Dollar Car Rental is Scamming Me For a $300 “Smoking” Fee

by Melissa R.
dollar car rental reviews

As most of  you know, I recently lost my father to lung cancer. You can read more about it here.  As if this loss is not difficult enough, I am also the executor of his will, add to this that his home is in Florida (I am in Ohio), and you can see why I might be a bit overwhelmed.

My Dollar Rental Fiasco

I had to take a trip to Florida this past week, and since his vehicle is at my house in Ohio where he passed, there is no vehicle at his home in Florida for me to drive. Needless to say, I would need a car to drive while in Florida. I rented a car through Dollar Rental when I booked my flight, and I picked the car up at the Orlando Airport Dollar Rental terminal. This was only after a flight delay due to the horrible weather we had, and my flight did not land until nearly 10:00 pm. At this time, they placed a $250 hold on my credit card, which is standard policy for many car rental companies. The hold is then released when the car is returned, assuming the contract terms had been followed.

I had the car for 2 1/2 days, drove it for exactly 147 miles, and this included the 45 minute drive to and from the airport. I then returned it, on time, no dents or dings, and with a full tank of gas.  The Dollar Rental employee who came to the car while I was getting my luggage out of the trunk asked me for the keys. He got in the car, checked a few things, got back out and closed the door. I said “everything good”? He said “yes”. He then pointed me to the direction of the airport.

The Phone Alert From My Credit Card Company

Once I got through airport security, I received an alert from my credit card company through the phone app that a charge came through from Dollar Rental in the amount of $300. Mind you, I had already paid for the car rental itself when I paid for my flight (it was only 60 some dollars, AND, they have the $250 security deposit held on my credit card. I did not have time to deal with them at that moment, as I had to catch my flight, so I made a mental note to call them later. UPDATE** They did finally remove the $250 hold they placed on my card, however, I am still fighting them on the “smoking fee”.

Exactly 2 1/2 Hours Later, I Called Dollar Rental

My husband picked me up from the airport, and I called Dollar Rental on the ride home to inquire about the $300 charge.  I was told that it was a cleaning fee because I smoked in the car! Are you a regular reader? If you are, then you know that I quit smoking the day after Labor Day last year. Yes, on September 4, 2018, I quit smoking.

I explained to the representative that I do not smoke, and that I would like reimbursed for the $300 fee that they placed on my credit card. She spoke in circles, but ultimately, she told me to call back in 24 hours. Huh? What does 24 hours have to do with the fact that I do not smoke?

I told her that the morning after renting the car, I did notice an odor like stale cigarettes, but I just blew it off that they don’t clean their cars very good. She said, “oh, did you contact roadside assistance?”. I said, “of course I did not call roadside assistance”, I mean I did not have a flat tire and I wasn’t being kidnapped by a handsome stranger, so how on earth would I know to call roadside assistance. When I asked her that question, she said, “it’s in your rental agreement”.

Right then, I knew I had a fight on my hands.

Since there is no use arguing with an already rude Dollar Rental associate, I decided it would be best to do what she asked.

24 Hours Later, I Call Dollar Rental Again…

So, today, just over 24 hours after calling the rental agency, I phoned them again. I again defended my case, and I was AGAIN told to call back in 24 hours. I stated that I was told that yesterday, hence the phone call today. He said, I understand your frustration (wait… do you? do you really understand my frustration? did Dollar Rental scam you out of $300?), but we have to wait 24 hours to see if the car is rented. If it’s not rented, then we know that it has been sent for cleaning, in which case the cleaning fee will not be reimbursed.

So let me get this straight; if you can’t rent your car out in 24 hours, that means that I smoked in it? By this point, I am beyond upset, and decided that I was not going to get anywhere if I let my b.i.t.c.h. attitude take over. I politely asked if I could speak to someone at the Orlando Airport Dollar Rental Terminal. He obliged, and transferred me.

1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, …… 25 minutes later, I hear this on the line:

the Verizon customer you are trying to reach is not available.

What the hell? I held for so long, that apparently my cell phone provider (Verizon) took over the call! Hopefully, to prevent me from holding for eternity.

I Google “Dollar Rental Phone Number Orlando Airport”. Google, as always, gives me what I need.

I call the Orlando airport Dollar Car rental number, and this is what I hear:

Due to unexpected circumstances, we are unable to answer your call.

It’s Time to Take Control – I Called My Credit Card Company

Finally, I get to speak with someone pleasant. Her name was Samantha, and she is a friendly employee at Capital One. I love Capital One for many reasons, but Samantha gave me one more reason to love them.

First, she asked me if she could review some charges that were made to my credit card, as they were being flagged as fraudulent. Of course, I say yes, and we review the charges. All of them were correct.

She then asked me what she could help me with. I explain the entire situation to her, and I asked if there is anything that Capital One can do for me to help fight these charges. She immediately said, “of course we can help”.

She then said that Dollar Rental had two pending charges on my account:

  1. The original $250 security deposit

  2. The $300 “cleaning fee”, or as stated on my receipt, “vehicle damage”

I explained both of the charges to her, and she asked if I could hold for a moment while she added some notes.

Less than a minute later, Samantha is back on the line, and she said that as soon as the charges post to my account (they are currently pending), I can call back and they will immediately begin a dispute with the car rental agency.

Now that is customer service!

I don’t know what will happen, but I do know that at least they are trying to help me get my $300 dollars back.

UPDATE** January 29, 2019

I phoned Dollar Car Rental again today, as it has now been plenty of time for them to determine whether or not “the car can be rented as is” or if it will need a good deep clean due to my potential chain-smoking in their rental car!

I again explained that I do not smoke, and I want to get this fee straightened around. I was told that they would refund me “HALF OF THE CLEANING FEE”, but that they would not refund the entire $300. I told her to go ahead and do that, because little does she know, I have already made other plans to hopefully get to the bottom of their scam! I will keep you posted as I work with my credit card company. At this point, I don’t care as much about the money as I do the principle.

UPDATE** January 30, 2019

Thanks to the Capital One phone app, I was alerted that my account had been credited a total of $300 by Dollar Rental, and as I mentioned earlier, the $250 security deposit hold had been lifted. Thanks to social media (specifically Twitter), I was able to fight the charges and I won.

Tips for Renting a Car

  • Never rent from Dollar Rental (ok, I had to say that because I will never again rent a car from them)
  • Always check the car for any dents, dings, low tires, gas gauge level, and most importantly, check for any odor in the car. If you find any of these things, immediately report it to an employee, and if necessary, refuse to take the car.
  • If at all possible, rent a car from outside of the airport. You tend to get better rates, and a more personalized service.
  • If you have auto insurance, check to make sure that it covers rental cars. Most of the time, it will, but always check first. If so, you can refuse rental insurance at the counter.
  • Use a credit card. Many car rental agencies will say that they accept debit cards, but you will have to jump through hoops to use it. Many times it’s a higher security deposit and a credit check. Also, many credit card companies automatically include rental insurance as part of the terms.
  • Never pre-pay for gas. Is it convenient? Absolutely, especially when you have to find a gas station near the airport, but you will pay hand-over-fist for the service.
  • They will also try and convince you to allow them to pay for tolls. Can you imagine the cost? I mean, toll roads are already expensive, and this is just another way for the car rental company to get more of your hard earned cash.
  • Always return the car when it is due to be returned. Late fees can be excessive. Their view is that they could have rented that car out again had you not been late returning it.

I hope that my nightmare experience with Dollar Rental gives you the information you need to avoid false charges, and still get away on that well-deserved vacation.





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