Rental car companies put people through a lot of bullshit. I’ve been through it many times myself. A lot of their policies or things they do are head-scratchers. From payment policies that seem to treat those with debit cards with suspicion over credit users to weird vehicle classes that don’t follow what actual car classes are, it all can be annoying. One man might have to seek a lawyer though as the LA Times reports that Hertz charged him a smoking fee, even though he doesn’t smoke.
The man, Sean Dungan, recently flew back to LA after being in Boston. Of course, he returned his rental car to Hertz at Boston’s Logan International Airport before heading home. A few days later he received a bill in the mail. Hertz had charged him $400 for smoking. Dungan, now 49, says he hasn’t smoked since his early 20s. So what was really going on?
Hertz’s smoking policy says that a customer will be assessed a $100 cleaning fee if the vehicle is returned and believed to have been smoked in. How would Hertz know? Its policy says that it determines if a vehicle has been smoked in by having an employee either:
- Witness the customer smoking in a vehicle, or
- Find evidence of smoking, such as ashes, cigarette butts or burns, or
- Smell smoke within the vehicle.
The thing is no one was present when Dungan dropped his vehicle off. He immediately called Hertz thinking the charge was a mistake and was told it wasn’t. Company reps told him that two employees smelled smoke when he returned the vehicle, though no other evidence of smoking was found. Things got suspicious after some back and forth with the company. It refused to remove the fee, at one point telling Dungan that:
“We ask that you respect our final decision on this matter as we have fully addressed your concerns. Further requests to revisit this matter will not be considered.”
He still pressed them. Suddenly, a representitive offered to take $200 off the fee as a “goodwill gesture,” but this is after the company suddenly said that three employees had smelled smoke in the vehicle. All the other times Hertz kept saying it was just two.
Dungan is still disputing the charges and refuses to accept them. As a consumer protection site that Dungan reached out to pointed out, instances of smoking fees seem to have increased after Hertz’s bankruptcy filing. Hertz is more likely taking a harsher, zero-tolerance police towards potentially dirty cars than looking to charge erroneous fees, however.
“If they think I’m at fault, why would they refund any of the fee?” Dungan asked the LA Times. That’s a question I don’t think the company will ever be willing to answer.