Guest Post By Howard Portnoy
In 2012, the car rental company Avis retired its advertising tagline of 50 years. The slogan — “We try harder” — was an open acknowledgment of the company’s second-place standing, behind market leader Hertz.
The new tagline became “It’s Your Space.” That has a certain ironic ring in light of both the current obsession with safe spaces among black collegians and the experience “enjoyed” by Dov Bergwerk and his wife when they arrived at the Avis branch on W. 76th Street and Broadway in New York City Saturday night.
The Observer notes that Bergwerk, a senior vice president of Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva, presented his driver’s license (Israeli), reservation number, and “Wizard” loyalty card (he’s rented from Avis dozens of times) to the reservation agent, named Angelline. But she declined to honor his reservation on the grounds, she claimed, that Avis does not recognize Israeli documents.
Taken aback, partly because he had rented from the same location two days earlier, he asked her to access the profile attached to his Wizard card.
Angelline refused to comply.
It was at this point that the manager, Shamoura, was called in to mediate. She sided with Angelline.
Bergwerk, now exasperated, phoned Avis directly and reached customer service, who confirmed that his Israeli license was an acceptable form of ID. He handed the phone to Shamoura, who changed her story, saying she had refused to rent to Bergwerk because he had argued about the way he was being treated in front of other customers.
The Observer quotes Bergwerk:
While no direct reference was made to being anti Israel, that was my impression almost from the initial moment I presented my license and credit card as I have done over 15 years of business and leisure travel without ever being challenged. The agent stated that the Israeli license did not have the required info in English. I tried to demonstrate that the license had all the required info but she and the manager had no interest. Similarly, the fact that I have had many rentals at Avis and at this location was dismissed as having been ‘done by new employees.’
I felt that something very ugly was going on. Discriminated against. When you deny someone a service and they present the ability to pay for that service and they dismiss you like your money isn’t good here, It’s very demeaning.
Neither Angelline nor Shamoura would divulge her last name to Bergwerk, but the Observer confirmed via LinkedIn that the manager is Shamoura Welch-Robinson, who has worked for Avis since April 2014.
It might be helpful if the story had as a postscript a statement from the White House to the effect that the “agents acted stupidly” — but no such statement is forthcoming. Dov Bergwerk is Jewish. And as all the world knows, the only lives that matter are black ones.
Update From The Lid:
The Observer requested a statement from Avis who answered hours later (approximately 6:30 PM) denying Bergwerk’s claim. Strangely the Observer got an anonymous email from “Avis Budget CORP Communications.” Usually when a corporation answers a press inquiry it is from a specific person in the communications group who gives their direct email or phone number in case there are additional questions. But not this response:
According to Avis, “On Friday, a customer seeking to rent a car from Avis Car Rental in Manhattan was not allowed to do so because he failed to provide the required documentation. Visitors to the U.S. from other countries must provide both a valid drivers license from their country of residence as well as either a valid International Drivers License or passport in order to rent from Avis. We are aggressively investigating the customer’s allegations regarding the handling of this matter, as we do not tolerate any form of discrimination. So far, our ongoing investigation suggests that this customer is unfairly maligning us with unfounded allegations.”
I would love to see what they did for an investigation in half of a Sunday, probably little more than speak to their employees.
Ruth Bergwerk confirmed her husband’s version of events, telling the Observer, “Of course it was embarrassing. They wouldn’t even open our reservation and see that we have an Avis Wizard number or that we had rented a car from the same location two days before. There was no way they would rent a car with that license. There was no way to reason with them.”
According to both Mr. and Ms. Bergwerk, Angelline and Shamoura would not even provide their last names or employee ID numbers. Observer reporting confirmed that the manager is Shamoura Welch-Robinson, who has worked for Avis since April 2014, according to her LinkedIn page.
Howard Portnoy is an editor of Liberty Unyielding. He has written for HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.