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Use caution when changing an existing rental car reservation

Bruce Pollock

10+ Posts
Maybe I'm the only person in the world who didn't know this, but I almost got burned when I tried to make a tiny change to our car reservation for an upcoming trip to France. The plan was to drop the car off at the train station in St Pierre-des-Corps before our travel into Paris. The car reservation was made long before the train schedule was known, so I guestimated the time we would drop it off. When we finally booked the train, it turned out we would need the car for an extra two hours (or else hang around the station for two hours).

I naively thought I could just make an on-line amendment to the drop-off time but, long story short, the car rental system wanted to take me back to square one and make a whole new booking. Surprise!! The new price was going to increase by EUR300. I cancelled out of the system without accepting the change, but I still want to make sure with the rental company that I haven't screwed things up, and that we will actually have a car waiting for us.

In this case the rental company is Sixt, but I've been told that basically all the rental companies in Europe do this.
 
I cancelled out of the system without accepting the change, but I still want to make sure with the rental company that I haven't screwed things up, and that we will actually have a car waiting for us.
If you plan on talking to a representative of Sixt in any case, then you might want to request the specific change personally, instead of trying online through the site. Sometimes you actually get a real "human" being on the other end, someone who knows and understands when it's possible to bend the standard rules a bit. If this was two days before your trip, then I suppose it might be harder for the company to change - but if you're still a relatively long way away from the trip, then you might have a chance to make the change at no cost, or a very small one. It might help if you acknowledge the rules, but complain that they are in fine print, and ask for a favor. If they agree, you can ask how you can send good feedback to someone to recommend the company.

That's how things work today in many businesses - companies look for any way to make a bit more money, and the rules are not stated clearly and in a warning tone. On the contrary, the customer has to make the effort to read all the "terms and conditions" (usually written on pages upon pages, in which the customer's patience runs out quite quickly), and be, in essence, smarter than the booking form.
OTOH, these things usually ARE stated clearly in the T's and C's - you just have to be aware of the general business policies of these types of companies, and expect to be very cautious in any transaction with them.

I suppose that if you open the T's and C's of Sixt, you will see that your type of case is mentioned, albeit they might just mention "entailing a change of price", or some other vague description. But it could be that they mention a specific price. The companies themselves also have to be protected from the caprices of certain customers, but it's clear that they could do more for the benefit of their customers, and in many cases choose not to, just to make another buck.
 
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Yes, there may well be something buried deep in the T&C which addresses this. But I have done this occasionally in the past (albeit in North America) without any problem, so it never occurred to me that it could be a problem here.

As for 'customer service' there is no phone number listed anywhere on Sixt's international site that I could find. They do not want you to call them. The only way of reaching the 'customer service' people is through a web form. After almost five days, I'm still awaiting a response. However, I did manage to log into my reservation through the French Sixt website and eventually found a number in France which I will try (along with mon tres pauvre francais).

Sometimes you actually get a real "human" being on the other end, someone who knows and understands when it's possible to bend the standard rules a bit.

I plan to first confirm that the original reservation is still valid and then gently ask for a two hour extension. Hopefully, a real human will have some sympathy.
 
Do the terms say anything about a grace period for a slightly late return? That would be one hope, especially if you could keep it to one hour late. Also if you don't change the reservation and simply return it late, one would hope the penalty wouldn't be that much.
 
As for 'customer service' there is no phone number listed anywhere on Sixt's international site that I could find. They do not want you to call them. The only way of reaching the 'customer service' people is through a web form. After almost five days, I'm still awaiting a response.
That is clearly a very red flag. A company that doesn't have a "Customer Support" line in the menu of its site, with email addresses AND telephone numbers, both local and international, with hours of operation, is not one that is trying very hard to please its customers. Especially if it is a travel company. If I were you I'd even leave negative feedback about this simple omission through any popular travel website (Google Maps, TripAdvisor, etc.). Let us know what becomes of this - they still might save a bit of face if they offer to make the change you request at zero, or very minimal, cost.

There's always something to learn about bureaucracy - they are forever trying to make things harder for us "ordinary" folks.
 
The T&C allow a 60 minute grace period for late pick-up, but the only thing I can see about late return is:
The Rental Agreement is for a specified period, as defined at the time of reservation and set out in the Rental Agreement, and will end on the agreed date and at the agreed time.

...if You do not return the vehicle to the agreed location at the date and time stated in the Rental Agreement, said Rental Agreement will be terminated, and any Liability Limitations and Optional Insurance agreed and taken out at the beginning of the rental period will no longer apply. With regard to the continuous use of the
vehicle, and until its actual return, You and any Authorised Driver will be jointly and severally liable to Us for the payment of a usage fee, the amount of which shall be equal to our daily rate for private customers, as displayed in our agencies, unless the failure to return the vehicle is not your fault or the fault of the Authorised Driver.

