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 kulula.com. 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)

Paul
Enthusiast, marketing strategist, writer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid

  1. Hmmm.. I understand your frustration but it sounds like Eurpocar were just trying to prevent you problems somewhere down the line.

    What would have been better is if they explained everything to you like Budget did, accepted the card but informed you that you may have some hassles getting your money back.

    Maybe draft something to Kalula too so that they know what frustrations you have with their third-party provider. They may have some interest in sorting this out if it becomes an issue. Outsurance have been very good with respect to sorting out issues I've had with their 3rd party providers because they believe in good end-to-end service.

  2. I understand that there can be issues dealing with certain cheque cards but the guy I dealt with was just not interested in either explaining what the issue was or looking for a solution. He was pretty smug too and that just pissed me off.

    Budget got back to me and let me know that they do actually take cheque cards and would use my feedback as an opportunity to remind their staff about this.

  3. Ahhh.

    So, I guess the answer is to have strict policies but make sure that your staff know about them, know why they are there and communicate them to customers in a proper way.

    For bonus points – make sure that your rules can be bent from time to time by the customer-facing staff with the customer understanding what the risks are (late refund of deposit.)

    Also, make sure that your policies make sense. If they are just there because of laziness or technical constraints then sort them out.

    On this point, I know of one new phone company that has products, policies and procedures which are all so confusing that their own staff don't know how they work. Promises are made and broken and customers are so confused. Its difficult to give worse service than Telkom but they have managed to do so. Being friendly is not the same as being helpful.

    And in your rental experience – being unfriendly and unhelpful is even worse.

  4. Ahhh.

    So, I guess the answer is to have strict policies but make sure that your staff know about them, know why they are there and communicate them to customers in a proper way.

    For bonus points – make sure that your rules can be bent from time to time by the customer-facing staff with the customer understanding what the risks are (late refund of deposit.)

    Also, make sure that your policies make sense. If they are just there because of laziness or technical constraints then sort them out.

    On this point, I know of one new phone company that has products, policies and procedures which are all so confusing that their own staff don't know how they work. Promises are made and broken and customers are so confused. Its difficult to give worse service than Telkom but they have managed to do so. Being friendly is not the same as being helpful.

    And in your rental experience – being unfriendly and unhelpful is even worse.

  5. […] I had a bad experience with Europcar about 2 years ago when I flew to Cape Town and found I couldn’t hire a car I booked through kulula. The main issue was that the person behind the counter wouldn’t accept my cheque card and wouldn’t do much to assist me (I didn’t use my credit card much back then). I wound up hiring a car from Avis where I received far better treatment and, more importantly, was able to hire a car and carry on with my journey. […]

What do you think?

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