‘Top off’ fee explained: “Everyone drives a little after filling the tank”

By | January 29th, 2008

The travel community was outraged last week when my MSNBC.com colleague Bob Sullivan reported that Dollar had begun charging a $2 “top off” fee at certain locations. But why? No one has gotten a straight answer from the car rental agency, except a claim that the new fee was “not a widespread practice.”

Then Stuart Goodfellow picked up a Dollar car in Hartford, Conn.

“In the printout of the reservation it said, ‘All cars returned with full gas tanks will be charged a $2 top-off fee’,” he says. “When I got to the rental counter I asked about this charge. The agent said this Dollar agency was a franchise and the owners mandated the charge and it was not waiveable.”

Goodfellow asked why. “I told him the usual policy of most companies where a receipt from a nearby gas station will negate any surcharges,” he says.

“The reply I got was, ‘The owners know that everyone drives a little after filling the tank’,” he says.

“Well, duh!” adds Goodfellow. “Unless the car lot is right next to a gas station, that is always the case. When I left the car lot I drove past a huge Mobil station a whopping 0.8 miles down the street. Do I think the owners actually use that $2 to top off the tank, or does it go directly to the bottom line? I think you know what my answer is.”

Yes, I do.

It’s time for Dollar to drop this unconscionable fee.