Strangest car rental case ever: Hertz banned my father. Why can’t I rent a car?

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By Christopher Elliott

Eric Siegel has a strange problem: Hertz banned him from renting because of something he didn’t do. His father did it.

Fixing this should have been pretty straightforward and should not have required the involvement of a consumer advocate. Siegel could have asked his dad to contact Hertz and clarify that they had the wrong Siegel. And then Hertz would have removed him from its Do Not Rent list.

There’s just one issue — and it’s a big one.

Along the road to a resolution, I’ll also answer a few questions:

  • What is a Do Not Rent list?
  • Can a car rental company ban you for something you didn’t do?
  • How do you get off the Do Not Rent list?

But a word of warning: This road is bumpy, strange — and tragic.

What is the Do Not Rent list?

Rental companies keep Do Not Rent lists, which are databases of customers who are banned from renting a car. The list may include your name, social security number, and other identifying information. It also includes your reasons for being banned. 

Car rental companies use Do Not Rent lists to protect themselves from liability and financial losses caused by irresponsible or fraudulent customers. Common reasons for being blacklisted include unpaid bills, damage to the vehicle, violation of the rental agreement, or criminal activity.

For example, here’s a customer who left a loaded handgun in the glove compartment of his rental car. And here’s a customer who got on the list because he allegedly broke a light under the front bumper and refused to pay for it. 

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But Siegel’s Hertz ban is the strangest Do Not Rent case I’ve ever come across.

How did Siegel get banned by Hertz?

Here’s where things get a little weird.

“My father Garry was supposed to rent a car from Hertz at the Austin airport in October 2022,” he explains. “There was a problem with his reservation. Things were said. A car was dinged, and he was put on their Do Not Rent list.”

Translation: Garry Siegel showed up at the Hertz location at the Austin airport without a valid reservation. When Hertz wouldn’t give him a car, he damaged one of theirs.

Yep, that’ll get you on the list.

But it gets even stranger — and more tragic.

The next day, Eric Siegel rented a car in New Orleans without incident. But a few months later, when Hertz finally added his father to the Do Not Rent list, he learned that he was also on the Do Not Rent list.

That’s something his dad, Garry Siegel, could have cleared up with a quick phone call. 

But that wasn’t possible.

“Tragically, my dad was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor,” says Eric Siegel. “He passed away.”

That didn’t seem to matter to Hertz. The company not only kept Eric Siegel on the Do Not Rent List — it also continued to send him bills for the ding.

“They continue to harass us for credit card and insurance information and have even tried to file a claim on my insurance for his damages,” he says.

Siegel says he would happily settle the damage claim, but he wants Hertz to remove him from the Do Not Rent list.

Like I said, this is a weird case.

Can Hertz ban you for something you didn’t do? 

Car rental companies constantly add people to their Do Not Rent lists who don’t belong there.

Bottom line: Car rental companies can — and do — add their customers to Do Not Rent lists. They are accountable to no one as long as they follow applicable laws that prohibit discrimination. And I should say, some of these cases I’ve mediated have come close to discrimination. But that’s another story.

How do you get off the Do Not Rent list?

It may be difficult or impossible to get off a Do Not Rent list, depending on the company and the reason for your ban. But here are the steps:

  • Contact the car rental company directly and ask them to reconsider your case. Sometimes, car rental companies will remove you from their list if you’ve done your time.
  • Pay your debts. You may need to provide evidence that you have paid any outstanding fees or resolved any problems. You may also need to explain why you should be given another chance.
  • Call a professional. Sometimes, an outside party (like a consumer advocate) can help expedite your case. But our powers are limited. Many people who are on the Do Not Rent list deserve to be there and there’s nothing an advocate could, or would, do to help.

Perhaps the best advice I can offer is to be persistent. If you think you’ve been added to a rental company’s Do Not Rent list by mistake, contact anyone who can help you — and be persistent.

First stop: Asking Hertz to fix the problem

Siegel wrote a brief, polite email to Hertz using the Elliott Method for resolving consumer disputes.

Its response? A form letter.

We are happy to review and assist you with your concerns. We’re doing our best to provide the best customer service possible

I sincerely regret hearing about your rental privilege status. Our records indicate you were placed on suspension due to the rental vehicle being lost or damaged as a result of willful or reckless behavior by you or with your permission and due to your failure to cooperate with the rental location or claims management in their investigation of an accident, theft, or other incident.

Our records also indicate that there was an incident of threatening, abusive, or inappropriate behavior toward Hertz and its employees. Due to this, you have been placed on a permanent suspension, and unfortunately, you will no longer be able to rent from Hertz, Dollar, or Thrifty. Although this is not the preferred resolution, I hope that you will understand our position on this matter.

I appreciate this opportunity to provide assistance. Your business is appreciated.  

“As you can see from their form reply, they have not really reviewed what I wrote as they never address this case of mistaken identity,” says Siegel.

Second stop: Appealing to a Hertz executive

Siegel appealed to the Hertz executives I publish on this site. He explained the mix-up. He also filled in a few details of the incident. His father’s incident was completely out of character. He had been rude and hostile toward the staff and ended up wrecking a car, not just dinging it. But only a few days after the incident, he received a terminal brain cancer diagnosis, which helped explain this unusual behavior.

Would Hertz read his heartfelt explanation and reverse its decision? No. The paper trail he shared shows rejection after rejection. (Here’s our guide to renting a car.)

How do you get a company to pay attention? In this case, I might have recommended sending a copy of the letter to the Texas Attorney General or maybe even carpet-bombing the Hertz board members.

But nothing seemed to be working, so Siegel asked my team for help.

This strange Hertz ban gets even weirder

I contacted Hertz on Siegel’s behalf. A representative called him with some interesting news.

(Yes, it’s about to get even weirder.)

“Turns out I’ve been off the rental suspension list since September – though they can’t tell me why or how, and never contacted me,” he says. “I think they just want their money. So we’ll work on that. I really appreciate the help.”

Hmm. This happens a lot, actually. I’ll contact a company with a problem, and they’ll say they already fixed it long ago.

It really doesn’t matter to me when the problem got fixed, only that it did get fixed. And Siegel, it seems, is off the Do Not Rent list.

I hope he stays there, but if he doesn’t, he knows where to find me.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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