Anyone else experienced the gas gauge scam?

Car rental companies are among the most inventive in the travel industry when it comes to fees and surcharges designed to line their pockets. But just when you thought you had heard it all, along comes a new scam.

Reader Penny McLain brought this one to my attention. Let’s call it the gas gauge rip-off.

On two separate occasions with two different car rental companies, she had returned her rental with a completely full tank of gas.

“Both times, the attendants had supposedly checked the gas gauge — we saw them do it,” she wrote. “And although we knew the tank was full, we were issued a receipt that reflected a big charge for gas.”

Good thing she had kept the gas receipt and checked the print-out handed to her by the attendant before leaving the returns area.

“Once brought to the attention of the attendants at the respective agencies’ counter, the ‘mistake’ was rectified,” says McLain. “But for the most part, no apology or explanation was forthcoming.”

Quite the contrary. At one agency, the attendant who had checked the gas gauge just laughed at her.

“So much for customer service,” she says.

McLain believes most renters are in a hurry to get to their flight and probably don’t bother to check their bill until they get home — if they do at all. Her advice is to read the receipt carefully before catching your flight home.

And I would add one other piece of advice. When you fill the tank, ask for a receipt and keep it. It might save you some serious bucks if it ever comes to a dispute.

Related story:   Part of your nonrefundable airline ticket is refundable, after all

It’s no secret that car rental companies are trying to make money any way they can. It is also true that fuel-purchase options are a lucrative business.

But misrepresenting the gas gauge on a receipt? C’mon.

Has anyone else experienced the gas gauge scam? If so, with which car rental agency? How did you resolve the dispute?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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