An extra $14 for “A Concession Fee Recovery” on an all-inclusive price? What’s with that?

laxI am Patient Zero for attention deficit disorder, which may explain why more than a few people with legitimate grievances e-mail me back after I’ve responded to their questions, asking me if I even bothered to read their inquiry. I did, but I was probably distracted by a screaming child in my home office or a kitten scurrying across my keyboard.

Which is why, when a non-answer happens to someone else, I feel a certain amount of solidarity. (Maybe we should start a support group?)

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines. The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

So Hotwire, please don’t feel singled out on this one. But you really should have read Emily Linendoll’s complaint more carefully.

Here’s what she said:

I booked a car through Hotwire, picking up and dropping off the car at LAX. While I received a great deal through Hotwire, I noticed that when I booked the car I paid $45 in “Tax Recovery Charges and Fees.” When I returned the car back to LAX, Hertz charged me an additional $14 for “A Concession Fee Recovery.”

I felt that this charge should have been covered in the fees that I paid when I booked the car through Hotwire. I explained this to Hertz and they said that I would have to go through Hotwire.

My call to a Hotwire customer representative was not helpful. After explaining what had happened he told me that he couldn’t tell me exactly what the $45 in “charges and fees” actually accounted for and referred to me your IRS form online, which I didn’t understand how to use exactly.

Therefore, I have two questions for you: 1) Why was I charged an additional $14 for “A Concession Fee Recovery” through Hertz when this should have been included in the charge I had prepaid with Hotwire? 2) What does the $45 “Tax Recovery Charges and Fees” for Hotwire include exactly?

As I mentioned, the customer representative was not able to give me this information over the phone when I called. I would appreciate an adjustment based on the prepaid rate that I paid when I booked the car.

Indeed, none of those charges should have shown up on Linendoll’s bill. Here’s what Hotwire promises on its site:

Hotwire Hot Rates include all applicable tax-recovery charges and fees — there are no hidden charges. For regular-rate rentals, Hotwire calculates estimated charges based on the agency’s published rates, taxes and fees. All rentals include unlimited mileage unless otherwise noted.

So here’s how it responded:

I understand you are inquiring about the tax recovery charges and fees for your car reservation. I can provide you with information on this matter.

The cost of your car-rental booking charged by Hotwire is the total of: the indicated rental rate multiplied by the number of days in your reservation, plus an additional amount for the tax-recovery charges and our service fees.

The tax-recovery charge is assessed to recover the amount we pay to the vendor in connection with your reservation, including sales and use, occupancy, excise tax, value added and other similar taxes etc., and the balance of the additional amount is a fee we charge in connection with the handling of your reservation. Our service fee varies based on the amount and location of your reservation.

The Concession Fee is a tax applied by Hertz for the reserving of the rental car at the airport.

If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to reply to this email or contact us directly at 1-866-HOTWIRE (468-9473). Thank you for choosing Hotwire.

Sincerely,

Ashley B.

Well, Ashley B., that doesn’t really answer the question now, does it?

I asked Hotwire to take a second look. Here’s what it came back with:

We were able to work through the issue you provided below. You were correct, our representative misunderstood Ms. Linendoll’s initial question, and thought she was looking for a clarification on our car rental fee policies. When in fact, she was questioning an additional charge that Hertz had assessed on her rental.

Customers who purchase a Hotwire Hot Rate on a car rental should not be charged any additional mandatory taxes and fees from the supplier. Customers prepay all taxes and fees when they purchase through Hotwire, and we pass those along to the supplier in advance. This is true across the board with the Hot Rates for all of our car supplier relationships. The additional “concession fee” was charged by the LAX Hertz branch in error.

We contacted Hertz on behalf of Ms Lindendoll, and Hotwire was able to apply a credit to her account.

People, stay vigilant! Car rental companies are trying to squeeze every last penny of revenue from their customers, even when they are contractually forbidden for doing so. And online travel agencies, when confronted with these misdeeds, are too quick to send out form responses.

(Site: FlyKonstantin/Flickr Creative Commons)

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