Last month, a couple of Latino customers in Florida were denied service for having spoken Spanish in front of a white Avis representative at the counter. The representative, obviously irate and threatened at the prospect of having to deal with a bilingual individual who wasn’t white, ultimately decided to call the police to report the customers for not being more sensitive to her American values.
After the video was posted online, Latino Rebels decided to investigate and reached out to Avis several times (really, several times), getting no response for over a month.
On Thursday, Avis finally replied with what appeared to be a newly crafted auto-response message to all current and future complaints regarding discriminatory behavior by any of their representatives and associates.
The message reads: “We sincerely apologize that our PR team has not responded back to you. In this case, the customer has been contacted, given a complementary rental and the issue has been resolved. The location in question is a licensee and they are handling the situation on site so that this does not occur again. We appreciate your concern and would like you to know we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind here at Avis.”
After I read this story by Latino Rebels, I took my Hertz car and drove over to Avis World Headquarters in Parsippany, New Jersey. I asked to speak with Avis CEO Ronald L. Nelson. Within seconds, he was talking with me. This is what he said to me:
When you’re in the service industry, you’re working directly with people with different points of view and experiences. Sometimes those views clash. We at AVIS have a deep understanding of this. So after writing dozens of drafts over the past month, we are proud to unveil the perfect canned response to such claims from our customers. We can now automatically forward this script to anyone who will be insulted and attacked by the personal prejudices of our associates.
After being prodded by me as to why this response took so long and the details of what is happening with the employee who exhibited such overt racist behavior, Nelson elaborated, “We are dealing with this in our way, privately and away from the cameras. Such an issue is a very sensitive one, after all. Don’t worry. We got this. As for the amount of time that it took us to respond to this incident, we wanted to make sure everyone else forgot about it. The media cycle around this incident passed and we are nothing short of relieved.”
He continued, “I can’t believe nobody else has thought of this as of yet. With all this PC nonsense and calls for accountability overtaking our nation, businesses should really think about how to deal with this problem. I’m proud of my team for figuring out the equation to avoid a potential PR nightmare: time + other-crazier-racist-behavior-in-other-parts-of-the-country-happening-in-the-meantime + canned-response = SUCCESS.”
THE PART ABOUT NELSON
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