Uniform rental providers use seemingly interchangeable words for some of their billing items. It’s important that you understand the differences, what they really mean and how it impacts your cost and service levels. For this post, we’re focusing on something called “worn out.” You’ve likely heard the words ruin and/or damage, and those are pretty simple. Ruin and damage are the same thing, and they both mean you’ve rendered an item unusable. If you’ve actually damaged something – for whatever reason – and no one can wear it or use it any more, then, yeah, your provider rightfully gets to charge you for it. But let’s try to put our finger on that charge in relation to the concept of “worn out.”

Worn out is pretty easy to define as a concept – it’s when something is rendered unusable because it’s old and/or the reasonable use of the item has caused it to become unusable. For example, if a mechanic has been wearing the same shirt for more than a year, it’s likely worn out. The mechanic hasn’t done anything to damage it; they’ve just done standard mechanic work and the shirt is subject to normal wear and tear. The shirt is simply – worn out. It should be replaced at no cost. Here’s where the easy concept of worn out becomes a subjective slippery slope between you and your provider.

DON’T LET YOUR PROVIDER MAKE THIS A COMPLEX ISSUE – IT’S NOT

Your provider wants to earn as much revenue as possible from that shirt, so it benefits them to replace it as seldom as possible. And, really, there’s nothing wrong with that – that’s just the business model. Unfortunately, providers tend to push that limit, and you are the one who ends up having to make an issue out of it. Often, you are the one who has to point out that your mechanic’s shirt is getting a hole in the elbow, or your bar towels have holes in them, and what the hey? Shouldn’t your provider stay on top of replacing worn out items? Isn’t that your provider’s job to do that?

Exactly. We’re not dealing with rocket engines here – it’s shirts, pants, towels, mats and a few other items that aren’t that complex. You have a reasonable sense of something that is worn out, right? Of course you do.  Be aware of two key pieces of leverage whenever issues of damage or worn out arise. One, you’re smart enough to look at a shirt and determine if it’s worn out or actually damaged. Don’t let your delivery person try to convince you otherwise. Two, don’t EVER accept a damage charge if the item is worn out in the first place.

DON’T PAY YOUR PROVIDER FOR WHAT THEY SHOULD COVER

If a torn sleeve is billed to you as damage, ask to SEE the damaged item and be your own judge. Take a look at the tag in the collar – there’s a date there – how old is it? Old enough that it’s likely worn out? Does the other sleeve look worn out? Can you read a book through the shirt material because it’s gotten so thin? You see what I’m getting at… You should pay zero for worn out pieces to be replaced, so don’t ever let them make you pay damage when it’s really just worn out. Why pay when you don’t have to?