Alamo Complaint - Don't rent a car from Alamo San Francisco (Bush Street)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA -- Having prebooked a car to be picked up on 6 Aug 2009 at 10.00 am in Bush Street, San Francisco, we were appalled to discover that the queue for the Alamo desk stretched to about 100 people long in front of us. We had to stand out on the street with luggage in the hot sun with nowhere to sit for THREE AND HALF HOURS before we reached the desk. There were three Alamo attendants manning the desks and whilst they were clearly stressed two of them were able to remain reasonably polite, but the third attendant actually accused a fellow (non-English speaking) customer of disrespecting him and started a rant about Europeans not being able to drive automatic cars and that it was not up to Alamo to provide tuition, reducing the already stressed customer to tears.
Having signed all the forms when we finally reached the desk, we were informed that the car would be ready to collect in 15-20 minutes and that we should wait in another area inside a private multi-deck car park, again with no seating or amenities other than a disgusting toilet with a broken door lock. We waited here for another TWO HOURS before we were handed the keys. (Meanwhile, there were other customers still waiting for their cars who were in front of me in the original queue, I have no idea how long they waited).
There was no time available to ask questions about the car and because it was given to me in a position where it was holding up other cars, I had to drive it out of a dark basement and into three lanes of traffic without any familiarisation period; not easy when you normally drive a manual gear-shift right-hand drive car in the UK.
The total wait of FIVE AND A HALF HOURS for the car meant that the first day of our driving holiday was totally messed up. We had to drive straight to our prebooked accommodation in Monterey rather than spend a leisurely day touring and sightseeing to get there.
The delay in picking up the car was, we think, due to the fact that Alamo did not have cars immediately available. Cars were being returned by customers finishing their rental periods during our wait and were, we think, being turned around quickly for the next hirer, and in consequence were not fully checked out apart from a basic valeting.
After a couple of days use a warning light appeared on the dashboard, although the car was behaving normally. There appeared to be no handbook in the car so I had no means of knowing what a red “engine block” symbol meant. I tried to call the Alamo emergency help line but gave up after being put on-hold for a few minutes (with a UK cell phone it was costing a fortune!) I checked the oil level and found it to be about 1.5 cm below the min line. I had to add two quarts (4 pints?) to bring it back to the required level. However this did not solve the warning light problem immediately, though it did disappear the next day. Eventually after trying on two other occasions I managed to get through to ask advice about the car, as by now a warning message had appeared on the dashboard saying that the car was due for an engine oil change at 20000 miles (at this stage the milometer read about 19500, but we still had another 1250 miles to go). It was suggested by the advisor that I could arrange an oil change myself, or call in at another Alamo office and exchange the car. Neither of these suggestions fitted in with our touring schedule so it was agreed that it would be OK for me to continue through the full rental period ignoring the warning message.
I have never used Alamo before and certainly won’t be using or recommending them in the future. I am still awaiting a response for compensation for the lost day of our holiday and the cost of a full tank which was taken off my credit card even though the tank was full on returning the car. (It is true that I signed a clause on the form at the start of the rental to authorise this, but in the chaos of the pick-up the implications of returning with a full tank were not explained to me.) The rental was arranged on-line through Holiday Autos UK who say they are dealing with my complaint, although I have had nothing from them yet.
30 Sept2009 Update!!
Alamo have come good and through Holiday Autos have offered me compensation for the "lost" day and the full tank of fuel. Thank you to Alamo for seeing reason.
Michael Lester UK