Hertz rental car breaks down — and so does communication with the executives

When your rental car breaks down, what should the rental car agency do to assist you? Elaine Deutsch would like to know.

Question: I booked a car through Hertz in Kauai. The car broke down and almost stranded us in Waimea Canyon. We finally made it to the airport, but no one at Hertz was able to help us get the car to the airport.

I sent the Hertz CEO a letter to the address on the company contacts listed on your site. The envelope was returned unopened, with the address scribbled over, with “unable to deliver” and “return to sender” on it.

I am a longtime Hertz customer and just wanted to let Hertz know about the bad service. But they wouldn’t even open the letter. Can you help me contact Hertz? — Elaine Deutsch, Oakland, Calif.

Answer: You engaged in self-advocacy and were proactive in your attempt to contact Hertz. In every case, self-advocacy should always be your first step to a resolution. In your case, your effort was unsuccessful and the letter you sent to Hertz was returned unopened. You then turned to us for help.

But what could you, as your own self-advocate, have done differently?

You could have begun by contacting Hertz customer service directly. Hertz lists customer service contact information on its website. You could have submitted your comments to Hertz through its website. If that were unsuccessful, you could have escalated your effort to contact Hertz by sending an email to one of its company executives. We also list an email address for Hertz company contacts on our website.

Related story:   Small overcharge, big problem

You also could have posted your question to our help forums to see if company representatives who read the forums, subject matter experts who volunteer to assist consumers, or other consumers who’ve experienced difficulty contacting Hertz could offer some suggestions.

Trying to reach Hertz through its website, or through an email to a company executive, may have been successful for you. These are two steps that you could have taken as a self-advocate, before contacting us.

Our advocates contacted Hertz on your behalf. You told us that Hertz didn’t explain why your letter was returned, but it had sent you an apology by email and had credited your account with Hertz Rewards.

Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from Elliott.org, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight. Read more of Diane's articles here.

  • Bill___A

    I believe that unless you take the “coverage” they charge you fees for towing etc. Best to have an AAA membership. Also, sometimes they employ people who are not so on top of it. I had a flat tire one time when I was a little over an hour east of Houston. The Hertz rep was telling me I needed to go to the nearst tire center that they dealt with and was directing me somewhere near Las Vegas. I put on the donut tire and simply drove the car back to the renting office, got another car (and yes I had to pay for the tire). If the tire goes flat, they don’t fix them, they change them.

  • Jeff W.

    The nature of the breakdown is not disclosed, so it is hard to judge who is at fault there. Did they just leave the car at the state park and use alternate transportation to get to the airport? Or did the car limp along, maybe needing a jump or a spare tire, From the brief description, there is no mention of calling Hertz when the car actually broke down.

    Before writing to a CEO, it is important to follow the chain of command. So let the people whose job it is deal with these situations attempt to resolve it first, only when the lower management and middle management do not resolve the problem (or answer you), should you go to the top.

    As for the CEO not opening the mail — well that certainly be security policy. Lots of bad powdery stuff has been included in letters and companies do not want to any risks. Yes, the CEO is unlikely to actually open the mail him/herself, but still someone does. And if the envelope looked suspicious, it may have just been rejected. Or it could have truly been addressed incorrectly. Some local post offices are quite unforgiving.

    But in the end, a happy resolution was found and this is a learning experience for all.

  • LDVinVA

    I seldom rent cars. I just went on the Hertz site to look up a rental for next spring and was astonished to see that the “coverage” is $29.99 a DAY! The rental is $63.00 a day, so that is a nearly 50% upcharge for the damage waiver. That sure seems like highway robbery to me!

  • Jason Hanna

    “Before writing to a CEO, it is important to follow the chain of command.”

    Thank you. An article last week had commenters saying “I always go straight to the top”.. There’s good reasons you should NOT do that.

    The top might be where you end up, but it shouldn’t be where you start.

  • Alan Gore

    I used to rent cars all the time during my consulting years, and whenever I had road problems, which were fortunately rare, it was always a given that Hertz or Alamo fixed it on their dime and sent out a replacement as soon as they could. So now the customer is responsible for every breakdown?

  • PsyGuy

    So they billed the LW in real money and gave them script instead, that was a win for Hertz. An apology for leaving someone stranded. I get it now why provide actual services when you can just apologize for the cost of a letter.

  • PsyGuy

    Depends, I never have and like you have only had a few problems that left me stranded, but I always rent with Enterprise (they really will pick you up wherever). the worst rental I had was a Nissan that was constantly locking up the passenger side brakes, after a day and two reports they swapped out the vehicle. Two guys came out in a vehicle picked me up, one of them drove the Nissan back and the other drove me. We got to the airport lot and they upgraded me to a full size, this was at 10pm.

  • PsyGuy

    I start my resolution issue in the middle. The CSR’s at the bottom I have found to be worthless.

  • PsyGuy

    Many car rental companies make very narrow margins if any at all on their econo line discounted rental vehicles. When Enterprise is renting you a $10/day weekend rate, that car is paying overhead only for what would otherwise be a car sitting on the lot. A vehicle rental doesn’t break even until about $19/day.

  • Bill___A

    I don’t pay for it, I am just saying……you are on your own unless you do.

  • LDVinVA

    Understood! My comment was just to say that coverage is SO expensive relative to the daily rental rate that I (and many others, no doubt) would be reluctant to spend that much. However, after reading so many stories on this site,I am scared and I think we will take it on the rental we are planning next spring!

  • The Original Joe S

    But if the Queen of France had a beard, she might be the King of France! But but but! Hogwash! THEY BLEW HER OFF!

  • The Original Joe S

    Worthless! Because they can’t say “YES”! They CAN say “NO”!

  • The Original Joe S

    You illustrate an important thing: CHECK THE TIRES when you take the car. They’ll leave tires on there until they wear down to the nub. Go to the auto parts store and shove a plug into it. Then it won’t be your problem. Next sucker who rents it and it goes flat will pay for their new tire.

  • The Original Joe S

    The Bug Letter.

  • Jeff W.

    Who blew her off?

    She had an issue with a local office in Hawai’i. Could have been a clerk for all we know. But instead of contacting the manager or someone in Hertz whose job it is to deal with customer complaints such as this, she sent a letter directly to the CEO.

    CEOs (and most upper management types) don’t read letters anymore. They don’t have the time. All done with e-mail and other e-stuff. Then they can easily forward it to the appropriate person. (Or the person who does that for him/her.)

  • The Original Joe S

    U R right. I wrote to the HMFIC of a credit union, and he rolled it downhill to an attention-deficit toad who was apparently illiterate, as apparently was he. Didn’t address the issues, and actually messed up my account. So, I voted with my feet. Didn’t bother to send a
    “You’re stupid” letter back because they are either too stupid to understand, or are sufficiently smart enuf to realize that they are stupid.
    I now deal with a small credit union. I know most of the personnel. I can go see the CEO, and it’s good. Nice to be treated nice.

  • PsyGuy

    Middle people can say yes.

  • The Original Joe S

    but won’t.

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