Hurt by Hertz
Would you pay $500 to drive a Kia Soul for two days?
Ya, me neither, and yet that’s exactly what happened to me this past September thanks to the Hertz Car Rental at the Abbotsford Airport.
For coming on two years now, I’ve been dating a wonderful man who lives on the other side of the country. With both of us on disability, and with no system in place to allow Canadians to move provinces without losing all financial support and insurance coverage, it has been difficult to see each other as often as we would like.
The fact the we get to visit as all is thanks to the generosity of friends and family.
Consistently, one of the biggest barriers has been having a vehicle while I am there. It’s petty impossible to get around fully, especially as someone with mobility impairments without a vehicle. Getting food, meds, and so on, would be extremely difficult without some form of transportation, especially since some of those were found in the next town or city over. But the cost was ridiculous. If I decided to go for three weeks, for example, the cost is close to $1500, and the few times I was able to find a good deals, they usually ended up being a scam.
So this time, we made a plan. Through various means, we managed to acquire enough to buy a really cheap used car. In the meantime, we would rent a car for two days so that I could a. Get to his town from the airport, and b. so that we could more easily get around to look at various vehicles and so find the best possible deal.
It was supposed to cost a little under $70 for the rental, with a deposit of $200 that would be returned to us when we returned the car in good condition. Now keep in mind, that while we were able to swing the deposit thanks to the savings, we are also counting on getting that money back since we needed it for my stay.
My arrival was a little rough. My phone has somehow discharged pretty heavily and decided to die on me, just as I am trying to transfer money into the appropriate account. I had to find an outlet, and charge a little, while also being pretty desperate to get out of there relatively quickly. I needed to get somewhere to pick up my meds that I had run out of prior to my trip, and I needed to find a place that was still open.
Finally my phone had enough battery to let me go ahead with what needed to be done. As I waited for my card to be processed, I googled a location to buy my meds and luckily one place was still open for just under an hour. I mention this to my boyfriend who is there to meet me, and he reads off the name of the place.
Suddenly, the employee chimes in on the subject taking us by surprise since we had been trying to be discrete. I don’t fully remember what he said since it was mostly innocuous, probably along the lines of ya that street has a lot of those stores. I mainly remember it, because I get anxious about potential stigma around my medication, and usually prefer to choose when and with who I discuss it. (Such as on a blog on my own terms rather than to random people who might decide to use that knowledge against me in some way. An anxiety that proved to be well founded.)
Since we were counting on this deposit, we made a point to be very careful with the vehicle. Not particularly difficult since the majority of both those days were spent in driving around looking at other vehicles.
My partner, who smokes pipe tobacco was careful not smoke anywhere in or near the car, and even when we were caught in a situation where it was raining and I needed to medicate (in a place we were staying for some time for those concerned about intoxication. I also do not medicate to that point as a rule, unless I’m in for the night.) we chose getting wet over using the shelter offered by the nearby vehicle. Like I said, we were being careful.
On the day we bought our little investment, and were returning the rental, his Dad accompanied us both to help with picking us up from the rental return and to provide expertise on whether the car we settled on was a good buy. Before returning the vehicle, we made a point to clean out everything and in order to make sure we weren’t nose blind to our own smokey smells, we asked his dad whether there was any smell in the car. He said there wasn’t, and so confident that we had earned our deposit back, we go to return it. As I’m handing off the keys, I even make a point to ask about it, at which point I am informed that they won’t be checking over the vehicle until later in the evening, however, at that time once they confirmed everything was in order, they would free the deposit. I felt a mild twinge at this, but I smiled and said that I made sure everything was clean and the tanks was full, after all, I was counting on that deposit.
I don’t hear anything from them that evening, and so I’m hoping everything was fine.
Then the next morning, I get woken up with a phone call. Now granted, it was a bit later in the morning, but we hadn’t gone to bed till very late and so for me, it was still pretty early.
It’s Hertz. The guy starts talking telling me that unfortunately there was a strong smell of marijuana in the car and that as a result I would not be receiving back my deposit and that actually I owed them more money.
I’m still groggy and barely processing, and I’m trying to figure out what the hell happened all at the same time. I ask him to repeat what he said, which while I understand what he is saying doesn’t make any sense to me.
“We never smoked in the car” I state, still bewildered.
“You do smoke marijuana.” He responds. A statement, not a question.
