I hired a car the other day, using one of the Malaga airport car hire firms. That last sentence alone is probably enough to have many of you sagely nodding your heads, knowing what is about to come, based on the safe assumption that if nothing untoward had happened then I wouldn’t be writing about it.
I have hired cars from almost all the airport car hire firms over the years, and despite always going for the cheapest option and therefore painting a target on my back for the Nefarious Practices department of each firm so that they can get their money out of me, I have emerged by and large unscathed. Until now.
I will not name the firm as to be fair it could have been almost any of the budget car hire companies. And to be honest, having managed, thanks to a rental search site, to pay under £20 for two days’ hire of a nifty little VW Polo, I was on my guard for ways in which the firm might try to get a bit more money from me. First of course was the five minutes hard sell of their insurance, which would have cost me more than three times the cost of hiring the car. I already had insurance, so stood my ground as, seeing as how I was too dim to immediately accept, the heavenly benefits of their policy were explained for a 4th time.
Eventually I got the car, and drove it extremely carefully. I was more than happy when I had returned it that it was in the same condition as when I picked it up. Then came the dreaded words of the clip-board wielding employee: “this is new!” There was a hint of triumph in his voice. Shocked, I went to look at what he was pointing at. On the front left bumper, a small series of scuff marks. I had absolutely no idea how they had got there. They exceeded the allowed diameter of ‘damage’ by a couple of centimetres. I wet my finger to see I could rub them off but he cried ‘No!’ and physically tried to prevent me doing this, fearful that they might disappear, which I am sure with a bit of light scrubbing they would. But already he was on his feet and tapping into his PDA that I would now be fined 225 euros.
Of course he knew as well as I did that the marks would not be repaired. If light damage ever was repaired, you would never be handed a sheet with a diagram of the car and black crosses marking all the damage on it, would you. Every car you picked up would be good as new, fresh back from the repair shop. So it is partially fraud, as far as I am concerned – taking money under false pretences. Yet despite plenty of people wringing their hands, the practice continues. Serves me right for finding a basement bargain? You decide.