A True Story

driverA true story about how a cheap transfer can easily turn in to a nightmare you will regret.

On the 24th June 2010 I was at Heathrow airport in Terminal 1, waiting for a client who had just arrived from Vienna. As I was standing by the barrier a couple approached me and asked if I could help them. Apparently they had just arrived from Ireland and their friends had booked a car transfer for them online with a company based in Docklands. The company was supposed to send a cab which would take them to Hampstead in North London; however the driver had failed to show. Worse still the company had insisted that they pre-pay using their credit card. They asked if I would mind if they used my mobile phone to call the car company, as they had no loose change to use a phone box, and did not bring a cell phone. I said I would do my best and proceeded to call the company. A lady answered – I could barely understand what she was saying as her English wasn’t so good.

After about 5 minutes she told me she didn’t know where the driver was and that she would send another car. By now the couple had waited in the terminal for over 30 minutes and still had no idea where their car was. They said that as they had prepaid they had no choice but to wait. I asked what made them pick this company to take them in the first place; they said they and their friends had looked at a number of companies on the net and that this one was one of the cheapest. They then asked me how much we would have charged if we had collected them. I told them that we would have sent a friendly and knowledgeable driver, suited and booted, in a top of the range Mercedes or BMW executive car, with complimentary mineral water, and we would have guaranteed to be there when they arrived. However we are a professional chauffeur company and not a mini cab company and so would have charged £65.

They stopped for about 5 seconds and said they had only paid £35. I said that this proves sometimes cheap is not best. They agreed that in this case saving a few pounds hadn’t proven to be the wisest move. Had they booked with us they would have nearly been at their destination by now, instead of waiting at Heathrow for a driver that may never show.

Although at first glance they thought they had booked a bargain transfer, this trip was turning into a nightmare for them. Not only had they no car, they were now faced with getting a black cab to take them to their destination. So after already paying the other company £35 for a no show, they now had to pay for a black Taxi from the airport. The total cost of this supposedly cheap transfer, was now going to be about £100.

This story is 100% true; however it’s certainly not the first time I’ve heard of a driver coming from a cheap company not showing up. Many of the car companies advertising on the net are mini cab companies; their main business is working in local areas taking the residents shopping and on short journeys. Their vehicles are average saloons and they tend to be inexperienced.

My recommendations for choosing the right company to transfer you hassle free are as follows:

1. Look at the vehicles they are offering. If they are not top of the range quality cars then stay away.

2. See if they provide you with a contact phone number. If they don’t, chances are no one will be there to pick you up at the other end.

3. When booking, do the company require you to prepay? It’s quite common to take credit card details to secure bookings but usually professional companies do not request pre-payment.

4. If you book online make sure you receive a confirmation e-mail of your details from the company. Also check that everything is included (especially car park charges) and check how much waiting time is allowed before additional charging in case your flight is delayed. Check if there is a contact number for if you can’t find your driver on arrival.

5. Check if they have a PCO licence. This is a number that has been supplied to the company by the Public Carriage office – this is the body that licence all London companies. Without this licence or a similar licence from a council outside of London, these companies cannot legally operate. If you travel with one of these non-registered companies you have no protection on price or service.

6. Always try and book through a UK based company or a company located in your home country. There are companies on the net that advertise transfers from London airports but they are themselves based overseas. The legitimate UK car companies have been checked by the UK Police and are carefully regulated giving you added protection in the case of a problem.

7. If the companies pricing seems amazingly cheap compared to all the other quotes then there is probably a reason for this! Chances are they are not offering you what you think you are getting. Sometimes the company will display top of the range cars on their professional looking website, then you see you their rates and they appear to be fantastically low. At this point be aware that it is likely you are about to be conned. These are the exact companies that rarely provide what they advertise. After all if I offered you a journey in a top of the range car that should usually cost £120 for £40 then alarm bells should start ringing. Clients often think that they will argue or complain if they are not given what they are promised, and since you are from overseas they don’t expect to see you again so don’t care, but usually the company has a very good excuse as to why you didn’t get what you paid for. If it sounds too good to be true it usually is.

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