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Caution-Renting car from Europcar from Stazione Termini

This past March we selected and prepaid for a compact car with a standard transmission with Europcar through Autoeurope. We have done this for years and never had a problem until last month. When we went to retrieve our car the young lady behind the desk disregarded my prepaid voucher, upgraded us to an automatic Audi A3, and charged us for the upgrade. I have read several warning post posted on online bulletin boards, but paid no attention because we have always received excellent service from this location. They were extremely slow and we were in a hurry. I signed the contract and they gave me a copy. I didn't realize they gave me a blank copy until a few days later. I received an email from my credit card company indicating a new charge from Europcar. It was then we discovered the upgrade charges. I called Autoeurope, explained the situation, and they advised me to wait until we return home to file a complaint if the charge did not disappear. Well, it didn't disappear so we filed a complaint with Autoeurope. We also disputed the charge on our credit card. The issue hasn't been resolved, but next year we won't be picking up our car from Stazione Termini. I take responsibility for my dumbness for not catching this scam at the station, so I hope this will alert people to take their car from another location.

Buon viaggio,

Posted by
6875 posts

I think you've hit the nail on the head with this post.

First, starting last year we noticed a more aggressive approach from Europcar, the agency we had chosen through AutoEurope. We've been using AutoEurope to reserve Europcar for the last twenty years. Fortunately, our "no" was respected, unlike yours. This year, AutoEurope sent warnings to us before pick up that we should not feel pressured to accept an upsell or insurance.

Second, I agree with you that it's rogue employees at certain locations. Another poster and I found we had both had a particularly hard sell from one certain employee at one location in France. Other employees would just do their spiel and then drop it.

One question: did the employee tell you that you were receiving a free upgrade, or did she ask you if you'd like an automatic Audi? Both times last year we were only asked if we'd like an automatic instead of a stick. This was their entry question into the hidden upsell. When my non-trip planning husband said, sure, why not, I, being the suspicious one who reads the boards, asked if it would cost more. Only then did the agent indicate this would have been an (costly) upgrade to an automatic Audi--which my husband then quickly declined.

Feel free to copy my post for AutoEurope to back your case.

Posted by
2348 posts

Unfortunately, the upsell has become the norm in rental cars in the US as well. We have encountered this multiple times, the most aggressive being in Maui. When I repeatedly said no, no, no, the jovial customer service guy treated me like something you accidentally step on when you go for a walk. I've found when the first pitch is thrown my response is to say yes, I'll take it as long as it's no additional cost. That stops it, some.

Posted by
6211 posts

Would you mind sharing how much the upgrade (and original price for the manual) was? I would be curious about the differential.

Posted by
261 posts

Car rental employees are salespeople. "Upsell" and "coverage" are ways for individual employees to make more money. They are incentivized to employ these sales tactics. These tactics are not limited to Europcar or Stazione Termini.

"They were extremely slow and we were in a hurry."
It's never a good idea to be rushed during your car rental transaction in Europe, especially if you reside in another country. Just to mention, it's also never a good idea to be overly jet lagged when picking up a car. You need to be alert and have your full brain power at the ready. Rental agents know how to detect weariness, impatience, and anxiety.

I'm not saying the OP is untruthful, but too many details often seem to be missing in many car rental complaints on the internet. Those of us who rent frequently have had our share of ups and downs. We know the drill. We know what happens when an honest mistake is made. It seems odd to me that AutoEurope has not resolved the issue, but we don't know if the OP has allowed enough time for that to happen.

Oftentimes an upgrade is a he said/she said situation. If the Europcar sales agent insists that a customer agreed to an upgrade, AutoEurope has no way to prove this did not happen.

Walking away with a blank contract is a serious no-no. The copy of your contract should always be inspected before you leave the counter. There is no excuse for negligent behavior, especially for a seasoned traveler. You also need to allow enough time to take photos of the condition of the car.

There must be someplace on the contract where the upgrade indicates approval on a pre-pay rental. It's not something I've ever done. Without a copy of the contract, anyone can claim whatever they want to claim. It really is an impossible situation for anyone to welcome.

Posted by
261 posts

"Would you mind sharing how much the upgrade (and original price for the manual) was? I would be curious about the differential."

Car rental prices are very much like airline prices, except daily car rental rates change more often. The differential changes from day-to-day, possibly hour-to-hour, depending on when you check prices.

The deal that one person agrees to is often not the deal that someone else got. To get the best deal on a car rental, customers need to be diligent and check prices regularly. I have often rented an automatic for less than the going rate of an equivalent manual. It just depends on when you check prices.

