Hertz has had a rough few years. I mean, the company literally went bankrupt during the pandemic. It doesn't get much worse than that, but things certainly haven't gotten better.
The company is facing allegations that it was reporting its vehicles as stolen, even though they were lawfully rented by people who ended up getting arrested. The allegations say that Hertz is apparently so bad at keeping track of its vehicle inventory that it was just easier to report things as stolen whenever the company lost track of a rental--even when it was the companies' employees at fault.
Now, a viral Twitter thread details the experience a couple and their dog went through trying to rent a car over Thanksgiving to visit family. The entire experience, shared by Kate Klonick, an assistant professor at St. John's University School of Law, is worth the read.
The short version--or at least the shortest version that will do it justice--is that she arrived at a Hertz location in Brooklyn on time for her rental just before noon on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and got in a line with 15 other customers. After two hours, she was turned away after the Hertz employee stopped filling reservations. Apparently, the location closed at noon, despite having customers with confirmed reservations still waiting for their vehicles.
Klonick and her partner and their dog were told that they could, instead, get a vehicle at another location. After loading into an Uber, and heading to LaGuardia Airport, she was told that a rental vehicle was available but that they wouldn't honor the original reservation. Instead, it would be $1,800, or almost five times the price.
The couple headed back into New York City in another Uber, and, after multiple calls to customer service, was told that Hertz would honor the original price for a vehicle at another location the following morning. Upon arrival, however, they were told that they didn't have a reservation. They were able to find her a vehicle, though at twice the cost of her original reservation.
If you've followed this far, you can imagine how frustrating this must have been. Holiday travel is stressful enough without feeling trapped and extorted by a company that doesn't seem to care whether you're a customer or not.
By the time I connected with Klonick, her thread had been retweeted more than 11,000 times and had roughly 100,000 likes. Judging by the response on Twitter, this isn't uncommon for Hertz.
In fact, Klonick said that Hertz employees told her that the company does this on purpose. At the location where she was finally able to rent a vehicle, the employee told her that the original location may have stopped helping customers "because she knew they were overbooked and they ran out of cars, but this way they can make it seem like it's your fault because you showed up 'late to the reservation.'"
"This happens all the time," she writes that the employee told her. "Customer service has no idea of our inventory, and no one ever picks up the phone at the desks. They just overbook things."
I asked Hertz whether this is a policy, or if it's just something that happened to this customer, though it didn't provide an answer to my question. In a statement, Hertz did tell me the following:
Hertz cares deeply about our customers, and we regret Ms. Klonick's experience, which does not reflect our standards of service. We have spoken with her to apologize and refunded the rate difference. We are investigating the situation to better understand what occurred so we can take any necessary corrective actions.
In the event we're unable to provide the reserved vehicle class at the confirmed time, it's our policy to make every reasonable effort to assist the customer, which may include providing a comparable vehicle at the same rate if available, moving a vehicle from another location in close proximity, delivering a vehicle to the customer, paying for a taxi or sourcing a vehicle from a competitor if at an airport. When these options are available, we would extend the same rate.
Unfortunately, that statement didn't address whether the original location was right to refuse to honor the reservation even though the customer had met all of the requirements and arrived on time to pick up her vehicle. In New York State, the company is required to honor your reservation if you show up on time.
After her tweets gained so much attention, Hertz called Klonick and refunded the difference in rate to her credit card. Setting aside that she asked them to also refund the several hundred dollars of additional expenses, including multiple Uber trips to different locations to pick up a vehicle (which the statement says the company would reimburse), wouldn't it have been a lot easier to simply build a company that does the right thing for the customer the first time? That seems easier than making them share a five-page letter on Twitter to get the company to respond.
Klonick says that her main reason for sharing the experience was to highlight the issue for others who might have had a similar experience but don't have the ability to get the attention of a massive corporation when things go wrong.
Her experience, as well as that of those who say the company reported their rental vehicles stolen would seem to indicate Hertz is letting its poor internal systems and technology create a terrible experience for its customers. Given the experiences shared on Twitter, it appears that Hertz has cultivated a culture that believes its customers are simply an inconvenience to be dealt with--a burden to be managed. If you think of your customers that way, you're most certainly doing it wrong.