Scammed by Dollar Rent a Car!

We’re normally a bit happier here at LevelUpHouse, but not today.  Today we’re angry at Dollar Rent a Car for RIPPING US OFF.

Scammed by Dollar Rent a Car $200 in damages

My husband and I in Orlando, FL, driving a car we didn’t yet know had been signed up for a$28.99/day “loss damage waiver” by Dollar Rent a Car.

Ripped Off with “Loss Damage Waiver”

Jim and I spent a week in Orlando, Florida, driving what we thought was a $17/day (before taxes and fees) rental from Dollar Rent a Car, until the day we returned it – the bill was HUGE!  We didn’t know it when we picked the car up on Sunday, but the guy at the desk had signed us up for a $28.99 daily charge for a “Loss Damage Waiver” we declined.  My own insurance through USAA covers rentals, and so does the credit card we put it on. We don’t need triple coverage!

One week with this unwanted coverage = $202.  

When we got back we waited in the “pissed customer line” (which was longer than just us) for help, but the “top guy” Bryan wasn’t good for anything but attitude and sass. When I complained that Dollar ripped us off, he said, “If that’s how you want to look at it.”

Well, yes, that is how I look at being charged $202 for something I didn’t agree to pay for.  Who pays $57 a day for a compact Mazda in a competitive car rental market!? We were scammed by Dollar Rent a Car and the so-called “top guy” on staff couldn’t do jack about it! Good grief.

Update: We got a refund!  Complaining on Twitter to @DollarCars got me a full refund of the amount.  

Seeing as the Internet is full of people complaining of not getting refunds out of this company, I guess I’m one of the rare success stories.

My in-person complaint to the so-called manager at the Dollar desk in Orlando International Airport was a waste of time – the dirtbag they have manning the counter is only good for upselling angry customers on future rentals.   Calling their 1-800 number got me nothing more than an offer of a $50 discount on my next Dollar rental (WTF!?  How do you even offer that with a straight face?!).

Complaining on Twitter?  Come on… Well, apparently, Dollar Rent a Car pays attention to Twitter. 

Dollar’s Dark Patterns

A “dark pattern” is a type of user interface designed to trick users into doing things, such as signing up for insurance or installing toolbars they didn’t want. (Read more at  If you were scammed by Dollar Rent a Car, it was probably one of these tricks:

Trick #1: Moving Accept/Decline Buttons

As we verbally declined options such as GPS, extra driver, a bigger car, and extra insurance with Dollar’s agent, we confirmed our choice on Dollar’s signature screen.  This screen contained at least one “dark pattern”: the Accept/Decline buttons swapped places as we advanced through the screens.  

But we noticed the changing button locations, so I’m not sure we were victims to this particular trick.   Instead, I think we were victims to either a checkbox that looked unchecked or the agent just added the coverage after we signed everything and hoped we wouldn’t notice (and we didn’t, because the extra charges for extraneous coverage are on the underside of the folded receipt).

Trick #2: Folded Receipt in Booklet

Dollar handed us our receipt folded and in a paper booklet, as shown in the image below.

Scammed by Dollar Rent a Car with a folded receipt trick

Our Dollar rental receipt was handed to us folded to the exact size of the paper booklet it came in. Extra charges are itemized below the fold.

Unfolding the receipt reveals the worst prize ever – HIDDEN CHARGES!

Scammed by Dollar Rent a Car with a Loss Damage Waiver coverage we declined

“OPTIONAL COVERAGES” is on the receipt under the fold.  This is where Dollar hid the “Loss Damage Waiver” for 6 days at $28.99/day.

Why is there such a large space below the estimated total?  It’s probably to push these extra charges under the fold, where unsuspecting victims are less likely to spot them. Our bad – we stopped reading at “estimated charges”, which looks like a total.  Yes, it’s a high total, but we understand that rental car companies put a “hold” on your credit/debit card to cover “incidental charges”, such as you returning the car late.

Dollar’s Useless Desk Agent

We returned the car with a full tank of gasoline and spotless, but our final receipt showed we’d be billed a massive amount -$202 more than I’d expected.

We complained on the spot. We were sent to a special line at the Dollar desk, a line with no one waiting on the end of it. We stood for about 20 minutes before anyone came out to help us, and I’m 99% sure the guy only came out because I started bawling over being ripped off (on my birthday no less) and made a bit of a scene.

Dollar’s “top guy on staff” was some guy named Bryan who is apparently authorized to do absolutely nothing in the name of customer service.  He sassed us (“If that’s how you want to looki at it”) and told us about how “he rents cars and he knows how the screens work”, but he wouldn’t show us what we signed.  The guy was basically a walking “F— You” to Dollar’s customers, and completely useless.  I mean, at least the equally insulting 1-800 number offered a piddly discount off the next car we [never] rent with Dollar.