“I have a prescription,” I respond, “but I never smoked it in the vehicle or near the vehicle, so it wouldn’t make sense for there to be a smell.”
At this point, I’m desperately trying to figure out how any smell could have transferred, in a panic and not even really thinking straight as I listen to the person on the other line say.
“Ya, I noticed a faint smell when I checked it and it wasn’t really a big deal, but the customer complained and refused to take the vehicle, so we have to send it out for ozone cleaning.”
At this point, I’m still groggy and also anxious, not a great combination. I’m trying to figure out how this could have happened. He claimed faint smell so I start wondering about whether the rainy weather had somehow transferred some of the smoky smell into the fabric? The call is disconnected and I try to process.
I bring it up to my boyfriend’s family, confused, when they and friends online point out something I had missed.
Wait, so they had tried to rent the car? But that means your contract was closed. They signed off on it. This doesn’t seem fair.
I call back the manager and mention this. If they had tried to rent the car out, then they had signed off on the state of it. Coming back after the fact after our contract had been closed didn’t see right.
That’s when things really start to get interesting, cause all of a sudden, the story changes.
Whereas previously it was barely a smell, but they were just obligated to do the intense cleaning because of a customer complaint, now all of a sudden, the smell was actually really strong and they had been taken out of use as a rentable vehicle.
Then how did a customer ever get inside it to be able to complain?
“Oh well, they wanted to see how bad the smell was because they desperately wanted this make and model of vehicle.”
Now don’t get me wrong, the Kia Soul wasn’t a bad car. It’s fuel mileage was pretty terrible, especially for a place like this where you’re driving a lot more between places, but it’s a nice enough car for a rental. But let’s be serious here. Making fun of Kia’s as cars is practically a meme. I have a hard time believing that someone would have gone out of their way to ask about this make and model, and then when told that it was not in useable condition due to odour, that they would insist on seeing how bad it was. Moreover, if someone was willing to entertain a vehicle with such a smell, then the amount of smell that could have transferred from clothing in two days should not have been strong enough to be a deal breaker. It just doesn’t make sense.
At this point I point out that what he is describing doesn’t make sense given our use of the vehicle. Neither myself, my partner, nor his father could smell anything either when we got into the car that morning, nor when we dropped it off. But not he is claiming the smell was overpowering.
Annoyed at this point, and increasingly convinced that the whole situation is actually total bullshit, I mention that if the smell was that strong, then either one of his guys smoked in the car after I returned it, or the door was left unlocked and someone at the airport did.
“No one who works for me smokes marijuana.”
Uh-huh, that’s why your guy was talking about dispensaries.
“Well this city has the most dispensaries in the area and we get a lot of tourists so…”
Except I wasn’t asking him, where I could find some, nor discussing it with him, but he overheard a private conversation and decided to offer his own opinion.
“Ya but we know you smoke.”
So what, anyone who smokes is automatically doing so in the car? Or do you just automatically charge anyone with a prescription a cleaning fee just because you can?
“Well we know you smoke, so you have to pay.”
Makes me wonder if they would claim cigarette smoke if they knew my boyfriend smokes. Which come to think of it, if it was transfer from clothing, should have been just as prominent a smell if not more so.
At this point, I’m pretty sure that it’s complete bullshit. That they’re taking advantage of the fact that they know I can’t prove I didn’t smoke in the car since I cannot deny that I do in fact smoke.
To add insult to injury, the company goes back and changes the initial charge to my card, increasing it by $100. It overdrew my card, incurring a pretty hefty overdraft charge.
I contacted the corporate office, explaining the situation and am relieved to hear that they are investigating the issue. It takes a month for me to hear back, and of course added interest during all this time as I wait to resolve the matter.
Then I hear back
“We contacted the manager and he says there was a strong smell in the car and evidence of ashes so a refund is not warranted.”
So basically, their investigation consisted of them contacting the same person who is responsible for the whole situation to begin with, and then when he comes up with a new story, just taking his word for it.
Notice how he did it again? Now there are also ashes in the car. I swear this car seemed to be just generating a joint, every time he talks about it there is more of it there.
The kicker had to be though when a multimillion dollar company who had just essentially lied and stolen money from someone on a fixed income asked me to “understand their position.”
If you don’t want to be taken advantage of, stay away from Hertz. I never had these problems with Enterprise.