Q: My husband and I recently traveled to Italy to meet my brother and his wife for a week in Tuscany to celebrate everyone’s 40th Birthday. We planned to fly into Milan and rent a car large enough to handle our luggage.
We decided to reserve a van through Sixt, a large European car rental company. With all the taxes, the bill was estimated at a little over 610 Euros for 8 days. When we arrived in Milan, I gave the woman at the counter all my details and verified that I had the correct rate, since my contract did not have a rate printed on it. When I got to my vehicle, I discovered that I had been “downgraded” to a car. Fortunately, the car could accommodate our luggage, and rather than wait in a long line, I decided to take the smaller vehicle.
Imagine my surprise when a week later a charge for $914.14 showed up on my credit card from Sixt – about $310 more than it should have been with the larger vehicle. I called my credit card company to dispute the charge. I also called Sixt and asked it to adjust the charges.
But two months later the charge was reinstated. Basically, Sixt sent the credit-card company a copy of the rental agreement with a different rate from the one we’d been quoted. How can I get downgraded but charged more for the rental?
— Karen Weaver
A: It’s no secret that the travel industry’s pricing doesn’t always make sense. But the rate you paid is, to put it bluntly, nonsense.
Less for more? Come on. Sixt might as well be an airline.
When you were forcibly “downgraded” Sixt applied a new, more expensive rate to your rental car. You weren’t aware of the new price until you returned your car, because the contract you signed didn’t have a price on it.
You shouldn’t have settled for the smaller car. It was given to you by mistake, and you needed to address the problem right then and there, rather than wait until later. You also jumped the gun on the credit-card dispute. It would have been far better to take the matter up with Sixt first, and then, only after you’ve failed to resolve it, initiated a credit-card dispute.
Sixt failed on many levels. It gave you the wrong car, changed the price and then stonewalled you for the better part of a year before I got involved. The most troubling aspect, however, is what you claim the car-rental company showed your credit-card company: A contract you say you neither saw nor signed. That’s highly unusual and I’m very troubled by it. If a company is creating counterfeit contracts, that’s a serious problem.
I contacted the company through its partner in the United States, Dollar. Christine Sheeran, a manager for international customer service, said you should have received a response when you tried to contact Sixt after you returned to the States. “I apologize for the continued delays,” she added, promising a swift resolution.
But the resolution wasn’t so quick.
You were contacted by a customer service agent who asked you for more supporting documents. A month later, you got a call from the same agent saying that you’d receive a $310 check. But that check got lost in accounting and wasn’t received until last month – 14 months after you filed the dispute.
Look, you don’t need me to tell you this isn’t the way it’s supposed to work. Someone, somewhere should have been able to see the discrepancies between the prices you were quoted and paid, and quickly reversed the charges. But they didn’t. Sixt needs to fix that. But the company should also be commended for seeing its mistake and trying to do right (even though it took some time). Better late than never.
Next time, make sure you get the car you asked for. And make sure there’s a price on the contract you sign.