What’s this $50 ‘other’ charge on my rental car invoice?

Hertz dings Jonathan Beyer for smoking in his rental car. But wait — he doesn’t smoke.

Question: I recently received a $50 “other” charge when I rented a car from Hertz in New Orleans. I tried to find out the nature of the charge by emailing Hertz twice, and received no reply.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Medjet. Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

I then called its customer service number and was told I had to call the local rental office.

When I finally reached someone, I was advised that the charge was likely because they smelled tobacco in the car when it was returned.

I explained that I had never smoked in my life, and that no one riding in the car had smoked. Nevertheless, the agent claimed we left a smoking odor and said the charge would not be waived or adjusted.

Knowing that this was not true, I contacted Hertz’s national customer service and was told that a regional manager would look into it. I have not received any reply or further contact.
I would like to be reimbursed for the charge and also bring attention to this untrue, unfair and arbitrary practice if it is occurring at Hertz locations. — Jonathan Beyer, West Palm Beach, Florida

Answer: Hertz has a strict “no smoking” policy for all of its cars. If you light up in one of its rentals, you may be charged a $100 fee to cover the cost of vehicle cleaning. De-smoking takes a vehicle out of service for up to 24 hours so it can be cleaned with a natural deodorizer and an oxidation process.

If your car smelled smoky, then a representative should have noticed it immediately and said something. When you return a vehicle, an employee will sit in the driver’s seat and make a note of your mileage. At that point, someone should have said something to you.

This was a textbook case of how not to handle a claim. First, Hertz didn’t explain the charge. Then it stonewalled you. When the company finally offered you details, it didn’t follow up as promised on your request for a review.

Tsk, tsk.

You could have leapfrogged the lower-level contacts and appealed directly to one of the managers I list on my website.

Did someone smoke in your car? Maybe. But it could have happened anytime, including after you returned your vehicle or after the next renter returned the vehicle. Hertz really needs to document an incident like this better. And it should have been prepared to show you the proof — if indeed it exists — that you smoked. Photos of cigarette butts in the ashtray would do just fine. An invoice with “other”? Not fine.

I contacted Hertz on your behalf. It reviewed your case and contacted you with an apology and a full refund of the $50.