ESTIMATING FOR ] NITURE REMOVALS
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Solving the Problems of the Carrier
rIEFORE proceeding to deal in detail with the conditions Dwhich the haulier should stipulate as applying to any • job of furniture removal for which he is making an estimate, I would like, briefly, to refer to the special paragraph headed " Suggestions " which is printed on the form of estimate as set out in the article in last week's issue of " The Commercial Motor."
In case the issue be not available I had better repeat the wording of that paragraph. It is: " In preparation for the removal, customers can hasten completion by taking down blinds, curtain poles, rods, brackets, gas and electric fittings, stair-eyes and all usual tenants fittings, filling drawers and trunks with household linen and clothing, including also small photo frames and sundry knick-knacks, etc., packing books in boxes, parcels, or tying in bundles. collecting crockery, china and glass into one room."
Reasonable householders will make note of these suggestions and act upon them; as a matter of fact they are quite wining, and even prefer, to do this work so as to facilitate the removals operation. It is particularly important. that operators should study the paragraph because the conditions which I am about to discuss are, to some extent, based upon the assumption that the customer has knowledge of these suggestions. Although not actually conditions governing the contract, they do at least indicate what part the customer is expected to play.
As for the conditions themselves, I will deal, first of all, with those which protect the furniture remover against undue difficulty in completing his task. As price is, to a large extent, the governing factor in a transaction of this kind, the conditions must, in their phrasing, refer to the estimate, so that there is a connecting link between the one and the other. That should be fairly obvious as. unless this be. so, there is no point in having conditions, for, if no price be quoted, there is nothing to limit the work which the haulier is prepared to do, If full consideration be given to this point the importance of giving every customer a written estimate before any agreement is made to carry out the work will be appreciated.
One Condition of the Estimate that is of Importance The first condition emphasizes that the estimate is furnished on the understanding that the removals men are not to he interrupted in their work. Provision is to be made so that they can go ahead with the job so soon as they arrive at the house. This, naturally, assumes that a time for their arrival will have been agreed beforehand with the householder. In this same clause is embodied a most important condition, to the effect that it is anticipated the removal can be effected by means of ordinary stairs and through the doors of The house and further that, if window tackle or any special provision be necessary, an extra charge will be made.
I have already emphasized, in the previous article, that it is necessary for the haulier or his representative to inspect the premises before making his estimate. If he has done that he will know whether it will be possible to remove by means of staircases and doors, or whether special tackle is likely to be required. In the latter event he will, presumably, have made provision in his estimate for the extra cost involved. The point is that the inclusion of this particular clause provides against the risk involved in those cases, also mentioned in the previous article, when it is not practical to view both premises. In' point of fact, many furniture removers prefer to rely upon that clause rather than go to the trouble and expense of visiting the second premises which may be too far distant.
The second condition is, more or less, linked up with the suggestions as given in the second paragraph of this article, and which are embodied in the estimate, This states that the price quoted does not include provision for the dismantling of gas or electric-light fittings and fixtures. The furniture remover has not, in the estimate, quoted for the relaying of carpets or floor coverings, for the refixing of blinds, or the rehanging of pictures. The price does not cover the fixing ot mirrors except those for mantelpieces. One of the curious customs of the trade, for which there is no apparent reason,, is that a furniture remover deems himself to he responsible for refixing mirrors over mantelpieces.
In another clause the householder is warned that the estimate does not cover removal of coal or garden material unless it be specially arranged for and is actually mentioned. This is what I should call a safeguarding clause and is applied only where the amount of coal or garden material is unreasonable or excessive. As a general rule few furniture removers are particularly strict in the application of this clause—at any rate, so far as the removal of coal is concerned. The subject is usually mentioned by the furniture remover's representative on the occasion of his first visit when he is making inquiries as a preliminary to making his estimate and, if there be coal to be moved, he usually brings a few sacks in which to carry it. He doe.; not however, make a point of referring to it in the estimate
The next clause, and the last one concerned with ensuring that any unfairness, difficulty or expense involved in removing the furniture is not laid at the door of the operator, 'is one which states that the contractor assumes that the vehicles 'engaged upon the removal will be able to approach within 'reasonable distance of the premises to which the furniture is to be delivered.
