He accepted the upgrade and signed a contract. Now he wants his money back.

By | January 11th, 2017

When Dave Dzurick rented a Chevy Spark from Hertz through Priceline, a Hertz agent persuaded him to spring for an upgrade. Priceline charges in advance for your wheels, but changing from the Spark to an Elantra would cost extra.

Just one problem: The agent who upgraded Dzurick in Milwaukee didn’t tell him about the additional charge.

“At no time in the conversation did she mention it would cost extra,” Dzurick explained. “When I got back home there was a bill from Hertz for $162.”

Dzurick paid the bill but then, after mailing it, he realized he shouldn’t have. After pleading his case with the car rental company, he turned to us for help.

Never assume because, well, you know.

In this case, Dzurick assumed that the upgrade was complimentary. He tried to argue his case with Hertz using the email address on their invoice. He received no response, so he tried again a couple of times over a one-month period.

Dzurick went online to look up the number for Hertz customer service and made his argument via a different email address. Hertz’ response should come as no surprise.

“They basically said, ‘Too bad, you signed the contract,'” he says.

He felt deceived by the agent’s offer to upgrade him to a different vehicle. Some might compare this to a “bait and switch” tactic. But, in fact, Dzurick had the opportunity to prevent this from happening by reading the contract thoroughly before signing it. Hertz’s argument was that Dzurick signed the contract, and, therefore, accepted responsibility for any additional charges.

Related story:   A barking dog all the way across the Atlantic. How about a refund?

As was pointed out in a recent article on our website, car rental companies sometimes see the counter as more of a sales opportunity than an opportunity to serve their customer. Experts say they’re trained to “upsell” expensive insurance, extras and upgrades in an effort to make their rentals more profitable.

Dzurick’s story is a great reminder to not take someone at their word, but rather to get it in writing.

But there are two sides to this story. Dzurick believes he was duped, and if the agent didn’t tell him about the upgrade cost, he has every right to be upset. (I mean, who reads the contracts?) Hertz, on the other hand, was just doing what it does best — selling ancillary products, like upgrades.

Our advocates almost took this case. Then we read the final message Dzurick sent to Hertz.

Please cancel my #1 account and my Hertz credit card immediately. I will be happy to tell my friends and post on my blog how badly Hertz has handled this. I will also promise you that Hertz will not see one more penny of my rental car money if I live to be 100.

Spend your deception money wisely!

So we punt to you, dear readers. What would you do with this one?

Should we take Dave Dzurick's case?

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  • John Baker

    Thanks to his last message. Hertz has absolutely no reason to resolve this in any manner other than he has.

    Beyond that, I’ve never been offer a free rental upgrade unless the agency was out of the car I reserved. I’m not sure unless they specifically told you it was free that it would be.

  • Ben

    So many issues this blog handles are due to inexperienced consumers. Someone who doesn’t travel frequently doesn’t know to look out for certain ‘gotchas’ or the more efficient ways to travel. For example, signing up for car rental loyalty clubs so you can skip the wait and the upsell at the counter and just go to your car. Or when travel insurance is a good idea, or when to book directly with a provider vs. a full-service travel agency vs. an online travel agency, etc.

    The internet needs a trustworthy, complete resource for novice travelers to walk them through this stuff, something I could send to my friends when they have basic travel questions. I think it’d be the perfect thing for this site to offer.

    As for the consumer in this case, I tend to lean toward the traveler because I don’t like that consumers now have to ask “is there an extra cost” at every turn. Anytime something has an extra cost, the company needs to make it clear up-front.

  • Rebecca

    The obvious question:

    Who is offered an upgrade on a product and doesn’t know to ask the cost of said upgrade? Common sense.

  • Jeff W.

    More food for thought.

    He asked to cancel his #1 account AND Hertz Credit Card. If he has an actual Hertz credit card (I didn’t know they even offered one!), he cannot be that novice of renting cars. Of all the travel-affinity cards out there, I would think one associated with a rental company would be the least valuable — especially if one does not travel much.

    If the agent was offering an upgrade for free, then the agent says something like “We are upgrading you to xxx”. But if the agent asks you if you would like an upgrade, then there is a cost.

  • DChamp56

    There are 4 words you should use at a car rental desk. “Only If It’s Free”, and make them sign the receipt that you take with you that it is, indeed FREE.

  • sirwired

    “(I mean, who reads the contracts?)”

    Well, maybe not a lot of people read the whole thing, but I’d say that “Everybody who doesn’t want surprises on their receipt” DEFINITELY reads the brief and easy-to-read summary of charges.

  • BubbaJoe123

    I’ve never even HEARD of a “Hertz credit card,” and I’ve been a pretty good customer of Hertz for many years.

