HANDLING FREEBIES: No matter how long you have been in the business, you have without a doubt had a family member or close friend ask you to provide them with a limousine.
FREELOADERS? Some of these people may just expect you to give it to them for free. Others may ask you if they can pay the driver’s wages and fuel. These are always awkward moments. It tests the boundaries of a friendship. It makes you more closely evaluate your actual friendship status. Is this a close friend, a distant friend, or maybe even an acquaintance?
Now, if it is your Mom asking you to provide her with a limousine for a special night out, a holiday light tour, or maybe even Mother’s Day, it is a no-brainer. She gave birth to you, she fed you, helped you with homework, changed your diaper, and all the other things that Mom’s are expected to do. You actually owe this to her.
Your true friends understand that this is your business and this is the way you put a roof over your head and feed your family. They would probably never ask for a comp but instead tell you what event they have coming up and ask you for a quote hoping you would give them a favorable discount without asking. Then, there are those that you met at a chamber of commerce function two years ago who shared a table with you during dinner. It is these idiots that call and ask if you are able to give them a “hook-up” or a “deal” on a limousine as if somehow you became best friends over the one-time dinner.
Perhaps these people don’t realize that I have a $1,500 vehicle payment each month plus a little over $400 a month for insurance, dispatchers on duty 24 hours a day, a mortgage payment and insurance on the building that all need to be paid for each month, and the only place I get this money is from chartering vehicles.
Obviously sending the car out with only the fuel and wages being paid is great for the chauffeur and great for them but does nothing for my family or to help pay any of the expenses of operating the vehicle and the business.
I think that people tend to think about our vehicles much like their own personal car. If it is not being used, then it should be fine to loan it out to a friend that has his car in the shop for repairs. By my standard, every vehicle has a certain amount of income it must produce every single day just to break even. If it doesn’t make that breakeven point today, it must earn double that amount tomorrow. It will not have the opportunity to earn that money if I have committed it to you in advance for that day.
On the other hand, I firmly believe that each time a limo is seen on the town it has a certain amount of marketing value. From that point of view, it would depend on where your family member or friend is taking the limo to. If it is the hottest night club in the city, this places your limo and chauffeur in a prime marketing spot. However, if they are going to a little known, out of the way restaurant in the middle of nowhere, the only people receiving value are the passengers in the limo.
I guess I look at each request with what value exists for the company to engage in such an arrangement. In some cases it may be advantageous to suggest to the person that you trade services. For instance, if your mechanic needs a limo for a night out, instead of making a deal, why not trade services dollar for dollar that will benefit you in the long run? If the owner of your favorite restaurant is the one asking for a deal, you might want to consider a trade or take a gamble that future meals might be comped or discounted in the end.
How do you handle these requests?
— Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor
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