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. You may have had a “bad travel day” but I think you had a worse grammar and editing day today.

  2. I learned when the branch/franchise doesn’t give you what you want stop trying and call and e-mail Corporate. In the end, I’m sure you will get some kind of compensation and the Brand Manager and Social Media Reps will hear it from their managers. It’s a shame the manager should have handled it better.

  3. The irony is that your backup reservation is the precise reason Hertz runs out of cars, because people make speculative reservations all the time (somewhat like airlines overbooking).

    I agree that it’s unacceptable, but the way reservations are set up without having to repay is what causes this to happen.

  4. I stopped using Hertz 5+ years ago when they charged me $900 for insurance in Germany for a 3 day rental and wouldn’t refund (this was just a charge, no incident). I’ve been with Avis ever since and even with travel delays my car is always there waiting for me.

  5. I can tell you from experience that Hertz inventory management is worse than Enterprise/National/Alamo or Avis/Budget, but they all run out of cars at some point. It’s the way they handle it that sets them apart. I’ve seen customers get turned away with little more than a shrug at every major company. They will try to avoid making good on the reservation in almost every instance, but if you push them, they will compensate you for any overage if you have to rent elsewhere (which may or may not be possible).

    Note that a car rental reservation is a legally binding contract. You can actually sue the rental company in small claims court if they fail to deliver on the contract. It doesn’t matter whether you booked it 5 months ahead of time or 5 minutes. If they took the reservation and you have documented proof of it, they are on the hook to rent you a car at the stated price, or find you alternative arrangement and compensate you for the difference.

  6. I came for the Seinfeld reference. I left satisfied.

    Agent: I know why we have reservations.

    Jerry: I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, 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. Anybody
    can just take them.

  7. Hertz consistently screws its customers. I honestly don’t know why people continue to rent from them.

    I gave them one last shot last year to take advantage of the 2500 UA mileage bonus. They retroactively charged me a $14 “fuel service fee” even though I returned the vehicle full.

    Never again.

  8. Hertz USA is highly leveraged company owned by private equity investors who would love to dump that pig. I have more problems with Hertz than successful rentals so I go National then Avis and Hertz only if necessary. As a Presidents Circle member , I love how they claim a Toyota Corolla is an upgrade from I mid size reservation. When I ask for an upgrade they tell me they have no cars but they are happy to sell me an upgrade. Fine, no upgrade but please be honest with you customers. Presidents Circle Benefits are zero. Please be honest.

  9. @Kaycee They all charge a “fuel service fee” if you return the vehicle having driven less than 75 miles and don’t provide a gas receipt. It’s the same with Avis, Budget, Alamo, etc. They do this to avoid screwing the next renter since you can drive say 50 miles and return the car without filling up, and the gas gauge will still show F.

    While I won’t defend Hertz’s service here, I just wanted to be clear that this policy is not something unique to Hertz. Hertz even makes it easy to get the charge removed. This line is off my recent eReceipt from Hertz:

    “If you were charged for Express Fuel TM and have a fuel receipt to submit, click here to email us.”

  10. For about 30 years, I rented from Hertz exclusively. In my opinion, Hertz continues to go downhill. Once I took early retirement and had to pay for the cars myself, I found that Hertz — even with an AAA discount — was extremely expensive. I started shopping for cars at Costco Travel online and was shocked at the low prices. I started using Budget and Enterprise and found that the service and vehicle quality was much better than Hertz. Now that I am again renting using corporate rates, I have a choice of Hertz and Enterprise. I tried Hertz a few times but our local Hertz office liked to play games. I started using Enterprise and they have been wonderful. I always get low mileage cars in good condition and Enterprise has a ton of locations in many downtown areas. I often rent one-way and Enterprise has been wonderful. It’s no wonder that Hertz continues to get bad reviews. I certainly won’t use them unless it’s an absolute last resort.

  11. Another issue is when you rent a van for a larger family, and then they only have a compact car when you arrive. Do they actually have any obligation to meet?

  12. We experienced this years ago with Payless at MIA. I e-mailed back and forth with a company rep who told me to rent another car and they’d pay the difference. I did and then they tried to renege on the deal. I went on one of those stupid crusades the retired have time for and eventually got a refund after contacting the office of the company president.

    We’ve stayed with the big outfits ever since, but obviously that isn’t a perfect solution either.

  13. I’ve had rentals for specific car classes with Hertz where they had no cars in that class to offer me. I also once had a reservation and was told they had no cars available. Nobody from Hertz ever contacted me ahead of time to let me know. I personally avoid Hertz whenever possible due to an apparent increase in this behavior. It’s a shame that they don’t seem to value their customers like they used to.

  14. I have had Avis do this same thing to me. I wound up renting from a different Avis location at a higher rate (plus the ground transport to get there), and it was very challenging to get them to refund the difference.

