02 October, 2010

The Irish Rental Car Fiasco

The thing about the Irish that I've discovered is the most difficult to deal with is the fact that so many of them can lie to you with a perfectly sincere and innocent smile.  I realise that there are certain things that put me at a disadvantage; for example, my American accent, the fact that I clearly don't come to Ireland the way my grandfather left it (poor), but that ability to distract you with a wink and a smile while digging into your pocket with all the stealth of a half-starved mosquito is shocking.  It's like they can smell an opportunity as soon as it lands in Dublin.

I arrived in Ireland on Saturday with a rental car already booked.  €108 a week was the rate, and I'd declined the extra (it said optional) insurance to keep the rate as low as possible.  I knew they would hit me with CDW (collision damage waiver), but it's not as if this was the first time I'd rented a car in Dublin and I was prepared to wind up paying a bit more.  "A bit" in Ireland, when you're an American on the paying side of a transaction, is a quantity that is never fixed, but fluctuates depending on how much money the person on the beneficiary side of the transaction thinks is in your wallet and how easily they think you can be parted with it.  It's one of the only things about living here that really irritates me, and I've come to think the Irish view it as a game. 

So I arrived at the rental desk with my Irish debit card in hand and, as the counter agent rang up the charges (14 days to be paid in advance, of course), I nearly had a stroke when she pronounced the total to be €982.  It's not easy to render me speechless, but I was quite literally at a loss for words.  I was exhausted and still coming down from the in-flight valium, and I had sent my two cats ahead on Thursday's Aer Lingus flight and I needed to get to the quarantine facility at Lissenhall to get them, so I was scraping the bottom of the barrel for motivation to argue...and she knew it.  My limp protests fell on deaf ears.  The Irish can, indeed, see us coming, my friends. 

I stuck it back to Europcar the only way I knew how.  On day four I went to Dublin, bought a 2000 Saab 9-3 convertible, returned the car to the airport rental counter and couldn't help smiling as the agent refunded me €672. 

It would have been much more pleasurable (for me) if she'd been Irish.

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