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No-shows average nearly 30% nationwide, says Fred Fleischner, vice president of sales and marketing at Dollar Rent A Car. To counter this, a few car rental companies are charging a penalty for no-show renters. Guarantee a rental with a credit card and fail to cancel within 24 hours of the reservation date and you may get charged a one-day rental fee. Budget tested the concept last summer in Seattle, New York and Boston and was pleased with the results. “When travelers cancel plans, they’ll notify the airlines and hotels, but not the car rental company. By our knowing, it helps us stabilize our fleets,” says spokesperson Susan Welty.
Fleischner agrees. If renters remember to cancel, “it helps us satisfy more customers, so we don’t overbook.” Last summer, Dollar successfully tested the policy in Boston and New York. The company also offered a 10% discount to those who guaranteed rentals with a credit card. The only agency that currently has the concept fully in place is Thrifty, which has imposed a no-show penalty at most U.S. sites since 1995. “The number of no-shows we see has decreased by 78%,” says Thrifty spokesperson Chris Payne. “Among customers who reserve with a credit card, cancellations have doubled. This allows us to better utilize our vehicles.”
Other companies, such as Avis and National, charge noshows a $50-$100 fee on specialty vehicles (minivans, convertibles and luxury cars).