Avis Car Rental finds themselves in the midst of a major scandal, and Public Relations crisis.
The New York Observer posted a story on Sunday morning at 9 AM, “Avis Car Rental Bars Israeli Executive from Renting” detailing an incident which occurred Saturday night at an Avis location in Manhattan where an Israeli pharmaceutical executive was denied a rental despite having rented from Avis many times before, including from that branch.
The agent and the manager told him his Israeli driver’s license and passport were insufficient ID. When the representative on the 800 number told them that it was sufficient, the story changed to that Mr. Bergwerk was rude in front of other customers. He was denied the rental.
The executive in question further told Avis he believed he was denied the car due to his Israeli background.
As the story (continues) to gain ground on social media, and with other media picking up the story, Avis waited 9 hours before issuing a (poor) response, in which they were defensive and blamed the victim.
Avis’ statement, as the amended Observer story noted, was “surprisingly doubling down on the behavior of its employees. The company declined to attribute the statement to any individual, and even the email address is a disembodied “Avis Budget CORP Communications.”
We say PR fail – 9 hours to respond to anti-Semitic allegations?
The response, further, has multiple mis-spellings, and is contradictory. Says Avis is “investigating”, yet blames the accuser of “maligning the company.” At the very least, there was a mis-understanding between the employee and a customer – is that maligning?
Avis – a major International company – finds themselves in the midst of a PR crisis due to the actions of two employees, and taking 9 hours to respond. Everything-PR believes Avis’ PR team will have to issue a statement tomorrow apologizing, and clarifying – and there has already been damage done, which will result in on-line reputation building, and community relations with offended segments.
Meanwhile, #boycottavis is trending online, with thousands of re-tweets and condemnations all over the world for the perception that Avis will not rent to Israelis. Their statement did Avis’ no favors at re-assuring those offended by the actions which occurred at Avis’ New York rental offices.
One need only review Avis’ Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/avis to see that the statement didn’t work, and the thousands of angry customers all over the world.
Blaming a major executive for something and not saying sorry? #PR fail. We will update this story as it further develops, but Avis has thus far failed miserably at crisis public relations.
UPDATE: As we predicted earlier, Avis has issued a revised statement (although it is still lacking): “We have investigated the denial of a rental that recently occurred in Manhattan. We have found that we have been inconsistent in applying our policies with respect to documentation requirements with this customer, who has rented from us in the past without providing a second form of identification. We are committed to providing an outstanding car rental experience to our customers and believe that we should have done better here. We have spoken with the customer and apologized for the misunderstanding that occurred as a result of this inconsistency in applying our documentation policy, and the customer has accepted our apology.”
Meanwhile, Avis has ignited a storm on social media, does not note if the employee was disciplined, and takes no responsibility. This will harm Avis, and we do not believe Avis handled this crisis PR issue well. As of the writing of this post, a Change.org post has 1,292 signatures demanding Avis fire the employees in question. It can be viewed here.
An example of how an international company can be damaged from the actions of a single employee – and a bad PR team.