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.

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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.

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

  1. Well said, they are supposed to detect it at the time you return it. This said, the New Orleans Airport Hertz location is one of the worst I have ever dealt with in their system. No one to check your car in, and when they are there, they are horsing around and making people wait.

  2. This is a classic case of “Let’s make up a charge and see if it sticks!” These are ideal revenue generators for any business with long itemized bills.

  3. So now, in addition to taking photos of the car before and after, do we have to capture an air sample, so that we can arrange for tests to show that there was no smoky odor? When does the burden shift to the car company to notify the renter of damage concerns when the rental is returned, rather than weeks or months later?

    1. I think that’s the reason why they tried this kind of game in the first place – because car renters don’t generally have a way of disproving that they weren’t responsible for the so-called damage. You’re right, we shouldn’t have to capture air samples or take other extreme measures to prove that we aren’t responsible for the damage.

  4. Excellent result. These “other” charges shouldn’t even be allowed. Then again, after the fiasco with ATT where they billed me and millions of others for random 3rd party apps and hid the charges in taxes and other misc fees. I wonder whatever happened to those promised refunds anyway?

    1. My husband just received 2 checks from AT&T’s settlement for internet taxes. One check for $34.34, and one check for $0.24. Yep, the last amount is correct!

  5. I have my own checklist that I print out and have the rental return person sign off on “for my records” whenever I return a car. This checklist has declarative statements such as “Tank returned full” and “no new scratches, marks or dings”. I’m now adding “Does not smell like smoke” to this checklist.

    Did I mention that I’ve never been charged for anything post return? 😉

    1. Great, if there is someone there to inspect the vehicle and if he/she will sign your form. Lots of times, there is no check-in person, depending on the time of day or night and the size of the rental return location. Still, yours is a good idea and perhaps others will do the same.

  6. I’ve smelled plenty of smoke in rental cars non-smoking hotel rooms. In one rental car place in a state where lots of folks smoke, every car smelled of tobacco. Pretty sure the car-cleaners either smoked or had smoke on their clothes. Same for hotel maids in that state.

    1. I’m a smoker, and very careful about it, so the mental image of 3 guys cleaning the interior of a car with cigarettes dangling from their lips is TOO FUNNY. Personally, I have seen a hotel room door open as a maid exits, you can hear the others still inside laughing and talking, and the smell of cigarettes just wafts out after her.

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