A couple of days ago, I wrote about my awful experience trying to rent from Hertz.
Long story short, the Hertz location at Sonoma County Airport (STS) called me and told me they were “completely sold out” and couldn’t honor my reservation, unless I agreed to being extorted, with a $150 upgrade fee to an SUV that I didn’t want (when most days that SUV goes for an extra $40 over the car type I booked). To make matters even worse, the staff at the location were downright nasty.
There’s an update, as this morning I received a call from a Hertz executive customer service representative, so I wanted to relay what I was told. Let me of course acknowledge that presumably the only reason my situation was taken seriously is because I have a platform. So the best that I can do is try to get some answers, so that others don’t find themselves in a similar situation.
In this post:
Hertz apologizes, clarifies correct policies
I got a call from a very nice lady from Hertz, who works in executive customer service. Let me start by saying that she was professional, empathetic, and kind. In fairness, I find that just about anyone working in a company’s executive customer service department is like that, or else they wouldn’t be in that position. They’re basically typically one step down from the crisis management team at a company, in terms of the work they do.
She explained she has been in the rental car industry for 20 years, and wouldn’t want to be treated the way that I was either. I appreciated her transparency regarding the situation. So, here’s what she explained to me:
- This situation wasn’t handled correctly, and senior leadership is going to “take a deep dive” to determine how to prevent situations like this in the future
- She emphasized that “we do value our customers, and we couldn’t be in business without customers”
- I asked what Hertz’s policy is in situations where your reserved car class isn’t available, and she confirmed that the policy is that you should be upgraded to the next available car class at no extra cost
- I asked how she would recommend people who find themselves in a similar situation handle this in the future, and she recommended calling Hertz in these situations
- She explained that at smaller stations there’s a higher risk of cars not being available when reserving within 24 hours, and Santa Rosa is a smaller station for the company
At the conclusion of the call, she offered to either give me some Hertz free rental days, or reimburse me for the expenses I incurred as a result of not having my rental (I ended up just taking a ride share).
My take on this call with Hertz
I’m happy that Hertz at least acknowledged that the correct policy wasn’t being followed. It’s good to know that if the car class you reserved isn’t available, then you should be upgraded to the next available car class, as I thought.
That being said, do I somehow think that Hertz corporate is actually taking this matter seriously? Do I believe that Hertz actually values its customers, or else it wouldn’t be in business? I mean, this is the same company that paid $168 million for incorrectly arresting its customers, so the poor customer service I experienced is hardly the worst way Hertz has treated its customers.
When you incorrectly file theft reports against thousands of your customers year after year after year, it’s hard to take any claims of caring about customers seriously. That’s of course not the fault of this representative, but the apathy obviously starts at the very top.
Big picture, I think the rental car industry is just fundamentally flawed due to the misalignment of incentives, and it’s also why the industry is incapable of doing business ethically:
- Rental car companies hugely overbook, because their top priority is making sure there are as few cars sitting on the lot as possible, and there are no repercussions to overbooking, unlike with airlines
- In the situation I encountered, it’s clear that Hertz just kept overselling, in hopes of seeing which customer they could most rip off (and if someone didn’t want to be ripped off, they can just cancel their reservation)
- Many rental car locations operate as franchises, and the franchisees care about maximizing their own profits, and not about the overall customer perception of the brand
- I believe rental car employees make a commission on selling upgrades, so in terms of padding their own pockets, their goal is to see who they can rip off the most with an upgrade (which is why I was offered an upgrade that usually costs $40 for $150, with a claim that the upgrade usually costs $250)
What an industry, when you can oversell as much as you want with no repercussions, and then can basically create a bidding war with all the people you overbooked, leaving many without a car?
Like I said, it’s time for government invention… this is one of those industries that won’t act any more ethically unless it’s forced to. As I was standing at the counter being told there were no cars available, I could still book cars for immediate pickup. How unethical to allow people to reserve a product that you know you don’t have.
After my very bad Hertz non-rental, someone reached out to me from executive customer service to apologize. The representative confirmed that this location wasn’t following the standard policy, as I expected. She also claimed that the company is working on ways to improve, but given Hertz’s track record, I won’t be holding my breath.
What do you make of Hertz’s situation?