Posted by
1018 posts

I was never asked if I wanted an Audi or an automatic transmission upgrade. The girl disregarded my prepaid voucher and then assigned us the car.

The upgrade was around $250 USD.

We travel in Italy every year and have always had positive experiences with Both Europcar and Autoeurope. NYCTravel snob is correct in his assessment of my negligence, but I already stated that in my original post.

I contacted Autoeurope last week and supplied all of the necessary documentation to them for their advocating attempts to obtain a refund. They informed me the procedure takes between 14 and 20 day to resolve. They asked me to write a narrative and made suggestions as to what it should contain. Plus, the last nineteen car rentals with both agencies were for a standard transmission compact car.

I’ll report back with the results of my complaint. In the meantime, we suggest retrieving your rental anywhere other than Stazione Termini.

Buon viaggio,

Posted by
6211 posts
  • What was the original prepaid amount?
  • What car class was the Audi 3? Midsize? Would it almost be considered a luxury upgrade?
Posted by
261 posts

I don't wish to disrespect the TOS here, but there is always a teaching lesson for everyone when it comes to this type of complaint. The procedure for securing a car rental in Italy deserves scrutiny. Always. It's the nature of this beast. I hope the mods here will consider that.

Now we get more information. At first, "the issue hasn't been resolved," which implies AutoEurope is failing to fulfill its customer service duty. Then we get, "I contacted Autoeurope last week and supplied all of the necessary documentation to them for their advocating attempts to obtain a refund. They informed me the procedure takes between 14 and 20 day to resolve."

Another example of impatience?

I fully understand and sympathize with customers who have been treated poorly in the service business. There are some awful people doing an awful job. They need to be called out for it when it happens.

AutoEurope has one of the best reputations in the business. If you don't give them a fair shot to fix the problem, if you go on the internet without being clear that their investigation is not yet complete, and then you complain and infer poor customer service by the words you choose or the words you leave out, you're doing us all a disservice.

Posted by
1018 posts

Maybe I should have been more clear, Autoeurope was in no way responsible for this incident. The incident was on the part of Europcar, only. Autoeurope is trying to resolve the incident and they have always been responsive in the past.

The original cost of the prepaid voucher compact car, standard transmission and zero deductible insurance was around $390.

Informing the travelers who read this website of the possibility of being cheated at the Europcar desk in Stazione Termini in Roma seems to be a prudent and cogent strategy enabling them be to aware of the upgrade scam.

Buon viaggio,

Posted by
7180 posts

This is yet another reason I avoid rental cars and instead take trains. I never have to worry with scams and sales tactics. I just buy my train ticket and off I go.

Posted by
261 posts

"Informing the travelers who read this website of the possibility of being cheated at the Europcar desk in Stazione Termini in Roma seems to be a prudent and cogent strategy enabling them be to aware of the upgrade scam."

"Possibility" is an important word here.

I firmly believe in the importance of exposing bad customer service when it actually occurs. However, there is a fair and responsible way to do that. Many would argue the best time to do it would be after the case is settled.

There is a way to report bad customer service without questioning the motive or the integrity of the complaint. So many people come to travel boards to complain about bad service when they are, in fact, partly or wholly responsible for being in an unfortunate predicament.

Unless one can prove that a car rental agent forced a car and a price upon a customer, including a car with a different transmission than the pre-pay agreement, without the customer's consent, then the complaint ends up being a he said/she said. Usually, the contract is there to answer these questions, so without a copy of the contract, AutoEurope is being pushed to act as mediator.

The Audi 3 normally falls into a midsize/intermediate category. The automatic version happens to be a favorite rental of mine. It is not considered a luxury car among the car rental leaders in Italy, but it would be very rare to find it offered as a Compact (even though it's not much larger than most Compacts).

It has been my experience that AutoEurope is a good judge in these situations. Loyal customers may even get more benefit when doubt exists.

When things go wrong with your car rental in Italy, it seriously helps to have an English-speaking advocate.

Posted by
6875 posts

I think the OP was clear, in no way implicated AutoEurope, but warned only about one employee of one rental company at one pick up site. No only that, but the OP owned his shortcomings and what he should have done differently, something one-time ranters don't do.

His use of the present perfect in "hasn't been resolved" tells the reader it's still being investigated, but doesn't blame AutoEurope. The one thing I would have done differently is keep the credit card company out of the situation for now because most likely AutoEurope will resolve the problem.

Posted by
976 posts

Thanks for the information. I had no problem understanding what the OP wrote!

