National Van Hire – 6-page complaint

National Car and Van Rental BX56JUE
Won’t be hiring from here again

[Quick update – “UK Van and Minibus Hire” is the same company as A1. Avoid!]

OK, this one’s a doozy and I can’t blame you if you don’t get to the end of it. Upshot is it’s these idiots who cost me the entire of the weekend of the 9th/10th, plus taking the Monday off uni. Not forgetting that Christina, my dad and I ended up spending 23 hours solid moving stuff. And then more time the next day after around 5 hours sleep.

And I just spotted this evening that they’ve over-billed by credit card as well.

UPDATE as people have asked for it, I’ve rediscovered the piece of paper with their head office phone number. It’s 0116 2565656 – the reception will give you the address to send complaints to.

Letter in the post in the morning, addressed to the MD (names abbreviated etc):

Dear Sir,

I am writing to complain in the strongest possible terms about the treatment myself and a friend (Ms C) received from your company on January 9th 2010. One piece of inept “customer care” snowballed into a complete nightmare of a weekend for myself and Ms C.

I am assuming that you or members of your staff have moved house at some point in the past. I therefore hope that you can appreciate that, at the best of times, it is a hugely stressful endeavour. National turned our weekend into one from the very depths of hell itself. Please be aware that I am, frankly, furious about the entire matter and that I have been very careful to refrain from profanity both while talking to your staff on the telephone and in drafting this letter. Believe me, I have not been so restrained when discussing the matter with friends and family.

On the preceding Thursday, we booked a van via your website. This was to be collected at midday from your Perth office and returned around 4pm on the Sunday. We promptly received a conformation email with the address, times and booking reference.

At 11:30 on the Saturday morning, I was stood in the snow outside the aforementioned office, which was unmanned. A large poster in the window told us to ring a number for attention as there was nobody there. At 11:55, I duly called this number… and received a pre-recorded message telling me that the phone was switched off. There was no option to leave a message. We both tried again until around 12:15 – quarter of an hour after we were supposed to collect the van.

We next tried the booking number emblazoned on the side of a van which was parked outside the office. Do note that this “lo-call” number involved a fairly large per-minute rate to ring from Ms C’s mobile as your company does not see fit to provide a proper telephone number for customers to ring.

After ten minutes or so we discovered that there was nobody to rent us a van as there was only one person working in Dundee so they couldn’t close the office to come down and rent one out in Perth. Our booking had been cancelled and nobody had seen fit to do anything simple, such as tell us. By the time another few pounds had dropped into your coffers via the premium telephone number, we discovered that some computer glitch had meant that someone in Dundee hadn’t been able to get our details on Friday to inform us. This same glitch obviously wasn’t still in effect so we were wondering why nobody had contacted us on Saturday morning. Or why they’d not contacted someone else in the company and asked them to do it.

We were given another (premium rate) number to call, which I duly did. I had to explain our situation all over again to another member of staff. They advised us to get a taxi to Dundee and get a van from there, for which you would refund us. Of course, by now we’d be cutting it close as your office in Dundee would be closing in little more than thirty minutes. I asked her to check with them first to see if a van was available. More coins dropped into your corporate piggy bank until she informed us that, no, there was not. A good job we hadn’t flagged down a cab, really.

She agreed to ring round some other offices and call us back. By now, we had no chance of booking from another agent. By the time we got back to my house, it would be past 1pm and everywhere would be shut. My friend was in floods of tears. By this stage, your company had reached the stage of behaving utterly unforgivably.

We finally got a call back where we were told to ring another number. I’ve lost track of the departments now, but more money was added to my mobile bill ringing this one. I demanded a number for the Dundee office, which I called… only to be re-routed back to head office as it was 13:00 and 5 seconds, so Dundee had obviously taken their phone off the hook.

I finally got to speak to a supervisor and informed him in no uncertain terms that National would be furnishing us with a vehicle. On the Saturday. And I did not care if someone had to drive it from London. I did not care if every van was stuck in a garage covered by snow. You would be digging it out. I did not care if it hadn’t been scrubbed clean, or the last renter had left their McDonald’s wrappers on the passenger seat. We would be getting a van.

