I followed all of the instructions CarTrawler provided and upon arrival in Rome went to the SIXT desk at FCO on Saturday 1st September with all of the documentation that CarTrawler had instructed me to take. The woman at the SIXT desk asked to see the hardcopy of the email that CarTrawler had sent me and the hardcopy of the provided voucher. Initially her attitude was friendly and helpful but when she saw that the booking had been made through CarTrawler her demeanor changed. She asked to see my drivers’ license. I provided my UK drivers’ license which she would not accept because my residence is the US. I provided my US drivers’ license which she did not accept because she said it was not valid in Italy (not only is this factually incorrect because of the reciprocal arrangements between the US and Italy, but I have never had an issue using a US drivers’ license to hire a vehicle anywhere in Italy in the 15 years I have been travelling there). I started to suspect that something was wrong and this was confirmed when she told me I needed to have an International Drivers Permit. Here’s the thing – I do actually have one of those. They are very rare and not needed in Italy but I was able to show this to her along with my passport and valid credit card. I was then told by the woman that I would not be allowed to take my pre-booked and pre-paid for car because I had made the booking on the CarTrawler website and not on SIXT.com. If you have a similar experience to this you need to know that all of this was a smokescreen. Subsequent investigations and conversations with members of staff at multiple vehicle rental desks at FCO have shown that these companies simply will not honour CarTrawler bookings. CarTrawler know this and continue to sell rentals to customers safe in the knowledge that they will get to keep the money, not have to pay the third party (in my case SIXT), and then just fob the customer off when they complain.
As soon as I left the car rental office I called the CarTrawler customer service number and explained what had happened. The representative I spoke to immediately started trying to invent reasons for the SIXT woman’s behavior but this was not appropriate because only she and I were involved in the discussion and I can categorically state that the sole reason given by her for not allowing me to take the car that I had booked and paid for was that I had made the booking on the CarTrawler website. I therefore followed CarTrawler’s complaints process <[email protected]> and requested the immediate return of the $120.08 that I paid for this car rental. My CarTrawler case number is 00917430. In order to investigate the case CarTrawler requested the following documents all of which were provided:
- The photo/scan of the Payment Card used at the rental desk showing the following information: the first 6 digits of the card, the name of the card holder, expiry date and the bank's logo (please cover any irrelevant information).
- A photo/scan of the drivers licence.
- A photo/scan of the International Driving Permit.
- A photo/scan of the additional form of the photo ID (passport).
- A proof of your own Loss Damage Waiver Insurance presented at the rental desk.
- A copy of any receipts/ documents/ photographs that are relevant to your case.
- Your flight details and flight number.
Incredibly, after providing everything they asked for, CarTrawler then invented a story where I was a ‘no-show’ at the vehicle rental office at FCO writing that as a result they are “not able to offer a refund on this occasion”!
They explained that “A 'no-show' occurs for the following reasons:
1 – You didn't inform us about your cancellation prior to your pick-up time.
2 – You failed to pick up the car at the arranged time and date.
3 – You failed to provide the documentation that's required to pick up the car.
4 – You failed to provide a credit card in the main driver's name with enough available funds on it.
In the event of any of the above, no refunds will be made to you.”
Since none of these criteria applied in my case I again got in touch with CarTrawler and asked again for the return of my money explaining why their justification for not returning was invalid in each case. They are still to this date refusing to return my money.
At the time of writing there are 47 pages of complaints about CarTrawler on TripAdvisor and I am not at all surprised. They have been described variously as conmen and crooks and that has certainly been my experience.