This clause, like the previous one, will be unnecessary if the furniture remover, in all cases, visited both honses. Obviously, if he is able to make such an inspection he will not need the proteetion which this clause is designed to afford: it is there to cover those cast in which he is unable to make such double inspection. It should be made clear to the customer that, in the event of reasonable approach to the premises not being possible owi,ng to bad roads or other causes, additional charges, over and above the figure included in the estimate, will have to be made in order to compensate the contractor for the extra time and labour involved_ The clause relating to difkulty of approach sometimes has its uses even when the proper inspection of the premises has been made, because between the time of the inspection and the actual removal date something may have happened which has had the effect of causing an obstruction. For example, road-making operations may have commenced; there may be excavations for gas or water pipes, electric cables or some other similar purpose, and, whilst it is true that this alteration in the conditions can in no way be said to be the fault of the householder, it is equally true that the furniture remover ts not to blame and cannot be expected to stand the ettra cost involved.
Now I come to those clauses which protect the haulier against excessive claims for damages by the householder. Some of these are familiar in as much as they appear on all sorts of contract forms. A typical one of this kind is that which limits the liability of the haulier. A simple clause reads: " The rates quoted include risk against loss or damage (fire, railway accident, aircraft or marine risks excepted) not exceeding £10 on any one article, suite, service or package, unless the value has been previously declared in writing and insurance paid thereon."
Provision against careless packing of goods by the householder comes next. The operator should take particular care to provide against claims for damages arising from this cause. The packing of furniture, particularly breakable articles, for transport, is a business which calls for expert knowledge.
Indeed, there is in this consideration a signal of warning to the haulier who may, without due thought, have decided to enter into this business of furniture removals. He should pause and consider this aspect of the matter. If he has had no experience he will be well advised to leave furniture removing to those who have, unless he takes the precaution of engaging capable assistants for this branch of his business.
However experienced the haulier may be in furniture removing it will still be necessary for him to provide against the results of the amateur efforts of the householder. To that end he should include a clause to the effect that he will not recognize any claim for loss or damage suffered by any article contained in drawers, or for any package or case not packed by his own employees. The connection between this clause and the suggestions embodied in the form of estimate will be noted. If the suggestions be reread it will be appreciated that the householder is recommended to pack only such things as books, and that he should merely collect crockery, china and glass into one room and not attempt to pack it.
In this same clause the furniture remover states that he will not be responsible for plate, jewellery or other valuables unless these be given specially to his foreman under seal. It is also usually understood that written notice concerning the inclusion of such plate and valuable articles shall be sent to the furniture remover prior to the date of removal.
Clocks, barometers, musical instruments and the like are . often sources of trouble to furniture removers for, no matter how carefully they may be handled, it is seldom that the removal can be effected without it being necessary for subsequent adjustments of the mechanism of some of these pieces. It will be appreciated that the haulier must not allow himself to be placed in such a position that a customer can make a claim upon him for the necessity of such adjustment.
A clause to 'that effect is essential, it being sufficient to refer to the fact that the items specified frequently require adjustment after removal and that, in consequence of that fact, the furniture remover does not accept any liability in that respect.
A' Time Limit for Claims
for Damage or Breakage
Another point of importance is that a definite time limit must be set to the period, after the removal, in which the haulier will consider claims for damage or breakage. It may be as well to clarify this point and give the reason for the inclusion of such a clause. If more than a few days be allowed to elapse after the removal before any claim be made, all sorts of damage might be done to the furniture without the haulier being in any way responsible, yet without it being possible for him easily to refute the claim. ft is usual to set a limit of three days from the time of delivery of the goods, and to refuse to entertain claims for breakage or loss made after that date.
In this connection I remember a story, told to me by a furniture remover, which may or may not he true, in which the householder put in a claim for the loss of an alarm clock. The furniture remover consulted his men and then advised the householder to look inside a particular item of bedroom furniture, and there the alarm clock was found, safe and sound.
There is another risk besides that of claims for damage. and that is for loss of goods, which may occur during . their removal from the first house to the van, in transit, or, in the course of their transference again from the van to the premises where they are to be delivered. The furniture remover is responsible for the misdeeds of his own workmen, and, if none but his own men had been engaged on the job, he will undoubtedly be held to be liable. Clearly, however, the conditions are entirely altered if some other party be present, and one of the clauses usually states that, when other workmen are in the house during the time of the removal, no responsibility can be accepted for loss of goods. Yet another kind of claim must be provided against; that for loss occasioned as the result of delay in transit. To cover such a risk a clause, worded_ somewhat in the followIng style, is usually embodied in the contract: " Every endeavour will be made to complete the removal by the time stated, but no liability can be accepted in the event of delay by rail, sea transit, mechanical breakdown, or through stress of weather or
other unavoidable circumstances. S.T.I.