Maybe fifteen minutes later he called back to say he’d spoken to the manager at Dundee and that there were no vans available. This was simply not good enough. I still had no explanation as to why nobody had contacted us 24-28 hours sooner, why their office had closed early, why the manager herself hadn’t deigned to phone us to apologise, why we couldn’t have the van which was parked outside the office in Perth…

Again I was informed that he would look into it. By now we were well over an hour past out original booking time. The friends who’d volunteered to help us move were getting impatient as they also had other matters to attend to.

Between calls from the gentleman in head office telling me you could do nothing, I received a phone call from Jonathan in Stirling. He, completely at odds to the rest of your company, seemed genuinely sympathetic and interested in helping. I hope you don’t even think of chastising him for this, but he agreed that your other employees had acted unprofessionally and selfishly in trying to fob us off and agreed to make some phone calls. I believe that Jonathan had already finished for the day, but was prepared to put the effort in to resolve the awful situation that Ms C and I were now sliding into.

He contacted the manager of Dundee directly and she, finally, called us. She explained that she was sending someone down to Edinburgh airport to retrieve a van and bring it up to Perth for us. This would take a couple of hours.

This raised some questions:

1)      Why couldn’t this have been organised sooner so that the van had been available earlier?

2)      Where did this mysterious person come from seeing as there was nobody to man the Perth office?

3)      Why couldn’t we have the van that was already there in Perth so that we could get on with moving stuff?

I think I managed to get answers:

1)      Because the manager at Dundee is inept.

2)      He had been brought in on his day off to run a stupid errand which could have been avoided had answer “1” not been the case.

3)      Because it was stuck in snow. Until I pointed out that it was no longer stuck as the snow had melted. At which point it became “too big” as we had booked a smaller van. How incredibly helpful.

Answer three there, really stuck in my throat. I had to, and I do not exaggerate, physically bite my tongue to refrain from shouting at the Dundee manager when she told me that. We were being made to wait what turned out to be five hours for a van to be driven up from Edinburgh because the one already available was too big?! In particular the way that the van switched in the space of one sentence from “stuck” to “big” really galled me. It smacked of someone making up excuses.

I gather that said van had been there for a booking on the 8th, but at that time was bogged down and immobile. However, that booking was no longer relevant. The van was there. And I didn’t give a hoot if it was too large or not. The fact was, we’d booked a van for midday on Saturday and by the time we got one it was after 5pm.

The gentleman who we eventually met at Perth was polite and helped us melt the ice in the windscreen wash bottle before we set off. It was obvious, though, that he wasn’t too happy about being called in on his day off.

Sorted? No. Not in the slightest. It was now dark. Everyone who was due to help us move house had left. Instead of eight people moving things from one second floor flat to another, there were now two. We managed to shift some of the smaller items, but due to the lights in the closes at both locations being broken, we had to give in otherwise we would have risked injury on the stairs.

The next morning we began at 8am. By mid-afternoon it was apparent that with just two people, this was going to be impossible. My father very kindly volunteered to help us move some of the heavier items.

I would like to point out that my father is 64 years old. He had pneumonia 3 years ago, never completely recovered and is asthmatic. He is also, stubborn, helpful and prepared to go out of his way to make sure that people aren’t stuck in a hole they can’t get out of. Unlike many of your staff.

Despite his help, we were forced to continue on into the night regardless of the fact that we were walking blind at times due to the aforementioned broken lights. At 4am (I kid you not) I was questioned outside Ms C’s old flat by the police as they couldn’t believe someone would be moving at that time in the morning.

At some point, I can’t recall when, I received a phone call from one of your staff asking when the van would be returned. I told him “6am tomorrow, if we get finished” to which his response was “That’s fine”. I thought nothing else of it. I had been informed that there would be nobody to check the vehicle until Monday morning anyway.

We finally returned to my house to bed down at 6:30am on Monday. By the time we got to bed, we had been working almost non-stop for 23 hours.

It gets worse.

