I flew into ATL late Wednesday night, took the train to the rental car center and found out at the counter that Hertz was sold out of cars.
This was a Priceline reservation ($150 for 5 days vs. $250+ rack rate) and thus was prepaid. I made the reservation only about 3 hours prior to my arrival, but needless to say I was furious. Hertz.com was still showing availability as well, despite the lack of vehicles.
Hertz counter staff had us handwrite our names, addresses and emails on a blank sheet of paper and told us we'd receive compensation of some sort in the mail, although they didn't know exactly what kind of compensation. They advised me to call Priceline for assistance.
I called Priceline and they told me to rent a car elsewhere, save all receipts and they'd research with Hertz, refund both my original $150 plus the difference in price of the other car rental, once the rental was complete and I faxed in receipts.
So I went up to National, got into a brand new 2013 Passat (450 miles on the odometer--Hertz probably would have given me something with 30,000 miles), whipped out my Emerald Club card and was on my way.
Hertz must overbook by quite a high percentage for so many customers to be left without cars. Fortunately Priceline resolved this situation well, and since this was ATL, other rental agencies were easy to access in the giant consolidated rental garage.
I usually rent directly from National except when the price differential is so large. Definitely learned the "you get what you pay for" lesson this time.
Jul 27, 12, 6:37 am
this is what happened, hertz was sold out of cars and there was a minimum keep to bypass the sold out situation at hertz
Jul 27, 12, 6:45 am
Rental car companies (all of them!) would rather have more reservations than cars, as opposed to more cars than reservations.
If you can book a reservation or not is often based on projections and historical trends, not necessarily real time inventory. When inventory is low and demand is high, the price increases, but the "reservation" faucet still doesn't get shut off.
The attitude becomes "If someone is willing to pay $80/day for a compact car, we'll find a way to get them one".
Also, there are also some factors out of the control of the companies that may put them in the position where they are out of cars.
It sucks, but it's a fact of life. You can call your branch the day of the reservation and see what the situation is to make sure you'll have a car, and don't show up early or late for your reservation without calling first.
Jul 27, 12, 12:45 pm
While there is an endless list of excuses as to why they took a reservation and did not have a car, I don't buy any of them since this reservation was made just a few hours before you went to pick up the car.
They knew they were overbooked, and apparently, they did not care.According to a story in USA Today a few years ago
If no cars are available at all, the location's staff should provide alternate transportation to your destination, such as a taxi ride to your hotel. The company should then deliver your vehicle as soon as possible. If that's not feasible, you can rent from a different agency, and if your new rental price is higher, the car rental company you originally booked with should reimburse you for the difference. This may require some negotiation, as technically the remuneration standard applies only to rentals of similar cars, and in a pinch, you might not have many choices.
I would try to get Hertz to cough up something other than a logo keychain or whatever trinket they send you.
It's also great that Priceline will take care of you.
Jul 27, 12, 2:32 pm
In NYC, I have run into the issue of trying to make a last minute reservation using the AmEx Platinum CDP at one of the Manhattan locations only to find that there are no cars available. Fortunately, my corporate CDP magically makes cars appear as our reservations are guaranteed.
Curious to hear what form of comp your receive for this. National is pretty generous with $ off coupons. I have heard Hertz prefers to pay in points.
Jul 29, 12, 2:08 am
If you can book a reservation or not is often based on projections and historical trends, not necessarily real time inventory.
The reservation system is NOT coupled to the rental management system!
These days, reservation systems are largely automated (an automated system shops the competition and updates the rates based on what it finds out). However, while the reservation system is programmed with certain parameters that determine rates and availability, those parameters are input MANUALLY by an analyst who should be checking the actual inventory in the rental management system to make sure the parameters are keeping things on track.
If a parameter in the reservation system is set incorrectly or was overlooked by the analyst, the reservation system has NO WAY of knowing that the actual rental inventory is negative. A glitch can leave the flood gates open and hundreds of reservations can flow in for cars that don't exist.
