The last time I mentioned Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, he was demanding more federal subsidies for Amtrak because, well, he just loves taking trains and he thought everyone else should love it too. This week King is back with his unique, should-be-patented brand of economic illiteracy — this time redefining “price gouging” as “taking advantage of Peter King’s stupidity”:
Hertz Should Be Ashamed of Itself Dept.:
I rented a full-sized Hertz vehicle for my two-day trip to North Carolina and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Awards. Two days, $44 a day. Drove the car 169 miles. The tank read 5/8ths when I pulled into the Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s Hertz lot at 5:35 a.m. Tuesday.
“Did you fill the tank with gas?” the courteous check-in gal asked.
“No, sorry,” I said.
She noted the mileage and handed me the receipt.
The receipt for charges of $249.31.
The gas for driving less than a half-tank cost more ($89.40) than renting the car for two days, minus taxes ($88). Hertz charged $8.99 per gallon for refueling. That seems fair (he said sarcastically).
Then there was the $17.98 for NeverLost GPS (which did its job; I was never lost on the trip) and the usual collection of cloudy charges — “concession fee recovery,” $11.92 … “customer facility charge,” $7 … “vehicle licensing cost recovery,” 62 cents — that makes the renting of cars in America so joyous.
Three-eighths of a tank of gas for $89.40? If that’s not price-gouging, I don’t know what is.
So to recap, King was gouged because he chose to not to refuel the car and Hertz charged him a fee to do it for him. Hertz’s own website spells it out pretty clearly:
Hertz has three refueling options available to meet your needs:
- You may purchase a tank of gas from Hertz at time of rental and return the vehicle with as little gas as you prefer. Please be aware that we are unable to issue a refund for unused fuel. However, this method eliminates the need for you to refuel the tank prior to returning.
- You can let us refuel for you and only pay for the fuel required to replace the fuel you used, and for the service and convenience of refueling the tank. (Italics added)
- You can stop and refuel the tank yourself, immediately prior to returning the vehicle.
If King had just taken five minutes to refuel the car before returning it to the Charlotte airport — and there tend to be a lot of gas stations near airports — he would’ve only paid about $3.50–$3.60/gallon to refuel the car instead of the $8.99 Hertz charged him. But he couldn’t take the few minutes out of his day to save himself some money. (Actually, save his employer the money; as noted Kingologist Drew Magary said, “SHAME ON YOU, HERTZ. SHAME ON YOU FOR OVERCHARGING PETER FOR GAS HE WILL EVENTUALLY EXPENSE ANYWAY.”)
Of course, King had the time to write a lengthy section in his column denouncing Hertz for “gouging” him, which probably took longer then it would have to refuel the car before returning it to Hertz. But economic calculation doesn’t appear to be one of Peter King’s strong suits.