Late on the Sunday night, Ms C’s sister had informed us that she could no longer stay awake for us to deliver some things to her house for storage. It was simply too late. She had been expecting us earlier on the Sunday, but we couldn’t get the things to her then as we still hadn’t moved other items due to wasting the entire of Saturday sorting out your mess.

At this point, Ms C physically broke down. Prior to this time I was angry with your company. This, however, was crossing a line. She was, for almost half an hour, inconsolable. 11:15pm on Sunday night was when I decided that I would be doing everything in my power to make National pay for what they had done. Things were now far beyond a financial issue or a simple apology.

The above phone call meant that we’d stored all the things due at Ms C’s sister’s at her friend’s flat instead. She was expecting a few boxes and some furniture. When she arrived on Monday morning to find the flat full, she understandably asked for a large amount of it to be removed.

Monday, then, was spent moving a goodly number of boxes plus a freezer and a tumble dryer across Perth using my Renault Clio. Obviously, this took a vastly larger number of trips than in a van – which by now had been returned.

I’m currently a student on a post-graduate course at Strathclyde University. I must maintain an 80% attendance on each module or risk being unable to collect my diploma in June. One of those modules is on a Monday. However, I could not leave Ms C to move everything herself, especially as she had no transport. As such I was forced to miss a tutorial, which displeases me immensely.

In addition, I didn’t make it back to Glasgow until 1am on Tuesday morning after dropping Ms C off in Stirling. Ms C had to return to Perth the following morning by train and then hire a taxi to move the last few items out of her old flat. This, obviously, cost her money in addition to which she had to pay a penalty to the letting agency for leaving the property a day late – she was supposed to hand the keys over on Monday.

I appreciate this is a lengthy letter, but so much went wrong and every single part of it is down to National failing to contact us on Thursday or Friday, thus giving us the time needed to go to another company and rent another van. The complete failure of your staff, excepting Jonathan in Stirling, to give a damn about us or our situation utterly staggers me. For the Dundee manager to go off the radar for almost two hours, close the phone lines early, refuse to speak to me (until Jonathan contacted her), make up pathetic excuses about the van which was in Perth and then force some poor soul on an unnecessary 2½ hour errand is verging on unbelievable.

As well as the emotional and physical strain that your company put us through, you cost us a small packet. The phone calls mount up to slightly under £10. Then there is the fuel cost of driving my car around Perth on Monday. Plus Ms C’s transportation to and from Perth on Tuesday, along with the taxi fare to move her last items into storage and the letting agency’s “fine”. My 100% attendance on my university course has been wiped, though hopefully won’t affect my grade. It does, however, cause potential problems should I fall ill in the next 5 months and there is the fact that the hours at college I missed have actually been paid for. More money wasted courtesy of yourselves.

I went through all of the above as a favour to a friend in need. My father the same. Both of us would do it again. The thing is, neither of us should have had to if National had not acted in such a shoddy, pathetic, and ultimately childish manner. From a simple mistake, to fobbing us off and then spitefully running rings to make it look like you were doing us a favour when a simple solution sat on a driveway 10 minutes away.

And do you know what? It’s not finished. I have just checked my credit card and found that “EC VEHICLE RENTAL WATFORD” has charged £79.17 to my credit card. This comes as a huge surprise given that the bill was supposed to be under £50 as per the agreement I signed on the Saturday evening.

No damage was done to the van and the vehicle was returned with the fuel needle above the “F” mark. I shall, of course, be ringing someone tomorrow to discuss this little affair. So where this extra £30 or so comes from is a mystery. I’m sure someone will make up some pathetic excuse when I call them tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have contacted my credit card company and informed them that this payment is in dispute.

I have dealt with some pretty poor companies in the past. National, however, have caused more problems from one act of ineptitude than just about any other. Believe me, that’s actually quite impressive.

Obviously, I expect a full enquiry and prompt written explanation for all of these failings. I would also expect a reasonable level of financial recompense. I won’t throw figures around. I leave it to you to decide what you believe to be fair for the utter chaos and financial loss your company has caused.

