Uniform Rental Services
Understanding Uniform Rental Invoices
Uniform rental is a highly complex expense. In fact, it’s probably the most complicated indirect expense we have come across. Our people have been deeply immersed in this industry for decades, and we’ve even built a customized auditing application around those suppliers’ invoicing practices—and it’s still hard for us!
Uniform rental is probably the most complicated indirect expense we at Fine Tune have come across.
We’ve got a team of really smart people, and you probably do, too. But uniform invoicing really is brutally difficult to audit and manage for a non-insider. Let’s take a step back and explore what exactly makes this expense so complex.
Uniform rental programs are inherently complex
Week after week, there’s product coming into your plant and also product leaving. Very few expenses involve this sort of “coming and going, week after week” complexity. The two-way nature of this continuous transaction creates a foundational challenge, before you even get into any specifics.
Then, consider that your account is likely serviced by a commissioned route person who enters your premises each week with a pre-printed invoice—and a pen. Adding another unique layer of complexity to this expense are a host of discretionary charges often tacked on to your invoice based on many factors that are difficult—and sometimes impossible—to avoid:
- Employee Turnover
- Lost or damaged merchandise
- Product added to your account
- Product removed from your account
As these events (and others) occur, your route person’s pen springs into action and discretionary charges are added to your invoice left and right.
Variables are never-ending
With any expense, one of an expense owner’s challenges is making apples-to-apples comparisons from one supplier to another, or from a prevailing program to a competitive proposal. Arriving at an apples-to-apples comparison in the uniform industry is a maddening process. Consider, for example, the industry’s suppliers don’t even all agree on the definition of the word inventory, a seemingly straightforward term. And the differences in how your vendor defines that single term affects how many other charges are imposed.
One vendor’s prep charge is another vendor’s makeup charge. Should you be paying either? How much? And when? When should you pay for emblems? And how much? And when?
Loss and ruin charges can often take a toll, and your supplier’s uniform insurance program (which may be called a half dozen different things depending on who you rent from) seems like an attractive offer to reduce risk and minimize cost. Is it really the right choice? How much will it save you?
Now, consider that if you have 30 or more employees in uniform—let alone hundreds of uniform wearers—and you have facility service products or restroom products, your weekly invoice is pages and pages long.
You may already have hundreds of SKUs in your contract, but before you know it, new products are being added to your invoices that you never contemplated in your negotiations. Are they being added at competitive prices? How do you know?
Week after week, these variables affect your account, no matter how outstanding your agreements may be.
Weekly invoices take a back seat to other priorities
If you see your route person at all when they’re in your facility each week, you’re likely in the middle of multiple higher priority tasks when that interaction occurs. Can you justify dropping everything else you’re doing to comb through that lengthy invoice? Will you know what all you’re looking for? Do you even have your contract handy?
It’s not that most of our clients couldn’t understand the nuances of how uniform companies bill for their products and services and the differences in their billing methods, it’s that it takes more time than they can possibly justify spending on uniforms.
Understanding uniform invoices is time-consuming
What we have that our clients don’t is years and years of completely focusing on this very complex expense, while most of those clients have had to divide their focus among a dozen expenses or more—most of which are bigger monetary priorities.
It’s right about here where I realized I could write all week if I didn’t have client business to manage…but I do. And hey, if you’ve spent any time trying to manage uniforms, I’m probably preaching to the choir.