Last summer I decided to visit the beautiful city of Rome. I had never been to Italy before and IPM were hosting their annual club promoters festival and pool party, so it seemed a good excuse to take in some sun, fun and a bit of ancient history. Since the events for the festival were scattered all over the city, it seemed sensible to hire a car to get around. I’m quite an experienced driver and I’ve driven in many European cities and felt quite confident getting around without incident. My general rule of thumb when driving abroad is to follow the signs and the flow of the local traffic, never park in a place where nobody else is parking, and if in doubt – ask somebody. So it came as some surprise five months later – just before I was heading out to Turin for a bit of winter ski – to find that Advantage Hertz Car Hire had debited six lots of €30 from my credit card for ‘traffic violations’.
“How could this be!?”, I fumed. Rome is the 3rd most congested city in Europe, you can’t help but be careful. You have to perpetually check your rear view and wing mirrors just to survive. And in a Fiat Panda, no one can really speed. Especially in bumper-to-bumper traffic, with a Tom Tom One with speed camera alerts. I didn’t even get a parking ticket! So after notifying my credit card company and making enquiries with the people at Advantage Hertz, I decided to do a search on the internet to see if other people have had a similar experience. And lo and behold I found a thread on Tripadvisor with over 30 postings from unhappy customers. So I decided to use an alias and chip in with my experience. However, Dbabe from Pittsburg was not happy with what we had to say… me in particular.
Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
25 June 2011, 7:09
1. Dear all
A stark warning about the above – avoid making the same mistake as me.
I booked a car from these people from “Rome Fiumicino Airport”, believing (understandably) this would be convenient for my flight. What they neglect to tell you is that they are in fact several kilometres away from the airport, and offer a very limited shuttle bus to the airport, at times that suit them and not you (it is certainly not 24 hour or even close).
We nearly missed our flight having to deal with navigating our way to their offices, and then waiting for ths shuttle bus when it eventually turned up late.
I simply do not understand how, given the critical nature of timing around getting to an airport, they can claim they are based at the airport. If you want the convenience of an airport-based car rental service, avoid Advantage.
After 33 postings of complaint, Donna (aka Dbabe) entered the fray with a staunch defence of Advantage Car Rental.
Dbabe is a destination expert for Rome and she travels there often with her husband, but only once a year with the kids. The Dbabe profile states that she is aged 35-49, she is female, hails from Pittsburgh and her travel style is “splurge occasionally”. When travelling Dbabe tries to “blend in with the locals”, and although she likes to travel for fun, a great holiday includes: Museums / Cultural / Historical sites / Great food / Wine
Donna joined Tripadvisor in 2003 and at the time of writing has made 13,487 posts, written 39 traveller articles but only 10 reviews. Donna often writes her name without a capital letter at the beginning. I’m assuming that this is because she is so busy writing postings for Tripadvisor that she just doesn’t have the time to check for such grammatical detail.
34. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
05 November 2012, 17:47
Destination Expert for Rome
Their website clearly states that the site is “near” the airport, not at the airport. Their website also states they do not accept debit cards. You should have read this information before booking. This is your fault and not advantge’s.
I hadn’t read what Dbabe had wrote when I joined the debate, I merely relayed my experiences in a serious and sensible fashion:
39. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
10 January 2013, 16:45
Forget the distance from the airport – what about getting half a dozen deductions from your credit card for ‘traffic offences’ that are never corroborated? When I booked with Advantage this summer, not only did they not have the car I booked when I arrived, the car they did have was a grade lower and they charged me MORE than what was on the voucher! 5 months later and I have had not one, not two, but 6 deductions off my card for unexplained ‘traffic offences’. No paperwork has been provided to validate these, I never once received a parking ticket (I was in an apartment parked on a residential road with lots of other cars) and I was driving a Fiat Panda so speeding is impossible. This is still ongoing, but at present they’ve had me for €180… avoid like the plague.
Fatjack from San Diego understood, but gave me this stark warning…
Fatjack, San Diego
40. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
10 January 2013, 18:10
Wait a few months and you will be getting traffic violations through registered mail. Most likely they were for ZTL violations or driving in a bus lane.
41. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 12:15
Fatjack, you weren’t wrong – ZLTs and driving in public transport lanes! These ‘violations’ are obscure to say the least. Advantage seem to be taking advantage of the fact that these are obscure offences that only locals would know about. The staff at Advantage could simply tell you to be careful about what time you’re driving into the centre, or to look out for bus lanes. But of course why would they when they get an extra €30 as a ‘reasonable’ administration fee for each offence?
