Hertz Declares: “We Cannot Guarantee Any Reservation” — Would You Trust Renting From Them?

I had one of those travel days yesterday, bad weather followed by bad situations handled badly by travel providers. They happen, and you do the best you can to roll with the punches.

I flew Southwest. Inbound aircraft was late. After pushback they determined they’d need extra fuel, so we went back to the gate. That’s wise when flying into weather. The delays, though, caused us to hit Houston when weather shut down the airport. And since we had taken on enough extra fuel for a long routing to Houston, but not more, we ran low and had to divert to Corpus Christi.

Southwest told passengers that there was one gate and three aircraft in line to use it. Their plane was to cycle the planes through the gate to let passengers off. But after two hours on the ground we were still waiting. With the tick tock of the tarmac delay rule in the background they brought out air stairs and let us walk the short way to the terminal. (It would have been so nice if they had done that earlier.)

I rented a car knowing that would get me home more than three hours earlier than making it to Houston and waiting for the last flight. And waiting it out entailed greater risk of misconnecting still.

Hertz decided they didn’t want to play along, however. I went to the counter and while they had my reservation, I was told they wouldn’t give me a car. They took more reservations than they had vehicles, and so the woman at the desk said they weren’t going to honor any bookings made that day.

It was so… Seinfeldian.

I was fine. I planned ahead. I booked Hertz because they were the cheapest (if you can call a hundred dollar one day rental cheap) but didn’t trust them fully from the start so I made a backup reservation at Avis at twice the price. I figured that way I’d have a good shot at actually having a car.

I walked over to the Avis. They saw my interaction at Hertz and were about to tell me they were sold out of cars. But I had a reservation. So one of those cars they had was for me. It was going to be more money, but I’d get my Southwest flight refunded.

I made him home and felt especially grateful, because I had a ‘bad travel day’ but there were a number of people going through things a whole lot worse yesterday. I was safe after simply taking several wasted hours to get there.

Still, I wanted to find out what Hertz should have done more than just telling me I was out of luck.

  • If they didn’t have cars, they shouldn’t have given me a reservation.
  • And if they weren’t going to honor the reservation they should have tried to take care of things some other way.

When you’re involuntarily denied boarding from an airline they pay compensation. When a hotel walks you they cover your room night at another property. The least Hertz could do, I thought, was cover the difference in rate.

In fact the last time this came up with Hertz I learned that they claimed it was their policy to cover the difference in cost. That’s what they told the AP’s Scott Mayerowitz, anyway.

I tweeted Hertz and got simply that “they’d address it with the local team” which does absolutely nothing for the customer unless you really believe they’re going to put processes in place so that it doesn’t happen again in the future. (No promise to follow up, even.)

My issue wasn’t getting a vehicle. It wasn’t getting a vehicle at double the price. If they gave me any compensation I’d give it away here on the blog.

What I wanted to know, quite simply, is can we rely on a reservation made with Hertz? Will they stand behind their bookings?

Again with the local team. I pushed further, and Hertz messaged me with the answer:

So there’s that.

I followed up with a link to the AP story where they said their policy is to cover the difference in cost to rent from someone else in this situation. As a result they agreed to do that.

It only took a dozen tweets to get there! If I do get reimbursed I’ll blog again with a giveaway worth more than whatever I receive.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Great post…. Funny how as I was reading this I kept thinking of OJ…. I haven’t rented from Hertz in decades — not since the trial (literally), but I had plans to rent from them during upcoming Yosemite family adventure. (great seeming deals at Merced) Now I’m wondering if I’ll actually get a car when I get there….. Think I’ll call that location in advance… (sigh, and maybe plan backups)

    PS: Funny thing #2: I’ve recently had great experiences with Budget (they keep dropping great deals via AARP/Expedia site) Have the “fastbreak” membership too — and that spares me having to fill out paperwork at airport, or dealing with pressure games to sell insurance.

    Last thing, Gary, I could write at length about the horrors of what can happen if you return a car but don’t personally watch it being inspected…. (– which is precisely what the fast-break type memberships encourage — my woe tale came from bad treatment from National — where at a small airport in VA, I returned it late at night…. all was fine until 14 hours later when they called up and claimed I’d badly damaged the right front underpanel to the door…. I was sure car was in pristine condition when I turned it in, but I couldn’t prove a negative…. what a vulnerable mess to add to the car rental hall of shame.)

  2. Interesting point you are overlooking – When a hotel sends you walking they cover a room at another place. Generally speaking, you either pre-pay or guarantee your hotel room. When a flight overbooks, they offer a free flight. Again you have generally pre-paid for your flight. With your car rental – you made a reservation. In fact, you made two reservations. So both companies are to have a car tied up in case you show??? How in the world they make money like that is beyond me. So One or the other company was going to have someone not show up – so they should not book the car?? – you are the problem and you don’t even realize it. Also, you made a reservation- I would say ask a lawyer – but there are a few parts that make a valid contract, this also includes “Consideration” or $$. I don’t think you had any money change hands so you really don’t have anything more than an intent to enter into a contract “A reservation”. The company does not have anything either- they had an intent to enter into a contract but someone actually showed up and entered into the contract. Therefore, they did not have one for you. I’ll bet if you pre-paid they would have had a different tune. So if half the customers

  3. YOU are the reason companies like Hertz overbook!
    You had two reservations, and didn’t plan on showing up for at least one of them!
    Are you serious?
    Get off your high horse, Gary Leff.

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