With hindsight, I think the best thing to have done would have been to ask, upon pick-up of the vehicle, if was possible to return it two hours later. Hopefully, a sympathetic human would say yes.
 
The following is what appears to apply in your case, Section D, 5-6 in their T and C (I'm hoping for you - and us - that you still manage to get a considerate answer to your request) :

Untitled S.png
 
The following is what appears to apply in your case, Section D, 5-6 in their T and C...

Thanks for your legal research!!!! However, as I dig deeper into this, I cannot find the terms you describe within the T&C which I was provided by Sixt France. Here is some possibly relevant language:
Flexi Return Guarantee
Plans can change. As a flexible mobility partner, we are happy to adapt to your plans. Thanks to our Flexi Return guarantee, you have the freedom to return the vehicle at any time to an authorised Sixt station, regardless of the rental agreement.

If your plans change during your hire period, let us know by telephone on +33 (0) 144 38 55 55 or in person at any of our numerous stations, and our employees will amend your rental contract. By doing this, we can adapt to your changed plans.

Flexi Late Return in both tariffs (Pay later & Pay now)
If you return the vehicle later than agreed in the rental agreement, extra days may be charged due to the rental extension. The price of these will be based on the shorter hire duration. If you do not inform us about the rental extension, we will charge an additional service fee of EUR 14.40 for the Flexi Return service.

These terms give me hope that this can be resolved if I could just speak to a real human, preferably in English. Thanks for all your suggestions.
 
Now that you mention it, you're right - I was on their Italy site. Attached for what it's worth :
 

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  • sixt_IT_en.pdf
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For what it’s worth, I’ve rented directly from Sixt in France and Spain and they were good to deal with (but the nice agent did manage to talk me up to a more expensive car at the counter).
 
Yeah these companies make it unnecessarily hard to do a minor change online without canceling you out to rebook at a typically higher price. If your worst option is to kill a couple of hours around the station, not so bad. There must be a bar or restaurant nearby. Or watch a download of a couple of episodes of Luther or a Ricky Gervais series.
 
Maybe I'm the only person in the world who didn't know this, but I almost got burned when I tried to make a tiny change to our car reservation for an upcoming trip to France. The plan was to drop the car off at the train station in St Pierre-des-Corps before our travel into Paris. The car reservation was made long before the train schedule was known, so I guestimated the time we would drop it off. When we finally booked the train, it turned out we would need the car for an extra two hours (or else hang around the station for two hours).

I naively thought I could just make an on-line amendment to the drop-off time but, long story short, the car rental system wanted to take me back to square one and make a whole new booking. Surprise!! The new price was going to increase by EUR300. I cancelled out of the system without accepting the change, but I still want to make sure with the rental company that I haven't screwed things up, and that we will actually have a car waiting for us.

In this case the rental company is Sixt, but I've been told that basically all the rental companies in Europe do this.
Try googling Sixt telephone number. That might lead you to a conversation with a human being.
 
Epilogue: After spending time poking around the recesses of the reservation information provided by Sixt France, I found a phone number (+33 08 20 00 74 98), called and spoke to a nice young man with excellent English. I was able to confirm that the original booking was still intact despite my somewhat clumsy attempt to cancel out my intended changes on-line. He then added my requested two hours onto the reservation at no charge (although he did say that there was usually a charge for this).

All's well that ends well, but I think my original warning is still valid. We should be careful about trying to change these reservations using self-serve on-line methods.
 
Epilogue: After spending time poking around the recesses of the reservation information provided by Sixt France, I found a phone number (+33 08 20 00 74 98), called and spoke to a nice young man with excellent English. He then added my requested two hours onto the reservation at no charge (although he did say that there was usually a charge for this).
Wow, signs of life! Maybe not all is lost with these companies.... ;)
Good to hear and thanks for the update.
 
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Good, and I don't know if the extra time "added" an extra day, such as you picked up at noon and your new return time was 2 p.m., but in these cases it's generally advised to have your return time match your pickup time: if you pick up at noon, set a return time of noon even if you know you'll be returning it at 9 a.m., and even if you aren't doing them the favor of letting them accurately know when to expect the car back. This is unless the return time you'd give would be when the office is closed, such as on a weekend day when they'd close early.
 
FYI - just needed to change a reservation for pick up on a Hertz rental via Auto Europe broker by an hour. Emailed Auto Europe for assistance and they took care of it with Hertz and emailed updated voucher.
 

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