News for Tool Hire, Equipment Hire & Plant Hire and Rental Professionals

Was it really stolen?

15 December 2021

Was it really stolen?

When is a theft not a theft? 

A hirer told me recently that he was very surprised by the amount of small tools and equipment that is being recharged back to some of his customers as having been reported lost or stolen. 

“The number has gone up by around 40% in the last few months," he said. "Now I obviously realise that there is likely to be more theft as a side-effect of the ongoing equipment supply shortages: a stolen cut-off saw that could be sold in a pub for £50 a year ago is doubtless fetching much more than that now. 

“However, we have had two incidents involving clients who operate their own equipment as well as hiring. They’ve rung us to report ten or a dozen items hired from us as having been lost or stolen, and asking to pay what they owe us for them. 

“But a few weeks later, some of these tools turned up at our depot for repair, having been sent in from their sites, and we think we know what might really be happening in some cases.

"Like everyone else, they are finding it impossible to buy new kit quickly for their own fleet because of shortages, so they are looking at what they have on hire and then reporting some of it lost. They see it as an easy – if highly unethical – way of getting more equipment. 

“And of course, they could just say that the ‘lost’ item was suddenly found. In the old pre-Covid days, they would probably have sent it back and asked for a credit! 

“Short of tagging and tracking every item of equipment, there’s nothing we can do because they’ve now paid for it and it’s theirs. Meanwhile, our hire fleet is depleted - and we’re the ones having to wait before we can get replacements delivered.” 

It’s perhaps yet another example of the unexpected management challenges arising in the wake of the pandemic and the ongoing supply disruptions. 

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