Why not to use to Great Car and Boat Rentals

Great Car and Boat Rentals seems at first like a good choice for a holiday weekend, but the truth is quite the opposite. This page is intended as a warning for anyone planning to rent a car from them ... don't do it !!! They have been the subject of numerous complaints to the Department of Consumer Affairs, Victoria as far back as September 2002, and I am aware of at least 2 other people who have had almost identical situations to those described below happen to them.

To cut a long story short: we rented the car on the 11th December 2002, and were not refunded until early June, 2003 (almost six months later).

Point of clarification: The Great Car and Boat Rentals referred to within this page currently has its head office located Cnr Swan St and Punt Rd, Richmond Victoria. There are apparently also offices in Adelaide as far as I know. If you are really interested, go to greatcarboatrentals dot com ... but don't waste your time if you're not.

My story went something like this, as did the other customers I contacted:

  1. First, when you rent the car, they tell you they need to debit the A$5000 deposit from your credit card immediately. In my experience, however, other car companies hold the signed transaction while you're away (also in my experience, regardless of the period - we were told because we rented for 8 days that the transaction would expire if they didn't complete the debit ... hmmm). When you return they give you the transaction slip, and you tear it up ... visa has no idea the transaction took place unless you violate your lease agreement - not GCBR.
  2. Second, when you return the car they tell you that the accounts person is not in, and they will have them process the refund once the account person comes in. I'm still waiting on this mystery accounts person, after 4 months.
  3. After some time you ring back (in our case when the visa statement came in, 1 month later), and remind them gently that they haven't refunded your deposit yet. They apologise profusely and offer to pay any costs (eg currency exchanges, interest, phone calls, etc), and to get on it immediately.
  4. Repeat the previous step until you get tired of dealing with underlings (names here are Craig Evans, Rob (something) and they have a few weekend staff who claim to know nothing and be able to do nothing).
  5. Eventually you end up speaking to a Carol Williams, who is the General Manager (apparently). She claims not to know anything about your case initially, but eventually repeats the same stories coming from the previous staff, such as:
  6. After speaking to Carol a while, you get passed on to a Cleeton Hill, the Operations Manager. I'm not sure how a company of less than 10 office staff in Melbourne Head Office (there were 3 in the office the weekday we arrived, and 1 in Adelaide) can support both a General Manager and an Operations Manager, but hey ...
  7. Cleeton again claims to know nothing about your case, but appears a lot more professional. Unfortunately, this again is a facade - he uses any of the stories not used by Carol, and then tells you he is "flabbergasted", and promises to put it through that day at 3pm, because the transactions are batched together and sent at that time. He says he is waiting on a receipt from the bank, and he will fax it to you immediately when he receives it. If you are from overseas, he will refer to international delays in credit card processing, which will take the transaction "a couple of days" to come through.
  8. Cleeton is very believable - you want to believe at this point that your transaction is just held up at the bank, but it's not the case. He will probably give you a cellphone number (0421 604 906), which adds to your trust levels, and makes you think "finally ... progress". However, this number only ever seems to get voicemail, so it's not much good.
  9. Cleeton continues to be unavailable when you call, and you eventually have to contact Consumer Affairs. When they call Great Cars, you see some progress (so I'm told ... I'm still in communication with Consumer Affairs at present).
  10. UPDATE (2003/06/24): We finally had our money refunded a few weeks ago. Through dealings with a Douglas Stone at Consumer Affairs Victoria (email - Douglas.Stone @ justice.vic.gov.au), we managed to get the full A$5000 back ... after almost 6 months.
I don't know what possible reason they could have for wanting to not refund your money. Perhaps it involves some scam to skim the interest while they invest it, or maybe you just never claim it back. Perhaps they have such problems with cashflow that this kind of deception is necessary to keep the company afloat. Due to the risk of giving them ideas, I don't think I'll continue on this line of thought.

Anyway, as for the car rental itself, I found the quality of the car only average (the seats had some tears and wear marks, and there were some dings in the panelling). The price was much higher than the equivalent from Hertz or Budget, and the car availability was less than good too ... I initially requested a BMW Z3, and was told that I couldn't have it for more than 2 days, and that an MG Convertible was all they could do. For that price (twice what Budget wanted) you would expect not to have availability problems.

Anyway, my recommendation overall was DO NOT USE GREAT CAR AND BOAT RENTALS if at all possible, and if you do, make sure to watch them do everything money related - don't grant them any of the usual courtesies of trust, because you'll end up regretting it.

Another story I found on the web, which detailed almost exactly what had happened to me, can be found here. If you're html literate, you'll notice this is a Google cache link. The reason for this is that Great Car and Boat Rentals came to an arrangement with the person involved where they would be compensated for not speaking publicly about what happened to them. This page had to be taken off the web as a result. Luckily for me, Google cached a copy of it, and I can show it to you, despite the compliance of the other customer with their silence agreement. (If the link is broken, please mail me and I'll fix it).

Yet another: I spoke to another person recently (this time the web designer for a previous GCBR site ... see here), who told me of yet another payment problem. He is apparently owed 5 figures in Australian dollars, since they did not pay for the site he built for them ... in spite of a court order to do so.

I can't help but wonder how many of these stories are out there, just not publicly known ...

If you have any stories you wish to submit involving Great Car and Boat Rentals and other thinly veiled forms of scammery you've experienced, or if you are from a newspaper or magazine and need further information, please send me a mail at: gcbr-complaints@great-car-boat-rentals.com ... I'm told the Herald Sun is working on an article about Shonky car dealers ... looking forward to speaking to them.

Hoping this helps to convince anyone out there wanting to rent a car from this company ... don't !!!

Rick Knowles


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