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My son-in-law and family are staying with us now in France and this is a cautionary tale from him.

My experience of Poitiers Europcar is somewhat mixed. Last October we hired a car from Europcar and it took us a while to get the car fitted with both an infant seat for a 7 month old and a toddler seat for a two year old. The guy was unwilling to fit the seats himself – this is an experience we’ve previously had with hire companies so it may be something legally they want to avoid – and as a result kept on upgrading the car to help us to be able to fit the seats ourselves. He didn’t seem to get that while a bigger car was nice, the safety of the child was paramount. Eventually we fitted the seats, and were left wishing for a car rental service that realised if they made the car hire experience child friendly we would never use anyone else again.

Despite this we used Europcar this summer. We booked online using the automated system – to pick up the car on a Sunday, with two child seats. We received an email acknowledging our booking but noting that some items would need to be confirmed within 48 hours. As the confirmation didn’t come through in this period, I created an online account to manage the booking, but it didn’t give any indication that everything was not as it should be.

We – my Wife and two young Children turned up with our luggage at Europcar at 9:20. The office was closed, but our email confirmation said 10:00 pick-up so we waited. 10:00 passed with no sign of anyone. We called the number on the email. Closed. We called the number on the door of the office. Closed. We phoned relatives in England to get Europcar numbers in England. All closed. It started to drizzle. My wife walked to HelpDesk at the station. Although the ‘desk’ part of the description is entirely correct, rarely can an entity have been so badly named. The most the lady would do was give us the phone number for Avis.

In Paris.

Which was closed.

We finally decided to give in and took a taxi with our slightly damp belongings back to the hotel, going via the airport to see if the Europcar desk there could help. It was closed.

The receptionist at the hotel was incredibly helpful and managed to get hold of the manager of Europcar, who reassured us that he had never received the booking, and that this was not his problem. He quickly grasped that at exactly 9 AM on monday morning it would very much become his problem, so said he would open for us and give us a car. He explained that we would have had received an automatic response to our booking telling us that the office was closed on a Sunday, and that I should check my spam. When I did, sure enough there were two emails from Europcar. Both said that I needed to confirm the child seats or the booking would be cancelled. Neither mentioned the whole ‘no-one being at the office when I wanted to pick up the car’ thing.

It is important to note that the manager gave up his Sunday morning to fulfil a booking, and he also didn’t make us pay the Euro 80 fee we might have incurred for opening on a Sunday. He had to valet the car himself, and the level of service did not suffer at all from the fact that he wasn’t planning on working that day.  

These are the facts. My opinion is that if all the statements from Europcar are true then there is a serious glitch in their booking system which left me about Euro 50 down on taxi fares, and only the willingness of the manager to come out on a Sunday prevented me having to pay an extra nights hotel fee in Poitiers.

So, if you are booking with Europcar, be prepared to have to be thoroughly messed about by the on-line booking system. Or make sure you speak to someone at the office you are hiring from. The staff in Poitiers are helpful and speak good English, which might make up for them occasionally being completely absent when you want to pick up your vehicle.