Hertz Tells Me It Has No Idea How To Read A Fuel Gauge

Anyone who has returned a rental car with less fuel than agreed to knows full well that rental company employees understand how to read a fuel gauge, because there is money to be made if you’re coming back light on gas. But one Consumerist reader says it’s a different story when you prepay for fuel and you’re the one looking to be reimbursed.

Consumerist reader Adam recently rented a car from Hertz, where the employee at the rental counter informed him of the pre-paid fuel option, in which the customer pays Hertz for a full tank of gas and the customer gets reimbursed based on how much is left in the tank.

“If you return it full, we’ll refund the entire amount,” the employee explained to Adam, who decided to go for this option.

It was a short-term rental, with Adam returning the vehicle to Hertz that same day. He’d even stopped by a gas station right before returning it to fill up.

“I followed the signs, a Hertz representative took my keys, took down the mileage and sent me on my way,” he writes. “No fuss, no muss. Right??”

But after a week of seeing no refund for $54 on his credit card, Adam called Hertz, where he learned for the first time that the company couldn’t refund him his money. He was given two reasons: He did not present a receipt for the gas he did purchase, and he did not turn his keys in at the counter.

Problem is, he was never told he’d need a receipt, and he was told not to return his keys to the rental counter, which was closed at the time of his return anyway.

The Hertz rep told Adam that the only way the company could know whether or not the gas was full was if he’d presented a receipt.

The supposed receipt requirement makes no sense for multiple reasons:
*Just because a receipt shows the car was gassed up earlier doesn’t mean that gas was still in the car when it was returned.
*Gas receipts don’t show license plates or any other info that would indicate this actual car was fueled up. Garbage cans at gas stations are full of discarded receipts.
*He wasn’t looking to get reimbursed for the little bit of gas he’d purchased before returning the car. He was looking to get reimbursed for the $54 he’d paid in advance.

And most importantly, points out Adam, “Gas gauges have existed for decades and rental car companies are strict about checking the fuel level on return.”

Two calls to customer service proved fruitless, as did the attempt to deal with Hertz’s customer service live chat. No one answered when he attempted to call the rental office he’d returned the car to.

So Adam fired off an Executive E-mail Carpet Bomb to executivecustomerservice@hertz.com, providing all the relevant information and requesting a refund. In less than an hour, he got some good news.

A Hertz rep responded:

I am pleased to inform you I have issued a credit for the fuel charges billed. We are very sorry this happened but appreciate you taking the time to contact us so we could correct the error. A credit of $54.58 is being applied to the account billed. The adjustment is being made at this time, but may not appear on the next monthly statement due to billing cut-off dates.

Thank you again for bringing this matter to our attention. We look forward to serving you again soon.

Thankfully, Adam’s story ended happily. But, just like everything else involving rental cars, you can never ask too many questions in advance before driving off that lot. You should also always try to get rules and polices in writing so that you’re not at the mercy of a phone rep who just wants you to shut up so he can move on to dismissing the next customer.