Tag Archives: Hertz car hire

Travelling – Car Hire Advice – Be Prepared to Complain

Black Forest Winter Tyres

“Car hire firms abroad have more catches than a corset” – Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert.com

It took only fifty-five minutes to fly the short distance and land at Kahlrsrue-Baden Airpark at nine-thirty in the evening and after quickly clearing immigration and customs we were soon at the Sixt Car Hire desk to pick up our hire car.

There was a pleasant young man on duty called Herr Schmidberger and he examined my hire details and then sighed and furrowed his brow and adopted a concerned demeanour, “You have a booking for a vehicle without the winter tyres” he said, “are you sure you want a car without the winter tyres?”  I had no idea what he was talking about (we don’t have Winter tyres in UK, except for Northern Scotland)  and must have given him my best ever blank expression because with that he rolled his eyes so far back into their sockets that if he had laser vision he would have surely fried his brains.

The winter tyres were an extra €55 and I was beginning to detect a well rehearsed scam so we took a while to consult with each other on the proposal of paying the extra and with a queue starting to form behind us this started to seriously test his patience.

I enquired why I might consider going to the unnecessary additional expense and although this was his opportunity to inform me that since May 2006 German motorists have been required by law to use the most appropriate tyres for the weather conditions and that driving on snow covered roads is permitted only if a car is equipped with winter tyres, he just became even more theatrical and began shouting “Look at the snow, you can see the snow, in just two minutes you can see the snow!”  

Black Forest, Badische Schwarzwaldbahn

Obviously I could see the snow but I still failed to understand why he was so insistent (unless it was a scam and I was becoming more and more sure of that).  He could have told me that in Germany motorists are obliged to make sure they have correct tyres to suit the winter weather conditions and if a vehicle becomes stuck because the tyres are unsuitable drivers are liable to an on the spot police fine, and furthermore if the vehicle causes an obstruction or aggravation to other traffic, the fine may be doubled.

Instead he went into his impression of a man in an electric chair and gave a look that suggested that I was the craziest customer that he had ever dealt with and that driving without winter tyres in snow was madder than wrestling with alligators, swimming in shark infested waters or sky-diving without a parachute.

Triburg Germany Black Forest

I enquired about the weather forecast and whether he thought it might be snowing in the Black Forest (which at over a thousand metres was an absolute certainty and a really dumb question) and then his eyes started to swivel from side to side like the symbols on a gaming machine and he was clearly losing his patience with me now.

He might have explained that winter tyres use a tread rubber compound that is softer and a tread block pattern with more sipes (small slits which are specifically designed to retain flexibility in low temperatures and give good braking and traction performance on snow and ice covered roads) but instead he just keep shrieking “Look at the snow, you can see the snow, in just two minutes you can see the snow!”  

Snow Driving Black Forest Germany

By now I was beginning to understand that he thought snow tyres were a very good idea so finally agreed to the additional charge and he immediately calmed down and set about allocating us an appropriate vehicle for the conditions.

After that he went through the booking and paying procedures, explained where we would find the car in the car park and then clearly lacking any sort of confidence in my snow driving abilities and not expecting to see the car again in one piece bade us farewell with the words “please be sure to drive carefully in the snow, it is very dangerous…”

We quickly found the bright blue Nissan Micra hidden under a blanket of snow, cleaned it down, examined the tyres which, at this time not understanding about the special rubber compound, looked quite normal to me and fairly soon after setting off I was certain we had been scammed.

And we had been of course because at €13.45 a day I calculate that if they are on the car for a third of the year that is an extra €1,600 or €400 a tyre and I could not believe that they can be that much more expensive than a regular tyre.  And of course they are not because I have checked and they can be bought for as little as €40 each.

Black Forest Winter Tyres

Double scammed as it happened because I am certain that we had already been allocated this car anyway – complete with winter tyres.  If I had refused to pay they were hardly likely to jack it up and take them off!

Upon return home I raised the issue of what I considered to be an excessive winter tyre charge in this journal and the reaction has left me speechless with admiration for Sixt Car Hire.

I have experienced the best customer service that I have ever had with a response from Gary Coughlan,  the Customer Services Manager in the United Kingdom who provided me with a clear explanation of the law relating to winter tyres and the company policy in respect to additional charges.  He also promised to raise the matter with the Company’s Commercial Director but I doubt that he ever did.  Gary has a job for life just fobbing off customer complaints!

