during iceland trip, i decided to look for a last minute booking for rental car, hoping to get out for a last chance to catch the northern lights. i decided to rent through a third-party brokerage company, rentalcars.com. however, the weather turned seriously threatening and i had to leave early.
*btw, real posts about the trip will be up in near future. the trip itself was absolutely amazing.
on way back to town, i had about 30 min to the pick-up time. the company does not have phone lines open on saturday or sunday. without smartphone, i could not even try to get on the web to cancel the reservation. so i called the actual rental car company directly to cancel. they cancelled it and said they have not received any part of the payment and is unlikely to see any of it, and that i am probably not going to see it either.
and they were right. you can only cancel your booking online, only up to 48hrs to the pick-up time, it was all in the small prints. they are selling pre-paid service (which really was not obvious for me, i didnt even know such business forms existed), meaning they will just keep the money IF ONE CANNOT CANCEL a whole 2 days prior to the agreed rental time. that's pretty hard-nosed.
they sent me a 'evaluation' email of my experience. so i wrote back. im not greatly upset about the lost money. it is my fault for not checking every single line of fine-prints. sometimes, one makes a mistake. however, their business practice do bother me a bit:
i think this is on a questionable start- you want a customer survey but the forms are so rigid that i had to pick out random options that has nothing to do with my situation. so please disregard my choices for section 2 and 3.
i had to cancel my reservation because the weather condition- akureyri was shutting down with a big storm. being a foreigner traveler, i did not have a ready-access to internet, and it being a saturday, there was no number i could call to rentalcars.com to discuss the matter of cancellation.
i called budget (which was actually avis akureyri, seeing from the email) while getting back to akureyri, they agree to cancel the trip, as i was calling prior to the pick-up time and they explained that they have not received any payment and unlikely to receive anything.
once i got my internet access back, i contacted rentalcars.com, i was told:
...Unfortunately, as the cancellation wasn’t made before you were due to pick up your car, we cannot give you a refund...
then further request showed: cancellations policy that this company runs a pre-paid service and that reservations will not be refunded if it has not been cancelled to 48 hours before the start of the rental.
there was no disclaimer that clearly indicated that this site is a pre-paid reservation site, nor the policy was easy to find for a normal user. i suppose yes, you do have your legal rights in small prints to not to refund anything, but to see that no one actually rented anything, the rental company did not get any money, it seems unjust and pushing to the end of the moral boundary for rentalcars.com to keep all the money, hiding behind the small prints.
if i went through a direct website for rental companies such as budget or avis, they certainly would not have kept the money on rental that was cancelled before the actual scheduled pick up time. it is a questionable practice to allow quick-booking as a prepaid service without a clear disclaimer to aid customers to understand what the consequence may be in case of necessary cancellation, as your current policy clearly puts you in a great advantage- any quick booking cancelled in less that 2 days, you keep the 'prepaid' money.
i will certainly be motivated to not to recommend your brokerage to anyone that i know, as this particular experience is one of the worst customer-oriented service i have seen in 15+ years of self-organized travelling.
you are legally covered with all the small print policies, but i am not sure if even you would be satisfied about company's operational moral/ethics boundary, unless, it is purely profit-driven company. if it is so, congratulations on getting the most out of all situations possible. but do try to remember that a business which involves people should reflect human values rather than short-sighted myopic interest in quickest and easiest financial growth.
so peeps, if you ever run into this site, run away. they may be secure but man, they are secure about the fact they will be paid NO MATTER WHAT. i think it's a sketchy business ethics.