Another $246 for a late rental? This must be some kind of mistake.


When Charles Whitmore returned his Dollar rental to the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., airport location less than 24 hours after it was due, he expected to pay a penalty.

But $246? That must be some kind of mistake.

That’s what our advocacy team thought when his case arrived. And it was.

Whitmore returned the car late because of weather — specifically a canceled flight. “I called the rental extension number on the contract prior to the due date,” he says.

“I got an automated message that informed me that if the extension was less than 24 hours I would be charged the daily rate on the contract, which was $20. I have the recording of this message.”

Wait a sec. He has a recording?

Let’s take a step back, my friends. It has come to this. People expect a company to take advantage of a situation like this to the extent that they record messages.

Bear in mind, this was not a Dollar representative leaving a phone message, and Whitmore simply keeping it. He had to press the “record” button. He suspected there would be trouble.


Of course, he was right. “I was grossly overcharged by Dollar,” he says. The $246 charge came out of the blue.

When our advocate, Dwayne Coward, took over the case, he found a paper trail between Whitmore and his online agency, Orbitz. But it was inconclusive and depressing. Whitmore would send a detailed request for help. Orbitz would reply with the following:

Thank you for contacting Orbitz Customer Relations. This email is confirmation that we have received your correspondence, and a Customer Relations Specialist will be reviewing your concern. Someone from our team will get back to you with an answer within 10-14 business days.

Please note our working hours are 0800 to 1730 CT, from Monday to Friday and we regret the delay in reply over the non-working hours.

Best regards
Orbitz Customer Relations


To our team, this looked like a slam-dunk. If Whitmore had a recording of Dollar, promising a $20 late fee, then they should honor it. Clearly, the car rental company just fat-fingered this late bill by moving the decimal point. I mean, who pays that much for less than 24 hours use of a car?

Well, OK, I’d pay that for a Tesla, maybe. But he had a standard mid-size vehicle. Nothing fancy.

Coward contacted Dollar on Whitmore’s behalf with the recording. And guess what? It worked.

“I received a phone message from Dollar,” Whitmore told us. “They confirmed that Dollar was in error on the rental charges. They advised the refund of $214 would go back to my American Express card.”

Love that ending. And a hat tip to our great advocates for their help with this one. Way to go, E-Team.

How should this one have ended?

View Results

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  • Chris Johnson

    Dollar tried to pull some crap like this on me as well. I returned a car on a one-day rental maybe 20 minutes late, and while they didn’t charge me for an extra day, they tried to charge me an extra $53 for another day’s collision damage and liability waivers. When I went to the counter and asked about it, the person there instantly took it off (I didn’t even have to put up the slightest of arguments). I guess they’re banking on the fact that some people won’t check and some people won’t protest. Easy money for them.

  • Alan Gore

    It’s Dollar. They will scam you until you use the power of the Internet to shame them to hell.

  • flutiefan

    Are you kidding? I use Dollar almost exclusively ywhen visiting my parents out of LAX. They have been nothing but exemplary. Ah

  • Annie M

    How sad that he had to record the conversation but bravo to him. Just learned a new tip on protecting myself going forward.

  • JewelEyed

    Well, that’s your experience, but Chris Johnson above clearly didn’t have a similar one to yours.

  • jmj

    The cynicism with which “free market” questions are phrased in the polls is irritating. This has nothing to do with free market economics. This has everything to do with honoring one’s commitments.

  • MF

    Perhaps it is time that all phones, both cellular & landline should be equipped with a digital MP3 recorder? We too should be able to record calls for ‘quality assurance’ purposes, just like those on the other side of the counter.

  • Ward Chartier

    Fat fingering happens. Many years ago I started work at a new company, a major corporation. When I received my first paycheck, the gross amount was $750 short. It was clear to me that fat fingering was the culprit. The folks in HR and Payroll were embarrassed and apologetic.

  • Michael__K

    Many locations (though usually not the airports) are locally owned franchises, so it’s tenuous to generalize. I used to live 2 blocks from a Dollar location that was horrendous. There were often angry customers when I walked by.

    FYI, the LAX location was caught on camera by a local TV station violating California law in their efforts to push customers to purchase their LDW–

  • KanExplore

    This is a slam dunk, as noted. They promised something and they need to abide by it. I think the disparaging use of the term “free market” to mean “fraud is OK” as implied by the question is an unfortunate strawman. That isn’t legitimate free market activity and none of us free market fans would claim it is.

  • KanExplore

    Exactly. I made my reply before reading yours. Took the words right out of my mouth. This seems to happen pretty often in those poll questions.

  • Tricia K

    I do not share your affinity for Dollar. After getting hit for over $2,000 for damage that should have been closer to $500, and then getting the same response from them over and over when I asked them to reduce it to a $1,000 (when Chris stepped in, they just took the ignore it completely approach), I will never rent from them again. When they said the limit of my liability would be up to $2500, I expected that to mean that $500 worth of damage would be billed for $500, not that they would add repairs to take the bill up to just below my liability.

  • William Leeper

    Technically recording is not illegal. It depends on the state that you are in. I live in a “one party state” so as long as one person who is on the call agrees to it being recorded it can legally be recorded. The one person can be yourself, and it does not have to be a verbal agreement.

  • jane4321

    Hi William, It is illegal in my state to record a conversation without the prior consent of both people. In general I believe this is a good thing–there is an expectation of privacy when having a phone conversation. It isn’t like being out in public. But in cases like these, it would be great to be able to record and show what truly was said.

  • cscasi

    Dollar corrected the error made and he only paid $20. Have you ever made a mistake. Many companies do now and again. If I have an issue, talk to the company (voice, e-mail, letter) and get it corrected, I am fine with that; just as long as it doesn’t become a habit.

  • cscasi

    Did you get a copy of the repair bill showing all the charges? And you asked them to reduce the charges? Did you cause the damage Dollar charged you for; regardless of the amount it charged you?

  • cscasi

    As you say, it depends on the state in which you reside.

  • Carchar

    6 votes for the free market. Hmmmmm.

  • jim6555

    The renter could have driven to the airport and returned the car when it was due. He could then have rented another car from a different agency at the airport at a much lower cost than $246 for one day.

  • Cat

    But these companies WILL NOT correct the error without a consumer advocate being involved. These are not mistakes, they are company run scams to steal from customers.

  • Nathan Witt

    Okay. So does that mean you’d be okay with the Federal government regulating the rental car industry to prevent this kind of behavior? Most of us who like the government to step in don’t want communism, but we do think that, without laws on the books, these corporations operating in the free market will do unethical things to enrich themselves at their customers’ expense.

  • KanExplore

    The key is “get it in writing.” Yes, I’d be for a regulation stating that if something is promised in writing, the company is held to that, regardless of policy. Actually I think that’s the case already. Perhaps the new step would be that the customer be entitled to a written form of any oral promise made. The problem is that without requiring it to be in writing anybody can say they were told anything.