Thrifty Complaint - Thrifty Car Rental from Dusseldorf Airport
THEODOR-HEUSS-STR. 71-73 (DUSSDELDORF AIRPORT, GER -- I would like to add my story to similar experiences that I have now seen on this site. It appears that some Thrifty car rental places in Germany are taking advantage of foreign travelers. Please be warned about this company, and avoid them or be very careful when renting from them.
I booked my two-week rental through Expedia for a total of 327.40 euro. When I arrived with my family into Dusseldorf, we were met taken off-site to the rental agency. They explained that my US insurance would not be acceptable, and coverage with a Visa card would only be allowed with an advanced approved letter from Visa stating that the car was covered. They said that I would need to purchase an additional insurance from them for ~20 euro per day and they would charge me a minimum of 600 euro deductible upfront. While this is pretty outrageous, we just had an overnight flight from the US and more stuff than we could carry, so I paid the money.
The rental vehicle was fine, and we returned it on the morning before our flight. After much delay, so that we were getting worried about making our flight time, a guy comes out to inspect the vehicle and finds a tiny hairline scratch on the tailgate near the license plate. I couldn't believe it; I would not have even thought to mention this if I had done a thorough inspection of the vehicle before accepting it. Then, before taking us back to the airport, they made me sign a form (in German) saying that it was scratched. They said that although I was probably not responsible, they would check their records and make sure that it was noted before so that I would be off the hook for it. They would not, however, give me my deposit back. Again, in a tight spot, I signed the form and we made our flight back home.
After a few weeks, I filed a complaint with Thrifty in the US and requesting that I get my deposit back. I did not get a reply from them, but yesterday I did get a bill from the German agency saying that the damage was repaired for a fee of 681.42 euro -- remarkably close to the deductible. They also charged my credit card an additional 81.42 euro. What I have been able to decipher from the German bill, is 171 euro for painting, and many other expenses for unrelated parts such as some rear flaps, debasement charge (51 euro), allowance cost (19.65 euro), phone/fax business charges (50 euro), and others that I can't figure out, which bring the total to 681.42 euro.
I have now asked Visa to block the payment. I have also requested proof that the car was actually painted. I anticipate that nothing was done to the car and that this will happen to the next unsuspecting customer as well. I have also sent my complaint to the consumer protection agency in Dusseldorf. I don't actually anticipate that anything will come of this, and that I will just end up paying a significant fraction of the tiny VW's value for the privilege of renting it. But, I would like to warn others. If I had noticed the warning posted here an elsewhere about this kind of scam, I would have chosen another company (or taken the train!). If you do rent from a place like this, I highly recommend that you go over the car in extreme detail and get them to sign off on every blemish; I am not exaggerating about how small this scratch was. Once they make you buy their endurance, it is in their interest to find a problem with the car, and they probably will.