A couple of months ago, owing to a bad sense of direction and some confusion over the Turkish word for airport, my sister and I ended up returning a rental car at the airport in Kayseri, Turkey, with half a tank of diesel and only a few minutes to spare before our flight.
Lucky for us, the local Europcar reps met us at the airport, quickly calculated the cost of the diesel fuel and accepted cash. We paid something reasonably like the going rate for diesel and made our flight.
This is not what has been happening in the United States, where taking shameful advantage of lost, confused and disorganized travelers who don’t fill the tank is a proud tradition among rental car companies. Except that maybe a few chinks have appeared in that rip-off wall.
After an investigation by the attorney general’s office in Maryland, car rental companies at Baltimore-Washington International Airport will be forced to drop their refueling rates to 142 percent or less of the local gas price, which means that right now it would drop from about $8 to less than $6 a gallon.
The USA Today story notes that Enterprise, Alamo and National already had lower refueling fees than the settlement requires. Meanwhile, Hertz has announced a new policy, nationwide. It will henceforth charge the going local rate for gas, plus a $6.99 refueling fee.
I’ll remember which companies are being more reasonable about these fees. There’s always the chance that I’ll get stuck again with less than a full tank of gas. And then there’s the just the principle of the thing, and my preference for dealing with companies that recognize that things have principles.