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000897 - Cross Hire 23/11/09 13:54 Page 1
It used to be said that Christmas comes once a year, but for Any attempt to try it on with last minute instructions will be met
some punters it is apparently coming around more often. by an invoice for all the time over the holiday and a warning that
Not content with blackening our industry’s reputation with poor they are fully responsible for security. Not being a complete
service and low prices, some hire companies are now so short Scrooge I will not charge for the three statutory bank holidays,
of storage space that they are offering to leave equipment on but that’s it! A few morons in some parts of our industry have
site, on the basis that the customer only pays for it if and been giving everything away during the current challenging
when he actually uses it! times as though we were in competition with Santa’s Grotto.
They risk adding to our collective woes by setting precedents in
I had a call from an independent recently who had been shown signing away the strength of our contract terms by agreeing
a shed full of power tools on a site from a well-known source, (usually by doing nothing) to any unreasonable demand that
which were only being charged for if they were used. It doesn’t drops through the letterbox in December.
need much imagination to work out what a deal that is for the
lucky customer, who no doubt has periodic attacks of Back at the ranch, my own employees have told me they will
corporate amnesia. I was aware that the access machinery understand if the usual Christmas bonus is not forthcoming.
hire market had grown so ragged that some hire outfits were They are dead right - it won’t be, but I am included in that
leaving big metal on site on the ‘only pay if you use it basis’, decision also. I have also told my people we will make our now
but to find tools and portable equipment being offered in this customary donation to charity again this year. I was impressed
way is not clever marketing - it is suicidal. to hear about a hire business, which has had to make some
redundancies, deciding to send a greetings card and vouchers
I can only wonder what level of arguments will ensue if any kit to those they had reluctantly said goodbye to over the past
left under such arrangements is stolen or damaged. At this year. Challenging times may be with us, but it is good to see
time of year, most of us receive communications from clients that people are still valued and recognised as the core asset
about their holiday arrangements. Many offer to retain we must
equipment for use when they return to site, but do not expect cherish for
to be charged for the period when they are not working. the future.
Blind acceptance of these instructions, particularly when they Best wishes
are the ‘last exchange’ of communication between owner and for a Happy
hirer, has proved costly for some over the years. To avoid any Christmas
doubt, we should always respond to requests for the and for many
suspension of hire by pointing out that, although we may profitable
agree not to charge any hire fees for the period requested, hires
we will not suspend the contract terms. Unless a client agrees, throughout
any theft or damage that occurs over the holiday period will 2010.
not be recoverable, as the contract was not in force.

Just as I was signing off for the year, the sad news broke
Many larger clients are clever at wording their request for that Contract Journal is to cease publication due to the
suspension of charges to imply suspension of all terms. Last challenging economic climate. I first read CJ in the early
year, a new ploy reared its head with some crafty sods using 1960s, when you had to pay two bob (10p) for the privilege of
e-mail to send instructions that were impossible to comply with handling a spine bound magazine full of first class information.
due to timescale near to the close of business on Christmas CJ’s roots were in Victorian England at a time when the first
Eve. However, I have arranged with our IT supremo to have all real mechanisation of the construction industry was taking
our e-mail addresses bounce back mail received after close of place. It is a great shame that the title has not stood up to the
play on the last business day before the holiday, warning that latest difficulties, but perhaps if we still had bankers and
we have sent letters to site and office addresses in plenty time, politicians of the standard and integrity that were around in the
outlining our terms for off-hire or holiday retention. 1870s it would be a different story.
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