Q: I rented an Infiniti Q60 from Hertz in Los Angeles. Before I returned the vehicle, I filled the tank within five miles of the Hertz location. I paid with cash and did not ask for a receipt. I returned the car with a full tank.
An attendant marked the fuel level as “full” on the receipt. A month or so later, I received a bill for 9.86 gallons of gas — about half a tank on the car I rented — for $102.
I promptly sent a letter disputing the charge. Hertz didn’t respond. All I ever received were repeated bills in the mail, and last week, a notice that the company would be sending my bill to a collection agency.
I would like Hertz to halt any transfer of my information to any collection agency, cancel my outstanding bill and remove me from its Do Not Rent list. If my information has been sent to a collection agency and resulted in damage to my credit score, I would like said damages reversed. Can you help me?
A: If Hertz said your tank was full, it shouldn’t have charged you. But let’s skip straight to the end of this one: Hertz says your tank wasn’t full. As far as Hertz is concerned, the attendant marked it “full” in error, because the car rental company’s records show you shorted it by 10 gallons.
And yes, Hertz charges about $10 a gallon for gas, so the bill is correct.
It is also incorrect. When you showed Hertz the receipt that indicated a full tank, it should have worked with you to fix the problem, not simply sent you one bill after another and then threatened you with a collection agency and its Do Not Rent list. It looks as if you were caught in some kind of automated system. Had a person reviewed your case, I think it would have been fixed a long time ago. Speaking of a real person, I have a list of the Hertz customer-service executives on my consumer-advocacy site. elliott.org.
But how could you have avoided this? Always, always keep receipts when you fill your tank at the end of your rental. That way, if there’s a discrepancy between your final receipt and the car rental company’s records, you can prove that you filled your tank. I’ve rented an Infiniti Q60 from Hertz, and I can tell you from personal experience that the gas gauge is easy to read.
If you happened to pay for your fuel with cash and forgot the receipt, you still can take a photo of the dashboard before you return the car. And, in fact, you did — and you showed me a photo of a completely full gas gauge. Nice work on keeping the evidence.
This should have been an open-and-shut case. I contacted Hertz on your behalf. A representative said that while the company can’t verify the proper fuel level without a receipt, it decided to credit the fuel charge “as a goodwill gesture” and in an effort to retain your business.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.