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ON THE SPOT By Catharine Hamm

Help me, Al

March 18, 2007|Catharine Hamm

Sticker shock: I just booked a rental car from the airport in Seattle for July. Our $100 rental car will actually be $160 with taxes and fees. This is highly immoral and unethical. Unfortunately, I booked our air tickets before finding out. Otherwise, I would not be visiting Seattle. What can we do?

-- Ken Gerken

Thousand Oaks

Answer: WWAGD? Al Gore would ditch the car, that's what he would do. And maybe you should too, even if it's only to save your pocketbook and not the planet.

Local, state and federal agencies are increasingly using a play in their gamebook called Pin the Tax on the Visitor. When it comes to gouging airport rental-car customers, Seattle is among the worst.

Non-airport government agencies charge 18.5% in taxes. On top of that is an 11.10% airport facilities fee. Add to that the new customer facility charge of $4 a day and you wind up with a bill that rivals Bill Gates' net worth.

OK, that's not exactly true. But what is true is that travelers are an easy target for hit-and-run taxes because they generally don't vote in the jurisdiction that's gouging them for that new stadium. Immoral? Unethical? You be the judge.

While you're debating that, consider your options:

* Rent downtown. It's generally cheaper off-airport.

* Stay home. Or at least stay closer to home. Rental car fees usually are less in California, although Palm Springs, for example, doesn't have quite the appeal of Seattle in July.

* Go green. Rely on public transportation. The Gray Line airport bus (one of several such services) goes into the city every half-hour and costs $17 round trip. (Info: [800] 426-7532,, or go to

With public transit, you don't have to worry about parking, reading a map while driving and, best of all, the guilt trip that comes from contributing to global warming. And that's one journey I'm just as happy to cancel.

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