Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Italy welcomes us back with an unpleasant surprise at the airport
Welcome back to Italy, a land of incredible scenery, history, culture, food—along with tangled bureaucratic snafus and sometimes terrible customer service. Within an hour of arrival, we were questioning why we love this country so much, because the car rental agency Europcar had canceled our reservation, and the agent at the desk couldn’t tell us why.
We had reserved through Expedia, and apparently Europcar received the reservation, because the agent began to go through the steps of arranging the car. Suddenly he stopped and said that the computer forbade him to rent me the car, but it didn’t give him a specific reason. The best he could do was suggest that perhaps there had been a problem the last time I rented a car, maybe some unpaid fee, but the computer gave no details. It just said not to complete the transaction. Furthermore, he said he could not rent the car to Lucy instead, because he had no cars available. Really, not even the one he was about to assign me?
He suggested I call Expedia, though we both knew that wouldn’t help. He did give me the number for Europcar customer service and even let me use one of the phones in his office, but the agent I spoke to apologized and said her files didn’t even show the reservation number. I asked to speak to her supervisor, and she gave me another number to call. That person was even less helpful. She said I would have to take the issue up with the desk personnel in the Florence rental office. I told her I was standing in their office and they were telling me to call customer service. Isn’t there someone who can tell me what the problem is? If I was at fault for something, I’d like to straighten it out. She hung up on me.
I had no other choice but to try other agencies. Hertz and Budget were all booked up. Maybe they’d have something in another four hours. Avis had one for 780 euros ($868) for 11 days. The Europcar booking we had made through Expedia had been for $171 for the same amount of time. I moved on to Locauto and was quoted a price of 550 euros, or $612. By now we had been working on the car rental for nearly an hour, all of this after a flight that had begun in Baltimore the previous day and had taken us on stopovers in Boston and Lisbon. We really needed to get to Montecarlo and rest, so I took the Locauto offer of more than three times our original deal through Expedia.
After getting to our home and sleeping a few hours, I used Skype to call Expedia in the United States. This experience went much better. The agent first put me on hold so he could call Europcar. No surprise, he came back on the line in a few minutes and said he received no response. He would start a case file, and someone would email me with more details. Meanwhile, would I give him permission to initiate a refund of the $171 I had paid Expedia? Of course I would! I mentioned that I had a second reservation with Europcar starting Nov. 11, and he said there would be no charge to cancel that.
I’m curious to know what problem Europcar has in its files about me. Could it be someone used my passport identity again to rent a car? I’ve decided not to follow up with customer service, since it is so easy to just rent another car with Expedia, and it was so hard getting an explanation from their agents. I’ve already made a new reservation for Nov. 11 with Budget at essentially the same price as the one I just canceled with Europcar. I will never again rent with Europcar, which I’m sure won’t affect their financial status in any way, but it still seems strange to me that a company can thrive with such a puzzling commitment to customer service.