Q: I’m stuck in an endless loop with Hertz. I was charged $146 for parking at the Marriott in Manchester, England. The charge included administrative costs and a fine.
Marriott has acknowledged that the fine was an error, and I received an email to that effect. Hertz continues to ask for a ”receipt” for the payment, even though no payment was made. The charge was a mistake. My credit card company is indicating that, according to Hertz, it’s a valid charge. Can you help me get my $146 back?
Todd Brown, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
A: I’ve reviewed the paperwork between you, your hotel and Hertz. Allow me to fill in a few details before I try to fix this for you. First, parking was included as part of your stay at the Marriott. When you exited the parking garage, the gate swung open, so you exited. And that’s where the problems started. The hotel should have provided you with a validating ticket, or you should have presented your keycard. Instead, it appears that the parking management company took a snapshot of your rental car’s license plate and sent Hertz the bill.
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When you provided Hertz with an email from Marriott, you should have received a prompt refund. But there were several problems. First, this happened in the U.K., more than 3,000 miles from your home in Pennsylvania. Yes, it involved two American corporations, but they had European divisions through which they had to channel the request. Making matters even more complicated, you had already initiated a credit card dispute – typically, one of the last options in resolving a complaint – and your credit card issuer had already ruled in Hertz’s favor, even though it was the wrong decision.
Instead of initiating a dispute, I might have escalated this to one of the customer-service managers. I list the Hertz executive contacts (elliott.org/company-contacts/hertz/) and Marriott higher-ups (elliott.org/company-contacts/marriott/) on my consumer-advocacy site. You might have tried appealing this to one of them.
The problem here, as I see it, is that no one wanted to take responsibility for your problem. Hertz would need to make a call to the parking-garage operator and then patch in the hotel in order to get the charge removed, an action that surely would require a little research on its part. Simply put, there’s no financial incentive to go out of its way for you, especially since the credit card company had already resolved this in Hertz’s favor. And Marriott didn’t want to pay you out of its pocket because parking was included in your rate (or as they say in the travel industry, it’s ”free”).
This was a no-win situation for you. Your next step would have been to take Hertz to small-claims court, and that wasn’t worth your time. I contacted Hertz on your behalf, and it refunded the extra $146 you had to spend on parking.
Email Christopher Elliott at email@example.com.