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.