The rest of jaguar1's post is 100% accurate, too. Rental rate management is an art, not a science. At a station with at least 500 or so cars (which is most every jet-serviced airport in the U.S.), vehicle availability is very fluid, since cars are coming and going all the time (often--actually, usually--not at all when they are expected to, since no one ever picks up or returns their cars on time). Within even just a few minutes, a dozen or so cars can be returned, taken through the wash, and placed out on the ready line. If you happen to be there 5 minutes before that, then you might think you're sunk; show up 5 minutes later and there's no wait for a car.
That all said, if the rental company doesn't have your car, then (as illustrated in this thread) it is entirely a fair expectation to be taken care of through whatever means necessary at a minimum of hassle and no additional cost to you.
Jul 29, 12, 4:07 am
Reservation systems usually have both an "authorized" level to sell as well as inventory availability. Yes, the adjustments are usually manual (drop offs from other cities, returns to other cities, etc.), but the rental car company is playing the same overbooking game based on no-shows.
When the airlines overbook, they have to pay DBC. Maybe some social activist will ask the new consumer protection agency to mandate the same policy for the car companies. ;)
Jul 29, 12, 7:28 am
This whole situation reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry tells the car rental agent "you know how to take a reservation, but you don't know how to keep a reservation!" I'll update you all when I receive a final resolution from Hertz and Priceline.
It would have been nice if Priceline could have just transferred the reservation somehow to Avis or National, but as long as the refund process goes through smoothly it will be the same end result.
Jul 29, 12, 8:27 am
I was also a victim about a month ago where there were no cars but plenty of gold patrons waiting at the ATL garage. Management told me that in addition to cars not being returned on time, they had recently been caught by a large number of vehicles that had expired tags. While there were cars in the garage, many would have been illegal to operate. That, to me, was more troublesome since they should never have a car out of service for lack of proper paperwork.
Jul 30, 12, 8:26 pm
The exact same story happened to me at Hertz in Atlanta last Thanksgiving except that I made the prepaid reservation on Hotwire the night before.
Needless to stay that I came out golden on that, especially after I demonstrated them that their subsidiary Advantage still had cars and were renting them at the same time my prepaid reservation was denied/declined.
You should call the DOT for an IDB...
Jul 31, 12, 1:28 am
I would imagine it's similar to an airline selling more tickets on a flight than seats available.
Sep 22, 12, 10:21 am
I finally received the last part of my refund from Priceline yesterday--almost two months since the rental date and with many hassles along the way!
After I got back home from Atlanta on July 29, I faxed my receipts from Priceline and from National to the Priceline customer service center (outsourced to either India or the Philippines). They investigated and issued a refund for the $150 Priceline charge back to my American Express card about two weeks later. Around the same time, the Hertz ATL station manager mailed a $100 off voucher valid systemwide through July 31, 2013.
Priceline's outsourced customer service reps initially denied a refund of the extra $100 I had to pay to rent from National, claiming that I didn't rent the exact same vehicle. I explained that National upgraded me for free and explained the "Class Driven = Full Size" but "Class Charged = Intermediate", but as is customary with foreign call centers, the agents had no discretion to change anything.
I ended up calling Priceline headquarters in Norwalk, Connecticut and spoke with an US-based employee in "executive customer service," who within 5 minutes authorized a refund of the extra $100 and said it would post to my Amex within 7 business days. That refund actually took over two weeks, but posted yesterday.
Whew. This was a major inconvenience with lots of time spent on the phone, but it was eventually resolved well. I've used Priceline for many years and never had a problem until now.
Sep 24, 12, 12:09 am
same thing happened to me many times in ATL. both airport and non-airport locations
Sep 24, 12, 5:50 am
The place was totally sold out on Saturday again. No cars ready, no names on the board, everyone had to wait. Some customers in front of me were really angry, they had to wait up to 2hours for a car. It took them 40 minutes to prepare a Genesis for me, I took it just to get on my way.