Posted by
1018 posts

Well, I hope no one else is cheated like I was. After traveling in Italy for 37 years and every year since 2005, maybe it was time for a hiccup. So, I'll continue to do business with Autoeurope and select another pick-up location when we are in Roma.

In the meantime, this post may serve to assist another traveler from being scammed.

Buon viaggio,

Posted by
4833 posts

I guess I would add two points....

  • As part of loyalty programs I get upgraded at "No Charge" fairly often. Not a problem since I am on business and my company declines all insurance coverage. Where some people get caught is that the upgrade in daily rental may be complementary, BUT the cost of insurance coverage is also greater, that is not complementary; ending in a much higher total charge. In Italy this is an issue in that some insurance coverage from the rental car company is mandatory, nearly every credit card program does not cover you in Italy.
  • Second, for others reading this post, I would not rent a car at Termini either. Partly because they may be a bit more slick and looking to "maximize" upsells, but mainly because I do not want to navigate Rome and the many ZTLs. I would rather head to my next destination, or close, and then rent there.
Posted by
4152 posts

It seems only one person had trouble understanding what you posted.

With both autoeurope and your bank fighting these charges you should be able to get a refund for the upgrade charge. It usually takes a few weeks because they need to investigate but you have all the documentation needed in order to fight the charges.

For those new to renting cars in Italy, always give yourself enough time to thoroughly read the contract and inspect the car. Things like this can happen when you're in a hurry but are less likely to happen if you give yourself enough time to read through the contract, ask questions and inspect the car.

Let us know how things turn out. Good luck!

Donna

Posted by
14003 posts

I had something similar with Europcar in Chamonix France. I booked directly with Europcar without insurance (covered by my credit card). When I picked up the car, the agent insisted that I had to agree to insurance or he couldn't authorize the rental. I later found out that this was untrue. It is possible that the employee was given misinformation - he seemed to be pretty new on the job. It was a small office and he was the only employee.

It seems like businesses in Europe are getting a little greedy. The DCC at ATM's, pressure for tips at restaurants, etc. The lesson is to be aware and check before you pay, and count your change.

RB - I hope Auto Europe resolves your issue quickly. I've found them to be pretty reliable. If not, please come back and let us know!

Posted by
1018 posts

Good afternoon everyone,

Ten minutes ago I received an email from Autoeurope indicating Europcar has agreed to refund the upgrade charge, which caused me to submit this post. The message stated Autoeurope successfully negotiated a full refund and it will appear on my credit card in a day or two.

Avete un buonagiornata a tutti...

buon viaggio,

Posted by
261 posts

Sounds like someone got lucky. Congratulations. Still, I wouldn't start dancing until I see the credit on my account.

Posted by
6875 posts

Yes, AutoEurope is very good protecting their customers. The fact that your copy of the contract was empty showed you hadn't been informed. And, this year AE sent pre-pick up emails telling us not to feel pressured, so AE knows something is up and some employees are going beyond acceptable practices. Bravo.

Posted by
1700 posts

Well that is a happy ending.
I suspect if you rented with Europcar directly this may not have worked out in your favor so props to AutoEurope in this case.

Not that I really hold Europcar or the location responsible. Sounds like one aggressive employee probably working on commission or upsell bonus structure caused your grief and that truly can happen anywhere.
Not a new thing either, seen it at US rental offices so many times that I LOVE when I see a computer kiosk rather than an agent at one of the bigger offices so I can avoid the pressure filled pitches. If I didn't know English I could only imagine what I might get suckered into.

Posted by
14003 posts

I am so pleased for you and glad to hear that Autoeurope was so responsive. Thanks for letting us know.

Posted by
2773 posts

Sometimes adding a middleman (in this case AutoEurope) adds the opportunity for scams that don’t exist otherwise. Without the prepaid “just picking up a car” mentality you would have scrutinized the contract. Because you prepaid it encouraged carelessness.

Not sure AutoEurope deserves any kudos here.

Posted by
261 posts

"Without the prepaid “just picking up a car” mentality you would have scrutinized the contract."

In Italy, unless you can read and understand Italian, scrutinizing the contract will be an exercise in futility. Most Americans who rent in Italy can't read their rental contract. There is pressure for Italian car rental agencies to offer a translated version, but the pressure has not produced universal compliance yet. Customers need to keep asking for one and questioning why there isn't one. The percentage of English-speaking renters is huge in certain locations. Some would argue not offering an English contract benefits business by promoting confusion.

