The world of rental is a large and unfamiliar territory for most. What follows are some basic tips for navigating the world of rental with more ease than before.
In the rental industry, there must exist a trust between the customer and the renter. This trust begins with the presentation of some form of valid identification, the first step in getting to know someone; learning their name. In my years of experience, I have excepted everything as identification from John Smith’s driver’s license he got at the age of 16 forty years ago to the passport Jose acquired 1 month ago before immigrating to the United States. Present this information readily and openly, as any shadiness will immediately raise red flags to whoever is working the counter. This first step is simple, yet important.
2. Display trustworthiness/friendliness.
From the time you step in the front door to the moment the last payment is being made, your appearance, actions, and speech is being judged for trustworthiness. Enter the establishment respectfully. Wear clothing that suggests you take care of yourself and your belongings. This will immediately put some ease to the renter’s mind as to what kind of care you will take with their rental item. In any rental situation, if your tone of voice, attire, or body language suggests a future threat or, as the industry writes off, “bad debt”, the renter has the option to refuse service to you.
3. Expect a deposit.
One of the most frequent issues I have run into in my years of providing rental service to my community is the one of deposits. In any rental situation, especially event, auto, and equipment rentals, there WILL be a deposit. The amount of that deposit varies greatly depending on how you have presented yourself to the renter up to the time of payment. Make sure one of the first things you do, especially if you call to get a quote over the phone, is ask what the amount of the deposit is and what form it can come in. If you plan to pay with a credit card, this deposit may be significantly lower (at my rental business, we do not even collect a deposit with a credit card). Renters can authorize credit cards for a significant amount of money. That means that they get paid regardless of your actions, and the rest is left for you to settle with the card company. If you are using cash, expect a large deposit. This is the riskiest form of payment for a rental company to collect. If anything happens and damage is wrought on the rental item, they have nothing to collect, with the best course of action often ending with a lean being put on your home. If you are using a debit card, expect it to be seen as cash, although in some establishments they run it similar to credit cards. Finally, checks can be collected 1 of 2 ways: upfront, with a signature and nothing else, i.e. a blank check, or upfront, filled out for the same amount as a cash deposit. Understanding the deposit is always important, and being prepared goes a long way in the eyes of the renter.
4. Be knowledgeable on what you are renting.
This section is pretty straightforward. If you don’t know how to drive a car, you probably shouldn’t rent one. However, if your intent is to rent the car in order to learn to drive a car, then be prepared to drive with extreme caution. Don’t rent a car without experience and expect to drive Atlanta rush-hour traffic. The same goes for equipment rental. If you have a behemoth bush in your backyard that needs to be taken up, don’t go rent the cheap tractor and expect to be able to yank up the world with it. In both of these scenarios you will incur damages and you will be expected to take responsibility for it, which segues us perfectly into my next rental tip!
5. Be responsible and accept responsibility.
As I mentioned before, there is an unspoken trust between a renter and a customer. The absolute worst thing you can do when renting something is debate who is responsible for what. Understand your responsibilities before leaving, and then be careful to care for those responsibilities. Whether it is filling a car with a tank of gas, or replacing a tire punctured during the behemoth bush burial, be prepared to take responsibility for what has been entrusted to you, whether what has happened is directly your fault or not.
6. Ask Questions.
The best way to take responsibility for a rental is to ask questions, and fully understand what is expected of you. When a customer walks into my store the first thing I ask is, “what are you trying to accomplish?” This allows me to diagnose exactly what he needs to be renting, as opposed to what he/she may think they need. For example, a gentleman comes into a store and requests a skid steer to rent. A sales associate asks no questions and rents out the equipment. When the gentleman returns he is very frustrated with the equipment. “It was jerky and bouncy and wouldn’t level dirt to save my life!” The manager and associate then both explain to the gentleman that what he really needed was a tractor with a box-blade. If the gentleman had asked, this could have all been avoided. Another great example is a lady rents a car. After completing the rental process and driving many miles, the woman returns the car. The next day she sees a charge to her credit card for almost $100. Outraged she calls the company to demand an explanation, only to find out this was the company’s standard charge to refill a vehicle with fuel. This situation could have been avoided by simply asking, “What is expected of me before returning this rental item?” Never be afraid to ask questions in rental. It is not only expected, but encouraged. Understanding what is expected on both sides saves a lot of confusion down the road. It also leaves both sides feeling positive about the experience with the other person.
This last point is by far the most important. Beyond just asking questions, communication entails staying in touch, asking questions, as well as answering them in full. A lack of communication can ruin any relationship, especially one that is totally centered around money, such as the relationship of a renter and customer. Make sure you are clear in what you say to the renter, so they fully understand your intentions and meaning. When you are told something by the renter, ask their statement back to them to confirm what is expected of you. On longer term rentals, be sure to check in frequently, and if ANYTHING changes during a rental, be sure to clearly communicate that with the renter. Keeping a rental item past its due date is not OK, and will immediately land you on a list with other untrustworthy individuals.
If you can implement of few of these ideas next time you are renting something it will help you significantly, and hopefully get you hope feeling great about your rental experience.