  • sirwired

    You bring up a good point; a quick Googling didn’t even show a Hertz Credit card as even existing. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t think there is one…

  • Michael__K

    How long was the rental and how was the upgrade cost calculated?

    The difference in cost between the vehicles (Group A vs. Group C/D) at MKE prices out to about $5/week.

    I doubt this rental lasted longer than a year. It’s very likely that Hertz charged the difference between the prepaid rate for a Group A vehicle and their walk-up rate for a Group D vehicle. Which would be an underhanded and deplorable business practice. What customer would agree to this if they understood what Hertz was doing?

  • Michael__K

    Who offers a product or service without explaining the cost? And who offers an upgrade that normally costs $5/week more, and charges $162 for it?

  • Annie M

    Why fight for someone who didn’t read what he signed? I never walk away from a car rental window without looking at the total cost.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “Who offers a product or service without explaining the cost?”
    Nobody, which is why the cost was clearly shown in the contract Dzurick readily admits to signing.

    “And who offers an upgrade that normally costs $5/week more, and charges $162 for it?”
    Where are you getting $5/week from?

  • BubbaJoe123

    The difference in cost between the vehicles (Group A vs. Group C/D) at MKE prices out to about $5/week.

    Well, no.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/40706cb353937f56e294362fdd00693cc2d598a04ebae9d9c107aca3075734bb.png

  • Michael__K

    If it was “clearly” shown and intended that way, then why didn’t they swipe his credit card and why did they have to mail him a bill later?

    Go to hertz.com and quote a reservation from MKE…

  • Bill___A

    Hertz is pretty good at documenting charges. Particularly when renting a car, one should read those rental agreements. They also print one out and give it to you to keep. Whether the agent told him or not, it would have been in writing. He should have known this had he been a regular Hertz customer. Also, why is he booking through a third party site if he has a Hertz credit card? Many things don’t make sense.

  • Bill___A

    I read them. Always;)

  • BubbaJoe123

    I did quote a reservation from MKE, see below. One week rental, starting tomorrow.

  • BubbaJoe123

    When he said “paid the bill,” I assumed he meant “saw the item on his credit card bill.” Otherwise, it’s another item that makes his story even less credible (along with the “Hertz credit card” bit).

  • Michael__K
  • BubbaJoe123

    I did a rental starting tomorrow, for a week.

  • Michael__K

    I quoted a reservation from MKE as well, for February. The rates are less than $5 apart. If last minute inventory means that sometimes the higher Group is scarce and the upgrade charge is dramatically higher, then that makes the Hertz agent’s motives more suspicious.

  • Rebecca

    That really isn’t relevant to my point. I have been offered all sorts of upgrades. I have ALWAYS asked how much they cost. Some are free, some are not. It isn’t unreasonable to think a consumer should ask the question. Had he asked, he could have decided based on the cost. But he didn’t.

    For example, when my VW was nearly totaled, the only car available covered by my insurance was a purple pt cruiser. They said I could upgrade to a sentra. I asked how much, they said $3/day, and I gladly paid it. I didn’t want to drive a bright purple pt cruiser. Another time I had made a reservation and they were out of cars in almost every class. They offered an upgrade to a Dodge ram. I asked, they said no charge because they were out of the class I reserved and that was the lowest available class in stock.

  • Rebecca

    I will never forget, several years ago I was asked to sign a form at the doctor. I read the form, which stated I had received a copy of some office policies. I had not received a copy, so I didn’t sign it. When I pointed it out to the receptionist, she said I was the first person in the nine months of that form that had asked. That is scary. Always read what you sign. Don’t need to read in depth, but like you said, at least skim.

  • Michael__K

    Clear and honest communication is a 2-way street. That is my point. If you focus on one party in a vacuum then that serves a certain purpose, but your conclusions will be one-sided.

    I’ve been upgraded for free. When I’ve been asked if I want to upgrade, not for free, the way the question has been presented to me, and I can’t think of an exception, has been “would you like to upgrade to a {x}-size for an extra ${y} per day?”

  • C Schwartz

    I wonder if the difference was from the rock bottom priceline fee for the Spark…… unless it was a long long rental

  • C Schwartz

    It has been over a year since I rented with Hertz, but don’t they still give out those long thin contracts with the estimates of the charge? The one where a person signs to decline or accept insurance, chooses the fuel option (prepaid vs return full) and such?

    And if there is such a thing as a Hertz credit card (I have never heard or seen one) wouldn’t the person need to contact the issuing bank to close it?