    As a result, I try to have multiple “reservations” whenever I might need a car. I’m sure the car hire companies don’t appreciate that practice, but I don’t appreciate being stranded, either.

  15. I’m surprised. I’ve never had anything but smooth service from Hertz. With Hertz Gold my car is always waiting for me with no paperwork and the keys in it. I’ve used Hertz for over 20 years.

  16. I had a somewhat related experience with Hertz’s San Antonio Marriott outlet last month., in terms of a poor policy coming into play. Yes, there was a car. But it was a larger car than I’d booked and the rep there wanted to charge me $10/day more for it. No big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it seemed ridiculous when normally car rental companies just give the upgrade for free if they don’t have the car you booked. Anyway, after some back and forth on the matter I mentioned that I was a Hertz member, though in my haste to make the booking I hadn’t used that in the reservation. That, the rep explained, got me the upgrade for free, so problem solved. Apparently, for non-members, Hertz or at least this outlet does charge for upgrades even if it’s the outlet’s own fault that only if only a larger car is available. An odd interchange about an odd policy.

  17. I notice that Hertz said they “can” cover the cost, not “will”. Taken literally, it means they may or may not to choose to.

  18. It truly hurts to Hertz,
    similar experience at Hertz downtown MSY office.
    Promised to pick us up by shuttle, called 3 times, waited for over an hour, driver never made it, took a cab to their office, no car available cause a walk in just booked the last car.
    Took them another 3hours to organize a new car from somewhere else, never ever any compensation was given cause hertz.com does not make any compensation decision but fwd it to the rental location who decides whether a compensation is ok or not and of course they denied any compensation.

    Hertz – never again.

  19. There is a certain irony in you making two bookings at two different places, one of which you never intended to “honor”.

  20. @Gary: So sorry you ever have to set foot in Houston.,…and this is from a guy who grew up there.

    As to Hertz, this is nice info to know.

  21. I am bad at jokes but when you offer here your reimbursement from Hertz as a give away (presumably a complimentary car rental from Hertz), how will the winner know that they will honor his/her car reservation?

  22. I know this isn’t the point of the article, but is it just me or does Southwest habitually end up with significantly longer delays than necessary because of the fuel issues? I know of several people who have had the exact issue you did within the past 2 months: flight was delayed due to weather, flight had to return to gate for more fuel, time taken to add fuel causes further, much more significant, weather delays or even flight cancellation. I’m surprised your crew didn’t actually time out. They seem to flirt with that line pretty much all the time too.

    It really makes me appreciate Delta’s operations much more–I’m in ATL, so my choices are really just Delta and Southwest most of the time. Delta has delays just like everyone, but they seem to do everything they can to minimize the delays and get equipment and crews in the right places during IROPS. Southwest? Not so much.

  23. I am also thinking about discontinuing my HERTZ relationship. My last reservation they tried to double the cost of my reserved rate. Fortunately, I was traveling to a very small location (Des Moines, Iowa). Des Moines still has that small-town attitude of wanting to help you. The rental agent finally made a copy of my paper printout of my original reservation and was able to override the computer to the rate I had been quoted.

    I have noticed that every reservation I had made since this time also shows a similar pattern. When I make a reservation holding a rate amount, that rate changes by the time I am ready to use the car. I am afraid HERTZ will eventually not honor the rate I reserved. I have been using other rental car companies that do not change the rate I have reserved.

  24. I used Hertz for about a hundred years and am still a Gold member. In recent years, however, I’ve found Thrifty and Enterprise much better and usually cheaper.

  25. Two remarks: 1. We had a car reserved at Hertz in Jamaica but it wasn’t honored because they said they were a franchise and didn’t have to follow “Hertz corporate rules.” Rented from another (local) company instead. 2. Rented from Hertz in Florida for a week and returned the car early; they wanted to charge more than the weekly rental based on the daily rate. I took the keys back, told them the car would be in their lot, and I’d mail the keys so they could re-rent it at the end of the week. Guess what? I only was charged the weekly rate, and I gave them their keys.

  26. Gary, one thing to point out Airline and Hotel not honoring and then compensating is that those reservations are much more binding as they have a cancellation penalty and pre payment. Hertz offers prepay and several other do as well. If you prepaid a car and then showed up and no car then absolutely you should be furious. Without a serious commitment and no downside risk to reservation from either party you end up in a situation like the one you encountered.

  27. @Jack only because I didn’t trust Hertz, but I completely get the cycle involved here. Rental car companies create the game and they could fix it if they would stand behind their bookings.

  28. @Jon @ Steve The policy is that if they don’t have the vehicle you reserved, they should upgrade you to the next size up (or the next closest suitable match) for free. While it may not always be an optimal substitution, they are supposed to make the best attempt possible to get you into something that will meet your needs. There should never ben any cost for this if they cannot provide you with your originally requested vehicle.