Dollar’s Useless 800 Number

Bryan was good at one thing: pointing at the back of my rental pamphlet where there is a phone number labeled “Customer Service” printed in red ink.  (Thanks man, you’re a real help!)

Dollar’s customer service number is 800-800-5252, but don’t expect any miracles.  Our call to this number the following Monday netted us an offer of $50 off our next car.  Haha, sure, at Dollar Rent a Car’s rates $50 doesn’t even cover the first day!  We did not accept this offer out of fear because 1) it’s a stupid offer and 2) it might make us ineligible for an actual refund on the amount we were scammed out of.

Dollar’s Surprisingly Helpful Twitter

I knew I was in trouble the moment I loaded up DollarCars’s Twitter stream: herein lies loads of pissed customers all complaining about overcharges and poor customer service. The occasional ad for “deals” punctuates (and pushes down) these complaints, but I think the complainers are winning this war.

With nothing to do but sit and stew in the terminal as I waited for my delayed flight, I started complaining to @DollarCars.  I complained a lot.  I don’t know if the volume had anything to do with it, but I continued to complain the next day, and the next until finally whoever is running the account asked me for my Rental Agreement number and, a day later, refunded me $224.

They even gave me the tax back – how ’bout that?

Happy Ending?

I’m very glad to say this story has a happy ending, but it easily could not have.  Dollar had no reason give me a refund – they burned me bad, and now I’m just an angry customer who will never rent a car from them again.  I’ve shared my story to help others who are now (or will be) in the same situation I was ten days ago –  ripped off and furious at Dollar Rent a Car.

My own Googling found people complaining of $250 cleaning fees on cars returned clean and $9/gal refueling fees on cars returned full.

I’m afraid I haven’t heard the last from this unscrupulous company.  I’ll be scrutinizing my credit card statements.

There’s a reason why Dollar is so much lower priced in the rental matrix – Dollar will just get money out of you some other way.

Dear Toro, You and Your Lawn Mowers Suck

Dear Toro,

I wasn’t going to think twice about you.  I was going to simply never buy a Toro lawn mower again and forget about this whole episode.

But then you asked me directly for my opinion via your Toro email survey.  You even said “We’d Love to Hear What You Think!” .

Awesome, I’d love to tell you!


You see, I also care about product.  I’m obsessed with user experience – that’s why I work as an interaction designer.  I love getting real user feedback on my software.

So, I thought you’d like some honest and accurate feedback on your product.  I filled out your survey and patted myself on the back for doing my good deed.

Then you (Toro) responded:


My review absolutely followed your guidelines!

No obscenities were used, no contact info, no advertising, but oh, what’s this?  I can’t be critical of the Toro product I bought?

Well, darn.

toro lawn mower review guidelines toro sucks

Toro doesn’t want to hear negative feedback about their lawn mowers.  Clearly, Toro does not care about product feedback and does not want potential customers to know about flaws in their lawn mower products.  But that’s okay, I can post my review here, where it is the single largest driver of traffic to this blog.

My Toro Personal Pace Electric Start 20334 is a lemon.

20334 electric start toro lawnmowers suck lemon

My Toro lawnmower, model 20344 with Personal Pace and Electric Start, purchased April 2010 from Home Depot in Bothell WA, has had a very short and disabled life.

At the time of its last use, it was 18 months old.  My lawn is modestly sized and quick to mow.  It has mowed my lawn less than 20 times.

In those 18 months:

Toro issued a recall on the Personal Pace system

– My Toro’s Personal Pace system broke, making the mower difficult to push

– Toro doesn’t do house calls, so I had to disassemble this and stuff it into my sedan to get it to a repair shop.   The cause was determined to be a problem with Personal Pace… but not a problem relating to the recall.  AHAHA that’s how they getcha, we paid full price for that repair. $80 and 5 weeks later, we had our mower back.  Hooray?

– Electric start just stopped working.  The only way to start this mower now is to yank the cord repeatedly, which I can do… but that’s like asking: if you can push your car, why drive it?  Why pay more for a feature that doesn’t work?

Am I alone in thinking this mower is junk?


Amazon reviewers have rated it 2 stars out of 5.

This blogger has had as much trouble with their Toro mower as I have with mine, if not more.

Plenty of bad reviews over on Home Depot, too.

So why did I get suckered into owning this mower?

I didn’t, my Dad did.  He bought it for me as a gift, without researching it, out of trust in Home Depot and the Toro brand.


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