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Consumer Confidential: Hertz refused to let facts get in the way of an unwarranted late fee

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Mark Stanley makes his living advising corporate clients on how to improve their customer service. So it's fair to say he knows a thing or two about treating people right — especially if the goal is to expand business.

His recent experience with Hertz, therefore, should be taken not just as yet another horror story involving the formerly bankrupt rental car company, but also as a case study in how not to win friends and influence people.

"I travel about 150,000 miles a year. I know how these things should work," Stanley, 64, told me. "Hertz seemed more interested in collecting an unwarranted fee than in gaining a long-term customer."

To be sure, Hertz isn't the only rental car company that tries to push people around. I've received tales of woe involving Avis, Budget and other companies.

But Hertz, which also owns the Dollar and Thrifty brands, keeps turning up at the center of some of the most egregious examples of questionable corporate decision-making.

In June I related the story of a Los Angeles nonsmoker who was hit with a $400 smoking fee because a couple of attendants at a Hertz lot claimed they smelled smoke in the vehicle.

 

Hertz subsequently cut the fee in half but refused to eliminate it, even though the customer, Sean Dungan, was a member of its Gold Plus rewards program. Dungan told me he'd be switching to Enterprise.

Then, in July, I shared the story of a Utah woman who found a used condom in her Hertz rental car. Hertz acknowledged that "our cleanliness standards were not met in this situation," but nevertheless imposed a $50 cleaning fee for what it said was dog hair in the vehicle.

The woman, Faith Cenobio, told me she wasn't traveling with a dog. She said she'll never rent from Hertz again.

And now we come to Stanley, author of the book "Experience Design for Customer Service: How to Go From Mediocre to Great!"

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