Friday, August 28, 2009

Dollar Rent A Car Follows Their Policy And Makes Me Bitter

I am amazed when big companies do not work with their customers. When they send form type notes that basically say, "Our Big Company Policy Is The MOST Important Thing To Us....and We Thank You For Understanding".

Let me begin with the fact that this was MY MISTAKE. I did not choose to pre-pay for a full tank of gas in advance with Dollar Rent A Car because I knew I would only use about a half a tank. Paying for a full tank seems like a total rip off.

Then we were a little late in getting to the airport to return the car, but not so late we could not fill up at a gas station. But apparently half the city of San Diego was at this gas station. There were about four or five cars in line at each pump (think 1970s gas lines... well not that long. But when you have a flight to catch...five cars in line at a gas station can freak you out!!!).

Thus, I had to return the car without having filled up the tank.

What I did not realize was that the charge for this mental decision (pay a fine or maybe miss my flight) was going to be $71 for seven or eight gallons of gas.


Now I understand policy. I know, I know, this is the way the world works. But I also know that if someone reaches out to me and explains a situation I want to be as fair as I can no matter what my policy is in that moment.

So I wrote Dollar Rent A Car customer service and got the following reply:

Dear Mr. Singer,

Thank you for notifying us of your recent experience with Dollar Rent A Car in San Diego. On behalf of Dollar Rent A Car, please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience you experienced. (Why are they apologizing, they did not inconvenience me, I was the one who inconvenienced them by first making their employee fill the tank and second by making a person read my email)

Our Pre Paid Fuel option is designed to offer our customers peace of mind when it comes to refilling the tank upon return. Unfortunately we are unable to offer refunds for a full or partial tank for this fuel service. Upon review of your contract, we will have to respectfully decline your request for reimbursement. (They are "respectfully declining" my request? Seems more like just sticking to policy that helps them, and does nothing for me. There is no real respect I am feeling from them)

We appreciate your business and hope you will allow us another opportunity to fulfill your car rental needs in the efficient, professional manner you expect and deserve. (I am glad they "hope" I will allow them to fulfill my car rental needs again. I will try my best to not go back to them...even though I am the one in the wrong. Somewhere the world has gone weird when I want a vendor to meet me half way when I screw up. Charging me a 100% mark up on the gas would have seemed about right. But $10 per gallon. Wow.)

Thank you once again, Mr. Singer, for taking the time to notify us of this situation. We look forward to serving you again soon at Dollar Rent A Car. (Again, they thank me for notifying them? I am not sure they are thankful. Instead I feel dismissed by a big company who has my $71 and all the rights in the world to keep it. Fortunately I can choose them...even though I know that all their competition is the same way.)

You know, they are totally in the right. I cannot blame them for following their policy. But "peace of mind" on returning the vehicle would have also meant paying for a full tank when I knew I would only use half. This is a great scam that Dollar (and others) have going on. Touche for making me the dumb-shit in this situation. I can either have no peace of mind (knowing I will be overcharged at criminal levels for 7 gallons of gasoline) or pre-pay for gas I will never use. Brilliant!

I rent cars often, and can only think of one other time that I could not return the car with a full tank. This was with HERTZ. The guy who checked me in saw how late I was, and told me that they would only charge me for the amount of gas used (at a mark up of like $4 per gallon or something)... but he said that he would waive the policy this time, and the fuel charge would show up on a separate charge on my card. I am not sure if this guy had been given the power by his bosses to make this type of decision, or if he was just an entrepreneurial employee who knew that when you do the right thing, everyone wins.

So Dollar Rent A Car followed their policy to the tee... and made me a bitter consumer all at the same time. They could have said, "You know, we have these policies for a reason, but we will make an adjustment of $25 to your account"...and I would have been the happiest guy in the world. They still would have made a ton of money off that 7 gallons of gasoline for $46. But that would have involved empowering their employees to make decisions and caused more work for someone (yikes). Too many corporations are like this. They would see this option as the loss of $25 instead of my future rentals and good will.

So what do you think? Am I wrong to vent this story on my blog when I was the one who made the mistake?

Have A Great Day.



Anonymous said...

Their email to you was a form letter. They could care less. Perfect example of why entrepreneurs will win in the long run and policy driven companies will go out of business.

YetAnotherBlogger Reinke said...


May I offer one modest suggestion? I'd inquire with the appropriate State and Federal agencies if this is a legitimate markup. I vaguely remember reading that a disgruntled car renter found relief from the FTC and the State of Nevada Department of Weights and Measures. There was an anti-gouging rule left over from the 70's gas crisis that limited the mark up on gasoline. It may pay to make a few further inquiries. If nothing else, if you discover something it may make a great blog post. And, really annoy the car rental company. :-)

AustinDailyMuse said...

Thom, you hit my car rental hot button. I had a mind blowing customer service expereince last week at the Alamo car rental in Los Angeles (LAX).

I received an unbelievably low rate when I booked online several weeks in advance. At check-out my debit card was denied with no explanantion. My wife and I do not use credit cards and we share a single account for debit card use.

Shortly afterward my wife received a automated call from a fraud detection company on behalf of the credit union. Of course, the call was triggered by my attempt to rent a car in LA. Why didn't they call me since the charge was my card? I tried calling the credit union but they close at 5pm Texas time. When I spoke with the 'third party' fraud detection people they said they had already cleared the hold from their side and that the credit union could take up to 24 hours to cleared my account.

To add insult to injury, they made me stand in the 'car pickup' line everytime I stepped away to call my bank or the fraud detection company. So there I was stuck in the Alamo rental office with no way rent the car I had reserved. I couldn't even pay cash with an additional cash deposit. I could get money from the ATM but I could make a debit purchase with the card. My only option was to return the next day and wait for them to clear the hold.

Waiting an additional day would cause me to lose the good price I already had booked. Alamo would not honor my 'great deal' that I booked 2 weeks in advance for an equal car rental the next day. And, they would not let another family member in LA pay for the car using their credit or debit card if I was going to be the primary driver.

We were fortunate to have family in the immediate area who loaned us their car for 5 days, saving us the Alamo money altogether. Our 8 mpnth old daughter was as sweet as she could be and endured without compliant.

There were many lessons learned and Alamo did not break their own policies or rules. But it sure would have been nice to get a break for once! I will bring two forms of payment for rental cars and book a backup car rental at a competing company just to make sure I'm covered.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, we feel your pain!


Anonymous said...


Brooke Smith said...

I had the exact same experience with Dollar yesterday in Tampa. We were only going to Sarasota and driving around it, so I knew we wouldn't need a full tank of gas. And I intended to find a gas station. But it turned out there wasn't one near the Tampa airport, and we ran out of time to find one. As I didn't want to risk missing the plane, I returned the car (a compact) with only a half tank. Dollar now has a $93 hold on my debit card for those few gallons of gas.

Perhaps someone should start a petition to get all the car rental companies to charge a reasonable rate for gasoline refills that does fairly compensate them for the service time, but doesn't allow them windfalls.