Thursday, August 11, 2011
August 11, 2011
Dollar Rent A Car, Inc.
Attn: Customer Service 2W2
P.O. Box 33167
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74153-1167
Dear Customer Service
I recently had a Dollar Rent-a-Car rental at the airport in Cancun Mexico. The rental period was from August 3, 2011 through August 9, 2011; a six-day rental.
At the time I made my reservation online at www.dollar.com I was quoted a rate of $78 US for the six day period. This was by far the cheapest rate quote I had received from any of the major rental car companies so I accepted the rate and made the reservation. At no time during the reservation process was there any mention of “extras” like “mandatory” insurance or a 15 percent airport fee or anything else. I was led to believe by your own online information that I was going to get rental car for 6 days for $78US. Pretty good deal, huh?
Imagine my surprise on arriving at your counter at the Cancun airport to find out that the $78 US quote had inadvertently not included the “mandatory” collision insurance that cost me an additional $72 US for the rental period. I explained to the rental agent in Cancun that my American Express card covered all of my insurance needs on foreign rentals (I got this directly from American Express before traveling to Mexico – their insurance, they said, covered liability, damage, medical, and everything else). Not wanting to delay my vacation any longer I reluctantly accepted the $72 US insurance. This brought my rate up to $150 US a week. This was certainly not what I was told by Dollar but it still was a reasonable rate.
Before leaving the airport on August 3 I noted on the rental agreement that the car was ¾ full of gasoline. However when the car was presented to me it had maybe 1/8 of a tank of gas in it. Dollar never changed this on the rental agreement. Instead they just smiled at me. I immediately purchased gasoline and brought back the car completely full.
During the rental period at one of my gasoline refilling stops I was informed by a Pemex gas station employee that the oil level in the car was so low that it wasn’t registering on the dipstick. This made sense because the car had been running hot for the last day or so.To confirm this I put the dipstick in the engine myself, removed it, and looked at the level. Sure enough, there was no oil showing on the dipstick. Rather than letting your car explode from no oil in it I purchased 3 liters of oil from Pemex for the extortionate rate of $400 Mexican pesos (at the current exchange rate of 11.02 Pesos per dollar that is $36.36 or $12.12US per liter). This brought the oil level up to just over the “add” line. At least your car engine wasn’t going to throw a rod. I made a mental note to make sure I brought this up with your agent at the Cancun airport.
On my return to the Cancun airport on August 9, 2011 I first told your rental agent about the car being without oil on the dipstick. He informed me that this was a common scam among Pemex gasoline stations in Tulum, Playa del Carmen and in Cancun. The idea is to convince a traveler that their car is out of oil and then sell them high-priced oil. Only problem is – I saw the dipstick before he put in oil and I saw it after 3 liters were put in and only after 3 liters were added did it register there was enough oil to proceed. Your rental agent told me that “we get one renter a day who gets scammed like this.”
I asked your rental agent that if this supposed scam is so common why are they not warning renters about it before they leave the rental car lot. His reply was that in the future I should check the oil level before I drive off the lot.
I was born in the morning, just not yesterday morning. It is pretty obvious to me that the oil level was dangerously low in the car, that Dollar sent me out on strange highways with a car that was not adequately equipped, and when confronted with this fact, Dollar decided to blame me for the mistake.
After discussing the oil issue I was handed the final bill. It is attached for your reference. It was $2,657.37 Mexican Pesos. At the current exchange rate of 11.02 pesos per dollar that translates to $239.32 US.
That is one hell of a lot more than the original “guaranteed” rate of $78 US that I was quoted when I made the reservation. In fact it is $161 US more than the original rate.
I know from past experiences with other rental car companies who deceive their customers in foreign locations that you will come back with one of two standard refrains. Most likely it will be 1) We weren’t present at the time of rental so we don’t know what actually was quoted (this in spite of the fact that you can look up my original rental and see that you quoted me $78 US for the six days), or 2) The Dollar office at the Cancun airport isn’t really a Dollar office. It’s just an affiliate (This in spite of the great big sign saying “Dollar Rent a Car” over the door, the sticker on my keys saying “Dollar Rent a Car” and even the “Dollar Rent a Car emblem on the attached receipt for the $239.32 US I paid for this $78 rental. Because it’s not a real Dollar office you can’t be held responsible for what goes on there.
That of course is pure bullshit because this rental began at www.dollar.com which, if I am not mistaken, is your company’s website for making reservations such as the one I made.
I am not writing to request an adjustment on the bill because you snookered me. There is no doubt several corporate policies against doing so. After all its more important to overcharge someone $161 US than to ever have them rent from you again. I am writing however to request that in the future you come clean with people when they are making reservations on your website and tell them UPFRONT what all the costs are going to be. I am also requesting that you instruct your staff in the Cancun airport to begin telling your customers about this alleged scam with Pemex claiming that their car is out of oil. My guess is that when you start demanding that of your staff in Cancun suddenly Pemex will not be so remiss any longer.
The one thing I am doing with this letter is returning my Dollar Express card # 0100265565 because this is far and away the very last time I will ever EVER rent a vehicle from Dollar. I plan to post this letter on my blog (www.watchingthesunbake.blogspot.com) and also post it on my Facebook page so other travelers know up front what a less than reputable organization they are dealing with at Dollar.