Civil Suit Brewing After Conflict Over Scooter Rental

OCEAN CITY – Peter Gakurias’ scooter rental company is getting off to quite a bumpy start.

A week after his “scoot coupes” were deemed to be illegal on Maryland roads, the owner of Fun Cycles in Ocean City is now being accused of scamming a 19-year-old Pennsylvania man out of his deposit.

Aston, Pa. Resident Tom Nicholson and his friend, who are spending the week in the resort, rented two scooters on Monday afternoon from Gakurias’ staff at Fun Cycles for a one-hour rental, only to be told upon their return that they had damaged the scooters and would be charged for the damages.

According to Nicholson, the Fun Cycles staff accused him of putting red tape that was different from tape the company admitted to using to patch up damaged scooters and breaking several vital portions of the scooter.

“They told me that I had placed this type of reflective red tape to cover up damages that I had done to the bike, and they charged me $305 worth of damages, which is just ridiculous because I didn’t do a thing to that bike,” Nicholson said. “You could see that there were scratches on it already and they were just covering them up. They removed the tape right in front of me and blamed me for existing scratches.”

The scooter, a red Pierspeed R5I model, which retails for almost $2,000, was visibly damaged and was being repaired in a shed adjacent to the building when The Dispatch visited Fun Cycles to interview the ownership on Tuesday.

According to Gakurias, and his mechanic who goes by Eliseo, the number 21 scooter, which Nicholson rode, had a broken mirror ($25 for repairs), broken handlebar ($30), front side cover ($85), damaged side cover ($75), side panel ($55) and muffler cover ($35).

The damages, when added to the $25 per hour for both scooters, plus 6-percent Maryland State Tax brought the total to $358.

Nicholson’s $300 deposit ($150 for each bike) did not cover the damages, nor did he have additional money to pay, and when a member of the Ocean City Police Department came to the scene, Gakurias said his wife offered to let Nicholson off the hook for the $300 he had from the deposit so he wouldn’t have to go to jail.

“Every time you try to do something nice for someone, this is what happens,” said Gakurias. “They come back and try to (expletive) you. These kids read and sign the contract, and in America, everything is about the contract, so they should learn to respect the contract.”

The contract that customers of Fun Cycles must sign before being allowed to ride the scooter involves a pre-ride inspection where they are to point out any existing damages and mark them on an itemized sheet. At the end of the ride, another inspection is conducted by Fun Cycles to determine damages to the scooter. The company also asks for a $150 deposit for each scooter.

Nicholson said that he did not notice any scratches or damages on the bike because they were covered in tape and then revealed by the staff at the end of the ride.

When speaking with representatives from other scooter rental companies in the resort, certain practices include only charging for the amount of damages, rather than the entire deposit, and either spray painting or taping minor dings to the scooters.

“You can pretty much tell when a kid has laid the bike down on the highway,” said a source from Continental Cycles. “It’s pretty obvious when they come back bloodied and bruised that they wrecked the thing.”

Gakurias pointed out, however, that some customers lose control of the scooter and simply stand up and allow the scooter to spin out of control from under them.

“You don’t have to be bruised to damage the scooter,” said Gakurias, who also owns the Sea Cove Motel. “We tried to let him off easy and then the parents got involved, and now it will go to the courts. These kids come down here and do bad things and when parents call they say ‘my kid is an angel’ and they might be at home, but they aren’t when they are in Ocean City. It boils my Greek blood.”

Nicholson’s father, Tom Sr., came to Ocean City later in the week to try and get to the bottom of what happened and achieve some resolution. Although Nicholson acknowledges that his son is “no angel by any means”, he argues that his son, who is employed as an auto mechanic and has been riding motorcycles for over 10 years, is not the “boy who cried scam” in this case.

“I looked at the scooters and you can see tape covering scratches on a number of the bikes,” said Nicholson Sr. “It would be one thing if he broke something on the bike, but my son knows how to handle one of those things and it is completely unacceptable that they are trying to steal people’s money like this.”

Ocean City Police Officer Nicole Malone responded to the scene on Monday and, according to Nicholson, “told the shop owner to give me back my money because she thought it seemed shady,” but Gakurias’ staff refused and cited that the matter should be handled in civil court, which would essentially wash the police’s hands of the matter.

Officer Mike Levy, who handles public affairs and press inquiries for the resort police department, denied The Dispatch access to both the police report and the officer, but did mention, “it is not a rarity for this type of dispute to occur in the scooter rental business.”

Nicholson said that on Wednesday, despite paying the $7.50 in processing fees, he was denied a hard copy of the police report. He said that the department told him that it must be mailed to his home in Pennsylvania. In addition, Nicholson claims that he wants to file a civil suit against Gakurias, but “got a whole bunch of run around” from the department when he asked what the process was.

In the end, this matter will essentially be one man’s word against another and the final decision will more than likely be made in civil court. Gakurias is confident that he will come out on top in the matter and thinks that it’s a cut and dry case.

“He broke the scooter, and he has to pay for it, because he signed a contract, and it’s just that simple”, he said.

Nicholson, on the other hand, realizes that this will probably cost him more than just $300.

“Now I’m going to have to take off work, and come all the way down here and argue in court to get my own money back,” said Nicholson. “The fact that they can do this to people is just ridiculous.”