DEAR TRAVEL CAREER: I recently booked a rental car with Dollar through Priceline. My car didn’t have a front or rear license plate so I had to take it back to the rental agency that night.
The second car Dollar gave me was not the size I reserved. It was too small to accommodate my passengers. The next day, I finally got Dollar to agree to give me the vehicle I had reserved, a mid-size SUV.
A rep told me to take my car back for another trade. But instead of exchanging the vehicle, Dollar treated my exchange as an early return. A representative then told me that I would have to pay for another reservation if I wanted a car. A Priceline rep promised I would get a refund. But, Dollar said I voluntarily returned the car, which is not true.
I’ve spoken to Dollar and Priceline for the past two weeks, trying – at the very least – to get a refund for the days I couldn’t use my rental. Both keep telling me they don’t have my money and the other entity owes me a refund. I tried to dispute the charge with my bank, but received no help.
— Vivian Everhart, Houston
ANSWER: You should have gotten the car you booked from Dollar. Instead they handed you the keys to a rental with no plates and then canceled your next reservation. Go on!
But, things went wrong on both sides of the counter. When picking up a rental, the first thing you should do before leaving the establishment is to inspect it carefully and take pictures. If you had, you would probably have noticed the missing plates. Thus, you would not have had to return your first rental.
If the first vehicle needs to be replaced for any reason, you must ensure that the new car meets your specifications before accepting it. If you had just said “no” to the second rental, you might have avoided this problem as well.
It looks like you had a prepaid rental, meaning you had already paid Priceline for the three days you were supposed to rent the vehicle. So when you returned the car, Dollar simply leased you a new one and kept the money from your old car. Then it looks like he tried to push the blame onto Priceline to fix the problem. I think everyone was a little confused.
Priceline has misunderstood your refund request. He tried to negotiate your refund request with Dollar, but the rental car company claimed they gave you the wrong vehicle. He had initially. But this car had no plates. Priceline issued you a $25 gift card to make up for the problem. But, you wanted – and were entitled to – a refund for the two days lost.
I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of Priceline and Dollar executives on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/priceline/ and www.elliott.org/company-contacts/hertz/. A short, polite email might have moved your refund into the fast lane.
I contacted Priceline on your behalf. Priceline contacted Dollar again. “We were able to obtain a Dollar refund on behalf of the customer, which was processed to their credit card,” a Priceline spokeswoman told me.
Christopher Elliott is the Advocacy Director of Elliott Advocacy, a non-profit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or [email protected]
(c) 2022 Christopher ElliottDistributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.