At least 78 killed, 131 injured, in Spain train disaster

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What we’re reading

At least 78 killed, 131 injured, in Spain train disaster (Reuters)

Spirit Airlines pokes fun at Weiner, Carlos Danger (USA Today)

TSA flat out denies their agents search your parked cars (Jaunted)

Oahu bans smoking at the beach (CNN)

Bee swarm grounds US Airways plane (Charlotte Observer)

What we’re writing

More airline deception — seating charts that don’t tell the truth (Consumer Traveler)

John Pistole gets his knickers in a twist — again (TSA News)

Nissan dealership won’t honor its warranty on my used car (Elliott)

Share your stories with News Editor Steve Surjaputra.

Help, my car rental company is charging me for a burnt clutch

bumpy roadQuestion: My husband rented a car from Hertz in Madrid last summer. The car broke while he was on his way back to the airport, and he had to abandon it by the side of the road in order to make his flight back to the States.

He informed the Hertz people at the airport what had happened and they told him it was fine and the car would be retrieved. Three weeks later, we received a letter that there was 850 euro charge for a burnt clutch on our credit card. We tried to contact Hertz Spain, both before and after the bill, to ensure the car had been collected and everything was fine but they didn’t answer the phone or respond to emails.
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How can you be sure I damaged my rental car?

Question: My husband and I rented a car from Hertz in Munich last summer. The rental process was incredibly time-consuming and after 45 minutes at the rental desk, a five-minute walk to the garage and then another 30-minute wait in the garage, we finally received our vehicle.

It was parked in the travel lane, so we hurried to load our luggage and ourselves into it and get out of the way. We were not offered the opportunity to examine the car. It was also dark in the garage and the car was black.

When we returned the car an attendant took a flashlight and examined the underside of the car bending down so her eyes were about six inches off the ground. She stated that there were “scratches.” She also pointed out a depression near the right side of the back window.
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An extra $55 for taxes on my pre-paid car rental? Seriously?

Question: We booked a ten-day vacation package in Cancun, Mexico through Hotels.com that included air, hotel and a rental car. Taxes were included in the price of the rental car.

When we arrived at the Hertz rental counter, we were told there was an additional tax of about $55. I paid the additional tax at checkout, expecting to be reimbursed from Hotels.com.

I’ve written two emails to Hotels.com, but both have gone unanswered. When I called the company, a representative told me the $55 charge was a “deposit” that would be returned to me. But a call to Hertz confirmed it was a tax and no refund was due.
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Oh no, I’m stuck with two car rental bills

evening roadQuestion: My husband and I recently rented a car via AutoEurope for a trip to Germany and the Czech Republic. We received a pre-paid voucher for a rental from Hertz.

When we landed in Munich, Germany, a Hertz representative told us our reservation had been canceled. After some delay, checking on his computer and his garage, he assured us that we could obtain another smaller car. He said it would cost slightly less than our original rental amount, but that we would have to take up the refund of the original reservation with Auto Europe.

My husband signed a new charge slip (of course, all in German) and we were glad to finally be on our way. The Hertz agent only gave us a credit card receipt, but no rental agreement.

While still in Europe, my husband sent an email to AutoEurope, letting it know about the cancellation. We returned the car without incident.
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A $93 “top off” charge for my rental car?

Question: I rented a car from Hertz in Miami a few months ago. Before returning it, I filled it up with gas. When I turned the car in, I double-checked the fuel gauge, made sure my receipt reflected that the car had been returned full, and, thinking I had myself covered, flew home.
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Why do I have to pay for the flat on my rental car?

When Alicia Reise and her husband rented a car from Hertz in England recently, they had no reason to believe the car was in less than perfect condition.

But there were two little problems. First, Reise thinks one of the tires was faulty. And second, the car didn’t have a spare tire; instead, it came with a canister that could be used to fix a leaky tire, she says.
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Did Hertz overbill me for my fender-bender?

This is the “after” picture of Christy Nidle’s Hertz rental last year in Perugia, Italy. “I changed lanes and scraped a car passing me from behind,” she says.

Oops. But what should have been a routine damage claim, wasn’t.

“I’m going to leave out the colorful account of the scene in the rental office,” she told me. “Suffice to say there was much arm-waving and yelling in Italian.”

And then there was the matter of the final bill. Between the Hertz location, the repair shop and her credit card, no one could seem to agree on how much she should pay for the damage.
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“Before” and “after” pictures of your rental car? Now that’s customer CRVIS

One of the most common questions I get from car rental customers who are facing a damage claim is: “Why can’t they take pictures of my car before it leaves the facility?”

Actually, they can.

Hertz is testing a new technology called Car Rental Vehicle Inspection System (CRVIS) that photographs every car leaving the lot, stores high-resolution images and allows the car rental company to compare them with pictures taken of the same vehicle after it is returned.

“It protects customers and makes the claims process far easier for employees,” says Kamil Walus, a location manager at Newark.

CRVIS has been shrouded in mystery since it was announced in 2009. Some industry observers have suggested photographing a rental car – something travel experts have long recommended car rental customers do in order to prevent a fraudulent damage claim – was impractical.
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Ridiculous or not? Oops, I forgot to check my credit card statement

It happens all the time.

I get a plea for help from someone like Eugene Teow, who appeared to have been scammed on a recent trip to Australia. In his case, it looked as if Hertz had indiscriminately sucked $3,857 from his bank account for damaging a rental car — money to which it wasn’t entitled.

But then, when I ask the company about the overcharge, it turns out that the only problem was that the customer had failed to check his credit card statement. Because if he hadn’t, he’d know the money — or at least most of it — had been returned.

Reviewing your credit card statement is the first step anyone must take when they’re looking for a refund. Because some of the time, they’ll find the money has been quietly put back into their account without notification.
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Case dismissed: Charged $183 for four hours on my rental car

Phillip Barszczowski’s Hertz car, which he booked through Priceline, cost $122. Not bad for a four-day rental in Wyoming, considering what rates have been doing lately.

But when Barszczowski told the agent he’d have the car back by noon on the fourth day, she had some bad news: His reservation lasted only until 8 a.m., and the four extra hours would more than double the price of his car, to $305.

Priceline’s reservation said he had until 1:30 p.m. The Hertz agent didn’t care. “She told me Priceline does this all the time and they get you a great deal and then make up for it later,” he says.
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Wrongfully charged for my expired tags

Question: While we were visiting Philadelphia a few months ago we parked our Hertz rental car downtown. Almost immediately after walking away, I saw an officer stop by the car and start writing a ticket. I ran over and asked him if I had parked in the wrong place or something like that and he informed me that it was simply an issue of my tags being expired. I told him it was a rental and he suggested I just give the ticket to Hertz and inform them that if they took care of the tags, the ticket would be canceled.

When we returned the car to Hertz, my husband handed the ticket to one of the agents and explained what happened. They wrote on the windshield with a wax pen “expired tags” and told us they would take care of it for us.

Fast forward to about a month later, and we received a notice from the collection agency arm of Hertz ATS Processing Services. I called and tried talking with them and they said they would look into it, but couldn’t really do anything and then recently sent us another bill, this time with a higher fee for being late. I tried calling Hertz and after being bounced around from person to person and explaining my situation, no one seemed able to help. I’m not really sure who I should talk to next. Can you help? — Meaghan Dellar, Cincinnati

Answer: Hertz should have ensured the tags on your rental were up to date. And it should have paid for your ticket, as agreed.
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