An extra $55 for taxes on my pre-paid car rental? Seriously?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Wayne Enquist books an all-inclusive vacation through Hotels.com, he’s told the car rental includes taxes. But it doesn’t, and now Hotels.com is ignoring his requests for a refund of the taxes. Who’s right?

Question

We booked a ten-day vacation package in Cancun, Mexico through Hotels.com that included air, hotel and a rental car. Taxes were included in the price of the rental car.

When we arrived at the Hertz rental counter, we were told there was an additional tax of about $55. I paid the additional tax at checkout, expecting to be reimbursed from Hotels.com.

I’ve written two emails to Hotels.com, but both have gone unanswered. When I called the company, a representative told me the $55 charge was a “deposit” that would be returned to me. But a call to Hertz confirmed it was a tax and no refund was due.

I have booked 12 to 15 rooms through Hotels.com, had good service and would consider myself a good customer. That is why I can’t understand why they would ignore my email and lie to me over the phone. There is not a lot of money at stake here, but I would at least like to receive a reply as to why I am not being reimbursed. — Wayne Enquist, Fergus Falls, Minn.

Answer

If Hotels.com said taxes on your rental car were included, then they should have been included, of course. You sent me a copy of your confirmation, and sure enough – they were.

When your itinerary doesn’t match reality, one of your options is taking the matter up with your online agency when you return. But it isn’t your only choice, nor should it be your first one.

When Hertz asked you to fork over another $55, you should have phoned Hotels.com. At the very least they could have made a notation in your record, so that when you followed up after returning to the States, they’d know about the problem.

But ideally, someone at Hotels.com could have made a quick call to Hertz and sorted this out before you returned the rental car. Remember, you probably had 10 days before the $55 charge was applied to your credit card – that’s plenty of time to get this sorted out.

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Hotels.com’s Tax refund delayed

Sending a brief, polite email to Hotels.com once you returned was a good idea. I have no idea why it didn’t respond. Normally, when you send an email through its website, companies like Hotels.com send an automatic response and assign your query a tracking number. If you don’t receive either, then it’s a safe assumption that the company didn’t receive your email. (Here’s our guide to fixing your own consumer problems.)

I’m not surprised by the subsequent phone problems. For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Hotels.com representative was lying to you. He probably had no idea what the $55 was for, or was confused. But the bottom line is, the $55 was yours. (Related: Hotels.com promised me a refund years ago. Where is it?)

If Hotels.com continued ignoring you, I think you might have taken up this case with your credit card. A competent bank would have found a good reason to reverse the charge. (Related: Car rental agencies and cities get ready to go head-to-head over taxes again.)

My advocacy team and I contacted Hotels.com on your behalf, and it refunded the taxes and fees that should have been included in the price of your vacation.

Who should have fixed this overcharge?

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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. He is based in Panamá City.

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