Q. I’m contacting you about a $932 fee added to my car rental bill by Thrifty. The fee is for returning my rental vehicle to the wrong airport terminal in Minneapolis.
When I made the reservation, I selected Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport as the return spot. The whole time, I had in my head that we would return to the MSP main terminal. I never looked closely at the rental agreement. I returned to the Minneapolis airport, and it didn’t even occur to me there would be two rental locations.
The terminals are 3.8 driving miles apart. Someone could have and should have said to me to drive the vehicle to the correct terminal. I would have been able and happy to do so with no problem.
This is not the same kind of hardship for a car rental business as when a customer returns a vehicle across town or in a different city. This was a simple 3.8 miles and was within the same Minneapolis airport system. This is not like the difference between Chicago Midway or O’Hare (which have different airport codes).
This is the same MSP airport system, and the terminals are 3.8 miles apart. A $932 charge for such a short distance and honest mistake is too harsh and abusive. Can you help me get my money back?
MATT OYEN, Little Canada, Minn.
A. This is such a strange case; I could hardly believe it. I reviewed your rental agreement and it said you would return your car to Terminal 2 at the Minneapolis airport.
This was a one-way rental that you picked up in Santa Ana, Calif. So, it wasn’t as if you intentionally returned the vehicle to the wrong place. It looks like you just asked your phone for directions to the Thrifty return in Minneapolis, and it brought you there. But this was the wrong terminal.
Someone should have said something to you. And a further review of your paper trail shows that you did speak with someone who promised you a refund. But you didn’t get the promise in writing, and the refund never came.
I’m really puzzled by your case. It’s true, car rental companies routinely charge extra fees when you drop a vehicle off at the wrong location. But almost $1,000 for 4 miles seems excessive. By my calculations, that works out to $245 per mile. Come on!
By the time you contacted me, you had already reached out to the state attorney general’s office and contacted a lawyer. A lawyer from the attorney general’s office called you back right away and seemed interested in helping you. The lawyer would have cost more than your claim was worth. But no worries — you’re not out of luck.
I provided you with executive contacts at Thrifty and Hertz (Hertz owns Thrifty) at elliott.org/company-contacts/hertz/. I also recommended that you send a brief, polite e-mail to the contacts, explaining your situation and everything you’d done to resolve this problem.
If you ever rent a car again, I strongly recommend that you find the exact location for the return. A rental company may have multiple locations, and failure to return your car to the right one may result in an extra fee.
After you contacted the Thrifty executives, a representative called you and promised a full refund of the $932 fee. This time, you got it.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve 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@example.com.