“There are no polite words to describe what I feel has just been done to me”


No industry piles on the fees and surcharges like the car rental industry. Yes, they have their reasons. And yes, they have competition from airlines, which haven’t met an ancillary fee they don’t like.

But sometimes it’s useful to watch the rubber hits the road, so to speak. I’m talking about a postmortem on a real car rental bill.

Like Paul Irvine’s. He recently rented a car from National at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, which is one of the most notorious places for car rental fees.

Here’s the damage:

5 days @ 38.50 per day = 192.50
FSO = 32.32
Customer facility charge = 15.00
National busing recovery fee = 4.49
Concession recoup fee = 26.78
Sports venue tax 5% = 12.43
Veh lic recov 2.34 per day = 11.70
Veh rental tax 10% = 25.05

Total = 320.27

That’s some bill!

Irvine can hardly believe it.

I can’t fathom which of the above constitutes sales tax, analogous to what one would expect to pay when buying a meal or a shirt but the difference between the rental charge itself and the grand total, composed of additional taxes and charges ripped out of an unsuspecting consumer, is $127.77. This represents approximately 40 percent of the overall cost. There are no polite words to describe what I feel has just been done to me.

It is simply unbelievable that a company can get away with the kind of charges they willingly tack on to a customer’s bill to fatten their own bottom line and that, in addition, they can be coerced by a local, state or federal government entity to extract even more blood to pay for their own programs which have not survived a simple cost-benefit analysis to the extent that they could be funded out of general tax revenues.

There is something seriously wrong with the financial machinery of this country and the inter-relationships between private wealth and the public purse. I’m wondering what can be done to lift the veil on this kind of robbery so the public can be better protected.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

This is one of those rare cases when I feel that the victims aren’t just renters like Irvine, but the car rental companies, too. When 40 percent of the money you take from your customers goes to taxes and other fees, you aren’t a car rental company anymore. You’re a quasi-government agency that collects taxes from unsuspecting travelers.

This madness has to end.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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