Too many drop-off dollars


Q: My husband and I reserved a car from Dollar Rent a Car for a trip from Orlando to New York. I made the booking online to pick up the car at Orlando International Airport and return it to LaGuardia Airport. When we got to the counter, the Dollar employee had great difficulty with the reservation, and told us — as an apology for taking nearly 45 minutes to process the reservation — that he’d never before attempted a one-way, out-of-state rental.

The agent presented us with the contract and quickly snatched it up after we’d signed it. I didn’t notice at the time that the agent had mistakenly listed Orlando as our drop-off city. I feel fairly certain that it was his first day on the job, as the car was also “lost” once the transaction was finally completed.

My husband and I had to wander the Orlando parking lot looking for the car. When we finally located it, I went back to the parking booth and let an attendant know we’d found it. I asked what we should do, and she told us, “If the key fits, just take it.”

About a month later, my credit card statement came with an additional fee of $350 for returning the car to LaGuardia. I disputed the charge with my credit card company, but it denied my claim when Dollar sent it a copy of my contract. I have tried repeatedly to contact Dollar, but its Florida customer service department will not return my calls. Can you help me?

— Chelsea Grogan, Forest Hills, NY

A: It sounds like more than one employee was new to the job that day. Taking 45 minutes to complete a reservation? “If the key fits, just take it”? If they’re looking for extras on the next “Airplane!” movie, they should just start here.

I contacted Dollar to find out what happened. It confirmed that you planned to pick up your car in Orlando and return it to LaGuardia. For that reason, you were given a rental rate that included a drop-off charge, so you shouldn’t have been billed for anything more.

What puzzles me is that you lost your credit card dispute. That’s absurd. Your credit card company should have sided with you on this, but once Dollar showed it a contract, it rolled over and played dead. Here’s where keeping good paperwork can really pay off. When you made your reservation, you should have printed out the terms of your rental and kept the printout in a safe place until your credit card charges were processed. The printout would have contradicted the contract you received at the counter, which might have persuaded your credit card company to see things your way.

The second, and more important issue is the contract. If the rental agent took 45 minutes to come up with a contract, what was the rush in snatching it away? Hold on to the document. Take your time and really read it. If there’s something wrong, this is your best opportunity to clear things up. Dollar should have taken a look at your reservation record, which would have supported your story. Just because you hastily signed a contract doesn’t mean that you agreed to pay an additional drop-off charge.

Needless to say, your credit card company did a pitiful job following up on your complaint. It took Dollar’s statements at face value, never bothering to listen to your side of the story. Do yourself a big favor and change cards.

“It is apparent there was confusion on the part of our rental agent, and we are truly sorry for the delays and inefficiencies Ms. Grogan encountered,” Christine Sheeran, Dollar’s manager for international customer service, told me. She also assured me that the transaction you experienced “is not at all typical of the excellent level of service we strive to provide.”

Dollar credited your credit card for $425.19, which represents the drop-off charge plus related taxes and fees. It also waived the additional driver fee “as a customer service gesture.” That’s $75 off the price of your rental, which I think is a perfectly adequate apology.