A reader shared his experience Monday night renting from Hertz at Dallas – Fort Worth. He’d reserved an SUV but was happy to take any car. They had none they’d rent. He’s a Presidents Circle member and was behind 15 others in that top public elite tier line waiting for a car. He reports about 20 people deep in line for Five Star elite. I feel sorry for those without status.
Worse, they actually had cars they wouldn’t give out to customers who’d reserved them. They were premium vehicles available for additional upgrade.
This readers advice, “This is like the 10th time this year at DFW. Never rent here on a Sunday or Monday night! It’s insane. And then it’ll take at least another 30 min to check out because they only have 1 gate open.” They don’t have staff either.
There was a rental car apocalypse in 2021, with travel roaring back but rental agencies having offloaded their fleets. I wrote about an hours-long wait for cars at Hertz in Denver with 67 top tier elites in line for a car, and about my own experience in New Orleans where there was only one car and a wait list of 60 people (I got the car, I’d never been so happy to have an over 40,000 mile Mitsbushi).
The lack of vehicles wasn’t an excuse because rental companies took the reservations even though they didn’t have cars. Hertz was especially egregious with this. Not only were they filing police reports on customers and billing people who didn’t even rent their cars they didn’t have cars to rent to the people they’d promised them to!
Car rental companies don’t get called to account nearly as much as airlines and hotels. They’re usually something of an afterthought, and they almost universally offer a poor experience (relatively speaking National is ok). Car rental companies charge more scammy fees than anyone else yet they mostly get a pass.
But it’s the unwillingness to honor reservations that is most appalling. Seinfeld skewered this all the way back in season 3 episode 11 (1991) and over 30 years later it’s still the same problem.
Hertz once told me point blank that they do not promise to honor reservations.
Rental car companies overbook. Most reservations aren’t prepaid and are cancellable. And sometimes more people show up than expected. That’s not what’s going on here.
Hertz seems to consistently be taking more reservations for cars than they can support, knowing how many people will show up. They don’t communicate with customers when they see this happening. They could warn customers away and suggest they rebook elsewhere! They don’t staff appropriately to handle the volume of bookings they take, either.
There’s simply not enough innovation in the car rental space. Companies abuse customers with impunity. And unlike airlines, which have cash obligations to customers when they fail to honor reservations, and hotels which generally pay to put guests up at another property when they overbook, most of the time car rental companies give you nothing. So there’s no reason other than reputation not to just keep taking reservations when they have no cars. And they already have such poor reputations…