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

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By Christopher Elliott

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. Trying to find out the nature of the charge by emailing Hertz twice, I received no reply.

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. (Related: Hertz billed her for eight extra days on her car. Where’s the refund?)

AirAdvisor is a claims management company. We fight for air passenger rights in cases of flight disruptions all over the world. Our mission is to ensure that air passengers are fairly compensated for the inconvenience and frustration caused by delays, cancellations, or overbooking.

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. (Here’s our guide to renting a car.)

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

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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.

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