'Twas one Friday night in January last year when the
owner of Miami's longest-running holiday festival failed miserably in his
attempt to mack on a woman at a limo company.
Brian Shechtman, who along with his brother has operated Santa's
Enchanted Forest since 1984, had dialed Aventura Limousine to order a stretch
ride from his home in Hallandale Beach to Miami Beach. His call was handled by
a customer service rep named Lashunda Wilson, who is African-American.
Shechtman, who is white, made what seemed like racially insensitive comments after she explained she couldn't offer any discounts. When Wilson told the Santa honcho that the firm's limos were all black, Shechtman apparently thought she'd enjoy a bizarre spiel on his favorite color. Wilson provided Riptide with a copy of the recorded call, in which Shechtman says:
"Beautiful. That is my favorite color. My vehicle is black. My girlfriend is black. The outfit I am wearing tonight is gonna be black. I'm gonna pay with my black [American Express] card. I am having the black grouper for dinner, drinking Black Label [Johnny Walker Scotch whisky]. Ya feel me?"
Shechtman also told Wilson he was going to listen to Black Sabbath on the radio and chew black licorice, and that Black Friday was his favorite day of the year.
"I felt degraded after he hung up," Wilson says, adding she complained to her bosses. "They told me they would let him know they did not want his business anymore. The things he said shouldn't be tolerated."
Latoya Tucker, a co-worker who is also African-American, complained as well after listening to the tape. "Why was everything black?" Tucker asks. "What was up with that?"
Wilson and Tucker, who say Aventura Limousine terminated them for unrelated reasons following the incident, claim their former employer continued to rent limos to Shechtman after they complained.
Jason Coupal, Aventura Limousine's general counsel, says the company does not comment on personnel decisions and could not disclose the names of its customers. However, Coupal acknowledges Wilson complained about a client making inappropriate comments. He insists Aventura Limousine swiftly cut ties with that customer.
"We agreed the client's behavior was inexcusable," Coupal says. "No other services have been provided to this client."
Via email, Shechtman admits it's his voice on the tape but says the whole incident was a misunderstanding.
"I feel that my poor attempt at humor and flirtation was offensive," Shechtman writes. "I did not intend my comments to be disrespectful, and for that I'm very sorry."
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