Customer Service – And How To Hit A Return Ace

[ Lees dit in het Nederlands ]

As if the eventful day of traveling to Villa Diodati 11 wasn’t bad enough, I discovered upon my return home that Avis had unilaterally decided to take €605 more of my money than they were actually authorized to. Of course, I immediately sent them an e-mail, only to get an automated reply stating that their response might take as long as three weeks. Or more. So instead, I took a deep breath on Monday morning and called them on the phone. (Quaint? I know.)

poor-customer-serviceA customer service representative answered the phone. I explained the issue as calmly and carefully as I could, and gave an opening for a response.

“I understand your problem sir. Please give me the contract number, so I can check your data.”

I gave her the contract number.

“Thank you. Can I have your reservation number as well, because I cannot find that here.”

I explained that there was no reservation number, as we had rented the car on the spot. She asked me for a moment, and transferred me to a recording studio where a very loud band was playing rock music into my ear. When she came back, her response was predictably useless:

“Well sir, you picked up the car at Schiphol, and dropped it off at Basel. There’s a one-way-fee involved. That is the exta 605 euros you were charged.”

I may have interrupted her just a teeny weeny bit at this point, with the information that the one-way-fee was in fact already included in the total contract price, because dropoff at Basel was part of the plan.

Again, the transfer to the studio, where the rock band insisted on more and more takes of the same boring, but loud, bit of instrumental.

The lady came back and asked me to restate every single fact I’d already told her about the rental contract. Then she asked me if I would be so kind as to e-mail her a scan of the contract with my signature on it, since she did not have it available in her computer.

“What do you mean? It was printed from the Avis system. It’s been ten days. It’s hard to believe for me that you cannot find the contract there. Also, since Avis decided to take my money without my permission, I think it’s Avis’ responsibility to solve the problem. I have neither the time nor the energy to go scanning and e-mailing. And by the way, the copy with my signature is with Avis, obviously. I have the 2nd copy, which I didn’t need to sign.”

More rock blasted into my eardrum, while she once again talked to whoever she kept talking to.

“Well sir,” she came back, “could you give me your e-mail, so I can mail you after we’ve looked into your problem?”

“Well, no, actually. I want to resolve this now. You took my money; I want it back.”

“But sir, for amounts this high we have a procedure before we can do a refund. I cannot authorize this refund this instant. My manager needs to be involved.”

“Well, in that case, let me please talk to your manager.”

Again, the studio. I was beginning to appreciate the music. There was an interesting counterpoint in the rhythm guitar, and the bass…

“Hello sir, are you still there?” I confirmed that I was. “Well sir, we really need to see your contract.”

“But are you still telling me that you can’t find my contract in your systems? From the contract number I gave you?”

“No… Well, yes, I have the contract information on my screen, but not the scan of the contract with your signature on it. That’s what I need.”



“Why do you need a copy with my signature on it? The conditions of the contract are in your computer. I have not acted in violation of the contract; Avis has. So what you need is the contract conditions as agreed upon not by me, but by Avis. And those are in your system, aren’t they?”

I resumed my analysis of the bass line and had just about figured out the keyboard part when the lady came back on the line.

“Can I have your e-mail address, sir, so I can get back to you?”

“Well, no. I want to resolve this right now.”

“But sir, that’s not possible. For a refund this large, I have to talk to my manager first.”

“Then maybe it’s more efficient if I talk to your manager?”

“She’s not in the office today, sir.”

“Then who would you talk to about this? In fact, who have you been talking to while I listened to rock music?”

“Her replacement.”

“Well, in that case, can I talk to her replacement?”

“One moment, sir.”

I almost got through doodling the sheet music and drafting some lyrics this time.

“Sir, can I please have your e-mail address?”

“No. When I e-mailed Avis this weekend, I got a message that I might have to wait as long as three weeks for a response. So unless you can guarantee that I will get a response by the end of the morning…”

Some rock-free silence ensued. I sorely missed what had by now become my favorite, because most familiar, music fragment in the world. Was she still on the line, perhaps slowly counting to a hundred?


“I’m still here, sir. Just talking to my manager. I can give you a response by the end of the day.”

“Not good enough. In four days, I start paying interest on that money,” I lied, because I pay the full balance of my card every month. “I want to know this is resolved today.”

“Just one more moment, sir.”

Silence. I almost missed the rock music. While I waited, I perused the copy of the contract that was still in my hand. Agreed dropoff point: Basel Airport, CH. Wait! Isn’t Basel Mulhouse in France? A horrible realization dawned. The Avis rep at Schiphol had given us a French car, and told us that would make dropping off the car easier because the airport was in France, but had meanwhile entered the wrong airport in the contract! The 605 euro was extra transfer fee for moving the car from Basel Mulhouse to Basel Airport.

Damn. I mentally prepared myself for an additional argument about the error of the rep, the stressful situation that had made me miss this critical error in the contract before signing, and the fact of the French car clearly proving that the rep had understood we were flying to Mulhouse. Hell, he hadn’t even asked where we were flying. This was not our ….



“Sir, I’m going to authorize your refund right now. The money should be deposited into your credit card account within five working days.”


Now thank the lady profusely, call off, and pray that in the meantime no one else takes a look at the contract and discovers the same thing did; and hold off on posting this blog until the money is safely in my account …


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