‘Top off’ fee explained: “Everyone drives a little after filling the tank”

The travel community was outraged last week when my MSNBC.com colleague Bob Sullivan reported that Dollar had begun charging a $2 “top off” fee at certain locations. But why? No one has gotten a straight answer from the car rental agency, except a claim that the new fee was “not a widespread practice.”

Then Stuart Goodfellow picked up a Dollar car in Hartford, Conn.

“In the printout of the reservation it said, ‘All cars returned with full gas tanks will be charged a $2 top-off fee’,” he says. “When I got to the rental counter I asked about this charge. The agent said this Dollar agency was a franchise and the owners mandated the charge and it was not waiveable.”

Goodfellow asked why. “I told him the usual policy of most companies where a receipt from a nearby gas station will negate any surcharges,” he says.

“The reply I got was, ‘The owners know that everyone drives a little after filling the tank’,” he says.

“Well, duh!” adds Goodfellow. “Unless the car lot is right next to a gas station, that is always the case. When I left the car lot I drove past a huge Mobil station a whopping 0.8 miles down the street. Do I think the owners actually use that $2 to top off the tank, or does it go directly to the bottom line? I think you know what my answer is.”

Yes, I do.

It’s time for Dollar to drop this unconscionable fee.

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 chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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