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About a year ago, my wife was filling in paperwork to hire a car when the woman behind the counter suddenly looked up in alarm. “I’m sorry,” she said in a stage whisper. “The computer is saying: ‘Do not rent to this woman under any circumstances.’ It seems you’re banned for life?” There was an awkward pause before she leaned forward conspiratorially and said: “What did you do?!”

Good question. The short answer is nothing; my wife is innocent. What happened is this: she and I hired a car to visit her family for Thanksgiving and dropped it off in Boston at 9am. The company – which I won’t name because I don’t want it to set its lawyers on me – said we returned it at 9pm and insisted we pay them an extra $350. We said: “Hell, no,” so it referred us to debt collectors who hounded us for weeks. This could have had a terrible knock-on effect on our credit score and ability to get a mortgage, but a lawyer friend helped us get the issue dropped – except we hadn’t realised the company had banned my wife from ever using it or its many subsidiaries again. (Which we would never do by choice – however, rental car costs have gone up 43% and it was the cheapest option.)