Alamo Complaint - Compulsory prepay fuel contrary to contract
I want to share with you recent experiences we had with Alamo Car rentals on three different occasions in a 6-week period in the US and Canada
We used our travel agent to make reservations for three separate car hires with Alamo in North America:
1 Los Angeles 1 day 24 August 2007 Invoice 70010569752 Contract ID 253905GW
2 Vancouver 3 days 25 September 2007 RA 164853956, Contract ID 253905GW
3 Los Angeles 7 days 28 September 2007, Contract ID 253905GW, RES # 730361283
Each time, Alamo insisted that we agree to pre-pay them to refuel the car with a full tank of gas, instead of our following the usual practice of returning the car full. We have been renting cars through DTN in North America for the last 15 years and have never been denied the option of refilling the fuel tank ourselves until our recent experience with Alamo.
They said they had the authority to do this because of the tour operator’s agreement (with DTN), and that they were unable to vary this requirement. Their comment: “Blame your travel agent for not telling you”.
There was no disclosure of this policy in the written documentation we received from DTN, or verbally from our travel agent, United Travel Browns Bay. Had we known about this policy we would have rented elsewhere. In fact they are gouging the customer – using fees that look reasonable when quoted by DTN to travellers as ‘bait’, with the intention of making extra windfall profits from every car rental by not having to completely refuel a car after they have required their customers to pay for a full tank of fuel in advance.
This policy is contrary to Alamo’s own signage at their offices, and contrary to the wording in the rental agreement between Alamo and each driver.
The Vehicle will be provided to You with a full tank of fuel. You may choose one of the following options: (my emphasis)
a. (Prepaid gas) You may pay an upfront, non-refundable Fuel Service Option charge …..
b. (Return Full or Pay) If You do not elect the Fuel Service Option, You may return the Vehicle with the same amount of fuel as when You received it. You will then not pay a refuelling Service Charge.
We were given no choice in this matter, even though Alamo claims every driver has this choice. It appears to be a deliberate and cynical attempt to profiteer off vulnerable overseas travellers.
The first hire was at Los Angeles Airport on August 24 this year. It was for 24 hours, and our intention was to drive from the airport down to Redondo Beach nearby. We drove a total of 28 miles altogether. There was no way we could use a full tank of fuel in one day. Why would we want to pay in advance for the car to be completely refuelled? The clerk insisted we sign the agreement, and said the computer would not allow him to change it, but did say we could try to negotiate a refund with the manager on returning the car. Eventually on our return the next day the manager did agree to credit the refuelling fee – but it added considerable time to the whole check-in process.
The second hire was for three days at Vancouver airport on September 25 this year. Our plans were to drive to a motel in Burnaby, an inner Vancouver suburb, and visit friends – using the car only for shopping, and short trips to restaurants and our friends’ house. Again there was no possibility of using a full tank of fuel. This time Alamo was completely inflexible.
We also had a third hire at LAX for 7 days from September 28 to October 4. In this case we did foresee the possibility of using at least a full tank, and the tank was low on fuel as we approached LAX when returning. Given the difficulties of the two previous rentals, and the time pressure we were under, I did not refuel the car.
The reasons why this policy is unfair and unreasonable are obvious:
• Windfall profits to Alamo, and added expense to the renter, if a car is not returned empty
• It is very stressful attempting to judge the fuel level accurately when attempting to returning a car almost empty of fuel to an airport
• It encourages unnecessary driving in order for a driver to ‘get their money’s worth’. This is wasteful of the driver’s time, hastens depreciation of the vehicle, and is very environmentally insensitive given the finite supply of oil on this planet.
• It is common wisdom that it is best practice to refuel any car before it is ‘empty’ because the bottom of the fuel tank tends to collect impurities
We complained to DTN after we returned home, and they pointed out that they had not been informed by Alamo about this policy. They contacted Alamo, and their response was to offer us a one-class upgrade on our next rental. This offer is derisory, and we will not be accepting it.
Alamo is in the tourism service industry. If people choose not to rent their cars they would go out of business. Therefore it is surprising that at no time either when we rented the car(s), or after we complained, did we feel that we were treated like valued customers. Instead, we were exploited, by being charged for services we had no possibility of using.