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Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

Midwest USA
9 posts
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Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

It's such a long story but I will try to be brief. 8 of us had a fantastic

trip to this lovely island, but finished it up with a rental car charge on

MasterCard for a “stolen vehicle” for $15,000. Warning to fellow travelers - we would NEVER AGAIN rent from an island car rental, but would absolutely use an American based company. We have no legal recourse unless we want to fly back to St. Martin and hire an international lawyer.

We had 2 rental cars, 1 from Coastal Car Rental which we rented at the airport and 1 from Prestige Value Car Rental, which was included in our villa. We were told by our rep from St. Martin Blue that we could return BOTH cars to the airport,"to the same place you picked up the airport rental car".

Upon departure, one of our group was in a wheelchair with food poisoning, so we were pretty flustered in trying to check out at 6:30 am. We were met in the parking lot by David York, OWNER of Coastal Car Rental. No reps from Prestige, no people in any kiosks in the airport this early, and come to find out, no kiosk in the airport called "Prestige" - only a sister company by the name of Europcar. NO ONE INFORMED US OF THIS. Coastal owner York tells us, I can help you. I will take the keys and make sure to deliver them to Prestige. Our big mistake, and yes, rather embarrassing now, that we gave him the keys. But he was the owner of the company! And no one else was around, no one in the airport except airport workers, wheelchair girl is throwing up, flight is leaving - what choice did we have? Small island, friendly company owner, trusting tourists (stupid). Two weeks later, we get a report that the car was stolen from the airport, and we are being charged $15,000.

It has been eight months of fighting now. MasterCard is not backing us up, because we did not give the keys to an authorized Prestige rep. Airport security tapes show us giving York the keys. It seems that he put them in the glove compartment and never called Prestige. The car sat unclaimed in the parking lot. Sounds like a scam set-up to us. The car was actually spotted by Prestige Value Car Rental on the island, police report filed, but has not yet been recovered. We can't spend the money traveling back, hiring a lawyer, and possibly still losing this case. It looks like we are out $15,000. (What?????) I just wonder if that car is sitting in the Coastal Car Rental fleet right now, repainted, new plates....

Maybe this story can help someone else. We don't think this represents the island - we loved it there. But beware of local island rental agencies – particularly Prestige Value Car Rental and Coastal Car Rental. Next time we choose Hertz or Alamo or some company that has its base in the U.S., where we can deal with legalities here.

Berkshire, United...
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for Prague, Bohemia
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74 reviews
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1. Re: Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

The moral of the story is

a. take adequate insurance

b. hand the keys only to the proper reps of the company and make sure you get the the final bill

Cupecoy Bay, St...
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10,367 posts
19 reviews
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2. Re: Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

You will also find that none of them are American based. They pay for a franchise, but are wholly owned locally.

Really sorry this person took advantage of you.

Midwest USA
9 posts
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3. Re: Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

Your comments are so right, and we are so paying the price. I guess I would then also be sure to research where exactly the check in/out desks are located, and the hours of operation - being aware if they will be there at the time of arrival or departure. We should have probably returned the cars the night before and taken a shuttle or cab to the airport that early. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Raleigh, North...
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4. Re: Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

So sorry to hear of your experience, and thank you for sharing it. Sounds like St Martin Blue and Prestige really let you down by not providing clear drop off instructions.

Not all of the local rental companies are shady, fortunately. We love the guys at Unity. After bad experiences with Hertz and Thrifty on the island, we wouldn't rent anywhere else.

easygoin15
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2 posts
23 reviews
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5. Re: Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

Never rent from safari!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Scammed with damages we didn't do they were pre existing make sure you photograph the whole car

curacao
3 posts
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6. Re: Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

