Europcar: "Screw you! We don't take your kind!"

I am just a little pissed at Europcar today. I booked my flight to Cape Town and car hire on The car hire is done through Europcar which seems to be Kulula’s car hire partner. The bookings went smoothly and I even got discounts on both my air fare and care hire because I am a Vitality member.

When I arrived in Cape Town and went to pick up my car I presented my driver’s license and my business cheque card (its a Visa card). I don’t have a business credit card and that is intentional. I opened my business accounts with the express desire not to take on credit card debt. Anyway, the booking confirmation I got from kulula contains the following line:

Don’t forget to take your drivers license and credit card along.

Usually cheque cards work just fine when credit cards are required so I didn’t think anything of this reminder. When I handed my card and license to the guy behind the counter at Europcar he noticed it is a cheque card and informed me he can’t accept the card for payment. I pointed out to him that it really does work the same way as a credit card – swipe, take money, conclude the transaction. He smiled rather smugly and said he’ll take a credit card. I explained to him that I don’t have a credit card for my business or with me, for that matter. He said it is company policy not to accept cheque cards and that was that. I told him to cancel the booking and left.

I walked across to Budget who also wouldn’t accept the cheque card but did have the courtesy to explain to me that the problem is that they sometimes have a difficulty refunding amounts charged back to customers who use cheque cards. Car hire companies block off an amount in addition to the hire charge as a sort of refundable deposit.

I then went to Avis who agreed to take my card and I got my hire car. The Avis guy was really friendly, helpful and gave me the car I originally requested from Europcar. I then got an sms from Avis thanking me for using them and after I returned the car, a follow up sms with my mileage and confirmation of my charge. I queried when the block would be reversed and the lady who helped me was just as friendly and helpful. What a difference Avis made!

Now that I think about it, I am almost thankful that the Europcar guy was so smug and dismissive. If he hadn’t been I could have had a mediocre service rather than the great experience I had with Avis.

(In case you were wondering, the Europcar car hire would have cost me R229.08 with the Vitality discount compared to the R350.45 Avis charged me – both prices for a Golf Chico – and I don’t care that I got charged R120 extra, the service more than made up for it)

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