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Rental Car No-Show Charge: Idea Unlikely to Gain Speed

May 29, 1996|From Reuters

Cancellation fees of the type some restaurants charge diners who fail to honor reservations and a few hotels charge guests who check out early are not about to spread any time soon to the rental car, although no-shows are a major problem for rental companies.

There were reports earlier this year that Visa and American Express had devised a program for dunning car rental no-shows and were passing it around the industry. None of the major companies jumped at the idea, perhaps fearing bad publicity, and a Visa official now says the concept "has sort of died out."

The problem arises from multiple bookings made by travelers who fear they may not get a car at busy times or in crowded locations. Reserving a car does not always absolutely guarantee one will be available, although most rental companies will try to find one even if it means bringing in one from another location or going to a competitor.

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Macdonald Clark, president of Alamo Rent-A-Car, said in a report on the phenomenon published in a newsletter issued by Travel and Transport, a major travel management company:

"If cancellation fees were to become standard for car rentals, like it already is for hotels, consumers would book with a little trepidation and not have to double book.

Some restaurants within the past two years have been asking for credit card-backed reservation guarantees during busy hours, and some hotels are charging customers a fee if they check out earlier than their original reservation specified.

Hertz already charges a cancellation fee for people who fail to pick up specialty vehicles--such as four-wheel-drive vehicles in ski areas or convertibles in popular vacation venues.

An Alamo spokeswoman said the only cancellation fees it has involve luxury cars and minivans--$25 if canceled within 24 hours or $100 for a no-show.

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