Incorrect charge for smoke damage

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Feb 11, 2020
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On 1/27/20 I rented a car from Thrifty car rental at Ft Myers airport location. Car worked fine, good price. I returned it on 1/30/20. We pulled into the return line and got our bags out of the car. A Thrifty employee came over and looked over the car and said "you're good, go ahead and head to the terminal". An hour later I received the Thrifty receipt via e mail . The rental charges were correct. There was an additional charge of $300 for "Other (Vehicle Damage)"; no other explanation. I called Thrifty customer service to ask what this was for. Answer = "Smoke damage in the car; it needed cleaning". I said only my wife and I were in the car, and neither of us have ever smoked, and did not in that car, and it did not smell of smoke, so must be in error . Customer service answered "The office in Ft Myers said there was a strong odor of smoke; you can talk to them about that , if you want to call them, we can't change it here. " I called Ft Myers airport office, just got the menu for their national reservations and customer service, could not get through.
I wrote to the Hertz leadership and Customer care e mails as listed in the Elliott forum, and on the "Customer Care survey" I received. I repeated the above, that we have never smoked, did not smoke, and now one else was in the car, and there was no smell of smoke. It was either an error, or a "Scam"?, but there was no smoke. And their employee reviewed the car on 1/30/20 and made no mention to us. Their reply was "According to our records, the cleaning fee is due to smoking in the vehicle; as of 2/1/13, all Hertz care in the US and Canada are non-smoking. If either a physical or smell presence is present a return, a cleaning fee will be charged. There are signed posted, cling tags attached, etc that state this policy. Hope this clarifies the billing received"

I answered that it did not clarify. I understand the policy, but the fact is , we did not smoke in the car and it did not contain any smoke smell or odor. They may have stated that as the reason, but it was not correct and true, and it was never brought to our attention when we returned the car, and we never had any recourse. They answered "I understand your frustration and belief, but according to our records this cleaning fee is due to a strong odor of smoke in the vehicle when it was returned". We do have documentation that this cleaning was required and took place, so there is no recourse available to you at this time, they charges are valid and will not be removed".

Has anyone encountered this before? This is not something with physical damage, where I could have taken a photo of the exterior. This is someone reviewing the car, telling us all is good, and then reporting smoke damage/ smell after we left. We have no ability to disprove. And they say, since it was reported by our employee, it must have happened. I assume they hope we just give up and don't fight it, but I do not plan on doing that. In my mind, since we did not smoke, it is not true. And they had their chance to show evidence of it to us when they reviewed the car at return, and they did not. once they do that, they leave no avenue open to me to disprove it, so they could say anything. If they miss their opportunity to show me the evidence at check in, is it not their problem ? I have put a dispute on my credit card, but then I read that rental companies at times simply agree to pull the charge from the credit card, but they then turn it over to a collection agency. So is it better to not put the dispute on the card, but have it go through, and continue to contest? has anyone gone to binding arbitration with a rental car company? Is it a fair process? I do not want to give up, as it is a matter of principle, we did not smoke and it did not smell smoky. This is either rank incompetence or a "Scam". They are the corporation, the burden of proof was on them and they have none to show me, just that "it was reported" so I have to pay... Thanks
 
Feb 11, 2020
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I wrote initially to Laura Smith , and Tyler Dossett, Senior Director and VP of Customer Care at Hertz/ Thrifty. I also added executive [email protected]. Someone named Sheri S with Executive Customer Care wrote back "Thank you for bringing this matter to the attn of Sr VP Laura Smith, I have been asked to respond on her behalf" I see you also list the CEO. Do you think I should write there?
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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This kind of cheating is just awful. Is it too late to file a dispute with your credit card? Here's what I would do: Dispute the entire charge and tell Hertz in writing that you have done so. Be very polite and businesslike and tell them that you could not resolve the issue with them, so you were left with no choice. Tell them you'll consider paying the correct, agreed-upon rental charge. Let them prove that it was your rental car that needed extra cleaning.
 
Feb 11, 2020
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FYI to the Elliott's help forum advocates: I wrote to Kathryn Marinello, the CEO of Hertz, at your listed e mail address: [email protected] . The e mail bounced back. I looked up her e mail address at another web site. it lists her e mail as [email protected]. I re-sent to that address , and it went through fine. So appears this address in your website might need updating. Thanks !
 
