Last May I wrote about a Hertz system glitch causing the rental company to report some cars stolen even though they were properly rented out. Their customers were getting arrested. In a few cases they’ve faced police with guns drawn by police. And at the time there was at least one documented case of a customer serving two weeks in prison.
Apparently the practice continued even after I wrote about it even though Hertz had already paid out damages to some of the victims. The stories seem to have a common thread involving switching out of the originally-assigned vehicle, or extending a rental, where Hertz employees didn’t properly complete the paperwork for the transaction.
A new lawsuit has been filed by some of the victims. One plaintiff had a vehicle reported stolen two weeks after I covered the Hertz practice. He had extended a truck rental by phone and “has phone records and recordings that document the calls.” Yet now he’s in the same position as Hertz itself, bankrupt.
But as May drew to a close, Hertz reported the truck stolen and accused Ayoub of grand theft auto. Police arrested Ayoub at his home in Deptford and seized the pickup. The arrest sent him to jail for four months. The time behind bars left him broke.
“I have not been able to work,” said Ayoub, 39. “I take on odd jobs. I live with my parents. I don’t even have a vehicle right now.”
Since he was able to prove he paid for the rental criminal charges were dropped. Yet he and others are suing,
The 20 plaintiffs in the Delaware case said that they presented evidence to the company documenting their payments, but that Hertz has refused to withdraw the stolen-vehicle reports.
A Hertz spokesperson, who asked not to be identified, said that payments or even the eventual recovery of the car did not wipe away what it views as the original theft.
Some of the stories are truly insane.
- A frequent renter drove a Ford Mustang convertible for two months (extending the rental several times), returned it, and paid his bill. It was reported stolen. He traveled back to Florida to contest the charges, with proof of payment. Hertz no-showed the hearing. When he was stopped for a travel violation eight years later he was taken into custody on the outstanding warrant. He was held 40 days, including being transported back to Florida, before charges were dropped.
- Another customer rented a car that Hertz had already reported stolen. He was arrested in front of the Flamingo hotel in Las Vegas for stealing the Toyota Corolla that Hertz flagged as missing six days before the start of his rental contract.
- Still another person who rented from Hertz, and extended her contract, faced police when the company failed to log the extension. She was taken into custody. And “[b]ecause she was on probation for an unrelated theft conviction, Higgs was held in jail for 37 days” before pleading no contest in order to be released.
The lawsuit is available here
Four years ago Hertz informed me that reservations for their cars are never guaranteed. Apparently that’s true even after you pick up your rental.
Hertz was once the rental company for business travelers. In this extended montage from Up in the Air when George Clooney is grounded in Omaha he wants to buy a Chrysler Sebring from Hertz. The part they didn’t show was Clooney getting arrested when Hertz failed to file paperwork on the sale.
Four years ago Avis was going after Hertz on Twitter, offering customers discounts, upgrades, and status matches. Maybe it’s time to fire up the old marketing engine and do that again, along with a promise not to send customers renting Avis cars to jail?