Booked Endeavor, instead got XUV in junk condition, got charged in full despite returning vehicle early due to poor condition
I am visiting my in-laws and decided to get a self-drive rental from Zoomcar for a couple of days for a road trip to various places in Punjab. I was doubtful on using Zoomcar, being aware of their generally poor maintenance condition. But their recent changes around starting to charge damages from customers made me think that Zoomcar was serious about maintaining quality of their fleet. Eventually I decided to book an Endeavor, hoping that Endeavor being a recently launched vehicle, the Zoomcar vehicles would still be relatively lower mileage. Also, in the higher segment there would be lower likelihood of abuse. I got a confirmed booking for 2 days: Apr 25-Apr 27.
25 minutes before the start of my trip at 7 am on Apr 25, 2017 I got a call from Zoomcar that the vehicle I had booked was not available. Supposedly, the previous customer had not returned it yet. They were downgrading me to an XUV. Upon my protesting, they offered me a ridiculous Rs 500 adjustment against a future booking as compensation.
Reluctantly, I decided to go for XUV since the other option would have been cancelling or re-planning the trip. I reached the pick-up point at Chandigarh ISBT and was offered a totally beaten down XUV with 1,06,640 kms on the odo. The number of dents and scratches on that vehicle would have taken an hour or more to count. 3 of the 4 tyres were balding and barely had any tread left. Upon complaining, the location staff promptly pulled out a caliper and showed me 3 mm of tread left on the tyre. I am sure it is possible to choose a spot on the tyre to get a favourable reading, if the intent is to prove that the tyre does not need replacement. The luggage rack on the top looked like it was fit in a junkyard.
The situation wasn’t any better on the inside. All the interior panels were permanently dirty. Seat fabric had holes in many places, and was soiled in many spots. One seat base was completely torn and the frame was visible underneath. Driver side sunvisor’s clip to hold it in place was broken. Passenger side sunvisor was permanently hanging halfway down due to broken mechanism. See the pictures below to judge the condition of the vehicle for yourself.
I told the location staff that I wanted a different vehicle. He said this is the only vehicle available. He reassured us that the vehicle had been serviced only last month and was mechanically sound. Faced with the prospect of cancellation of trip, I chose to go ahead and take this vehicle, since cancellation at this point would have meant also asking other people we were supposed to visit to re-plan. Big mistake.
As soon as we hit the highway and crossed 60-65 kmph I could hear a loud humming sound from the right side of the vehicle. It sounded like one of the wheel axle bearing was failing. The sound was loud, happened everytime after crossing 65 and was noticeable to everyone in the car. Cursing myself for trusting Zoomcar, I slowed down and made my way to Hoshiarpur, about 125 kms.
By now it was about 1pm, and I called up Zoomcar customer service, expecting that the delayed Endeavor that I had booked would have been returned by now and I would go back and switch with it. The CC executive simply said that they had a ‘shortage of vehicles’ and this was the only one available. I wondered what happened to the Endeavor, but the CC executive kept repeating the same lines. He suggested that I could go the Mahindra service center and get the vehicle repaired. I declined, as I did not want to spend my vacation time getting Zoomcar’s vehicle repaired. I told the CC executive I wanted to return the car. He said I would have to return it back at the pick-up location, and Zoomcar would refund the unused portion of the booking.
I am doubtful that there was ever an Endeavor available for my booking to begin with. The interaction with CC indicated the classic signs of a ‘bait and switch’ business tactic. They just issue a verbal apology for the ‘inconvenience caused’ and expect you to get on with it.
We decided it was unsafe to continue in this car, and we did not want to get stranded in the middle of the night with family. We cancelled the trip, returned to Chandigarh and I returned the vehicle at the Chandigarh pick up point the same evening, with complaints made again to the location staff, who said he was glad to get feedback and now he would take action. As if the condition of the vehicle was not apparent to him until we pointed out.
Next day I receive a refund notification from Zoomcar (I had paid Endeavour tariff at the time of booking plus they had to refund the unused portion of the booking). But the invoice on the site does not indicate any details about what they have eventually charged me for (duration, kms, fuel adjustment), only a refund amount. Another example of opaque and unethical business practices.
Upon calling Customer care again, the lady tells me that I have been charged for full 2 days of XUV tariff. I ask about the refund for the unused portion of the booking, and the lady says she cannot provide those details now. Someone will call back within 2 hours. I am still waiting for that callback. It has been a total horror story with Zoomcar. I did not get the vehicle I booked for. I was downgraded, and provided a vehicle in junk condition. I exposed my family to the risks of an unsafe vehicle on the highway. I had to cancel my trip plans and I wasted precious vacation time. On top of that, Zoomcar charged me with 2 full days of booking, despite returning the vehicle on the same day due to issues with its condition. It actually hurts to be paying good money for such a vehicle and getting your vacation ruined on top of it.
I realize I would have been better off booking an Innova taxi from the local taxi service. The local taxi guy will transparently tell you the details of the vehicle he will be sending, the condition it is in, how many kms on the odo etc and he will charge you post rendering of the service, unlike Zoomcar where you pay the full amount upfront and are then stuck. Even the local taxi guy will not send a vehicle with a hundred dents and torn seats and mechanical issues, unless you go with the operator providing dirt cheap rates in which case you know what you will be getting. Zoomcar realizes that they can stick any vehicle to a customer at the last minute, and faced with the prospect of cancelling and/or re-planning the trip, most of the customers will compromise and go with what is offered. Moreover there is no liability on Zoomcar upon not delivering the promised vehicle to the customer, other than whatever goodwill adjustment they might want to offer on a future booking. Contrast this with their policy about penalties on customer delivering a vehicle late (Rs 500/hr for first 2 hours, 750/hr for next 2 hrs and 1000/hr for subsequent hrs). What moral or ethical right does Zoomcar have to charge a customer penalties over and above usage fees when they themselves are not bound by any liability on not delivering the booked vehicle to the customer?
I have utilized rental cars in many different parts of the world, but nothing has ever come even remotely close to the disaster that is Zoomcar. It is ironical that they are promoting Self-drive concept by providing vehicles that provide absolutely zero pleasure in driving. As of now, the Zoomcar business model is totally broken for the customer. They are treating their customers like chumps. For Zoomcar though, it might be working out great in its current form.
The camera angle and shadow makes it look like there is more tread than there actually was.