Europcar, an unimpressive option for car rental.

I recently tried to hire a car from Europcar and, after that attempt, I'll not be back. Car hire firms compete on efficiency, ease of dealing with them and price. Europcar lag on all three measures.

Their website is quite poor. Navigation is not obvious and the need to download large quantities of graphics makes it clear that they do not really want to deal with individuals unless they are fortunate enough to have better than a modem to access the net. This is crazy, if you want to have a gargantuan site that requires huge downloads then you really should have a low-graphics alternative. Additionally, with a little thought and care, a high graphics content site can be made to be navigable by somebody who has images turned off.

Their prices are a little higher than Sixt but the following, Kafkaesque adventure says it all really:

I attempted to rent a car from Europcar for the Easter weekend of 2000.

I knew that there might be problems finding a depot open so, before I went on-line, I phoned the local depot and asked if they would be open on Good Friday morning. Well, that was a good sign, they were open so I said that I'd go and make an internet booking. That way I get better prices but also, I do not have so much paperwork to fill in when I go and collect the car.

Half an hour after I booked, I received a message on my voice mail to say that the depot was closed and so they had cancelled my booking. I was told that, if I needed any further help I should call them in the Berlin office.

I called and was subjected to their phone navigation system. It didn't use keypad navigation instead, it used voice recognition. As no computer can recognise my pathetic German accent, I had to wait until the very end when the system invited any English speakers to say "English" so that's what I did. I then heard an English voice telling me to hold while I was transferred to an operator. When I finally reached a human being, guess what? Did he speak English? Of course not so what was the point of the pantomime with the automatic system?

The German speaking operator attempted to transfer me to one of his colleagues but the transfer failed and I was cut off. So, I tried again. This time, after the same trip round the automatic system I was connected to an English speaking operator.

I explained the problem and I was faced with the sort of attitude that you might have found at the Gas Board twenty years ago. "The computer says that the depot in Paderborn is closed so we have cancelled your booking."

"But," say I, "the man in Paderborn tells me that they are open so please reinstate it."

I was told that this was impossible and the booking was cancelled. However, he kindly offered to connect me to the man from the Paderborn depot. You are ahead of me aren't you? Yes, of course, when they tried to transfer me, the line went dead and I was cut off. So, I decided to look elsewhere for me weekend travel plans.

Is that the end? No, of course not. The following day, I received a call on my voicemail from a rather unhappy man from Europcar who wanted to know why I never turned up for the car that I had booked.

Wonderful people indeed. I certainly cannot recommend anyone trying to do business with this shower.

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