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Old Sep 11th, 2005, 09:08 PM
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We just returned from a trip to the Yucatan peninsula where we had a nightmare with Alamo. We had reserved a car a week ahead of time via the internet to collect a car from the Cancun Hotel Zone office to drive eastward for a week to visit many of the Mayan ruins (Coba, Chichen Itza, Uxmal etc...) and Spanish colonial cities (Merida, Valladolid etc...).

However when we arrived at the Alamo office we had to wait 30 minutes until someone else could return a similar sized car and it could be washed. We requested a car that had been been properly checked but since none was available we were told that we would have to pay a $40 a day upgrade. There was simply no reasoning with them. They just didn't care. In the end we took the car because it was pretty new and we needed to get on our way. We took both CDW coverage as well as the additional insurance to cover the DEDUCTIBLE. We already had full medical and travel insurance so you'd think we were very well covered.

For the first 3 or 4 days all the roads were pretty good, however on the 5th day en route to Coba immediately after crossing a speed bump (slowly) I hit a medium sized pot hole that was hard to see in the shadows at about 10 MPH - my first one of the trip. Immediately after it was obvious the car had a complete flat. The tire had a 2 inch long rip in the sidewall and the rim had a inward dent of about a third of an inch. I fitted the spare that was a bit soft and turned around to find a gas station with a air pump. The spare was about 2/3 of the correct pressure but shockingly so was the other front tire. The rear tires were about 3/4 of the correct pressure! We subsequently hit a couple of small pot holes because the road between Valladolid and Tulum are pretty bad but no problem - as indeed there should not have been.

We completed the trip using the (full size) spare and returned the car to Alamo at Cancun airport. I was very annoyed with them with what I saw as sloppy pre-rental inspection that could have caused a catastrophic accident at high speed. However, Alamo HAD ABSOLUTELY NO CONCERN FOR THE SAFETY AND WELL BEING OF MY GIRLFRIEND AND I.

Instead they couldn't wait to accuse us of negligence and "breaking the car" (SO ANNOYING!). When we vehemently pointed out the car was in immaculate condition and it was the tire that had blown out or failed or whatever you call that sort of damage they chanted "You broke the tire, you broke the tire"). It was frustrating beyong belief and I think Alamo's behaviour both at the Hotel Zone office and especially at the airport was OUTRAGEOUS AND UNFORGIVABLE. They charged us for the "broken" (failed) tire and the "broken" (slightly dented) rim all the while we were protesting. Apparently they have a subclause that exempts tires, windshields and mirrors from being covered by the insurance. I thought this was absurd because we saw so many other rental cars during the week that were using their spare and even stopped to help some people that had a flat spare! Again and again it was apparent that 1 or more of people's remaining tires looked a bit under pressure.

With some roads in poor condition (especially around Coba - because/although a 4 lane upgrade in just underway) and loose chippings falling from passing trucks (with so much construction occurring along the coast) that could easily damage windshields, it seems that at least Alamo are possibly FLEECING it's customers by ducking responsibility for covering visitors what seems quite possible if one intends to explore the region. Alamo seem to know the odds and refuse to accept them instead passing them onto the customer who is forced to take financial responsibility in addition to the cost of all the insurance. It just seems an outrageous state of affairs! Basically if you pay about US$180 for a week's damage insurance (CDW + deductible cover), you expect to be covered for a tire and a dented rim (that I know I could have knocked out with a hammer and a block of wood in 20 minutes at home). I was so incensed I wanted to get the tourist police involved and file a report but the tourist information office and hotel advised us not to (with alarm). We were repeatedly warned that it'd only go against us and they would side with the people at Alamo whom they probably knew.

Once again there was absolutely no reasoning with Alamo. We were railroaded and when we refused to sign the invoice with all the extra charges we disputed the staff at Alamo then dragged their feet until we had to leave while we could still catch our flight (although they had told us to come in when we were going to the airport).

We were charged US$230 + 10% tax for a new tire and rim although before leaving they still had not returned my copy of paperwork, the credit card vouchers I had signed (the system they use for deposit and rental), moreover they had refused to provide any proof of the car's service record especially prior to my rental. They were stony faced when we recounted seeing the car returned, washed and handed over to us without a proper inspection. Otherwise they seemed to mock us in Spanish between themselves. It appeared like a game - a SCAM. I know that this is strong language and serious allegations but I'm very aware that we could have very possibly been killed had this tire failure occured at 50 or 60 miles an hour. Not only do I strongly suspect it was the result of a failure to perform a thorough inspection prior to rental including checking tire pressure (when was it last performed?) but to add insult to injury, Alamo seems to be profiting at my expense despite the fact I took out the maximum damage insurance available.

Maybe this is standard procedure with all car rental agencies everywhere and I've been very lucky. I'm an experienced driver and I've rented a lot of cars for business including many in the third world without experiencing this type of accident. I have no comparrison for the smug, cavalier, callous and disinterested behaviour of Alamo's Canucn staff. I believe they feel that they've got the customer of a barrel and they exude self satisfaction.

My experience aside, I advise anyone renting a car to check any exemptions to damge coverage especially to items that are vulnerable through no fault of your own. Specifically be VERY WARY OF ALAMO IN CANCUN. Definitely make sure your car's tires are at the correct pressure (all gas stations are full service and they'll do it for you). Of course you might say why didn't I follow my own advice - I usually always do for work when I'm very systematic, I guess on vacation one relaxes and I'm so used to there never being a problem with Avis and Hertz and even Alamo (in the US and the Pacific coast of Mexico) that I let my guard down. It almost cost me my life but what outrages me even more is that Alamo is profiteering.

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