Double-booked on Dollar — does CarRentals.com owe me a refund?

dollar

Mike Danish says he lost his car rental reservation made online through Carrentals.com recently.

If this case sounds familiar, it’s because it is. I recently mentioned it in one of my columns. At the time, the cause was unclear.

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Not anymore.

“When I got to the Dollar counter in the airport in Seattle, I was told there was no reservation,” he explains. According to Dollar’s records, he’d made two reservations for different dates through the site. And the error came at a cost: Instead of paying $26 a day for the rental, Dollar billed him a walk-up rate of $48.

Danish told me he wasn’t sure if he pushed the wrong button or if Carrentals.com accidentally booked him on the wrong day. But if it was his mistake, he wonders why the system didn’t catch it.

I asked Carrentals.com about his case. Here’s what it had to say.

Danish did indeed make two identical bookings eight hours apart in Seattle.

“He was sent confirmation emails immediately after each booking which clearly showed the pick-up dates,” a representative told me.

She added,

It is unfortunate that he didn’t realize his error before he arrived at the rental counter.

Once at the rental counter, he was charged the “walk-in” rate, which is usually higher than the discounted Internet rate.

Regrettably, at this time, the system is not designed to prevent duplicate reservations.

Let’s take these one at a time.

Double booking — easy mistake to make. Carrentals.com says they came in eight hours apart, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he made them eight hours apart.

Confirmation email — many email providers will thread a duplicate email, so it will look like a single email. Even if he received two emails, it might have appeared that the hiccup was on Carrentals.com’s side; in other words, that it was sending him the same email twice.

Dupe detection — That is unfortunate. Why doesn’t Carrentals.com do it? It’s another expensive layer of programming but it doesn’t benefit the company in any way. Duplicate reservations that must be honored, on the other hand, do benefit the company. So you can understand why it wouldn’t want to stop them.

Danish wants a refund between the more expensive rate he had to pay and the original rate quoted by Carrentals.com. To which Carrentals.com replied:

I understand Mr. Danish is requesting reimbursement for the additional cost involved in renting at the rental counter; however, we would not be willing to honor this request as this was not a CarRentals.com error. Please note, there were no charges from CarRentals.com nor Dollar for the unused reservation.

Another case dismissed, but not without several important lessons:

✓ When you’re self-booking, hit the “buy” button only once.

✓ Read every confirmation email, even if you think it’s a duplicate. Note the reservation number. Is it the same?

✓ Call to confirm your reservation, even if you think you have it in writing.

I’m sorry I can’t help Danish with a refund, but this case has helped prevent many similar cases from happening in the future. And for that, I’m grateful.

14 thoughts on “Double-booked on Dollar — does CarRentals.com owe me a refund?

  1. even after you confirm CHECK YOUR ONLINE BANK ACCOUNT.

    there have been many stories of people who have 100% confirmation then no charges.
    -have online banking. if you don’t see a charge in 2 days (or 1 day if it’s a weekday) go straight to the live chat option and ask “I made a reservation on (—) do i have anything pending from (—-)?”

    if they say no. you need to start on a plan B.

    1. Good point. However, in the case of reservations that can be canceled there often is no charge, not even a credit hold, until date of the reservation.

  2. Two comments:

    Email “threads:” Threading, Conversation grouping and duplicate detection are typically functions of your email client, the software you run on your PC, Mac, Smartphone, etc., or your email provider’s web portal (gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc.), which you use to access and read your messages. You can use your software’s or portal’s preference settings to control it’s behavior.

    Duplicate detection: The problem here is determining what is a duplicate. Perhaps the customer reserved two cars, but someone else will be driving one of them. Or, they need one car for a certain purpose, like hauling something, and another for family travel. But, going past that, third-party services, like carrentals.com, do not have a complete picture of your rental activity. Only the actual car rental service provider as a single, canonical, view of your upcoming activity. I suspect carrentals.com simply passes the request forward, waits for confirmation, sends the customer an acknowledgement, waits for their commission, and pretty much gets out of the way. Hopefully, in return for this minimal service they are offering some benefit, like a lower negotiated rate, or a scan of all available rental options.

    Now, as to Danish’s desire to get a refund. It appears he was the initial cause of the problem. Yes, it would have been nice if carrentals.com had caught the error, or if Dollar or carrentals.com had made a goodwill offer to cover Danish’s mistake. But, they didn’t and they didn’t have to.

    This is a case where sticking with one company can pay off. If you just search for the lowest rate and spread your car rentals across a number of companies, none of them will see you as a “special” customer. However, if you stick with just one company (and rent enough cars) they may make the extra effort when things like this do happen. Of course, in the end, the rare benefit might not outweigh the extra (possible higher rental) costs of “loyalty.” Same for airlines, hotels, and frankly, even the local butcher.

  3. I would not expect carrentals to keep track of your travel plans any more than I would expect Amazon to make sure you didn’t buy two pairs of the same shoes in different sizes. They are a pass-through, nothing more.

  4. “Carrentals.com says they came in eight hours apart, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he made them eight hours apart”

    Why not?

  5. My credit card company now lets me know if I leave an extra-generous tip, or if a charge seems higher than usual (or lower). But those are cases within a single transaction. I wouldn’t expect a car rental company to see that the same person reserving different rentals on different dates with different transactions are somehow duplicates. I suppose they could ask, but where do you draw the line?

  6. If he made two reservations eight hours apart, there would be to different reservation numbers, even if everything on the reservations remained the same. So, when he got two confirmation e-mails, did he look to see if the reservation numbers differed? Had I gotten two confirmations eight hours apart, I would have called Carrentals.com and made sure I only had the one reservation I wanted.

  7. I make duplicate reservations intentionally all the time when I want to lock in a good price, but my plans aren’t firm. I cancel as the date gets closer and my plans firm up. I would hate it if they automatically cancelled duplicates.

  8. The headline is a little misleading since in the response they state that the OP “wasn’t charged for the unused reservation.” The headline should be more like “He reserved for the wrong date and now wants Dollar to honor the quote he was given for a different date.” I’ve never rented from Dollar, and perhaps they’re awful, horrible people; but in this case, they weren’t in the wrong.

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