  • C Schwartz

    I always thought cancelling a credit card would mean contacting the issuing bank. I have an airline cobranded (or whatever it is called) credit card and all issues go to the bank and not the airline.

  • C Schwartz

    I have never heard of a credit card company sending a bill later. That is why they ask for a card at rental time, even if charges were prepaid (if one returns the car late or out of gas). Maybe the renter did an after hours return, and was mailed the closed out invoice; that is the only thing I can think of. This is what has happened to me when I returned a Hertz car before the office opened.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I think the OP has a reasonable case. A decade ago, or so, we rented a car in LA from some company (may even have been Hertz) and they offered us an upgrade to a convertible because no car in our class was in the lot. While I learned that I would never want to own a convertible, they didn’t charge us for the upgrade, and at the time, I wouldn’t have read the contract carefully enough to tell (now I know better, thanks to Chris and his team).

  • C Schwartz

    I always thought the purple pt cruiser was kind of cute……

  • C Schwartz

    I only look at what the parts I initial and the total…….. I always look at the total, whether it is a rental car or restaurant….

  • AAGK

    A complimentary upgrade doesn’t require persuasion.

  • cscasi

    Well, knowing how the rental car companies operate, based on experience and different stories seen here, I would definitely ask if an upgrade was going to cost me more. Perhaps you wouldn’t because you say you have been upgraded for free (which happens at times or due to your status with the rental company). Nonetheless, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – like reading the contract before signing it.

  • Lee

    Even without the hysterical sign off I would have said “no” – the first question one should ask when “offered” an upgrade (of anything) is about additional cost. I was given by Hertz a spiffy Mustang convertible a few years ago in L.A. because there was no car on the lot in my booked category.

    I made certain there was no additional cost attached because that car would have cost me about 3 times the amount of the car I had booked originally and I wasn’t naive enough not to be certain there was no cost for the upgrade.

    Common sense seems obvious in such situations but I guess not always. Corporations are not often out to improve someone’s experience beyond what they have booked and agreed to pay. I made a bit of noise (not loud or abusive) about them not having the type of car I wanted and the manage stepped up to offer the Mustang (nice car by the way) –

  • Michael__K

    Who said he shouldn’t read the contract?

    BTW, exactly how was the prepaid amount and any additional amount owed beyond that explained and disclosed on the contract?

    And what would pickup times be like if every customer read all 8,000+ words of their standard rental contract word-for-word?

  • Mel65

    I am a DoD contractor and also usually only rent cars for work. However, one time, the National guy gave me an upgrade to a mustang from the sub-compact I’d reserved. Same price so I said thanks. My expense report was kicked back so many times and we went round and round because although the rental fee was the same “the mustang used more gas” and therefore we couldn’t submit the cost of my refilling the gas tank to the end client!

  • Mel65

    Hah I just typed MY Mustang upgrade story up ^^^ there. No reason for the upgrade except the guy at the counter was nice, and maybe because I’m a blonde female, who knows? But man oh man the issues it caused on the expense report….due to our policey of “sub-compact unless more than 2 travelers” and because the Mustang uses more gas than whatever I was supposed to get… Ugh.

  • pauletteb

    He has a #1 account and a credit card with Hertz? Sounds as though he has enough of a relationship with Hertz that he’d know the upgrade wasn’t free.

  • BubbaJoe123

    He wouldn’t have had to read every word of the contract, just a quick glance at the front page of the Hertz printout, where it shows cost per day and total cost, would have done it.

  • Michael__K

    Except if he prepaid to Priceline, I’m not so sure they represent the prepaid vs. incremental costs as clearly as you think they do. It’s been many years since I used Priceline’s name-your-price to reserve a rental car, but as I recall the rental company told me to ignore the per day costs on the rental agreement because they only applied if I kept the vehicle for additional days.

  • David L Books

    I also had an issue in Milwaukee. I had prebooked thru Costco for a Budget and they apparently ran out of cars. After a wait of almost two hour they sent me to Hertz. Hertz has a way of not allowing you to see what you are signing for on the small electronic screens they use there. i asked for a printed copy so I could determine what I was getting. After I was sent on my way i was contacted by Cosco asking why I downgraded my reservation. I had not done so Hertz had and was trying to pocket the difference. I informed Cosco of what had happened and receive a polite email from Hertz telling me that they had mad a mistake and would refund the difference. I did get the refund in December. I for one will never utilize Hertz nor recommend them to others. They appear to be too pushy and don’t revel what they are doing.

  • joycexyz

    When “offered” an upgrade or extras of any kind, your response should be “How much is this gonna cost me?” Get everything in writing, and don’t sign anything you haven’t read. What a world!!!

  • Lindabator

    that’s what I think happened

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