Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
If companies are people too, they should have a conscience.
Sadly, this seems to be lacking even in some of the biggest corporations.
And no, I’m not specifically referring to airlines. At least, not today.
Instead, welcome to Hertz.
The car rental company discovered a wizard wheeze, one that generated them a lot of money. I wrote about this recently.
Should you rent a car from Hertz and go through an electronic toll booth, you’ll activate the Plate Pass — a toll payment device — so conveniently placed in your car.
Naturally, anything convenient offered by a large corporation also inspires a convenience fee.
In the case of this Hertz Plate Pass, it’s $ 4.95 a day, up to a maximum $ 24.95 — yes, Hertz has mercy at this point.
But here’s the really fun aspect of this. Once you go through a single toll, Hertz keeps charging you that convenience fee every single day of your trip, even if you never go through a toll again.
Oddly enough, Hertz is now getting sued.
As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the City of San Francisco believes that this is a clear case of fraud.
The city says that if you go across the Golden Gate Bridge, there are no manual toll-takers. So if you’ve rented a car from Hertz, you feel as if you have no choice but to use Plate Pass. Hertz, says the city, tries to make it difficult for you to learn about the charges, as the Plate Pass details are hidden on page 4 of the rental documents.
The city’s math goes like this: if you go through the Golden Gate Bridge toll once a day for five days, you should pay $ 37.50. But if you rent a car from Hertz and Plate Pass is triggered, you suddenly get a credit card charge for $ 62.25.
“I am not going sit back and allow one of the largest rental car companies on the planet to take advantage of a world-renowned San Francisco icon to rip off thousands of California visitors and residents,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera told the Chronicle.
The city argues that customers simply aren’t told about the charges until they get their bill.
I asked Hertz how it could possibly justify such glorious gouging. I will update, should the company respond.
It’s not as if Hertz is the only rental car company that tries to get away with such charges. Herrera, however, decided it was the worst offender. (Yes, Avis is slightly cheaper on the gouge front.)
I can hear you quizzically musing: “Yes, but if there are only electronic tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge, what are drivers supposed to do?”
Oddly enough, the city thought of that. All you have to do is go online. You can either buy toll passes in advance. Or you can pay online, by phone or even at cash payment locations up to two days after you’ve been through the toll.
But unless visitors to San Francisco do their research, they likely don’t know about it. Which is where Hertz begins to rub its hands in glee.
The Chronicle quoted several customers who thought Hertz was behaving badly.
What rental car companies and airlines seem to have decided, though, is that loyalty to the brand doesn’t matter.
They prefer to maximize their revenue on each single transaction. One can conceive that, in this case, Hertz gambled that the charges would appear on customers’ credit cards weeks after their rental, so people wouldn’t bother to quibble over $ 30 or even $ 60. And they don’t.
But when you multiply a lot of $ 60 together, you get a lot of dollars.
And now, Hertz has a lot of questions to answer.