This is clearly a recurring issue with tourists yet its obviously a deliberate policy not to warn tourists of these pitfalls of driving in Rome. I simply keep on getting told I should have read the T&Cs, but they were never included when I booked online with Economy Car Rentals, and the type on the actual form is about half a millimetre high, and condensed, and after all the messing about when you arrive, who’s going to then spend an hour going through T&Cs when they’re on holiday? Besides, it wouldn’t make any difference unless you were aware of these random obscure violations. I’ve driven in many European countries and get around without incident and I’m sorry, this is just a con, and its more to do with Advantage than the authorities. So far their admin fees amount to practically the same as the price of the car hire!
So this was all very civil, until Dbabe decided that I was a woman and I was very naughty and I needed scolding…
42. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 12:30
Destination Expert for Rome
Another person who claims that because she’s a tourist she’s a target. If you parked on a street without having the proper sticker on your car then you would get a ticket. If you were speeding then you would get a ticket. If you were in a restricted zone (ztl) then you would get a ticket. If you drove in the wrong lane then you would get a ticket.
These are legitimate fines and the authorities go to the rental car companies for your information. Each time they have to do the research to see who had the car it costs you a fee. If it was six different infractions then it’s six different fees. You agreed to these terms when you signed the contract. If you didn’t read the contract before you signed it and didn’t read up on the driving laws in Italy then that’s your fault and not the car rental agency’s fault. The company is under no obligation to make sure YOU know what the laws are before you rent a car. I have never had one rental agency in the US tell me about restricted zones or lanes or times I could or couldn’t drive somewhere so why should they be responsible for that anywhere else? You were responsible to know this information-not them to tell you.
These violations are not random and they’re not obscure. There are signs telling you about bus lanes and restricted zones. If you missed or ignored them that’s your fault. If you chose not to read the T&C’s of your contract-that’s your fault. If you broke the law-that’s your fault. I get so tired of people complaining that this is a “tourist ripoff”. How the heck can a camera know who’s driving the car? Can you explain that to me? How does a camera target tourists? The simple answer is—-THEY CAN’T!!!! You broke the law and were caught (6 TIMES-NO LESS!!!) and now you come here to complain that the rental company should have warned you before renting you the car. Give us a break. Take responsibility for your actions, pay the fines and stop wining. It’s not a con, it’s what you agreed to when you didn’t read the T&C’s but signed them anyway.
Donna wasn’t finished and took the time to look up, cut and paste information from the Advantage Car Rental website, which I greatly appreciated.
43. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 12:40
Destination Expert for Rome
And by the way, this is on the advantage rental cars’ website:
Fines and Penalties
You are responsible for the cost of any parking fines or other penalties incurred when the car is on rent to you. We will pass on the relevant charge to you plus any administrative expenses, as follows:
– Damages Administration fee: EUR 50/GBP 50/CHF 55
– Fine Administration fee: EUR 50/GBP 50/CHF 55
Fatjack asked if he could show my posting to his wife, which I agreed to before trying to calm down Dbabe.
45. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 22:10
Feel free to pass it on as far as you like fatjack… And despite what dbabe says, a bit of consideration goes a long way to making the world a fairer, happier place. This is obviously a common problem so give a customer a break eh. No one wants to have their memories of a great holiday in a beautiful city tainted by a nasty little surprise debit on their credit card a few months later, it’s just a plain mean and deliberately exploitative way to do business. SO STOP SHOUTING AND REMONSTRATING as if I purposefully roared around Rome in my hired Fiat Panda like Michael Caine in The Italian Job. And If anyone thinks €30 is a reasonable ‘administration’ fee for typing a registration number and date into a computer to identify a car then I’d love you to be my employer, I’d be on footballers wages.
Dbabe wasn’t any calmer…
46. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
13 January 2013, 14:09
Destination Expert for Rome
Whether or not we think it’s reasonable is not the point. You agreed to this when you signed the contract. They are well within their rights to charge you for their time and effort. There is nothing mean or exploitative about it. If you thought the fee was too high you shouldn’t have rented the car or broken the law. It’s really that simple. Perhaps they charge so much as a deterrent so people will be more cautious of the laws, who knows, but that’s what they charge and you’re responsible to pay it just like you’re responsible to pay the actual fines when they catch up with you.
