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Harmless fun? Not these prank calls to hotels

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It’s late, and you’ve bedded down for the night in your hotel room. Then you receive a frantic phone call, telling you that there’s a gas leak in the hotel. The caller tells you to use a toilet tank to break the window of the room.

Sounds crazy, right? But according to the Orlando Sentinel and other news outlets, it’s been happening in hotels around the country. Guests, and the hotels, are victims of prank calls that warn of a phony emergency and successfully get the guests, or hotel employees, to vandalize the property.

In the Sentinel story, a family staying at a Hilton Garden Inn near the Orlando Airport smashed a window and a mirror, bashed a lamp against a wall (ostensibly to try to free a man trapped on the other side) and tossed their mattress out of the window in order to jump to safety. It was all on a caller’s orders, a man masquerading as a front desk clerk, in order to escape a gas leak that wasn’t.

The Associated Press earlier reported that a caller claiming to be a representative of a fire alarm company tricked a hotel employee in Conway, Ark., into pulling a fire alarm and breaking an overhead sprinkler and the lobby windows.

Apparently, a group called PrankNET is claiming responsibility for the pranks, which have surfaced at properties from California to Nebraska to Alabama, according to various reports. The FBI is investigating the group, the AP said.

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Big Three takes beating in car rental biz, too

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The decline of Detroit's Big Three has been well-chronicled, and it only makes sense that the downturn applies to car rental fleets as well as retail lots.

In the past few years, imported brands have taken a ton of market share from Ford, Chrysler and General Motors in the car rental business, reported the Los Angeles Times.

According to trade publication Automotive Fleet, only 48.8% of new vehicles going into U.S. rental fleets came from General Motors, Ford or Chrysler in the first six months of 2009, compared with two-thirds a year earlier.

Just three years ago, more than eight in 10 vehicles sold to U.S. car rental companies came from Detroit's Big Three, reported the L.A. Times.

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