Glenn Rossi’s recent Avis car rental had him seeing double. Literally.
He’d prepaid for a vehicle in Vienna, Austria, through Expedia. When he picked up the car, Avis also swiped his credit card. Within a week of returning the vehicle, Rossi, a retired telecommunications consultant who lives in Kelkheim, Germany, saw two charges for 333 euros (about $460) on his MasterCard: one from Expedia and one from Avis.
He’d been billed twice for the same car.
“I sent my contract and payment records to both Expedia and Avis but still have no refund of my double payment,” he says.
Rossi’s experience is common in one respect: Small billing errors happen routinely when you’re on the road — a currency conversion error, a fee added to the final bill or a room charge that belongs to another guest. But in another sense, it isn’t. Double-billings are relatively rare. Fortunately, they’re also relatively easy to fix. Continue reading…
Imagine if someone forced airlines, hotels and car rental companies to return every penny they took from you under questionable circumstances. The checked-bag fee, often poorly disclosed. The resort fee billed to your room, whether you used the “free” wireless and unlimited local phone calls or not. The license recovery fees that pay for your rental car’s plates — as if that were optional.
These extras, which most travelers call junk fees, aren’t just expensive annoyances. Vast sectors of the travel industry have made them a cornerstone of their business operations, with airlines leading the way down this ethically troublesome path.
It’s a practice the industry delicately calls “unbundling,” or removing often essential components of a product from the base price to make it look deceptively cheaper. Continue reading…
After Ben Harris dropped off his Mazda 3 rental at the airport in Maui last December, a Hertz agent pointed to some scuffed paint on the underside of the front bumper. Although the employee asked Harris to fill out an incident report, he assured Harris that it was just a formality and that he wouldn’t get a bill for the damage.
But six months later, Harris received a repair bill for $570. Among the charges was a $62 fee for “loss of use” – a fee that Harris, a physician from Chicago, considers “unreasonable.”
Some drivers agree. Rental companies used to write off the time a car spent in a garage as an expense. But shrinking profits forced them to add a loss-of-use charge to their repair bills, which allows them to recover the revenue they would have collected if the vehicle had been rented.
“Car rental companies were leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table by not collecting loss-of-use charges,” says Neil Abrams, a car rental consultant. “I think there’s a recognition that there’s a legitimate responsibility of the renter that extends beyond the rental of the vehicle.” Continue reading…
If you’re tired of technology being used against you — and how can you not be after the the latest NSA spying allegations — then you’ll probably appreciate this man-bites-dog story.
It comes to us by way of Bryan Lawver, who recently rented a car in Florence, Italy. When he returned the vehicle, an associate told him he was “one minute” past the grace period and would be charged an extra day.
“The agent refused to give us a return receipt, but rather penciled info on our original rental agreement,” says Lawver, who works for the federal government in Livermore, Calif. “I found that peculiar, but I lacked the language skills to explain my complaint.”
Fortunately, Lawver had a more high-tech answer. He used his Sony DSC HX10v, which has built-in GPS and resets its clock to local time, to take a timestamped photo of the car — which, by the way, is always a good idea. Continue reading…
Don’t lose it this summer. At least not the way Jennifer and Pat Mangold did when they stayed in the Florida Keys last August.
In their hurry to avoid holiday traffic, Mangold left her $680 in cash in their room at the Hampton Inn & Suites Islamorada.
“I didn’t realize this until we were 70 miles away in Key West, on a busy Labor Day weekend,” says Mangold, a nurse practitioner from Philadelphia. “I immediately took my phone out to call the Hampton Inn. I looked at my missed calls and found that they were trying to reach me.”
Turns out, a housekeeper had found the cash. The hotel overnighted it to Key West at no charge.
In an ideal world, every customer-service problem would solve itself. Thanks to Punit Joshi, we’re one story closer to that world, in a small way.
Joshi rented a car from Budget in Oahu last summer. While he was driving, a vehicle rear-ended his rental. The other driver offered him “a couple of hundred bucks” before fleeing the scene.
“I called the police and they prepared a report,” he remembers. “Honolulu PD was able to locate the driver and completed an accident report with the guilty party’s information. I also prepared an accident report using Budget’s accident report form that they put in every rental car.” Continue reading…
This week, I’m resuming my Elliott’s List feature by asking you to vote on your the car company you prefer when you travel. Which agency offers the best service and prices and stands behind its products without dinging you for unwanted insurance or damage claims? In other words, which one do you turn to when you need a set of wheels? Continue reading…
When Michael Kestan rented a car in Israel through Expedia, he went through all the steps necessary to ensure he was insured. That included buying travel insurance through Expedia, which, he was assured, would cover him.
“When I arrived in Israel I was advised that Hertz had a mandatory insurance,” he says. “The insurance was $29 per day — twice as much as the car rental. At no time did Expedia advise me of these charges and at no time was I given an opportunity to shop around.” Continue reading…
Ric Vesely knows about the car rental industry’s double standards. When he returned his Dollar Rent a Car vehicle in Minneapolis recently, an employee asked him a strange question: Did he have a receipt for his gasoline purchase?
Vesely, an engineer who was visiting from Colorado, hadn’t bought Dollar’s pricey fuel-purchase option, agreeing instead to return the vehicle with a full tank. He said he didn’t have a receipt, but that it didn’t matter — the needle on the gas gauge pointed to “full.” Continue reading…
Something about the $667 repair bill that Enterprise Rent-a-Car recently sent Jerry Bitting looked suspicious to him.
For starters, the car didn’t appear to be the one that Bitting, an account executive for a federal agency in Washington, had rented. The dates when the damage occured didn’t match the dates on which he’d driven the Mazda 3. The pictures were taken weeks after he’d returned the car. And questions to Enterprise’s damage recovery unit, asking for an explanation of the inconsistencies, were met with silence.
“I told them that the damages were not there when I picked up the car or dropped it off,” Bitting says. Continue reading…