  29. I have had this happen only once at an airport (and a small one at that, not dissimilar to Corpus), but I had it happen several times at non-airport rental locations, to the point that I won’t rent from them anymore. I will go to the airport to pick up a car.

  30. I’ve started using Turo for my car rental. And at LAX, they even offer curbside pickup and dropoff. Amazing.

    (And if you haven’t heard of them, they’re like AirBnB but for cars.

  31. On a more positive note, I rented a Ford Focus from SIXT in Frankfurt Germany recently. When I arrived all they had was Audi A6s. Same price, ~$70USD. I’ll be back.

  32. Jerry says: June 13, 2016 at 10:48 am

    I notice that Hertz said they “can” cover the cost, not “will”. Taken literally, it means they may or may not to choose to.

    Looks like equivocation when understood in this way. Are their agents Jesuits?

  33. One car required but multiple reservations across various brands, only one of which you could possibly use? This is precisely what makes this problem exist. Do they have CRM capability to rate individual customers based on their past reliability?

    Say what you mean and mean what you say. Words to live by.

  34. I’m with Nick. Just came to re-watch the Seinfeld clip. Oh … and sorry about your trouble.

  35. Hertz has awful service. Granted, their fleet is nice but they just aren’t very reliable in my book. I’m a big fan of Sixt and other more modern car rental companies. They aren’t in every location, but where they do exist, you will be driving an Audi or similar.

  36. I think it’s a product of car reservations effectively not being binding to the customer. When you can make multiple reservations at several agencies in the same location and only pick one car while other agencies are potentially still holding the car for you, why do you expect they won’t play the same game. When they switch to non-cancellable reservations, they’ll probably have the cars available as reserved. Pick your poison.

  37. We once had a reservation with Hertz but no car was available. They told us that only the rate was reserved. They were honoring a rate not a car! Never again for me!

  38. Keep in mind that even airlines (where you pay up-front and often can’t cancel without forfeiting the entire amount you paid) also overbook. The main difference between being denied boarding on a plane and being denied a car at the rental counter is how the situation is handled. In the case of an airline seat, the airlines try their best to adequately compensate the customer, while the car rental companies often do not.

    Now we can debate whether this is because they are just following the contract of carriage, or they are trying to provide a good customer experience, but regardless, overbooking situations happen in both products. It’s how often they happen, and how the company handles them when they do happen that sets the airlines apart from the car rental companies.

  39. I don’t know – I rent cars from Avis, Hertz, Enterprise and others, based on who’s cheapest. Internationally that’s often Hertz and I’ve never had a problem with Hertz in 30 years of traveling. Or any of the others.

    Complain about any big company and you’ll get a lot of “me too”. It’s worth noting that Hertz successfully rents more cars every day (probably every 15 minutes) to people who are happy about it than we have people complaining here…

  40. Gary, thanks for highlighting this issue with Hertz. I’ve been turned away multiple times in the past year when I had confirmed reservations made weeks in advance. They simply didn’t care that I had made a reservation and I didn’t get any compensation (except a couple hundred points once). Once, I even called them a couple of hours before to confirm the reservation and they said they had a car. I never have had this issue with Avis. In this day and age, I can’t believe they don’t track their inventory a little better.

  41. I just had a terrible experience with Budget and need recommendations for next time. Budget is always trying to upsell, maybe all the companies do but I reserved online and no, I don’t want to upgrade to a Camaro, Jeep or Charger. I have insurance, I don’t need XM, back up camera that comes with car anyway, again don’t need Camaro, Jeep, Charger, insurance. Minimum insurance $5/day. Fine. I’ll take the insurance if you will let me leave. $5 x 7 days=$50. Fill up but needle doesnt go to full, husband forgets reciept, add $20 to whatever I just paid for gas. Who knows what tolls will be though Im 99% sure we didnt use toll roads. Oh and the check engine light came on so fingers crossed they dont charge me for anything else.

  42. This is *HUGE* in my book.

    I pulled up the legal language, and this is how they bungled the english language:
    > A “reservation” for a vehicle rental is a notation in Hertz’s records that you have expressed the desire and intention to rent a vehicle

    What BS.

    Will definitely stop booking them–it shows no ethics.

  43. I’ve been waiting well over a week for a response to an email inquiry over awful Hertz customer service in San Francisco. Maybe I should tweet at them.

  44. Funny, I rented from Hertz last week @SAN. Didn’t come on airport bus (got dropped off by a buddy) so went to desk. Employee asked if I was gold and directed me to the gold desk in garage. As a gold, my name was not on the board with a spot. Agent gave me spot #. Spot was empty. Went back, agent upped me from a compact to a MB 300. Drove less than 75 miles but no extra fuel charges. Guess I got lucky?

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