How to get a $400 cleaning fee on your car rental removed? Like this

Hertz gave Vincent Iannacci a most unpleasant surprise at the end of his recent car rental: a $400 cleaning fee.

Knowing that he’d returned the vehicle in pristine condition, Iannacci assumed Hertz had billed him in error. But when he tried to get the cleaning fee removed, the car rental giant told him there was no mistake. In fact, a company representative explained, employees had snapped photos of cigarette butts smashed into the vehicle’s carpet. As a result, the $400 cleaning fee would stand.

Now outraged, Iannacci, a life-long nonsmoker, intends to fully defend himself against this false accusation. He says no one smoked in his rental car, and he refuses to let the cleaning fee stand.

Iannacci is hoping the Elliott Advocacy team can help him fight this battle. But will photos of the offending cigarette make his case impossible to successfully mediate?

Can Amtrak really leave us stranded and refuse our refund request, too?

If Amtrak stranded you in the middle of nowhere after a train derailment, you would expect a refund, correct?

That’s what Matthew Lopez also expected after a disastrous ending to his recent national park vacation. A terrible Amtrak accident left him stranded in a remote location in Montana with no way home — and no refund from the company.

This case is unusual because Amtrak cases are few and far between in our consumer advocacy practice. But with the new infrastructure bill pumping billions of dollars into the national rail carrier, Amtrak and its customer service reputation are finding their way into the headlamps of our readership. Problems like these — and their resolutions — have a way of informing future booking decisions. And this case has all the elements of a true vacation nightmare. It features not only a deadly train derailment, but also shuttered hotels, vanishing transportation options, and a tone-deaf customer service department.

Why did Amtrak leave these people stranded and also refuse their refund request? Let’s find out.

Hertz made a big mistake and charged me $750 extra! I need help

Shannon Mikus says Hertz made a big mistake during her recent car rental. She says the company charged her nearly $750 extra, and she can prove it. So why won’t anyone at Hertz acknowledge this outrageous error and refund her cash?

That’s the question of the day.

This tale is another that highlights the dramatic rise in billing mistakes by Hertz and other agencies during the pandemic. Whether by carelessness, lack of skilled employees, or questionable business practices, something is amiss in the car rental industry. Here’s Mikus’s frustrating experience and some vital information so you can avoid ending up in the same situation.

A filthy vacation rental is not my thing! How do I get a refund?

When an Airbnb host directs Andrea Walker to use the service elevator in the building where she is renting an apartment, she’s slightly suspicious. However, when she opens the door to the unit, she knows she definitely won’t be staying. The owner apologizes for the state of the filthy Airbnb vacation rental and quickly agrees to a refund.

So why does the host later tell Airbnb that she spent the whole weekend at the property? (Last updated 10/14)

Our anniversary trip was ruined because we couldn’t find a COVID test!

During the pandemic, your anniversary trip can be ruined easier than ever. Willie Williams found this out in a most unpleasant way.

Last month, Williams and his wife were eagerly looking forward to celebrating their anniversary on a sunny beach in Jamaica. A few days before departure, they were patiently waiting for Rite Aid to provide the results of their pre-trip COVID test. But all their anniversary dreams were ruined when those test results came too late for them to board the plane.

Instead of celebrating their anniversary in the tropics, they spent it staring at a $3,500 nonrefundable invoice from Vacations To Go.

Now the couple is pleading with the Elliott Advocacy to pull their anniversary plans out of the ruins. But is that something we can do? (Originally published Oct. 2021)

Why did Travelocity make me pay for a permanently closed hotel?

Rosalva Paulino recently used Travelocity to book a pleasant-looking historic property in a remote area of Mexico. However, upon arrival at the location, she was confronted by a permanently closed hotel. Complete with blocked entrances and overgrown vegetation, it was clear the hotel had been shuttered for some time. Bewildered, she scrambled to find alternative accommodations on her own.

Paulino assumed Travelocity would apologize and quickly refund her prepaid reservation for the permanently closed hotel.

She was wrong. Her shock turned to anger when Travelocity rejected the refund request, claiming the hotel refused to approve it.

Now she wants the Elliott Advocacy team to see if we can make sense of this nonsensical situation.

I didn’t damage this vacation rental! Do I have to pay for it?

Could you be falsely accused of causing damage to your next vacation rental — and be forced to pay for it?

Colleen McKenna is sure that the answer to that question is “yes.” She just returned from what she thought was a peaceful and uneventful stay in a rented condo in Hawaii. But the property manager says she and her husband caused significant damage to the vacation rental during a domestic disturbance. As a result, he charged her credit card for cleanup and repairs — several days after the couple’s departure.

McKenna says she has absolutely no idea what this man is talking about and believes it’s a scam. Now she’s asking the Elliott Advocacy team to investigate.

Can we find out what’s going on here?

Vrbo doesn’t allow shared space vacation rentals. So why won’t this host leave?

Franklin Wu had a most unusual experience with Vrbo after he prepaid $9,000 for a four-month apartment rental in Switzerland. Although Vrbo doesn’t allow shared vacation rentals, suddenly in the middle of the night, the host made it clear she wasn’t leaving. So he did.

But then Vrbo gave him another shock —  the host could keep all his money. What is going on here?

This tale is a strange one to be sure. Wu did nothing wrong, and yet he almost lost thousands of dollars in this debacle — almost. (Last updated Sept. 21, 21)

My rental car was towed after an accident — now it’s missing!

What should you do if your rental car gets towed and then goes missing while in your possession?

Traveling through the mountains of Colorado at dusk during a snowstorm, Annoris Perez suddenly lost control of her rental car. She was shaken but unharmed. The vehicle? Not so lucky. The rental car was towed from the accident scene, and she assumed she was no longer responsible for it.

She was wrong.

Weeks later, when the rental company called asking for its missing vehicle, Perez found out just how wrong. Now, she needs our team’s help to determine what happened to her rental car after the driver towed it away.

Do you get a refund on your travel insurance if you die?

Janet Fried and her husband had big plans to take a Mediterranean cruise next year with Tauck, a luxury tour operator. They looked forward to casting off in Marseille, France, on a small ship and visiting exotic ports of call in Corsica, Italy, and Sicily.

But they’ll never have that chance. In December, her husband died.

What followed should have been straightforward: Tauck should have refunded all of her money. It didn’t.