Oh Dear... How does this start?...
Well it starts with a holiday of sorts... DaBMan and myself are heading dahhn saaff (note the very dodgy London overspill accent) to visit my friends and what little family I still have there. As I no longer have custody of a car I cleverly worked out that hiring a rental car and driving down for two people worked out financially better than flying or talking the train and less mind numbingly sickening than the 14 hour coach journey, and on top of that it means we have transport when in Norwich (Buses there are few and far between at best and costly, as are Taxis once you need to go out of the centre of town) so off I plod through the wonderful internet to find the cheapest car rental offer I could. A quick search came across Opodo, Online travel agenty booking third party people who offer me a car for 5 days for the wondrous price of £88.24. Too good to be true! well we all now what that means...
During the booking process the Opodo site states very clearly that all costs including taxes and additions etc will be displayed in total before payment. (Great Clear and Open! what more can a girl want??!) I finish booking and on the final page the price is shown - still £88.24 - there is also a note about a deposit amount that will be blocked from a credit card at the collection desk of excess+vat+fee. Now, I am very good at algebra, but even the best can't work that one out without being given a figure... Anyway work arrives so I toddle off, asking DaBMan to give them a quick call to find out this mystery sum. I get a text halfway through the day to tell me that the call is on a charged line (10p per minute) and he keeps getting through, getting put on hold for 5 minutes without speaking to anyone and then mysteriously cut off so He has found a contact us page and sent in an enquiry.
Today after 2 days I get a response...The amount to be blocked on a credit card is £700. Uh huh...because I have a spare £700 sitting unspent on a credit card don't I? Luckily there emailer from Opodo has put a telephone number for the local branch of the hire company(Auto Europe) on the email so I get on the phone to the directly to find out if this is correct and if so what I can do to get this price down?!
The first phone call got me the information of "Ah well you need to go to our website direct and take out the extra insurance cover"
This confuses me a little as the website given is for National car hire not Auto Europe but I try this anyway. the confusion hits even harder when I put my order number into the site and it tells me they have no such booking.
OK...Phone call number 2... This time I get the most helpful man on the planet! Great! He explains that to get the deposit down from £700 I do need to take out this extra cover - but that no one has yet told me that it costs £14 per day and should be taken and paid at the desk upon collection. I moaned at him about the service received so far from Opodo and he confirmed that this is a common story and people often have problems with them. I suggest that I am totally fed up and confused and want t o cancel my contract with Opodo because of the problems. Nice man offers to hire me the car directly with them to save on hassle and instantly offers me a lower price than Opodo (including the cover) I agree and he "pencils me in" for it. Woohoo! things are looking up! I'm still paying twice as much as I thought for the car but at least I know the score now!
Gathering my strength I call back the 10p per minute number for Opodo. working my way through the automated talking lady (press 1 for rectal exams etc.) I select the option to cancel my booking and at last a bored sounding man answers immediately.
I moan at him (nicely) and explain the problems I have had and that I want to cancel. He tells me that for the pleasure of being kept on hold, hang up on and generally ignored for 3 days he is going to charge me £15. He wanders away for a bit, leaving me on hold again (probably picking his nose or something)
I protest and receive the very stock answer of "But madam, the Terms on our website say that if you cancel within 7 days of making the booking we charge you £15, after 7 days it goes up to £40, and if you are a no show on the day of collection you loose your entire fee."
I protest some more but finally give in. "Ok, ok, you can have the £15 for doing nothing, just refund me the rest."
Bored man replies "Ok well I will also point out that the rest of your fee will be put into a refund request queue and will take 14-21 days to be processed."
WHAT??? you want to keep my money for another 3 weeks? (I am going away in 1 1/2) At this point I am in my office almost ready to eat my handset desperately trying to keep my voice down and slowly loosing the will to live. "Ok, so what are these damn extra costs that you re on about that I can pay to get this deposit down? if it means I dont have to cancel my booking?"
"Well I'm not entirely sure of the figures but if you would like to hold I can call the hire company and find out for you."
"Um no. I am paying 10p per minute to call you, I dont want to be on hold while you do that, could you maybe call me back with an answer?"
"Oh No madam, we are an incoming call centre only, If you would like to hold I'll give them a call..."
" NO, I'm not paying for that. "
"Ok, well um maybe I could send you an email with the information."
"Fine!" (I'm bored now, hes obviously rubbed off on me)
About 30 mins later I sneak up and check my emails, Bored man has answered. The prices he quotes are different again to 1, the originals from Opodo, and 2, the figures I got from the hire company direct. Gah! I have too much work for this so get back to shuffling emails for the afternoon (Its important... Honest!)
On the bus on the way home I again ring the hire company direct, cancel the pencilled in booking with them (no charge and no fuss) and another nice lady tells me that it seems every customer they get who books through an external internet company has these problems...
I come home and close to tears relate the whole sorry story to DaBMan who sits rubbing his hands together as he listens. (He loves a fight!) Obviously from here on in I can only really hear half the conversation...but it ends with Mr B thoroughly chewing the first "customer service rep" until he gets put on hold at least twice and finally gets through to a 'maybe' manager who makes him go through the whole story again, repeats the same standard replies again, and finally gives in with a "Oh well I wasn't told that you'd had all these problems, I was only told that you were disputing the £15 charge"
The 'maybe' manager finally agrees to refund the whole amount with no charge and dutifully passes the phone back to the "service rep" (of course managers couldn't possibly push a button to refund anything and its a good excuse for more holding!) The money gets refunded almost instantly (as if by magic, the refund queue has disappeared!)
The whole thing is finally sorted, (except of course I dont have a car booked still) I have vowed never to even think of booking anything through Opodo and making sure I let as many people as possible know about the most abysmal service they give. I'm even half tempted to contact those watchdog people and see if I can really stir up some trouble, but I'll see how vicious I feel tomorrow.
So the moral of today's lesson... DO NOT EVER, EVER USE OPODO!!