Mar 7, 2020
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I am having the exact same issue with Dollar rental in Ft. Myers as David R above has stated. My husband and I rented a car on 2/28/20 thru 3/2/20. The boy checking in was overwhelmed with cars when we arrived for drop-off. He was rushing and seemed to be alone. He said the car was fine and that we could go. I’m a frequent car renter at that airport (about once a month) and have never had an issue, normally we’ll get a receipt but since he was busy we didn’t ask for one since I know that they normally email a receipt. I asked my husband to keep an eye on our account to make sure the hold was lifted. Two days later there was a charge of $534.54. (The car rental was originally $134.54 and a $300 hold which was to be lifted after drop-off). I assumed it was a mistake and called customer service. They said word for word what David r states above. “There was a strong smoke smell and had to be cleaned.” Again, we are non-smokers and there is no way the car smelled of smoke. He stated that he was unable to reverse the charge. I said, “well you better get someone on the phone that can, because if you think I’m ok with someone charging my card $400 for something I didn’t do, you must be crazy.” I asked to speak to a supervisor, he kept me on hold for about a long while, when he got back on he said he was unable to get a supervisor on the phone. He took my number and said a supervisor would call back within 24-48 hours. That has passed today with no return call. I’m starting to think it is a scam as well. Especially since it seems they make up any price to charge. (I’ve seen posts with the same issue where people have said $200, $300, etc. They charged me $400!) I found your forum by searching online to see what can be done and it seems that every case mentioned seems to be an issue with Dollar/Thrifty which are all owned by Hertz. I see that you mention steps that should be taken, but when I try to click on those links, it doesn’t lead me to a page with instructions. Can you please respond with steps that I should take when emailing the executive office? Thank you.
 
Mar 7, 2020
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FYI to the Elliott's help forum advocates: I wrote to Kathryn Marinello, the CEO of Hertz, at your listed e mail address: [email protected] . The e mail bounced back. I looked up her e mail address at another web site. it lists her e mail as [email protected]. I re-sent to that address , and it went through fine. So appears this address in your website might need updating. Thanks !
Did you happen to get a response? I just posted to the forum, the exact same thing almost word for word as you originally posted happened to my husband and I at Dollar rental in Ft. Myers on a rental from 2/28/20 - 3/2-20.
 

VoR61

Jan 6, 2015
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These are my writing guidelines . . .
Do not use inflammatory language - be polite, as that increases the likelihood of success
Do not attach files - their email system may discard your message before anyone reads it
Do not start with the CEO - begin at the lowest level shown in our Company Contacts list (expand 'CAR RENTAL')
Present a brief summary (list) and give each contact one (1) week to respond before escalating to the next level
 
Mar 7, 2020
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I contacted the the people under the CEO listed on your site and was assigned to an Executive Customer Service Rep. She stated they deny my request since their was “evidence of smoking”. She said the location provided pictures which she attached (Not sure how they would have pictures of a smoking odor????... which was their original defense). The attachments were in a “zip” file and I was unable to open. I requested that she resend the photos in a compatible format (ex. JPEG) and that I stand by my dispute. I’m waiting on a response. I have followed the guidelines above. I will follow up once I get a response to ask your advice for the next step.
 
Feb 11, 2020
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After 2-3 weeks of telling me the car “smelled of smoke “; they also sent black and white photos that showed something (sand? ash?) and a photo of the dashboard and of the bar code. None of the photos connected though. And how did it change from “smell of smoke” to suddenly able to produce “ photos” ? So our situations are very similar. I wonder if they have stock photos of a car with ashes in it?? I still do not have resolution. A customer service rep wrote and said “ sorry if it’s a ‘he said/ she said’ situation; they understand my frustration but the charge stands because the employee filed the report. And if I wrote to the CEO again they could revoke my rental privileges at hertz companies”...??? A question for Mr Elliot and his team: do you ever take on these rental companies and their tactics? Can they really just add a charge post inspection and check in, and consumers have no recourse, no ability to fight it? I am considering writing to the Florida Atty General’s office to inform them of what’s going on. Regs, you might want to do the same... thanks for any help or guidance from Mr Elliot or the forum
Ask them for a picture of the odometer when they “found” the evidence so you can point out you returned the car with lower mileage
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,093
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www.promalvacations.com
Could you read the odometer? I’m betting the mileage was not what you returned it at. I would continue to tell them you aren’t paying it. Tell them the car did not look at all like that picture and you’ll dispute any charges.

We don’t take these on because following the instructions in our post almost always has the fee dropped.
 
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