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Expert Advice: Something Borrowed

Michael Stern of Regal Rents

Spontaneity factor: There is no rule. We can set up a party for 1,000 people the next day. We do what we can not to turn anyone away.

How you know the rentals will be returned: The deposit is approximately 50 percent of the total order.

Sticky fingers: Yes, this happens constantly. The biggest problem in our industry, besides workers’ compensation, is return shortages.

Return policy: We receive broken/destroyed rentals all the time. In one instance we rented 30 chameleon chairs, which are very expensive, and when they were returned we noticed they had been painted a different color. The variation was so subtle it took us a while to realize it. Denial is usually a client’s main explanation for anything.

Tips on tipping: This isn’t a big tipping business — it’s not like a restaurant. Some clients tip and some don’t. If someone is tipped it is usually the lead driver and his helpers. Sometimes people send gifts instead of tipping.

Regal Rents, 2310 E. Imperial Hwy., El Segundo, (310) 535-3660; www.regalrents.com

Bill Edwards of Pico Party Rents

Spontaneity factor: It happens all the time that people request our services on the same day as a party. It’s not a good idea for customers to do this, because they take the chance that we will be out of something. Nevertheless, we strive to accommodate our clients at the last minute. As a rule, half of our orders every week are placed one to two weeks before an event.

How you know the rentals will be returned: Deposits are required for first-time customers but not for second-time and/or established customers. The calculation varies, depending on the scope of rentals (glassware, silverware, etc.) but is usually around 25 percent.

Sticky fingers: We’ve been ripped off quite a few times. There have been times that we’ve delivered rentals to a house and come back the next day to recoup it and it’s all gone. But this usually happens only once a year. Now we do address verification through credit cards to prevent this from happening.

Return policy: Just the other day we rented white crowd stands (the kind that are used at movie theaters to filter people into lines) that had been painted a gray/white by the studio and then re-painted back to their original white before they were returned to us. We noticed that they had been painted a couple of times and requested that the studio reimburse us, which it did. When people return damaged goods, they first try to play dumb about it. Only when they are caught do they want to come clean.

Tips on tipping: We don’t really get tipped much. Drivers will get tips on occasion, but it’s usually by the way of a $10 or $20 bill — enough for a lunch. Because a bill for our services can be $20,000 to $30,000, people are reluctant to tip the standard 10 percent to 20 percent. The percentage system simply doesn’t work.

Price ranges: 12-by-15-foot parquet dance floor for 15 couples, $147.50; 24-by-27-foot parquet dance floor for 54 couples, $440; 8-quart roll-top chafing dish, $62.50, copper 8-quart oblong chafing dish, $56.50; Solar Flo heater (outdoor), 40,000 BTU, $75; black AstroTurf (per square foot), 3.5 cents; ballroom-style chair with cushion, $7.50 to $9.50; 30-inch-high director’s chair, $10; napkins, 75 cents; 8-foot-by-36-inch banquet table that seats 12, $12.75; silver 3-gallon punch bowl with ladle, $35.

Pico Party Rents, 2537 S. Fairfax Ave., Culver City, (323) 936-8268; www.picopartyrents.com

Michael Miner of Classic Party Rentals

Spontaneity factor: It happens very often that we get requests for either new orders or significant changes to existing orders on the day of delivery, and we find a way to come through for the customer.

How you know the rentals will be returned: In most cases, deposits are required. We typically secure a credit-card number from new clients. With our repeat customers, we often require no deposit. Our business is built on strong relationships, and our customers seem to appreciate the flexibility.

Sticky fingers: We are fortunate to have an overwhelming percentage of honest customers. However, we did witness a bride’s grandmother accidentally slide a demitasse spoon into her purse. It was a no-win situation, so we hope she is getting good use from the spoon! With another “customer,” we set up a complete party. When we came back the next day, the “customer” and all our products were gone!

Return policy: Carpeting did once come back thickly coated in elephant dung. The customer was great about it and understood that it was something we just could not clean. Even after paying for it, the customer did not want to keep the carpet!

Strange moment: Sea lions jumping out of a pool and sliding into the bar and buffet set! There is very little reasoning possible with a hungry sea lion.

Renting a fab fete: Be original, the possibilities are limitless. Be realistic about your budget, and include a rental professional from the start of your planning process. While we have the ability to respond to same-day requests, some advance notice allows us to help with the planning of your event. We are here to help make your event memorable and fun.

Tips on tipping: There is no protocol for tipping. Our installation team works very hard, often into very late hours. Tipping is the right, not the obligation, of our clients.

Price ranges: Folding chairs from $1.25 to $3.65; non-folding ballroom chairs from $7.75 to $18.25; banquet table for four, $8.25, for 10, $8.75; round table for five, $8.75, for 12, $13.95; 54-inch-square tablecloth, $8.25; 32-inch-diameter tablecloth with umbrella slit, $26.50; 20-inch-square napkins, 82 cents; Cortland dinner fork, 60 cents; salad/dessert fork, 60 cents; dinner knife, 60 cents; teaspoon/dessert spoon, 60 cents; classic white china 10-inch dinner plate, 59 cents; platter, $11.95; all-purpose 10-ounce wine glass, 77 cents; 11-ounce water goblet, $1.65; 6-ounce fluted champagne glass, $1.15; silver 3-gallon punch bowl, $39.95; 100-cup silver coffee urn, $49.75.

Classic Party Rentals, 8476 Steller Drive, Culver City, (310) 202-0011; www.classicpartyrentals.com


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