Have we been ripped off by Hertz SFO??

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May 1, 2018
- We got charged $60 per day for upgrading from an intermediate SUV to a full size SUV.

- The original reservation was for $960. We ended up paying $2030, effectively doubled the total bill.

- We feel that we were over-charged as an full sized SUV would be only $980 if only we reserved online, and would be normally $20-$30 per day in Ultimate Choice stall upgrade.

- We also feel that facts were mis-represented to us to upsell the upgrade to us. At one point we were signing a contract for a full-size SUV upgrade at $120 per day EXTRA in addition to the original price.

Apologies for the rather long post that I already posted in TripAdvisor.



  • For our family holiday in California we made a reservation for a 2 weeks mid-sized SUV car rental at $960 including all insurance, picking up at SFO and dropping off at LAX. My own fault brought too much luggage as we had a family of 5 (strollers, 2 big suit case and 3 small suit case etc.) for the car we reserved, so asked for an upgrade to the class above.
  • What then transpired was one of the worst experiences in customer service and ripping off ones own customers that I have seen in over 20 years of world-wide travel.

I will not be using Hertz’s services again and will certainly share my experience in the hope that others may learn from my experience also.

  1. We checked in at SFO Hertz rental around 6pm after a 11 hour flight from the UK with not much sleep;
  2. It was obvious that to the CSR (customer service rep) that with our 5 suit cases + stroller + two baby seats that the car is not going to be big enough. Said to us that he will do us a good deal when we come back to get another car. Asked for a car upgrade as a 5-star member but was told there was no full-size cars available for a free upgrade. We said thanks and went to our Jeep Compass.
  3. As soon as we arrived at the car it was obvious the boot was too small, so I went back and ask for another car that’s got a larger boot;
  4. Guess what! We do have a full-sized SUV for you, let me look in the system for you. Yes, it’ll be $150 extra per day. But, but that’ll be over $3000! Yes, indeed sir, that’s the cost of the upgrade. Nothing else is available, nothing cheaper? This is over 3 times what we were expecting to pay! No sir, but let me check with my manager and see what we can do for you. Great news sir, we have agreed to reduce to only $120 per day. But this is still over $2600! Yes sir indeed. Nothing else is available? Nothing cheaper? We only need a larger boot for our luggage. No sir.
  5. At this point the kids are grumpy and we are tired and not thinking straight, so OK, let’s just get out of here. We went to the stall and found a 7-seater Highlander, put the third-row of seats down, loaded up our luggage, then realised that there are only two seats in the back! We have three kids!
  6. So back to the counter again, sorry sir that didn’t work? No problem sir, tell you what, we have another great offer for you, a Mercedes SUV, but we’ll give that to you at the same price of $2680! At this point my wife was getting exasperate and the kids were getting even more grumpy and just wanted to get out of hertz to have a rest at our hotel. Can we have the original mid-size suv please at the previous reservation price and we’ll just make do for one day and sort something out. Really sorry sir, cant do that now, that car previously allocated is now allocated to someone else, and that’s not available now. please sign this new contract sir and the Mercedes is at this stall. Nothing cheaper available? No sir.
  7. So we went over to the new car, loaded up our suit cases and baby seats for the third time, then the CSR dashed out and said sorry sir, we cannot give you this car. Why? The registration expires in one week, and your reservation is for two weeks! Ok, why didn’t you tell me earlier! But got another car for you sir, this grand Cherokee, and please sign here sir. Oh, and I’ll help you with the luggage also. Only when I signed the new contract did I notice that now magically, this will be only $60 per day! But I thought you said there was nothing else? Noting cheaper?
  8. At this point it’s well past 8pm and we were past the point of caring also.
  9. After 2.5 hours and loading/unloading 5 suit cases + stroller + two baby seats into/ from 4 different cars while looking after 3 small children we finally drove away;
  10. The rest of the holiday was great and we had fun with friends and sight-seeing. It’s not until we got back to the UK that I checked the receipt that I noticed the $125 premium roadside service that we refused on the original reservation, on the first and second car, but it appeared again in the last contract for the car we drove away.
  11. We then checked a reservation with the same itinerary but with a full-sized SUV, it’s only $990.
  12. After going over what transpired we decided to write to Hertz.

As consumers we feel ripped off. Paying more than twice the original reservation price, $1080 more in fact to upgrade to one class above, full-size SUV which would be only $20-$30 extra if reserved online ($990 in fact for exactly the same itinerary which we checked later online but with a full-size SUV);

As a gold member for many years and now a 5-star, I do not feel valued at all. In fact we feel cheap, used and taken advantage of. The CSR concerned was more interested at maximising their commission for the upsell rather than listening to what we need. We would like to applaud the staff member who assisted us to be recognised as salesman of the month as he recognised that we had no choice but to upgrade due to our size of luggage, and managed to milk $2030 out of an original $960 reservation. If not for a few mishaps he would have done a $3000 upsell. But we are still seething with anger and frustration to this day.

Reviewing now what transpired we feel that the price and product was mis-sold to us, and facts were misrepresented to us in order to make the upsell.

We wrote to hertz to ask them to address the following questions:
  • What is the average price paid by Hertz customers for an upgrade from a mid to full-size SUV;
  • Was it factually accurate that there were no cars available at a cheaper upgrade, a minivan or others, at the point of each offer, the Toyota Highlander, followed by the Mercedes and finally the Grand Cherokee;
  • Is it normal practice to add extras, premium roadside in this case, to every new offer despite being refused repeatedly previously?

But not sure what more I can do? The contract has my signature, and there’s no evidence backing up my experiences.

