Imagine driving 20 plus hours from South Florida to escape Hurricane Irma, only to be penalized by your rental car company because your car is too dirty.
That's what a Florida woman staying with family in Northern Kentucky is claiming happened to her.
Could not leave dog and cat behind
To Karen Mann, her dog and cat are family.
So when she had to evacuate her Naples apartment for Hurricane Irma, there was no question that she "was bringing my dog and my cat with me, and we began our journey on Wednesday."
So she rented a car from Hertz, and knowing she was taking two pets with her, she went to PetSmart and bought seat protectors to keep fur off the car seats.
"I purchased a seat cover for the front seat where my dog would seat, and I also purchased an entire back seat cover," Mann said.
But after her 25 hour drive from southwest Florida to escape the storm, she couldn't believe what arrived in her inbox soon after she turned in the rental car: a $300 cleaning charge for pet hair.
"Paying $300 in an emergency situation like Irma is unfathomable," Mann said.
Not only did she protect the car with seat covers and blankets, but before she turned it in, she says gave it a high powered vacuuming at a car wash just to make sure she got the last of the pet hair.
"There was almost no fur left behind, and we worked very hard to clean the entire car," she said.
No pet hair policy
We checked with Hertz. The manager of the outlet where she returned her car said their policy is posted at the register, and clearly says "No Smoking, No Stains, No Pet Hair."
In addition, the manager says she was overly generous, saying she gave Mann one free extra day, because the drive took one day longer than anticipated due to rain and heavy traffic.
So how can you protect yourself?
If you have pets, ask about the pet travel rules before you rent a car: Some companies are stricter than others. Some even require animals to be kept in carriers in the rental vehicle.
UPDATE: After we emailed Hertz Corporate, the company's Media Relations Department responded, saying that due to the fact she is a refugee, they will ask the local manager to remove the cleaning charge this time..
Karen Mann is thrilled to learn that, saying hurricane evacuees --and their pets --- should get a little extra understanding for all they went through.
As always, don't waste your money.
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