***a bit of consideration goes a long way to making the world a fairer, happier place****
I’m sure the Italian police think the same thing about people being more considerate of their laws and not driving without fully knowing what they’re doing. The fact that you broke six different laws shows you had no business driving in Italy and that you showed no consideration for the Italians who live there and have to put up with this kind of behavior on a daily basis.
Here is a picture of a typical days traffic in Rome.
Here is a graph of how many of those cars Dbabe seems to think belong to tourists.
47. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
15 January 2013, 9:32
Dbabe, I don’t know about you, but I imagine that most people look forward to going on holiday, as by its very definition it is a welcome break from working and a time to relax, enjoy yourself, and escape the pressures and responsibilities of home and work. Usually, once I’ve planned my vacation time I get the added bonus of looking forward to what is always an enjoyable experience. But that’s just the kind of guy I am.
Judging by your fervent defence of Advantage and your passionate advocating of the thorough reading of T&Cs, I imagine you’re the kind of freewheeling gal that plans your holiday nine months in advance with a detailed itinerary of all the fun activities you’re going to do, detailed maps of the resort and surrounding area with a chart logging distances between attractions, and variable times of how long it will take you to reach each place of interest depending on traffic, weather and wind direction. I would also imagine that you take time to learn the language of the country you’re travelling to, as well as local customs, bus and train timetables and the entire legal system. I bet you’re so organised that you vacuum pack your luggage well in advance so that its ready to go, and then adhere to a strict diet to ensure that your weight doesn’t change before your holiday and the clothes you prepacked don’t fit. Me; I pack the night before – shocking eh! But that’s just the carefree, reckless maverick that I am. That’s probably why when I booked my hire car online via an agent, I didn’t think to track down the company CEO to ask where the car hire company’s T&Cs could be found.
My crazy, mad, foolish recklessness was probably the reason why after arriving at the airport in Rome – soaking in the glorious sunshine that I am so cruelly deprived of in my hometown and excited about the vacation week ahead – whilst waiting to get picked up by the Advantage rep, I wasn’t thinking about reading T&Cs. Outrageous I know, but after the short journey from the airport through the organised chaos that is Roman driving, when I got to the hanger full of cars that were broken in one way or another, and was told that there was only one car available and it was lower than the class of car I had prebooked and paid a deposit for but I had to pay the same for it anyway, my thoughts weren’t “Ok, then direct me to your T&Cs”. Foolish me was thinking “Right, okay, I’m on holiday so let’s just make do and get on with enjoying ourselves and not make a fuss” – what a total fool I was. Even when I went to pay for this lower grade of vehicle and for some unexplained reason it was about €15 more than what was on my voucher, I still didn’t think “Hm, well let me just sit here for the next hour painstakingly examining the 3pt tiny text of your T&Cs in this hot, dimly lit hangar to see what has gone wrong so that I can take the ‘no choice’ option left to me, return back to the airport and spend another few hours of my holiday doing the same with another car hire company. I’ll phone the apartment owners from there and just inform them I’ll be a little late – maybe 12hrs or so.”
Clearly you are right for admonishing me for “wining” about all this because its obviously my fault for behaving in a recklessly human manner. Had I been the fastidiously organised automaton that you obviously are, and a stickler for loyally following rules and regulations to the very letter, regardless of how unreasonably impractical and improbable doing so is for a normal human being, then I obviously would be incredibly dull, irritating and wierd, but at least I wouldn’t have found myself in the predicament I am in now.
Could I ask you something that is not really related, only perhaps in an abstract way? Have you ever done that social experiment where they put you in a room with a machine that gives a stranger in another room electric shocks everytime they get a question wrong? The machine has a dial that goes all the way up to ‘DANGEROUS, RISK OF DEATH’, and with every wrong answer the voltage goes higher. But its up to you to turn it up and press the shock button. Obviously its a test, you can hear the stranger screaming everytime you administer a shock, but the ‘authority figure’ in the room just keeps on telling you to turn it up until you refuse or you electrocute the screaming, anonymous stranger to death – but not really of course because its just a test. I think if you did this social experiment that the anonymous stranger would be toast in no time at all. I’m not too sure what the test is supposed to say about the subject who is doing the electrocuting, do you have any ideas?
Here is how Dbabe prepares for her holidays
48. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
15 January 2013, 20:08
Destination Expert for Rome
Yes, foolish you!!! You booked the car in advance. This is the time to read the T&C’s! You had the time, you had the opportunity. Did you do it – NO. That is your fault for not finding them on the website. They’re there and very easy to find.
