The Great Rental Car Scam

Rented a car yesterday.

Approached the Hertz counter. Woman greeted me, said, “You should pre-pay for gas.”

I should pre-pay for gas?

“You should pre-pay. If you pre-pay, we charge you $3.42 a gallon to fill up the car. However, if you don’t pre-pay and you fail to return the car full, we charge $9.50 a gallon.”

I’ll return it full.

“Are you sure? Because unless you fill the car up within a mile of here …

I’ll return it full.

“Just so you know …


“OK, but …”

This is what we call a scam. It’s so widely practiced that it’s an accepted scam. But an accepted scam is a scam nonetheless. To begin with, if one agrees to have the rental car agency fill the car, then returns the gas with anything but an empty tank, he is actually buying gasoline for Hertz, Avis, Budget, etc. Think about that—unless the gauge is on zero, with the empty light flashing for the last 50 miles, you are saying to a multi-million dollar corporation, “Here’s my gift to you … free gas!”

Second, the whole $3.42 vs. $9.50 thing is nothing short of arbitrary bullshit. Just so I get this straight—gasoline runs you a low price one minute, a high price the next? And the reason is … uh … eh … hmm … what?

Answer: Greed. Pure greed.

Somewhere one there, a decent, kind, friendly independently owned rental car agency (Jim’s Cars or Rentals by Steve) is telling customers, “If you can’t return it full, we’ll just charge you the price for gas. Don’t sweat it.” That, however, isn’t the corporate way.

Why, after all, miss the opportunity to bilk people?