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Family says unruly employee has soured experience with rental car company

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MERRIAM, Kan. -- A family who had used a rental car company for more than 20 years say they never had a problem until this month. That's when, they say, they became the victims of an out-of-control employee.

The dispute started at an Avis Rental Car office in Merriam, Kan. Margaret Tao and her husband Tony were there to return a car they rented a few days earlier. All seemed well, until Mr. Tao started to leave in his own car and the Avis manger ran toward them.

"She came over and seemed very upset," Mrs. Tao recalled. "She had looked at the inside of the car and claimed there were burn holes in the backseat."

The Taos don't smoke and neither does their 14-year-old daughter, the only person who had ever been in the backseat. Mr. Tao asked to see the damage, but was refused by the same Avis employee who at that point, Mrs. Tao said, "almost seemed hysterical."

The Taos refused to leave the Avis property until they could see and photograph the alleged burn holes. That's when the employee, who is also the wife of the rental agency owner, called Merriam police.

According to the police report, the Avis employee said Mr. Tao was refusing to leave and had threatened to "shoot the employees." When Merriam police arrived, he denied he ever threatened any employee.

"I said, `I have no gun. My husband has no gun. We don't own a weapon,' " Mrs. Tao explained.

According to the report, the Avis employee then told police Mr. Tao had pushed her. Another allegation that both the Taos denied. The officer then asked to see the burn holes in the car. According to the report, he couldn't find any. The marks appeared to be stains, one of which he rubbed off with his finger.

The Taos weren't the only one having trouble with Avis that day.

The police report says another couple, also Avis customers, told police they had issues with the same employee. The couple said the employee had called them and accused them of stealing their rental car and warned them she would be calling police, despite the fact they had given her a credit card and had an Avis preferred customer status.

"They actually thought police were there because the employee had called to report them," said Mrs. Tao.

The couple, who didn't even know the Taos, told police they would be willing to testify on the Taos' behalf, calling the Avis employee "easily frustrated," according to the police report.

At that point police left because the employee said she was not interested in pressing charges. But for the Taos, their Avis nightmare was not over, A few weeks later when Mr. Tao tried to rent from Avis online, he was declined. He got an email from Avis advising him he was on the "Do Not Rent" list because of "burn marks."

That's when the Taos called FOX 4 Problem Solvers. We reached out to Avis in Merriam, but were told it had no comment. We then contacted Avis' corporate headquarters. It sent us a statement, insisting Mr. Tao was on the "Do Not Rent" list for allegedly shoving an Avis employee. We asked why Mr. Tao was told by Avis he was banned from renting because of burn marks. Avis never answered our question.

Avis said it demands customers treat its employees with dignity and respect. That's exactly the kind of treatment both the Taos and the other couple at Avis that day say they did not receive.

Mr. Tao is now in contact with attorney Paul Morrison. Mr. Tao said he plans to pursue legal action against Avis for how he was treated. He's concerned that Avis' rental ban could affect his ability to rent a car from any rental company.

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