Excess is out, thrift is in. Even party hosts with big budgets are shying away from lavish spending in the face of dour economic news. In Part II of our “Save Me the Money!” series, event rental experts share how they help their clients cut costs.

“We understand it is no longer business as usual. Not only do we have competitors in our markets but the economy is putting pressure on our clients that we didn't need to deal with before. We have discussed using different equipment to accomplish the same thing for some of our more distressed customers; we want to keep their business. We have changed our delivery and pickup scheduling; instead of being open-ended, we have restricted it to 8 a.m.-to-5 p.m. windows. Our customers can collapse the window to morning or afternoon for an additional charge. We also have a ‘code red’ for deliveries and pickups — these are guaranteed times, and this request is offered at a premium.”

Steve Anthony, president/CEO, American Event Rentals, Stockton, Calif.

“If I sense that there is a money issue, I begin to help with ways to save. Sometimes if it's a smaller event, I recommend that they can do their own lighting. Christmas twinkle lighting is easy, and most people have some in-house. Another thing is wrapping the tent legs in their own fabric or some plastic from the party store.”

Naomi J. Romero, special event executive, Garcia's Tents and Events, Albuquerque, N.M.

“The biggest trend we've seen is that more customers are now will-calling their orders versus paying for delivery. A year ago, probably 80 percent of all weekend business was delivered; today, probably only 60 percent. We also encourage them to set up items like tables and chairs, things that we charge additional fees to set up. We encourage our customers who are on a tight budget that ‘Emily Post’ etiquette is not necessary anymore. While we believe there are still some functions where following the letter of the etiquette law is still paramount, we also feel that society today has loosened some of that and allows for a lot more individualism. In other words, if you're not using a teaspoon, don't set it. If you aren't serving multiple wines, don't set it. Use a coffee bar instead of setting cups and saucers at every place setting.”

Sherri Creighton, president, Pleasanton Rentals, Pleasanton, Calif.

“We've put together a 30 percent off line-item coupon that we're offering in conjunction with announcing our new Web site, www.eventrents.com. After receiving the postcard, customers have to go to our new Web site first, give us some feedback on the site, and then they may use the coupon. Since we are all so inundated with countless e-mail offers, we decided to go with bulk mail; an old-fashioned mailer has received excellent response. Our coupon may be used on any single line item; the only caveat is that [customers] must use us for all their other rental needs at this event. Ten percent to 25 percent off coupons don't seem to grab enough attention — 30 percent is where you need to start these days.”

Glenn Novack, project manager, Event Rents, Santa Barbara, Calif.

“When a client gets sticker shock from the [cost of] special delivery windows or after-hours drops and pickups, we take the time to go over different options they may have, from accepting help from friends and family or even letting them know that if they can't afford delivery, there are some truck rentals — such as Ryder — out there that rent trucks for just $20 a day.”

Kim McDonald, general manager, R&R Party Rentals, Bellevue, Wash.

“We are trying to help our customers by asking more questions to pinpoint their event and offering only the services that fit their needs and not their wants. We also advise them of alternatives they can avoid paying for unless the circumstance validates the need — for example, adding a rain gutter from the house to the tent when the forecast is rain. Also, waiting till the day prior to advise the customer on the exact heater size and fuel consumption. We have also been more lenient — e.g., longer usage at no cost, flexible pickup and returns, etc.”

Dave Reedy, general manager/managing member, Party Palace Rentals, Forest Hill, Md.

“For those customers where budget is a big factor, we always have options that cost less. Examples include getting the customer to change from specialty linens to standard poly cloths or from silver to stainless and even from a wood chair to a plastic chair. In regard to delivery charges, the biggest fees and most cost-prohibitive problems arise from after-hours late-night pickups or out-of-town deliveries. We now price each of those items down to bare minimums, where we are not making money off those charges but are still able to cover our costs. We believe the customer appreciates these price considerations and will remember us when their budgets are a little more open.”

Barry Reynolds, president, Butler Rents, Denver

RESOURCES

American Event Rentals
209/477-4404
www.americaneventrentals.com

Butler Rents
303/388-5971
www.butlerrents.com

Event Rents
805/685-9920
www.eventrents.com

Garcia's Tents and Events
505/842-8368
www.garciastents.com

Party Palace Rentals
410/836-0085
www.partypalacerental.com

Pleasanton Rentals
925/468-0624
www.pleasantonrentals.com

R&R Party Rentals
425/688-0099
www.rr-partyrentals.com

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