Rowenberry1 , I am shocked that you would put out such a post about my company and myself, after I tried my best to help you folks, we spoke over the phone and I gave you guys my suggestions about your sad experience, I was the one who told you that the car was spotted on our island because I had my guys looking out for it too. Please let the community know that I initially refused to accept the keys that you were giving me and told you that you would have to wait for the company that rented you the car. Do you not remember me asking you for the name of the company (which you did not know)? do you not remember me asking you to look at the key tag for a name of the company (which did not have a name) ? Do you not remember me asking you for the rental agreement? (which you did not have) Do you not remember explaining to me that you were running late and your spouse had the contract with him/her in the airport? Coastal Car Rental waited for you for more than an hour in the parking lot in the cold early morning hours, where was prestige car rental (which you now know their name after they charged you 15K) ? I got nothing but my name is negatively mentioned in your post and the name of the owner of prestige is some how forgotten. Of my small fleet of 40+- vehicles, I never owned or purchased a toyota due to personal sentimental reasons. I am sincerely sorry that this happened to you guys and regret to this day that Coastal Car Rental and myself was entangled in this shady mess. Lets recall that day... when I finally accepted your key after refusing and I told you that i would try to contact someone who i thought the car belonged to, you said okay. It was me and my wife (an american), I immediately called Joyce Prince, because I knew her and that she had toyota yaris's, her reply was that it was not hers and probably her husband's . I then searched the car again for a name or some document that should have the company's name unfortunately nothing came up. I then placed the key in the center console compartment in the rear (where rear passengers can place their drinks) the key was well hidden. We then left, ASSUMING that the car rental company who probably was running late and would eventually arrive and search their car for the key. THIS WAS SUNDAY, then came ... MONDAY....TUESDAY.......WEDNESDAY ......THURSDAY i recieved a call from an agent from prestige asking if I knew about a yaris that was probably rented along with one of my cars that they are missing(because at that time only Coastal had those new Elantras which you guys had) I immediatly replied YES and explained the whole scenarios. The agent said that they never got the car back!. I tried my best to help them and you guys.... but my best is the most that i could do. The car rental company immediately charged you 15k saddly due to your error, why would they look for the car? Their main office and main business comes from the airport, EVERYDAY they are at the airport (stationed there), they have MORE THAN ONE KIOSK at the airport. Coastal Car Rental does not go to the airport unless we have reservations, our main business is at the Cruise port. That car rental company should have suspected something at least by Monday. Again I am sincerely sorry and probably should have not accepted the key and left you guys to figure it out yourself (but how would i feel knowing that you also rented a car from my company?) , but I am ultimately happy that it was me DAVID YORK and not anyone of my workers that accepted the key. That car rental company knows me well, the police knows of my company and me too (small island) and so I firmly explained to the owner, agent and yourself via telephone not to point any fingers at me and I wanted no part of it because it sounded fishy. You explained about wondering, did you ever wonder if the car was never stolen? We are all locals, big name, small name are all locals. The franchises you are praising down here are all independant franchises. Again, I hope that you could find it in your heart to accept my apology some day for accepting the key and trying to help.

Auburn Washington
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for St. Maarten-St. Martin
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7. Re: Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

Sunnydays39,

Glad you responded. Always two sides of a story. Yours is very believable. Sorry for you that you got caught up in this mess for just trying to help. I hope you get an apology from them trying to tarnish your good name.

Cupecoy Bay, St...
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10,367 posts
19 reviews
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8. Re: Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

Ah, the other side. Thank you for posting.

Ontario, Canada
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311 posts
85 reviews
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9. Re: Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

what a terrible situation for everyone involved. there honestly seems to be enough blame to go around for everyone.

the customer did not get proper details of how exactly to drop off the vehicle, and the fella who tried to help made a pretty big mistake by leaving the keys in the vehicle (even if they were out of site).

i don't know if anyone was trying to "scam" anyone here. it may be just a series of unfortunate circumstances.

however, you would think prestige should have been able to locate the car relatively easy. how many places would a customer leave a car ?? the hotel, the cruise ship port, the airport ?? do most rental companies not have your island details like where you are staying ?? when you are departing ?? and wouldn't they have your home contact info as well ?? once the car was overdue, you think they would have contacted the customer and asked where the heck the car was.

if it truly was stolen, i am sure the plates have been switched and will not easily be found. unless someone squeals on the thief. maybe it will turn up.

10. Re: Horror Story - Rental Car Scam? (long)

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