of actually getting the city to pay for the damage. I don’t think I would enjoy doing that for this amount of damage. If I wouldn’t file an insurance claim for it, I wouldn’t pursue the city for it.

    But it is still very, very annoying.

  • The recycling folks are great. They always empty the entire can and return the can to the spot where they took it from (most of the time.) They even pick up the stuff that falls out onto the ground. The trash folks never seem to be able to reach the bag at the bottom of the can, leave trash in their wake, and they NEVER return the can to where they took it from. Why can one group get it right, but not the other?

    That said, a few months ago I cleaned out our garage and left the trash piled up in our driveway until I could call a private company to haul it away. The next morning, the trash collector emptied my entire driveway of trash and even returned some computer disks to me that they had found. I’m still flabergasted by the initiative and kindness they showed. My faith in our neighborhood trash collectors was somewhat restored. Though they didn’t show up again this week to take our trash.

    I guess some trash collectors are just better than others.

  • Are you sure your car was not hit by this vehicle?

  • I will add to the “Anon927” and their ilk are the problem. “Culture of permissibility.” When something is wrong, it’s wrong. That doesn’t change just because a lot of people in the city are doing it. The more people bend over and take it from the city, the more the city (or whoever the perp is) will do it.

    On the other hand, I will say, that other than _sometimes_ leaving the trash or recycling cans all over in odd places in the alley, the collectors do a damn good job in my area. They’ve even come into my fenced in back area (hard to call it a “yard”) and grabbed my can when I forgot to put it out! Always empty the cans well and never noticed them damage anything. I’ve lived in a few other places and I give them a thumbs up _for my area_. But one crew does not necessarily represent what’s going no city-wide. Just saying.

  • Is this discussion really happening? Really, I agree with any and all who say it’s a bumper, get over it, expect cars to get dinged. This is one of the silliest discussions I have seen on this blog.

  • “I just brought a brand new Chevy Aveo”

    Well there’s your problem!

  • Anonymous Says:
    August 18th, 2009 at 11:47 pm

  • Seriously don’t “get over it”. Yes it’s just a bumper, and life is short, but it’s also your hard earned money that paid for the car and the least you can expect is for others to respect your personal property. It’s not a lot to ask for. But honestly, I would avoid dealing with the city with this one. This seems you can buff it out with any scratch remover that you can buy at most auto parts store. Doesn’t seem too deep from the photos.

    And I’m sure most of the people telling you to “get over it”, would be equally upset if their “brand-new” vintage fixed gear Fuji was scratched up by someone’s carelessness.

    It’s so lame.

  • Sorry to hear about your car. the first ding or scratch is always the worst. after a year you wont even notice, trust me. Went through a simalar process with a brand new Audi a few years back.
    There are some good points about the city in general on this thread though. i never realized it but my expectations of the city are very low.
    Where you see damage to a new car, Im just glad they are picking up the trash at all in August, -if you have owned a diaper genie, then you know what I mean. Also, they dont seem to set things on fire, which is a plus in my book. Accountability, as previosuly mentioned on pop, is basically zero in this city. Our gov is as guilty as the citizens. It strange, i have lived all over the country but never in a place so indifferent to everything. I think its part of the dc culture. who knows.

  • What a bummer! I feel for ya! In the last two months, my car was keyed outside the Wonderland. Who does that anymore? And sideswiped not one but TWO times.

    My car was keyed first, so naturally I was livid. I accepted the fact that my beautiful 2002 ride might become a “beater” in the coming years due to general lack of car-respect. Then sideswiping happened and now I am totally resigned to the fact my car will never look nice.

    I might never wash it again.

  • Anon @ 9:27 ” . . . and have to rush to even have any ability to finish their routes collecting your garbage ”

    That’s not actually correct. They rush because DPW management allows them to leave for the day as soon as they complete their assigned route. So they have an incentive to complete their routes as quickly as possible. Some city council members have considered eliminating this perk because of the issues related to “rushing” . . . e.g., thrown and lost trash cans, trash that gets spilled in the alleys as they rush to empty the trash cans, etc.

  • Get a wrought iron gate for your driveway. Sometimes its a bit of a b*tch to open/close but nothing gets close to my car.

  • Similar story.. I had a run-in with DC folks this week. I parked my car legally, and while I was away someone put up a no-parking sign and my car was towed away. I didn’t find it for a week. Here’s my post in the CH Yahoo forum:

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