Americans Beware! Velib IS A RIP OFF. Stations will be full making it impossible to return your bikes. Agents will instruct you to lock the bikes and send the keys, but then will claim to be 'unable to find them' and charge you for the bikes that you have already returned per their instructions! Way more hassle and irritation than it is worth.
I would hardly categorize this as a SCAM, but it is an issue to keep in mind when picking up a bike for a specific journey. A smart phone app will show the availability of bikes and open spaces nearest your location.
You do know that when you get to a docking station that is full (how nice for somebody taking a bike that they have a choice!!!) you should interact with the docking station and it will tell you the nearest place that has space and add 15 minutes for you t achieve that, right? That is all explained when you first sign up.
I fail to see where that is a scam, and really fail to see where that is a rip off.
Would you like to post more detail about how you were taken advantage of?
Velib doesn't have "keys" and locks so I have no idea what you were doing, but... I have used it several times with no problem. Just put the bike back in the stand and head off.
The comment about keys is a good one. I thought the OP was speaking about metaphorical keys.
I'm assuming that we are all discussing the Velib bikes in Paris. millerr1775, is that right?
If it doesn't work exactly the same way in the states, or if I am inconvenienced, or I simply don't understand the procedures, it is rip off and scam.
I'm sorry you had a bad experience with Velib, it is out of the ordinary. As has been mentioned, if the rack is full you can enter your number and pin and get additional time at no charge in order to go to the next closest station. It is an inconvenience for sure but keep in mind the Velib system is not designed specifically for tourists.
To clarify....Velib bikes do have locks and keys although I didn't notice them until I had been using the system for three days. The locks are for when you stop at a store, for example, not for when you return to a station. Apparently the OP contacted Velib and was instructed to lock the bike at the station. Having had spoken to Velib over the phone myself I have to assume the OP wanted it his way and the Velib rep went to a last resort. It really isn't that hard and if you have figured out how to get the bike it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out how to properly return it.
I am disappointed to see such a startling topic heading that could turn people off from a very under utilized mode of transport on this forum.
Yes Nigel, this was in Paris. We rented the bikes to get to the train station for a trip out of town. When the first station was full we attempted to make it to the next one according to the procedures that I did in fact fully understand and tried to follow. Unfortunately we got hopelessly lost - my apologies for being human, Frank. It was at this point that I called Velib for assistance. I explained the situation and was told by the agent that since we were leaving town we didn't need to return the bikes to a station. We could simply lock up the bikes where we were (with the actual real locks and keys that are included, Carol & Nigel) and then send them the keys. They would dispatch a tech to retrieve the bikes for us. This was not my suggestion nor was it my idea and I certainly didn't force or berate anyone into giving us this option, Richard. The phone agents were friendly and polite and at the time I thought it was very nice of them.
It wasn't until we returned home that the problem began. I received an email from Velib informing us that they were 'unable to find the bikes' and we needed to return them or be charged $340 for replacing them. I was also informed that filing a police report with the Paris police could get us a discount, but of course that's a bit difficult to do from CA. If the phone agents hadn't offered us the option, we would have returned them to a station. If theft of these bikes is so common why were we told they did not have to be returned to the station but could be locked and left? I did not realize we could not trust the advice of Velib's phone agents.
I agree that Velib is NOT designed for tourists, Richard, which is why I felt compelled to post this on TOURIST sites that promote using it. I can't help but feel that if we hadn't been tourists leaving town the suggestion would not have been made. Velib is charging my credit card for the bikes and there is nothing I can do about it. I think it's a scam to encourage tourists to do something in order to create an excuse for charging them after the fact when they follow your instructions .
Well this is certainly a mix up. You know where you left them. They went to retrieve them, and they are gone. So they have no proof you didn't take them with you, but you have no proof you really left them. Ouch. A warning for others but not particularly a scam. It also sounds like you were pressed to catch a train, didn't know the city well, so they gave you the suggestion to help you timewise. If you have photos of the locked bikes, I wonder if they would be covered by homeowners or trip insurance.
Of course you feel victimized, but it's whoever stole the bikes that did this to you, not Velib.
Did you take any photos showing how you had locked them and what you locked them to?
That's the problem with customer service being either inconsistent in how they're trained or just plain incompetent. Telling customers to just leave the bikes somewhere (regardless of if or how they're locked up) seems questionable at best. In a bind I'd do as told, but in clearheaded retrospect, I'd question their instructions (i.e., "what if they get stolen?").
I don't believe the bikes were even stolen. Either Velib is incompetent and can't keep track of what they pick up where or they are simply fraudulent (this one gets my vote) - picked up the bikes but are charging me anyway simply because I can't dispute it. I can't imagine why anyone would ever want to steal one of these bikes, let alone two. It's not like they are inconspicuous and blend in so no one would notice that you have a Velib bike at your house. Nor are they a hot commodity on the bicycle black market. They are clunky, inexpensive bikes with no value to anyone except Velib.
I tried to be diplomatic in my first post but let's face it.
This would not have happened if you had left earlier, hadn't gotten lost--Google Maps anyone-- and been panicked to make your train. It sure is much easier to blame Velib for your bad planning.
Nor are they a hot commodity on the bicycle black market.
How do you know that?
This situation must be out of the ordinary for Velib although it must happen at times. $340 for two bikes sounds more like the "retrieval" charge for sending a tech out to look for them then paying for the bikes. I wouldn't expect them to go find my bike and not charge me for the service but in the heat of the moment maybe it wasn't a consideration. At some point though you have to accept partial responsibility. If this was the only costly mistake on your trip consider yourself fortunate, I have made way more expensive F-ups.
I used their APP which shows availability of bikes and spaces at each station, very handy.
"I have made way more expensive F-ups" <---- ha ha ha, good one!
In fact, I'm sure if we had a contest for "he/she who has had the "most expensive F-ups" I'd be in the running for sure.
Chalk it up to an unfortunate experience/misunderstanding and press on.
There are times taxis (as much as I hate to pay for them) are better alternatives (and MAY have been less expensive in the long run).
If you have the name of the agent with whom you spoke, the day/time, there is a CHANCE you could dispute the charge, IF it was processed against your credit card; but this one sounds like there may not be enough proof of the conversation, situation, photo of WHERE you locked the bikes and to what you locked them, etc. If what you were told on a one-time conversation is not the norm, and if you don't have the name of the person with whom you spoke, it becomes a he-said/she-said situation at best.
Maybe just call it a learning experience, press on and try to make peace with the situation.
We used velib without difficulty. I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but I believe you must not have correctly returned the bikes.