The whole point of the Four Freedoms within the EU is that you are free to pick and choose wherever you want to live, wherever you want to work, and spend your money.
This extends to nearly everything in life, tangible or intangible. Like the abolition of telephone roaming charges, which side of an international border you want to refuel your car, or which country's official reseller you want to buy your Olympic Games tickets from.
So imagine my surprise when a regular desk agent for Avis decides to try and call me out for what he thought were some ‘irregularities'.
Me: [hands over passport] Hello. I have a booking with you today.
Agent: [checks passport, then computer] Is this your name?
Agent: I mean, is this your real name?
Me: That is my passport in your hand.
Agent: [still confused]…
Me: [confused why the clerk is confused]
Agent: [long pause] ok I found your booking. [facial expression suddenly turns sour]. You have a British Passport, a Dutch telephone number and a Portuguese address and tax ID?
Agent: [extremely suspicious look] I don't understand. You must explain further.
Me: European Union laws. I am exercising my rights as an EU citizen.
Now I should interject to say that I actually signed up for the Avis Preferred account many years ago while I was living and working in The Netherlands.
Agent: You need to explain or I will not rent the car to you.
Me: [visibly pissed off, just about keeping my calm] I just moved to Portugal…
Agent: So why do you have a Netherlands telephone number
Me: I just moved from Netherlands
Agent: Why do you have a Portugal tax ID
Me: Because I now live in Portugal.
Agent: And British passport? You weren't even born there.
Me: You don't get citizenship through being born in a country, unless it is the US.
By now I was ready to write nasty things in the Complaints Book though ignorance isn't a valid complaint to the regulators. (Though this was not the most stupid interrogation I've ever had). However, I was in a rush and didn't have any time to proceed further so begrudgingly continued with my reservation.
I came back to the office the next day to return the car and asked to speak to the branch manager about my experience. He seemed more personable and I explained to him I had a really hostile agent the day before. He was also there working that day, about 20m away so I pointed him out.
To his credit he was very apologetic and explained that while the business procedure does flag ‘irregularities' like mine, he should not have spoken to me like this. I was not totally convinced by the explanation but I did appreciate his sincerity.
Before I left he offered me his business card. He told me to contact him when I next make a booking and he will personally deal with it. I thanked him but also explained that if I was not welcomed on my first interaction that they would not get repeat business from me. My situation was hardly an abnormality… an EU citizen who has lived outside his own country and then moved to another.
I now rent from Hertz next door as a result.
Have you ever experienced poor customer service when you were within your rights? Please let me know below!