Boy! Was I ever shocked when I went to pick up my Hertz rental Toyota RAV SUV in Costa Rica.
Three weeks earlier, I had booked a vehicle with good clearance to handle the atrocious roads I had read about on trip forums. I had carefully read the fine print on insurance coverage, which is mandatory and expensive in Costa Rica unless you can prove to the agent’s satisfaction that you are adequately covered.
On February 6 two days prior to pick-up I got a “friendly reminder regarding your reservation details.” All was well. On February 8 at 7:15 I got another email reminding me of my fifteen-day rental starting at 8:00 am. It was a beautiful day and we couldn’t wait to get on the highway.
I arrived at the airport shortly before 8:00 am armed with a letter from my Canadian insurance broker confirming third-party liability coverage and a printout of the collision-coverage policy provided by my credit-card issuer. The agent was solemn. “We don’t have any cars. If you wait until 3:00 pm, we might have a compact coming in.”
“What about the other agencies, do they have anything available?” I asked. “No, none.” It was the height of tourist season and I’m led to believe a very common occurrence as agencies can charge more to walk-in clients.
“But I have a Hertz #1 Gold Card!” He smirked, as in “tell someone who cares,” then aloud he said,“You might try one of the hustlers out on the sidewalk to see if they have any cars but they’re going fast.”
I approached one of two young men and asked if he had anything. After three unsuccessful calls he asked if I’d pay US$110 per day for a small SUV, all insurance included. “Definitely.” He told me to stand by a post and wait. And wait. After a half-hour he advised me the traffic was very heavy but the transfer car was close. I was picked up and driven forever to the world headquarters of Follow Me Rent a Car in a corner of Alajuela that was a bit sketchy—the official address is listed as “200 metres east and 25 metres north of the Juan Rafael Meono School.”
I frowned when Jorge showed me a small car but was relieved when he “upgraded’ me to a Suzuki Vitari SUV with only 46,000 km. His wife Hilda, who didn’t speak English, completed the paperwork, each of us nodding in agreement and smiling at the appropriate points in the contract.
Fifteen days later, I texted Jorge so he and Hilda could meet us at the passenger drop-off area at the airport. They were there, waving as we arrived. Too rushed to fill the gas tank, I paid a reasonable amount to them in cash and Hilda returned our damage deposit. We were grateful, because they had saved the driving portion of our holiday and, in particular, we didn’t miss our first day’s activities and accommodation had we waited for Hertz.
Hopefully Jorge and Hilda’s business is still viable despite the void of tourists during the COVID pandemic. It may not be—www.folowmecr.com is no longer active as a website.
In Costa Rica, we’ll be sure our car rental never “Hertz” again.
Hi Kerry, thanks to remember us. We still renting cars, we are fine and thanks to our service and compromises our rental business are in the market, saving many people from companies like Hertz. You know how it is. You are always welcome to Follow Me Rent a Car, you got my email. If anybody need a car also could get me on the phone (506)8882-3499, will be my pleasure to help anybody
This is our office remember? We are ready for Christmas You were here not too long ago.
It’s great that we’re still able to rent and drive a car, giving us a better chance to explore nature:
Please click on any picture to enlarge the images and start the slideshow!
What have I learned from this experience? Search for and find the hidden fine print. The six-page Rental Terms and Conditions in the Confirmation email from Hertz dealt mainly with insurance issues. But on their website, and I challenge you to find it because it isn’t linked to a pull-down menu (hint–click the link in Navigation below), are 28 Sections of Rental Qualifications and Requirements. The Section “Making Reservations—Legal” is eight pages long (6,400 words). After renting from Hertz (and others) for years I was shocked to read:
Confirmed and Standby Reservations not Legally Binding
Hertz does not charge for confirmed and standby reservations for non-prepaid rental transactions, and those types of reservations do not commit you to make the associated rental. Because of that, confirmed and standby reservations for non-prepaid rental transactions are not intended to give you any contractual or other legal right to compel Hertz or any Hertz licensee to enter into a rental transaction …
If having a car available when you arrive is critical, you should enter into:
Prepaid Rental Transactions
A prepaid rental transaction creates a two-party legal agreement between you and the applicable Reserving Company with the following terms:
If you arrive at the specified pick-up date and location, satisfy the then-applicable rental qualifications and requirements of the Renting Company and are willing to sign the document or documents constituting the rental agreement in the form presented by Renting Company, then the Reserving Company undertakes that the Renting Company will, within one hour of the later to occur of the specified pick-up time and your arrival at the rental counter, rent a vehicle of the specified class to you on the terms set forth in the rental agreement.
Hertz risk-free rentals: No Cancellation or Change Fees [ and maybe no car!] when you pay later.