Hertz customer rep has refunded the $150 premium roadside service but said prices of the upgrade fluctuates and is what it is.
Nov 27, 2017
Let me try to see if I understand. You had reserved a mid sized SUV, but over packed (I do that a lot, so totally understand), and asked for an upgrade to a full size SUV for free. There wasn't one that Hertz could give you as a free upgrade, but there was a charge. Because you are a 5 Star member, you feel that Hertz should have charged you what they had listed on their reservation site. Is that correct? Did you check the same dates? There are times when the cost of the different size of vehicles do fluctuate.


Verified Member
Jan 5, 2015
A few notes on car rentals - if you can get an off the airport location it is usually a lot cheaper due to airport taxes. Hard to do with a family but that is an option.

When I did a sample reservation at the same location they quoted me a Pay Now rate of $469.06 per week ($1,277 total) for the "Midsize SUV". Which is clost to what you all paid, if you booked further in advance than I looked up that rate may be lower.

Looking down the screen there are three classes of large SUV available, the cheapest of which is the luxury class that you ended up with, at $654 per week or $1,739.21 total for the pay now rate. Pay later is $2,032.90. When I do the same timeframe for immediate pickup, the luxury SUV is $2552.38 - about what you paid. So I don't see where they milked you out of anything regarding the price of the SUV rented. They offered what they had and you accepted it, then someone else got your original vehicle that you turned down. It sounds to me like they were trying to work with you. When you do a "walk up" like that you're hostage to what they have, unfortunately, and when comparing pricing you do have to do a "like for like" comparision. In other words, it's variable pricing, which in my experience is pretty common even internationally.

Regarding the refused roadside servivce, that you do have a legitimate beef on, but it looks like Hertz took care of you on that, and I can easily think this was simply a mistake. You can use our company contacts at the top of the page but I would recommend researching carefully the cost difference, like for like yourself vs. asking them to do it for you, and then asking for a partial refund based on that.

I don't mean to sound unsympathetic - I used to travel a lot internationally and am well aquainted with the desire to eat/shower/sleep after such a long haul.
May 1, 2018
Many thanks for taking the time to respond and help, much appreciated.

- Agreed that being 5-star member is irrelevant here, as upgrade is only up to full size car, not SUV.
- We cannot understand the discrepancy between the upgrade price as given online ($30 for the same dates, we did check and we have Marriott discount code which may explain the low price we got), or even at Ultimate Choice stall, which for one class upgrade is usually $20-30, and the $150 to $120 to $60 that we were presented with within the space of two hours;
- We checked the car classes, The toyota highlander and Grand Cherokee are both full-size SUVs, not premium SUV. one was offered at $120 and the other which we ended up with, was at $60. We would be interested to know what's the average mid to full upgrade price paid by Hertz customers.

While we understand a customer is at Hertz's mercy once they walk up to the counter, we do feel that the incentive to upsell rather than helping us was behind our experience.

As mentioned elsewhere in another forum, I think a company should be judged by how it treats its most hapless customer rather than it's most knowledgeable, and I am not sure the CSR and the experience we had lives up to the customer service centric values that Hertz profess as its corporate values.


Verified Member
Jan 5, 2015
As mentioned elsewhere in another forum, I think a company should be judged by how it treats its most hapless customer rather than it's most knowledgeable, and I am not sure the CSR and the experience we had lives up to the customer service centric values that Hertz profess as its corporate values.
And this, right here, along with a brief, factual description of the basics, is what you need to communicate to Hertz.
Sep 19, 2015
I am sorry that your car rental turned into such a mess.

What I see as problematic is that you have already posted this on Tripadvisor, complete with the title "Ripped off at Hertz SFO". That may not work in your favor. Additionally you posted that you have initiated a credit card charge back? If that is in progress there may not be any willingness to offer a partial refund.
Likes: Neil Maley


Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
San Francisco
The agent gave you the "walk-up" rate for the bigger SUV and got a very nice bonus for doing so. Car rental companies know that you're tired, late, hungry, eager to depart ... and they take full advantage of it. I upgrade my rental cars often, but I calculate the full extra cost before I agree to it. Rarely am I charged more than 20% or so for a much larger vehicle (Chevy Tahoes are a favorite), and I rent from whichever company Costco shows the best rate for at the time of the res.
Jul 27, 2016
A few thoughts for anyone reading this thread, although they unfortunately won't help the letter writer. He mentioned Ultimate Choice. Did he check the UC area for 5* to see if there was anything that would have suited his needs? Also, did he check the upgrade area, where he could have upgraded (often to a luxury vehicle) for a flat $35/day?

Finally, in situations like this, it's a good idea to pull out your phone and check what a reservation for immediate pickup for the vehicle you need is costing. If it's reasonable, just book it, and cancel the older reservation.
May 1, 2018
So, I wrote the following to Hertz again, this time also inserted Hertz internal code of conduct which I found online.

Dear Donna,

Many thanks for your reply.

We have mentioned elsewhere online that a company's true character is judged by how it treats its most hapless customer.

We believe what we have been charged, and the way we have been treated does not live up to the standards of ethics that Hertz, which is fair treatment and honest communication. We have attached Hertz's Standards of Business Conduct and relevant section highlighted on page 6. At $120 extra per day to $60 per day within the space of 1 hour, we believe this is way outside the norm of the average price paid for an upgrade. at Ultimate choice stalls from other customer feedback the upgrade price would be no more than $20-30 for one class upgrade.

We are quite disappointed with this response and respectfully request that $30 x 14 days = $420 be refunded.

Best regards

Another rep, Mona got back to me and refunded $281.56 as a gesture of concern.

Not too sure how that amount is derived and there's no explanation of course.