Tag Archives: Winter Tyres

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

Iceland, More About Car Hire Volcano Insurance

Iceland Car Hire Sixt Volcano Damage Insurance

As we drove along a perfectly maintained asphalt road I congratulated myself on my earlier decision not to fall for the volcano damage insurance trick but very soon after that I was glad of the fact that I had agreed to pay the gravel damage insurance scam.

Eventually we came to a sign that told us that the tarmac road was about to end and we about to join an unpaved road full of lumps and bumps, potholes and significant gravel damage danger so I was glad that we had taken out the additional insurance especially when cars approaching from the other way inevitably sent a shower of stones towards us as though we under machine gun fire aimed at our little vehicle which, quite frankly, was totally unsuitable for this sort of journey which made me think again about car hire companies and their underhand tricks.

Earlier in the year I hired a car in Italy (again from Sixt) and despite signing up for comprehensive insurance I was then told that this didn’t cover the roof, the windscreen, the tyres, the floor or, most bizarrely of all, the clutch.  Comprehensive means comprehensive in my book and not one that is qualified with lots of exclusions and ‘get out’ clauses.

A few years ago I had another unpleasant extra charges experience with Sixt at the car hire desk in Karlsruhe-Baden in Germany.  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 and must have given him my best blank expression because with that he rolled his eyes so far back into their sockets that if had laser vision he would have surely fried his brain.

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 this started to 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, but instead he became even more theatrical and said “Look at the snow, you can see the snow, in just two minutes you can see the snow!”  

Sixt Winter Tyres

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 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.

I asked 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 fruit 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 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!”  

By now we were 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.

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 when I got home I checked and they can be bought for as little as €40 each.

Iceland Car Hire Volcano Damage Insurance

But, I digress, so let’s get back to Iceland where Sixt seem to excel themselves at ripping people off and I found this from a victim on Tripadvisor (http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189964-i4363-k5758239-Sixt_rent_a_car_Keflavik-Keflavik_Southern_Peninsula.html):

 “After a lovely week in May of this year we dropped our hired Chevrolet Spark off at this same office where it was thoroughly checked and deemed to be fine. Two days later we received an email saying that they were sorry but sand damage had been found and they had taken over £2500 from my credit card.”

A representative from Sixt responded with this rather lame excuse:

“I would like to assure all Sixt customers that Sixt Iceland tries to handle all damage cases with great care and do not charge customers for damage lightly. There are times when damage cannot be seen until after cleaning and in such cases we contact the customer to let them know about the damage found. We gather all information we can to prove all damage. By taking photos and with an estimated repair cost from an independent garage we are able to provide the renter with a good proof of damage.”

What is that funny smell?

Interestingly, even if you take out the volcano damage insurance this only limits liability to repair costs exceeding €1,500 and that is a staggeringly large excess liability!  I don’t think I will be hiring a car from Sixt again, especially in Iceland!

Thankfully the gravel road experience didn’t last very long and soon we were back to tarmac for the final ten kilometres or so of the journey towards Þingvellir.

Iceland Volcano

Germany, Winter Tyres

Sixt Car Rental Germany

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 Hertz desk to pick up our hire car.

Following our snow experience last year and the protracted and painful debate about winter tyres, this year I had ordered them in advance so without a discussion with the clerk on duty about whether these were really necessary, on this occasion I just paid the exorbitant additional charge of €55 and very quickly we had taken possession of a royal blue Ford Fiesta and the car hire company winter tyres sting was complete.

Read the full story…

Thumbs Up for Sixt Rent a Car

Black Forest Winter Tyres

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 experience that I have ever had with a response from 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.

I have to say that although I paid too much for them I was really glad of the winter tyres as I am sure they made driving a much safer experience in quite tricky driving conditions and hopefully the Commercial Director will be as good as the Customer Services Manager and will give full consideration to my comments.

black-forest-winter-tyres

Thumbs down for Ryanair Transaction Charges

Car-hire-in-Andalusia

The Full Tank of Fuel Car Hire Scam

Black Forest, Baden-Baden

Baden Baden Snow Plough

Even in the city the roads were treacherous and we had to make a couple of circuits of the centre before finding a parking spot at the top of a slippery hill.  It was lunchtime so as it was still snowing heavily we headed for a traditional restaurant that we knew and had our final meal of the holiday and as we watched the snow through the window we started to wonder if this might affect the airport and whether it might be sensible to start making arrangements for an unscheduled overnight stay in Baden-Baden.

Read the full story…

Black Forest, Schiltach and a Blizzard

Shiltach Black Forest

At breakfast on the final morning the sun was shining and there was a blue sky so we weighed up the options and decided to drive through the northern half of the Black Forest and spend the afternoon in Baden-Baden before catching the late flight home.  Unfortunately by the time we had packed our bags and checked out of the Rammersweir Hoff the sunshine had disappeared and had been replaced by the familiar grey sky.  (There was no additional charge for the repair of the cuckoo clock by the way).

Read the full story…

Black Forest, Over the Mountains to Triberg

Snow Driving Black Forest Germany

We had selected the Rammersweier Hoff hotel (http://www.rammersweier-hof.de/) because  it was inexpensive and because of its location about half way between the main cities of Baden-Baden and Freiburg and on the western edge of the forest in the Rhine Valley.  Also because last year when we had to cancel at the last minute they were really good about it and didn’t charge a cancellation fee even though they were entitled to.  It also had excellent guest reviews and these were entirely correct.  It was a homely place and very traditional with Teutonic décor and a collection of Black Forest ornaments.

In the morning we had breakfast in the brightly coloured restaurant and there was a good selection of hot and cold food so we filled ourselves up on the basis that this would last us through until evening meal.

Read the full story…

Black Forest, Winter Tyres?

Black Forest Winter Tyres

Two years ago we visited Germany and stayed in the city of Baden-Baden in the north of the Black Forest and enjoyed it so much that we booked to return a year later.  We didn’t make it however because on the day of the flight there was a little bit of snow across the United Kingdom which closed down all of the airports and cancelled all of the flights.   Not to be outdone by inefficient English bad weather emergency response planning however we booked again to visit in January 2009 and this time with mild weather at Stansted the flight got away as planned.

Read the full story…