Car hire bad for small business

When in Cape Town . . . take a taxi!

As a small business owner I travel around a lot – but almost always with my own transport. In fact, in the past ten years I’ve had to hire a car only twice – and after last week’s experiences – thank heavens for that!

As a general rule, business owners need to be almost fanatically financially disciplined. We need to know how much something is going to cost – within a reasonable variation, anyway. All business owners know that cash flow is king – it’s just the size of the numbers that differ.

So, I pity the foolish small business owners who, like me thinks that a branded vehicle hire company would at least:

a) Be able to quote for car hire within a maximum of 20% variation

b) Take a reasonable deposit hold on a credit card – and then return it within 24 hours of the car being returned

Like so many other small business owners before me, I’ve just had to endure yet another horrible experience from a car hire company. Seeing all the Hello Peter reports, I suspect that most car hire companies behave in a similar way.

Hello Peter Car Hire Reports – so many unhappy customers:

Since they all seem to be pretty much as bad as each other, I won’t offer the name of the company I used last week, other than to mention that it’s part of Imperial, which is part of the Bidvest Group.

So as to avoid any laboured whining, here are the facts of the transaction. We stayed in Cape Town for five days. We used taxis for two days, but wrongly thought that we needed a hired car for a longer weekend destination.

  1. Quote for 3 day car hire received – R983-00 for the service R6 000 required to be “blocked” on credit card

  2. Amount paid on collection of car at Cape Town International Airport – R2 136 – more than double the quoted amount. Garbled explanation about an additional “deposit” not stated anywhere in the quotation. R6 000 blocked on credit card. But “not to worry” they say, because the additional amount will all be returned on a successful return of the vehicle.

  3. Car returned exactly as requested within the required time-frame with no damage and no additional km overcharge.

    Amount charged for actual rental – R1 317 or more than 30% of the quoted amount.

    More costs, some “hidden”, some overcharged petrol, some not requested or understated.

    Final bill: R1 819.75 – now double the original quoted amount.

  4. Additional “deposit” not returned. Blocked R6000 not returned.

  5. Spam from Bidvest arrives as SMS. Did you know that Bidvest can now provide a free mechanical warranty quote for a 2006 motor vehicle or later? Yay.

  6. One day later: Additional “deposit” not returned. Blocked R6000 not returned.

  7. The following day – now two days after the vehicle is returned – an email from a “Debtors Administrator” which reads exactly as sent:

    “Please kindly send your banking details so that we can process your refunds. It seem like you have provided us with the incorrect account number.”

    Noted that I’ve never supplied said company with my account number. They processed a transaction on my debit card and credit card handled by desk staff. They successfully manage to remove money from your account but fail dismally to replace it again – even though it must be on their same system. But it’s easier to blame the client for their own mistakes.

Overall observation – car hire companies have so many hidden costs and charges that they border on the fraudulent. Car hire is bad for small business.

Cape Town taxis are much better and ultimately cost far less. We got great service from the friendly, helpful and honest cab drivers from Sea View Taxis –

A trip from Cape Town International to Clifton was quoted at R450 and cost R450. I’ve subsequently worked out that if all our car hire trips were made in taxis our total bill would have been less than R1 500, have not required any additional “deposit”, hidden costs or a R6000 blocked credit card, spam messages or insulting emails.

Car hire? Avoid it if you can.

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