I hate that my latest post turns me into one of those expats I hate. You know the ones - they wax lyrical about how they love France, move here and then do nothing but moan about the weather / buearocracy / French / schools / taxes etc etc etc :)
I have to say though that my recent experience with Europcar St Martin au Laert near St Omer is the WORST I have ever had in terms of customer service in France - or indeed anywhere for that matter!
Turning up at 10 ready to pick up a 9 seater vehicle to take 5 kids on holiday (gotta love blended families, eh?) we were faced with the most po faced and unhelpful woman I have ever had the displeasure to meet.
There was a mix up with our booking, and she was determined that she was not going to help. She could have made a couple of phone calls and sorted it out, but refused.
We had paperwork clearly saying we had paid E350 deposit - her screen said E170, so even though I had paperwork and bank statements to prove otherwise, it 'wasn't her problem'.
Our paperwork said we had E650 left to pay. Her screen calculated that we had to pay E1200 - and again, this wasn't her problem, it was ours.
Our paperwork said unlimited mileage. Hers said we could only do 250KM a day - not even enough to get us to our destination and back.
We spent a fortune calling the UK on our mobiles, as we knew people in Europcar head office. We spent a fortune calling Dunkerque as that's their French head office. We spent a fortune calling Ireland, where the Cartrawler website that we had booked the vehicle on was based.
We spent SIX HOURS sat in her office while she gave us smug smiles and refused to help. I accept it wasn't her problem - but her complete refusal to even care that I had kids ranging from 4 months to 18 years at home waiting drove me mad.
AND THEN she had the cheek to charge me E15 because she had top keep the office open over lunchtime because she refused to help with my problem and we refused to budge!
EVENTUALLY after a lot of phone calls we paid a security deposit (something else my paperwork said I didn't need to pay as I'd paid extra for an all inclusive damage waiver) and finally left on our holiday - almost 7 hours later than planned.
We arrived at our mid way destination at 3am after an 8 hour drive, knackered and hungry and with another 4 hour drive ahead of us the next day.
I won't say that Europcar and Car Trawler ruined our holiday - but they certainly set it off to a really bad start, and it could all have been helped with a little customer service and courtesy.
The thing these people don't realise though, is that in the age of the Internet, their reputations can be ruined in one fell swoop - I for one will ensure that everyone I meet / speak to / come into contact with online will know about my crappy experience with Europcar St Omer - it only takes one or two more to do the same and that woman's smug little smile might not be so smug anymore...