Two days later I received a refund and a promise that the Board of Sixt would consider the policy at their next scheduled meeting.  I doubt that they ever did of course but I was glad of the refund.

Triberg Germany

Ireland – West Cork and a Puncture

Schull Harbour

It was another fine morning and waking early Richard and I drove into Schull and down to the harbour and then both ways in and out of the village to make sure that we hadn’t missed anything and satisfied that we hadn’t we returned to Rock Hill House for another fine breakfast.

Shortly after we left Schull and plotted our way east along the coast of West Cork.  When I say West Cork I am being carefully specific here because a few days previously in Cork City a man enquired where we were travelling to next and I said we were going west. ‘Where are you going, Galway?’  he asked and I told him ‘no, to Schull’, ‘that’s not west’ he said, rather indignantly, ‘that’s West Cork!’ and although Schull is clearly on the west coast I did not challenge his peculiar and insistent slice of Irish logic.

Our first stop was in the port town of Baltimore where they were preparing for a pirate festival weekend and there are two stories that I will tell you about Baltimore.  The first is that this is the town after which the U.S. city in Maryland is named as both were originally colonised by the English Baron Baltimore and his family.

The second is about pirates because in the seventeenth century this was a bolt-hole for English and Irish pirates who were operating along the south coast of Ireland.  All of this YO HO HO stuff however came to a shuddering stop in   1631 in the Sack of Baltimore, a middle of the night raid by Barbary pirates from North Africa who carried off almost the entire population of the town and sold them into slavery in Algiers.

There was a pirate exhibition in the restored castle in the middle of town which was interesting if not thrilling but we enjoyed the stories of local legends told to us by the man at the pay desk who had plenty of time to spare as we were the only visitors.  As I say, it was interesting but if you want a much better pirate experience then I suggest going to see ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ at Disney world in Florida.

Baltimore Pirate

Oh, a third story.  It is claimed that Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous white horse, Intendant, came from Baltimore but I can find no real evidence that the French Emperor ever visited a horse market anywhere nearby.

Napoleon White Horse

Back to the Pirates and the story goes that those fortunate to escape the raid left Baltimore and went inland to Skibbereen so we followed them and then had the first bit of car trouble as an orange warning light started winking to attract my attention.  I was confused.  Some warning lights are blindingly obvious, for example, ‘there is no oil in the engine and it is going to blow up’ or ‘the brakes aren’t working and you are about to crash’ etc. but some are more obtuse and this curious little symbol fell into the latter category so I put a map across the dashboard and ignored it which is my recommended way of dealing with these situations as we drove on along a series of remote roads to Loch Hyne an area of outstanding natural beauty.

We didn’t get to stay very long because between us we worked out that the warning was tyre related and sure enough we found a half deflated nearside front with an alarming bulge in the tyre wall.  I was annoyed about this because I hadn’t bought tyre damage insurance from the car rental company; I always buy tyre damage insurance and I have never had a puncture so I cursed my misfortune today.

Richard and I could have supervised a tyre change but but Kim and Pauline didn’t want to get their hands dirty so we collectively crossed our fingers and I drove slowly and carefully away from the Loch and to nearby Skibbereen where by a stroke of good fortune we came quickly to a tyre replacement workshop.

The mechanic examined the tyre and identified a previous puncture repair so it looked as though we had been stitched up by the car rental company so to get our own back we bought the cheapest possible replacement that the man had in stock and then drove on into the town and parked in a supermarket car park.

Walking into the town it is fair to say that we weren’t blown away by Skibbereen so we poked around in some visitor shops, looked for photo opportunities and then found a pub for Guinness and Wifi where we could catch up on our emails.

How Rude

We left Skibbereen with barely a backward glance and drove the few miles to our next overnight destination in the town of Clonakilty and as we drove into Wolf Hall Tone Street and checked into the Clonakilty Hotel we immediately knew that we liked this place. As we walked into town narrow streets and lanes opened into elegant squares, a town of tall spires, grand houses, towers and historic buildings.

It was late afternoon and England were playing Wales in an important football match in the European Championships so we found a pub with a television and downed a Guinness and enjoyed the 2-1 victory.  As it turned out this was quite a well-known Ireland pub on account of the number of famous musicians that have played there and their photographs were pinned to the walls. Noel Redding, the bass player with the Hendrix Experience apparently lived nearby  (probably ten minutes away) and used his influence to attract big names to De Barra pub including David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Donovan. Donovan? In case you don’t remember Donovan, here is a clip – Donovan – Colours.