When friends ask me for car rental advice, I tell them to pretend they can read Italian. Look at the contract as if the Italian words make sense to you. Sometimes agency agents may suddenly realize they forgot to check a certain box if you take your time to look at the Italian contract.

Most English-speaking travelers use AutoEurope for two reasons:
1. Their longstanding commitment to price match.
2. Their outstanding customer service reputation which you receive in English; before, during, and after your rental.

If you choose to go it alone, without an AutoEurope Voucher, and something goes wrong with your rental, you will then find out how challenging and difficult the process can be.

In this particular case, it has always been known to longtime users that AutoEurope has a unique relationship with Europcar. Europcar benefits greatly by its partnership with AutoEurope. When a Europcar agent goes rogue, AE has the clout to rescue its customer. Longtime customers have added benefit.

Still, I'm sure AutoEurope would prefer to keep these situations off the internet. Personally, I wouldn't want to be a repeat customer who runs to the internet to complain before the complaint is settled. If I were in the service business, I would never forget this customer or think kindly of this customer ever again.

Posted by
6875 posts

It’s also important to let the agency investigate and resolve a problem first before disputing a charge. Disputing too soon can lead to unnecessary complications.

Posted by
2773 posts

exercise in futility.

But numbers need no translation.

Also without springing for cell phone service, you are alone in your rental anyway.

Tried AutoEurope once, found it more complicated than not, no problems with renting direct for me.

Posted by
261 posts

"It’s also important to let the agency investigate and resolve a problem first before disputing a charge."

This is a serious piece of good advice I neglected to mention. If you file a dispute with your credit card bank before allowing AE to resolve any problem, you may make it impossible for AE to do its job.

A lot of people don't have patience. They see something go wrong and they want it fixed immediately. Some people are always in a hurry.

"But numbers need no translation."

True. If anything, focus on those.

"without springing for cell phone service, you are alone in your rental anyway."

Not necessarily. I had a mishap with a rental in France a few years back. The automatic I ordered was not available, and the only thing they could offer was a manual. Even though I know how to drive a manual, I never want to drive one in Europe. For me, it's a deal breaker. My cell phone was not getting a reliable signal at the counter, so the agent suggested I use their counter phone to call AE.

That said, I would never want to rent a car in Europe without traveling with a cell phone.

Posted by
4152 posts

You don't need to be fluent in Italian to read the terms and conditions of the contract. They are all on the rental website and you can read them before booking the car. At the rental counter you can use your phone with google translate or other translation services to be sure what you're signing is the same as what you read online.

Donna

Posted by
1018 posts

This morning I checked my credit card account and Europcar refunded every penny of the unwanted upgrade charge. Autoeurope's customer service was successful in negotiating with Europcar.

After using Europcar through Autoeurope for years and years this was the first time anything like this happened to us.

Way to go Autoeurope!

Buon viaggio,

Posted by
261 posts

English-version Terms and Conditions pages are usually available online. It depends on the company. You need to search for a country specific T&C, and with Europcar, that search begins here:

https://www.europcar.com/terms-and-conditions/specific-terms-per-country?countrySelector=termsandconditionsblocknewele-45

I'm a big fan of reading T&Cs, especially those which have been translated from a foreign language. Trying to figure out exactly what they mean can be a head scratcher. Europcar's Italy T&C does not disappoint, although you will think twice about renting long before you finish reading it. The country specific T&C for Italy is a 40-page PDF. You can view it here:

https://www.europcar.com/files/live/sites/Europcar/files/Conf_email_attachment/CGL_EN_IT.pdf

The PDF says the T&C is valid from June 2017. There's no way to tell if a more recent update is available.

I can assure readers, when you show up at a Europcar counter in Italy, you are not going to receive a 40-page printout of the T&C. In fact, whatever paperwork ("contract") they ask you to sign, if there is any paper involved at all, I've never seen a version of it on the internet. It varies from location to location. At some locations, you're simply asked to sign a computer terminal, and the agent tells you what the signature is for.

I've been renting cars, Vespas, and boats in Italy since the mid 1980's. When it comes to reading contracts, the rental process for any kind of motorized mode of transportation in Italy has never been an easy endeavor, especially for someone who does not read Italian. These adventures often require a leap of faith.

I can assure readers that renting any kind of motorized mode of transportation in Italy will be an adventure. The process is not for the fearful or the faint of heart. No one, and I mean no one, should ever attempt to rush through the process. On the day of the rental, don't over plan. Allow two hours for the process. If you're done in twenty minutes, consider yourself lucky.