Reviews for the German car rental agency Sixt on the online review sites Yelp and TripAdvisor fall into two distinct categories. One category consists of four-star and five-star reviews, loaded with praise for the professionalism of its staff and the excellence of its cars. These reviews are the ones Sixt itself touts on its website.
But after a bad experience with Sixt last year, Bart Shachnow noticed that there are a lot of reviews of the other type — one-star and zero-star — and probably wanted to leave a review of his own. Many of the reviews indicated that Sixt has a reputation for pursuing its customers for wear-and-tear damage claims. Car rental companies, for whom damage claims can be significant sources of profit, don’t like to discuss those claims.
Shachnow rented a car from Sixt in Munich. When he arrived to pick it up, he was told that it was not “road ready” and had not been properly inspected. He was offered another car, and being in a hurry to reach his destination, accepted it.
According to Shachnow, “there was never any walk-around or car condition check conducted by Sixt at the originating rental agency, nor did they offer any paperwork for me to check for any damages.” He took photos of the car “simply out of an intuitive sense that they were not trustworthy.”
His instincts were right.
When Shachnow returned the car in Vienna a week later, Sixt did not inspect the car at that time. Three days later, however, Shachnow received an email from Sixt claiming that Shachnow caused $3,000 of damage to the car, including scratches to the bumpers, spoiler, and aluminum rims, as well as a missing tire air compressor. Shachnow forwarded to Sixt his photos of the car that showed no damage.
Sixt refused to back down. It responded:
We are checking our cars after every return according to a station-wide homogeneous standard. By doing so we have noticed a new damage after your return (which are also seen in the pictures you sent).
You have confirmed the condition of the rental car described on the rental agreement before takeover. If you notice new damage you have the obligation to inform us before takeover according to our contractual agreement. We have checked our papers once again and can unfortunately find no evidence for such information.
After revision of all given information and your objection we have to inform you that the damage must have occurred during your rental period. Therefore we kindly ask for your understanding that we have to insist on compensation of our claimed indemnity.
As a “gesture of goodwill,” Sixt extended the timeline that they were giving Shachnow to pay the claim.
Shachnow demanded that they show him photographic evidence of their own in proving their claim. Sixt forwarded photos of its own, as well as a chart of the car with areas circled, where it alleged that Shachnow had caused damage.
At this point Shachnow contacted our advocacy team for assistance.