Rest assured, though, that you aren’t trying to buy back my custom. You won’t be getting it again.

I await your prompt and full reply in short order.

Yours faithfully (etc.)

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David Wilson

Yes I did, you should be doing a chargeback on your credit card with Mastercard, just ring them it was used without your concent over and above the final agreed amount. They must have a file about these crooks – infact ask them why they are still able to take money and ask to speak to their fraund, and ask them to look at your case in relation to A1 and any other cases they may have had with them.

Tony Martin

Hi all.
I am pleased to report that the £250 deposit arrived in my account today. Actually earlier than they had promised. This seemed to happen quickly when the man who identified himself as Michael. He said to me several times in the course of the conversation that he is a supervisor and that I was to rest assured that he would sort the situation. To be fair, he has done just that. So, if you are having trouble with A1 you may want to try and speak to Michael on 0116 2603599
I have made three calls to this number and previously spoke to others who, although polite, did not seem to do, or care, very much. When they answer it is announced as Reservations so ask for the supervisor, Michael.

Robert Bernard

I remember I sent you Mr Hammond prrsonal phone No. I called it and left a message that I was going to deal with him personally. Someone then called me back within 5mins and asked me to give them my details so they can put my money back. It was £250 deposit but they deposited back £500. I feel so much pain when I read these comments that they are still taking peoples money. You should give them all Mr Hammonds phone No.
I did a little research and got everything about him even the picture of him. But perhaps Hammond is not his real name, he is Asian and this name dont sound Asian, but is the name on HMRC records.
Good luck everyone.

Fisherc

I also recently had an experience with these clowns, I’d thought I’d share my story/advice.
On 29 Feb I sent off an order to A1 for a van to be delivered tomorrow (17 March) and collected sunday evening. My girlfriend and I are just buying our first flat and wanted to travel to Derby where my girlfriends family have saved a load of furniture for us. We made the booking and put in my card details. However, alarm bells started ringing when I got home from work the next day and had an email saying £750 was being taken. This seemed like a lot, and I wasn’t expecting the deposit to come out straight away (Taking 500 quid from me, even if it was just for 2.5 weeks is not on).

Worried by this, my girlfriend and I looked A1 up online, and found all the horrible reviews. So, we instantly emailed to cancel. We also backed this up with a call, and they confirmed the cancellation. However, on calling my bank, I was told that a payment of $750 was pending to come out of my account. She told me that, if I call A1 they can give me a payment authorisation code, which Natwest could then use to stop the payment from my account before it went through. I called A1, and was not at all suprised when they wouldn’t give me the authorisation code.

The next straw came when we had an email from A1 saying they would be taking a 20% cancellation fee. As they had the opportunity to cancel the transaction before the money was transfered and didn’t take it, this was totally unacceptable.

As we already nknew of their reputation, we instantly took action. My girlfriend (who did a law degree) started looking up the Consumer protection (Distance selling) act (which can be found here:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2000/2334/contents/made

I recommend people take a look, as it contains lots of ammuntition) and we started quoting bits of the act at them, threatening them with legal action. We also pointed out how interesting it was that they took 20% VAT but do not have a VAT number on their website and don’t appear to be VAT registered…

At the same time I had also started a disputed claim with my bank, just in case. We pointed this out to them in an email as well.

After all of this we recieved, within a week, an email saying that the full amount would be returned within 2-3 working days. On the 4th working day we emailed again asking why this had not happened, and received a reply saying that there had been a mix up and we could expect payment in 7-10 working days. From this point we decided not to let up and send them hourly reminders that we were expecting the money back. Afinal email saying that this is ridiculous as there is no good reason why a payment should take this long, and we will be resuming our disputed claim, consider legal action and get on to trade standards if the funds were not with us in 48 hours finally seemed to convince them, as well as saying that we would take them to small claims court to get interest on the money they have effectively been borrowing without our permission. Later that day we were emailed with the old “the money will be with you in 48-72 hours” and within 24 hours, the money was back in my account! Victory!

