““This was not just poor customer service or bad logistics. It was extortion. They had the cars, they wanted me to pay more for them. They said that to me at least 6 times.” ”
That was a dissatisfied Hertz customer, whose thread about “a Very Bad experience” trying to rent a car over Thanksgiving weekend went viral on Twitter this week — and eventually got her a refund.
Kate Klonick, an assistant professor at St. John’s University School of Law, was so frustrated by her experience with the car rental company that she wrote a five-page letter to Hertz
which she then posted in full on Twitter
She described reserving a median sedan for pickup on the Sunday before Thanksgiving week, to be used for one week at the quoted price of $343.27, or $414.93 after taxes. But when she arrived at the Brooklyn, N.Y., Hertz location at her appointed time, she says that she waited in line for two hours before the customer service representative closed up shop for the day and told Klonick to call customer service to find another car. Meanwhile, Klonick’s husband had tried calling the customer service line, and was told they could make a new reservation at a different location for $1,800, which they declined.
“I had a contract! I had met its terms! Hertz simply had to fulfill its side of the deal!” Klonick writes.
A customer service rep sent them to two other locations, including LaGuardia Airport in Queens, to get a car. But it still took them days to finally get a vehicle, which had mechanical problems, no gas in the tank, and was dirty, Klonick claimed. The rental ended up costing them $943 — more than $500 over the price set in their original contract.
TL, DR: Klonick said Hertz wouldn’t honor her contract, and tried to make her pay $1,800 for a rental four times. She ended up paying more than $500 over the quoted price for what she describes as a bad car.
And that’s not counting her calling Hertz customer service more than 20 times, by her estimation, and getting hung up on six times. In her complaint letter, she requested $748.90 in total damages, including the $528.07 she paid above her promised rate in the violated contract; the $133.51 spent on Ubers going to various Hertz locations to find a car; and the $87.32 she says was spent on a “Very Nice Bottle of Champagne” following the ordeal. Klonick also said that she will be filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, and any equivalent state and federal agencies.
Her post went viral, drawing more than 10,000 retweets and quote tweets, and more than 42,000 “likes.” Many people chimed in with their own negative experiences renting a car from the company.
Others suggested they would now boycott Hertz after reading about Klonick’s experience.
And plenty of followers couldn’t resist sharing a “Seinfeld” episode that dealt with a similar rental car issue, including the iconic line: “So you know how to take the reservation; you just don’t know how to hold the reservation. And that’s really the most important part of the reservation. The holding.”
Hertz responded in an email to MarketWatch that Klonick’s experience “does not reflect our standards of service.”
“We have spoken with her to apologize and refunded the rate difference,” the company continued. “We are investigating the situation to better understand what occurred so we can take any necessary corrective actions.”
Venting on Twitter seems to have worked for Klonick, however: She later tweeted that an executive customer rep from the Hertz corporate office called a little after 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, and refunded her the entire amount that she requested on her credit card.
She adds that when she asked how this would have been resolved if the tweet hadn’t gone viral, she was given an “executive” email to use in the future, and the representative said that “they endeavor to serve all customers equally.”
Hertz has hit a few road blocks of late. The company laid off 10,000 employees across its North America operations to cut costs earlier in the pandemic. And it filed for chapter 11 in May 2020, but exited bankruptcy earlier this summer, ready to capitalize on the rebounding travel economy.
That travel rebound helped drive up car rental prices across the U.S. this year, as tight vehicle supply and a surge in demand from travelers eager to hit the road led to a rental car shortage. In fact, one customer told MarketWatch that it was cheaper for him to rent a U-Haul truck for $100 a day, plus mileage and gas, than dropping between $400 and $500 a day for a sedan. “If you could even get one — most were sold out,” he said.
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The rental-car shortage stemmed, in part, from rental-car companies across the country selling cars in the early days of the pandemic when people stayed home, and a dearth of chips required for a car’s safety systems, braking and entertainment consoles. During the summer, the average daily car rental rate was up 90% compared to 2019.
What’s more, now more than 165 former Hertz customers from Delaware, California, Florida, Illinois and other states are suing the company for allegedly having them falsely arrested and jailed over accusations that the vehicles they rented were reported missing or stolen. Hertz has said that, “The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were many weeks or even months overdue returning vehicles and who stopped communicating with us well beyond the scheduled due date.”