If you've rented a scooter or mo-ped in Panama City Beach, there's a good chance it came from California Cycles, one of the largest and oldest local scooter businesses.
It's also one of the most controversial. For years customers have complained the businesses' employees have charged them for bogus damages to the bikes. The questionable pracitce is called cross-collateralization, taking deposits from everyone in the party to pay for damage to only one bike. It's been illegal in Panama City Beach for a number of years, but California Cycles found a loophole allowing renters to sign waivers regarding the deposits.
"I'm all for punishing the one who did something wrong but not the five guys that did absolutely nothing. It's leaving a bad taste in their mouth," Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman told city council members Thursday.
Chief Whitman had asked the council to clean up the ordinance this summer, but at the time California Cycles' owner Rick Roof said the waiver practice was necessary to stay in business and any changes would be devastating.
"It just gives us an opportunity to use one deposit along with another to pay for damages when they really tear up one of our pieces of equipment. They're (city officials) not doing anything to help us or support us," Roof told NewsChannel 7 on July 26th.
Fast-forward to Thursday and Roof had apparently done a 180.
"We have no problem with the ordinance. I wasn't aware of it. It's been changed," Roof told city council members.
Even though Roof told council members he'd continue to use the same cross-collateralization waiver forms, claiming for a different reason, council members either didn't hear him or didn't object and unanimously voted to approve the amendment.
The amendment also prevents rental businesses from charging customers for damages until they've returned the scooter. Customers have accused California Cycles of charging their credit cards before the fact. The council will have to go through a 2nd and 3rd reading before it's adopted.