Although we weren’t mucked around particularly, we were not prepared to give these guys any benefit of the doubt. They took £500 of my money without my permission, and that was just totally unacceptable. Keeping it for 2 weeks for no good reason was just the icing on the cake. I would recommend that constant reminders, gentle threats of court, backed up with quotes from the regulations mentioned above and gentle threats of getting trade standards/HMRC involved seem to motivate these guys. Above all keep all emails you exchange as evidence, and keep calm and reasonable so that if you do have to use the emails as evidence you seem like the better person!

Good luck to anyone still battling with these guys. Be persistant and you should be okay.

Yoko

Please file a fraud report at http://www.actionfraud.org.uk/

Alan

I too have had problems from this company. Booked a Luton van 16th-18th March. It arrived late, and sat uncollected for 2 days after the collection date, clogging my parents drive.

I too have had £754 taken from my Amex card (£500). I was told it would be refunded within 7-10 days, then today have been told “its a problem with our finance company, Streamline, you have to email Barry Davies and he will sort it out”. When I mentioned I was concerned there was fraudlent use of my card, the person on the phone put the phone down. He denied doing so on my calling back. I have emailed this person (at info@A1…etc) stating I want an immediate refund of the deposit or will be notifying my credit card company and pursuing legal action.

After reading the tales of woe, I have notified American express of their delays and my lack of faith in receiving a refund. I have asked to make a claim of my credit card under Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act 1971, which provides protection. Thank goodness I made payment using a CC, as this protects against failure to deliver goods as promised, so even if they dont cough up, the CC company will. Ive also asked American Express to suspend this company using their credit card to protect other customers – surely they must be seeing a lot of people in similar boats.

Remember – if you paid using a credit card, you are protected. See MoneySavingExpert and search “Section 75” for information – dont take no for an answer, you dont have to pursue the company, your credit card company is insured to protect you from this – thats why you pay the high interest fees…..

best of luck

Alan

Andy

Hi All,
Everything above all too familiar. Did not receive my 250 deposit back, countless phonecalls/ emails sent to them. Today, having finally threatened legal action etc, I received an email from them (finally) stating “Good Afternoon
We apologise that your vehicle refund has not been returned as yet. We will get this processed straight away and if you can allow up until Friday 25.05.12 for this action to clear into your account.
We do apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Kind Regards
A1″…so fingers crossed.
I’ve already raised with trading standards/ watchdog and my credit card company as back-up in case I don’t receive the funds.

Betty White

They got me too…only I never even got my van. At least I can claim simple fraud rather than having to wrangle over the deposit.

Please, everybody who has been ripped off by these people, take Yoko’s advice and make an official complaint against these fraudsters. http://www.actionfraud.org.uk/

Emma

Short story;
Hire a people carrier for DD birthday.
Return car following day after replacing fuel in car until pump cuts out.
Just checked bank account and found £70 taken from my account.
Bank advised and into disputes.
Know what I’ll be doing……
Note to self; google Alamo before hiring!!

Andy

Part 2
After being ‘robbed’ of £700 or so last November, and managing to get the money back from them in December – now another £500 pounds has just vanished 8 months later from my credit card account at the beginning of August (A1 National Van Hire. . . Amazing ! ! Definitely not allowed that one..
Got to start all over again and sort that one out.
Speechless.

david Wilson

A1 NATIONAL HAVE HAD A NAME CHANGE SPREAD THE WORD
THEY HAVE NOW CHANGED THEIR NAME TO
http://www.ukvanandminibushire.co.uk/
SPREAD THE WORD

Lot of thanks for the updates on national van hire.

David

GUESS WHOS BACK AGAIN

http://www.ukcommercialrentals.co.uk/

SPREAD THE WORD HAMMOND KUMAR IS BACK IN VAN RENTAL.

Betty White

Just got a letter from police in Leicestershire that he’s been arrested again.

DAVID

THIS IS A1 NATIONAL HAMMOND KUMAR AGAIN – but registered as by one of his acolytes, the address in Exeter is a Regus facility and they not longer rent a space there – the domain was registered to an address in Leicester but it has since been changed.