Bait and switch insanity? Quoted $270 for a rental car, but charged $1,227

By | July 20th, 2009

cancun roadPhilip Getson thought he’d have to pay $270 for his Hertz rental in Cancun. He though wrong. His final bill came to a shocking $1,227.

What in the world could quadruple the cost of a car? Did Getson damage the vehicle? Did he order a Matchbox car and switch to an SUV?

Not exactly.

Getson wrote Hertz, asking it to adjust the charges. Here’s how it responded:

The location advised that your rate confirmed on your reservation did not include the charge for the Loss Damage Waiver you accepted, and an additional two hours because the car was returned late.

In addition the manager has advised that you received a higher car class and you were aware that a higher rate would be applied for this service.

Please advise if your are disputing any of these charges or all of them, so that we can investigate the matter again in full with the location.

Thank you for taking the time to send in the requested information.

Getson says that’s not what happened.

I am not disputing the loss damage waiver or the fee for returning the car two hours late. I asked about the loss damage waiver, was told how much it would cost and accepted it.

I was never asked if I wanted a higher class vehicle, I never requested one nor was told that they were giving one and that it would cost me more. Never.

The car I reserved was a Nissan at $270. In Mexico I was charged 16,568 peso. At 13.5 pesos to the dollar, that’s $1,227. I was overcharged $956.

Again, I am not disputing the damage loss waiver or the charge for the two extra hours. And to repeat, I never asked for a higher class vehicle. I was never asked if I wanted one and was never told I was getting one and that it would cost me more.

This looks like the classic bait and switch.

I asked Hertz to investigate Getson’s rental. Here’s what it told me:

While Mr. Getson did reserve a compact car class (i.e. a Dodge Attitude), for approximately $272 for 9 days, he actually rented a all terrain speciality vehicle (i.e. a Dodge Nitro).

At the time of rental, Mr. Getson was presented with the terms and conditions of his a rental agreement that detailed out all of his estimated charges — rental rate, taxes, optional services, etc. and for which he agreed to and signed off on.

Considering the documentation indicating Mr. Getson’s agreement to the charges, a refund is not warranted at this time.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say we were talking about two completely different rentals.

Maybe Getson was offered an upgrade while he was in Cancun, but I don’t think he would have signed off on a rental agreement that raised his rental rate from $270 to $1,227. If there was disclosure, then it was completely inadequate, and perhaps, as he suggests, even deceptive.

I would formally dispute this bill, first with the car rental company and then with Getson’s credit card company. Failing that, I would consider taking Hertz to small claims court. A judge might see this very differently, and adjust his rate to something more reasonable.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.