Donovan is Scottish but we were hoping for a night of traditional Irish music and we were disappointed to discover that this was the week of the Clonakilty Arts Festival and tonight instead of music there was poetry and none of us are really that keen on poetry.

After evening meal we found a pub with music but instead of fiddles and accordions it was modern New Orleans blues/jazz which was pleasant enough but not what we were hoping for.  This seems a shame to me, Ireland, just as everywhere else, is changing and it appears that it wants to shake off its traditions and run headlong into a modern cosmopolitan era.  I have seen this in Greece and I hope in Ireland they come to their senses and resist it before it is too late.

De Barra Pub Clonakilty

Brittany, Dinard

Dinard, Brittany, France

When I began my series of posts about a holiday to Wales I told you that this was a result of hastily reorganising arrangements because of the threats of industrial action and ferry delays due to migrant disruption at the port of Calais but we were not to be denied a visit to Northern France because in August I spotted some reasonably priced return air fares at only £49 each to the Brittany resort of Dinard.

We snapped them up almost without thinking and then invited our friends Sue and Christine to join us and they immediately agreed.

So we left East Midlands airport around about lunch time and arrived less than an hour later in the garden shed which doubles as an airport in Dinard, in Brittany.  The Ryanair flight landed early so the Hertz car hire office wasn’t open because the staff were on their contracted two hour lunch break (in Europe the French work less hours than anyone else) so as it turned out I spent as long waiting in line to sign for the car as I had spent in the air and I had slept through half of that!

Car (Renault Captur) finally allocated we set off for Dinard but spotted a Lidl supermarket and stopped off for beer and wine and spent another ten minutes or so in a check out queue.  I calculated that I had been in France for about ninety minutes and spent sixty of those waiting in line.  This took me by surprise because generally speaking French people don’t like queuing up but as it turned out this wasn’t the only thing that was going to surprise me about Brittany.

Unusually for me I found the hotel without any trouble whatsoever but parking seemed to be a real problem until almost by magic someone vacated a space close by and I drove straight in and immediately got a warm glow in my heart as I was convinced that this short break was going to be a massive success.

We checked in, left our bags and went straight back outside to the sea front.  There was a lot of beach activity because it turned out that this weekend Dinard was hosting the national French Life Guard Championship games and the activity on the beach was certainly exciting the locals as young men and women kept leaping into the sea in a series of races, the rules of which we couldn’t possibly hope to understand.

Dinard Lifeguard Championships 2015

We walked along the promenade until we came across a bar that took or fancy and we sat and drank wine and surveyed the panorama of views.  Dinard is a prosperous beach resort on account of the fact that wealthy fishing fleet owners out of nearby St Malo took a liking to the place in the late nineteenth century and built their cliff top seaside villas here.

It has been called the Cannes of the north, apparently Joan Collins is a frequent visitor but we didn’t spot here tonight, Winston Churchill enjoyed holidaying on the River Rance and it is claimed that Alfred Hitchcock visited Dinard and based the house used in his most famous movie Psycho on a villa standing over the Plage de l’Écluse, there is even a statue of the man to endorse the claim.  Long before his adventures Lawrence of Arabia lived in Dinard as a small child and Picasso painted here in the 1920s, Claude Debussy is supposed to have had the idea for “La Mer” during a visit to Saint-Énogat in 1902 and Oscar Wilde also visited the place and mentions it in his De Profundis.

I got a whiff that this is a special place, a sophisticated France seaside town with none of the unpleasantness associated with anywhere in the UK on the coast.  No amusement arcades, no beach front fairs, none of those £1 rides that so annoy me and no candyfloss or burger bars.  Being a wannabe snob I felt immediately at home.

After a drink and a short walk we returned to the hotel and thoughts turned to evening meal.  This could have been a difficult moment because being on the coast most of the menus were 90% fish and Sue and Christine don’t normally do fish because they have an aversion to anything that crawls, slithers or swims in the sea so I was beginning to get the sweats.

We found a traditional sort of place quite close to the hotel and chanced our arm and everything was fine, Kim and I had monkfish and Sue and Christine had smoked haddock and in anticipation of a chocolate sweet they ate every mouthful and that was quite an achievement let me tell you.

We wandered the short distance back to the hotel under the stars and with the waves caressing the caramel sand as the tide raced in went to our rooms optimistic about the weather in the morning.

Restaurant street Art Mellieha Malta

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…