Hertz And Other Car Hire Traps by:Alan Hawkins
In general everyone fears damaging another person' property, aside from the cost there is a guilt factor, by example, your friend allows you to use his holiday flat, your child breaks the glass of the coffee table. Yes, you replace it but you still feel really guilty. We as conservative, polite and trusting South Africa travellers offer our trust, it is unfortunately often abused.
Accommodation is one thing, a bed is after all a bed or is it? A piece of kingklip (fish) is always what it says it is? The wine is what it says on the label, all that glitters is after all, gold. What about travel and vehicle hire, like the abovementioned borrowing of the holiday flat, vehicle hire is essentially borrowing. Now I have a story with regard to vehicle hire, Hertz, who used to be my favourite hire company, locally and internationally, allowed me to borrow one of their vehicles, yes, one is in fact borrowing the property of someone else, in this case, for a fee and also with a rather complicated contract one is forced to sign while at a counter, usually with a queue of other travellers waiting their turn patiently. Sign, here, sign there, initial here, you chose this, you waive this, initial in those six spaces saying this and that and just by the way, we are debiting your credit card for R5000 or whatever the small print says, this just in case a Tsunami takes the car or some such disaster. I have in fact read that our personal and standard insurance policies usually cover any eventuality, including car hire risks and also that the car hire companies make more money out of the insurance sold unnecessarily to hirers than they do out of the hire fee itself, I wonder if there is any truth in this, that however is a story for another day. As mere mortals, what do we know, after all we are dealing with well known and supposedly reputable Companies, sufficiently successful to be able to afford glitzy glass buildings close to the arrivals halls of most airports - you sign as instructed.
In the unpleasant example we consider below, an experience with Hertz car hire, Cape Town Airport, South Africa, the documentation included an additional form and the supporting statement from a certain "Willie" that the vehicle had been inspected by their staff, some damages had been found, quite a few in fact "this vehicle has had a lot of damage already" he clearly stated, and this is indicated on this form, please sign here he said, whilst still at the counter, "you can call us if you want to make another inspection when you get to the car".
My first mistake was trusting their professional staff and assuming they had been diligent in their duties, how nave, despite this however, whilst I failed to request that the car was lifted onto a hoist for a full inspection, I did dutifully walk around in an up-right position inspecting the car while it was tightly parked between others. I failed to see a scratch under the front right fender, perhaps as a result of a previous hirer scraping the underside on a pavement while parking, this being hidden slightly under the curve of the right hand front corner. Bearing in mind (a) Trust of the Hertz brand (b) Restricted space for bending down, after all, I had meetings ahead of me and could hardly be expected to clean the door of the adjacent car with my jacket while scrambling on all fours and (c) one's obvious haste to leave the confines of the airport, all contributors to my failure to note the scratch.
You can guess the rest of the story, when the car was inspected by Hertz staff on return, the agile young man amazingly discovered said scratch when the car was parked openly, no longer in a restricted area and confined space, the blame for this minor scratch (when compared to the other damage) has been accredited to me formally in a letter received via e-mail immediately on my arrival back. The words "Your account will be debited" are used, no such thing as we will get three quotes for said damages and forward this to youor perhaps "we regret this and will submit a report to you for your input".
What now, yes, I am going to debate this, as a matter of principle publicly and legally, I refuse to accept moral or physical guilt, I have been driving for over thirty years, have hardly scratched a car in my life and I am not prepared to roll over on this one.
I cannot prove that Hertz intentionally condones this practice, either intentionally or that they have systems in place that favour reducing their risk at the potential cost to their clients. I cannot prove that Hertz staff have found and charged for this scratch more than once; I do not believe this would be acceptable to them or that that Hertz either has or would even consider an incentive or staff performance measurement system that would reward a system not based on honest business practice. I cannot prove that the staff member during the initial inspection failed in his duty; I cannot ask to see every single inspection form since the vehicle was delivered to Hertz, I will if it goes to court. I cannot prove the actual cost of the repair, firstly in that I am many miles away from the scene, and secondly the damage being so minor that it will merely be included in the cost of any other repair. I cannot dispute (or can I) their system, challenge that the inspection should have been undertaken jointly, that the damage should have been indicated to me physically, that I was under "pressure" to sign in a public queue. Hertz will I am sure not make business information available pertaining to the comparison of insurance income versus hire income. Unfortunately, and here's the rub, I also cannot prove my own innocence and I have no doubt, that somewhere, somehow, I signed some waiver or form that states that if anything goes wrong it must be the fault of the customer.
In conclusion, when travelling in South Africa and elsewhere, remember to be wise, trust no one, not the waiter swiping your credit card, not the jeweller selling you gold, the car hire company, Hertz or others, not the wine steward who doesn't open the wine in front of you, is the wine really what it's supposed to be? Is the fish what the menu says, or is it a good imitation camouflaged in sauce.
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Alan Hawkins - CEO
About the author
Alan Hawkins is the CEO of StaySA. StaySA is a leading South African Accommodationportal.Visit StaySA the next time you are looking for a kind of Accommodation in South African