Dinged for using a “fraudulent” discount code on my Avis rental

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Anand Iyer recently rented a Hyundai from Avis in Westfield, NJ. He’d found the car online through a site called AutoSlash.com, and booked the rental through Travelocity.

At the end of the rental, Avis charged him $686 — an excellent deal for a 30-day rental.

A few days later, Iyer heard from Avis. Turns out the deal was a little too excellent, and his bill would be revised to $992.

The reason? An Avis representative accused him of “fraudulently” using a discount code that belongs to the Florida Department of Management Services.

Iyer doesn’t work for the Florida Department of Management Services, but he does believe Avis should honor the $686 rate. If it doesn’t, he wants me to intervene and force Avis to make good on its offer. After all, a representative told him his codes looked fine when he picked up the car.

He explained his position in an email to Avis. As he noted, no one told him he had to be a Florida employee:

I was not informed about this requirement when I took possession of the car, nor when I signed the agreement when I got the car.

Neither was I informed any time during the period when the rental car was in my possession. Hence, I do not think it is fair for me to pay the extra amount.

We could have easily fixed this if you had told me a word about this during the rental; don’t you agree?

One of your representatives told me that this rate would be honored for this rental since it was already done, so I kindly request you to honor her word.

Avis wasn’t so understanding. The discount code wasn’t legit, and he shouldn’t have used it, Avis contends.

All rental agreements are subject to a final audit.

Why you would use Travelocity to book a corporate Avis identification number instead of using your contact administrator means one thought to me. You fraudulently used a discount code, which you are not entitled to, through a colleague, a friend or you went to a website: slickdeals.com and tried to use this corporate code. It is not up to our rental agents to discover this type of fraud, but our security department to.

I have contacted our corporate offices about this matter.

Iyer says I have to get involved. After all, didn’t I help another car rental customer under similar circumstances recently?

Perhaps. But no two cases are exactly alike, and this one feels a little different.

Iyer admits that he used a discount code and that he doesn’t work for the state of Florida. He says he did not know the code was meant to be used by Florida employees exclusively.

I agree that Avis should have verified his eligibility before he left the parking lot, but in a situation like this, I think a post-rental audit is acceptable.

The wildcard in this case may be Autoslash. If it offered the discount code, and Iyer used it believing it was legit, then I think it may bear some responsibility, too.

Look, I’m all in favor of finding the best deal possible, but searching a deal forum for any discount code and then plugging it into your final rate, which is what Avis suggests Iyer had done, raises some ethical questions. Avis would argue that using a code to which you’re not entitled is theft, and if I got involved in this case I’d be an accessory to a crime.

Then again, if this was a simple misunderstanding, should Avis be allowed to jack its rates up by $306? That doesn’t seem fair, either.

Update (10 a.m): Last week, when Iyer contacted me to ask for help, I suggested that he escalate this to corporate Avis. He did, and a few hours after this story was published, Iyer notified me that Avis agreed to reverse its decision and would charge him $686 as agreed. He also emphasized that he didn’t know he was ineligible to use the discount code. For those of you who are not regular readers, the Monday column, Can this trip be saved? is a feature where I present one side of the story — the customer’s — and ask you, my readers, if I should get involved. These cases have not been vetted in any way. See Friday’s column, The Travel Troubleshooter, for those reader questions.

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