Also, you’ve made a lot of assumptions about me and the way I travel. Most of them are wrong. The one thing I will say is that when I book something, be it a car, hotel, apartment or even a tour, I read the T&C’s. This way I don’t get surprised by anything that may go wrong. Does this make me an “automaton”– I don’t think so. It makes me a prepared traveler.
As for the shock scenario- it’s just idiotic.
All in all, your whole defense is that you didn’t have time. You didn’t have time to find the T&C’s. You didn’t have time to read the T&C’s. You didn’t have time to read the traffic rules. You didn’t have time to find out about the ZTL’s. You didn’t have time for this…..you didn’t have time for that. I suspect that if you have invested as much time in your research of the driving responsibilities and the T&C’s of car rental as you have invested on this thread you wouldn’t have had any problems while in Italy. Yet you didn’t because —let’s all say it together— you didn’t have time! Yet, you’ve found plenty of time to come here and whine and make assumptions about people and accuse companies of being on the take and all sorts of other outlandish things.
You’ve made 4 posts…all of them complaining about how unfairly you were treated. You’ve not once taken responsibility for anything that happened. It’s the rental agencies fault for not telling about ZTL’s. It’s Italys’ fault for having ZTL’s. It’s the company’s fault for not handing you a copy of the T&C’s and for not reading them to you. It’s everyones’ fault but yours. I find that amazing.
I was quite impressed that Dbabe found my scenario amazing after all of that time she has spent looking at spectacular works of art in Rome, and I found myself warming to this lady who steadfastly reads all Terms and Conditions every time she enters into a contractual agreement – I wanted to know more about what made this lady tick. Unfortunately my next posting was deleted by Tripadvisor at the behest of the community of Dbabe and two Australians – Lynn B aged 50-64 from Sydney who has 15,039 postings, 38 reviews and 6 traveller articles to her name, and zomp416 from Melbourne who has 665 posts and 8 reviews – pretty impressive considering he has only been a member since September 2012… But here is a copy of the posting anyway.
Dbabe, again you are absolutely spot on. It’s just fortunate for me that Advantage refunded all the charges to my credit card today. They obviously do not retain the same fascist outlook that you and Mussolini both share. Fortunately I only have skis to get around here in Turin, and all the closed slopes are clearly signposted, so I have no need to worry about incurring the wrath of the authorities by doing something that I shouldn’t be doing when I don’t know what I am doing is something that I shouldn’t be doing. And rest assured that I didn’t spend too much time replying to your reply, I was just lucky enough to catch an internet signal in my hotel as I was taking a dump, which inspired my lengthy posting. Incidentally, is Babe your surname or is it something that you have added to your Tripadvisor ID to assert the fact that you are a hot chick. If it is your surname then that’s pretty cool, although quite a name to live up to. If the latter, then can you please send me a photo to confirm that you are actually a ‘Babe’ and not advertising falsely, its just that the three Donnas that I know – Donna Eetsalad, Donna Ecksersize and Donna Kebab – are all quite obese and very ugly, so I am naturally sceptical.
PS: If you aren’t actually a ‘Babe’ but have only added this to your name to make you feel better about yourself, safe in the knowledge that your true identity will never be revealed online, then I’m afraid we’re done. I can handle you being a Fascist as that would imply a penchant for S&M, which could be fun; but a liar too! That’s just a bridge too far.
Here is a picture of how Dbabe might actually look
50. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
16 January 2013, 16:39
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Removed on: 16 January 2013, 23:05
I pleaded with Tripadvisor to allow me to make recompense for any offense my written nonsense had caused. I wanted to write some Terms and Conditions related to having a sense of humour so that Dbabe could read them and satisfy herself that it was actually OK to be a little foolish and irresponsible every now and then, and even have a smile at your own expense sometimes, because people who don’t make mistakes don’t make anything. I feel that with adequate instructions and T&C’s to follow that Dbabe may have lightened up. I even offered to write a poem to Dbabe as a show of amnesty; but alas, they would not allow me to add anything more to the thread. If they had then Dbabe would have surely seen me in a completely different light after reading these poetic words of penance:
Roses are red, violets are blue
Donna’s from Pittsburg and likes to read rules
Advantage Car Hire are great at what they do
And the Roman authorities, they are great too
But me, I’m just a lazy, inappropriate fool
And I should spend more time reading and following rules
For Donna aka Dbabe (forgive me)