SHARJAH A visiting Indian family is crying foul after a jet ski operator in Mamzar confiscated their Dh3,000 security deposit for ‘damaging’ a jet ski they had rented for Dh120 per hour.
Recounting the Sunday afternoon incident, Qazi Shaukat Husain, 45, said he had barely gone a few metres into the lagoon when the jet ski developed a snag. “It started spurting smoke so I took it ashore and walked down to the rental operator’s beachside office seeking a replacement. But instead of apologising for the defective jet-ski, they held us responsible for the fault and confiscated the Dh3,000 we had given as a security for three jet skis. Our efforts to reason with them were met with dire threats.”
Husain’s younger brother Qazi Shujaat, who was part of the six-member family group that rented the water craft, said he is “absolutely certain” the operator gave them a faulty jet-ski deliberately so they could seek damages later. “We were not the only victims. That afternoon a European man was also intimidated into paying $1,000 for non-existent damages to another jet ski. It’s a scam, a big racket, targeting unsuspecting riders,” said Shujaat.
His suspicious are not unfounded. Instances abound where jet-ski enthusiasts have been taken for a ride by operators in Mamzar.
“It happened to me too. I was not carrying any money so I gave them my labour card as a security. When I returned the jet ski after an accident-free ride, the operator said I had caused a dent in the machine and refused to hand back my labour card until I paid them Dh2,000. I negotiated it down to Dh1,000 and had to go to an ATM to withdraw the money,” said Anwar, 32, from Pakistan. “They threatened to call the police... I got scared,” he added.
An Arab father and a Russian expat recounted a similar experience in a Gulf News report last September.
The report also said how ‘fake police in plain clothes’ often show up at the scene and force people to pay on the spot.
Last year a senior Sharjah police officer urged people not to be frightened and report such cases to them. “People shouldn’t be scared. If they [rental companies] seize the victims’ ID, no worries — people can leave it with them and come to us to report the case,” Brigadier Abdullah Mubarak Al Dukhan, deputy director of Sharjah Police, was quoted as saying.
Yet when Husain called Sharjah police, he was asked to approach the court. “I am here on vacation. How can I possibly involve myself in a court case when I am flying back on January 13?” he said.
On its part rental operator Atlantis Adventure not only denied any foul play but also threatened to file a case against Husain, seeking another Dh3,800 in compensations
“The man drove the jet ski in too little water and it led to an engine fire. Now he has to pay for repair work and another Dh500 for each day the jet ski will be at the workshop. It’s about Dh6,800 in total,” said Ahmad, a partner at Atlantis Adventure, one of the 16 odd companies operating around 160 jet skis at the popular lagoon.
“Around 90 per cent of people don’t know how to ride jet skis. They make big mistakes so they have to pay. Our jet skis are not insured. It’s clearly mentioned in our terms and conditions,” Ahmad added.
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