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)

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