Companies typically have two options when it comes to uniforms for their employees: rent or purchase. Rental uniform providers advertise the ability to pay a low weekly rate for uniform items. The reality is that the perceived low weekly cost of a rental uniform program, when spread out over the life of the contract, is significantly more expensive than a purchase uniform program. The total cost of rental uniforms adds up even more when hidden fees, deceptive claims, and harsh contract terms are factored into the equation.

Hidden Fees of Rental Uniform Programs

There are numerous hidden fees with rental uniform programs. Here are some of the most common:

  • CPI Increase: The consumer price index (CPI) measures the average change in prices over time that consumers pay. Rental uniform companies include terms for passing along CPI increases to their customers regardless of their actual costs.
  • Unused Services: Services, like laundry, are charged whether or not your employees take advantage of the offering. When employees elect to wash their uniforms independently, you are still paying for the service.
  • Start-up Costs: Setting up a rental program requires a significant number of administrative services. Many rental uniform companies charge a set-up fee before rental agreements can start. 
  • Damaged Clothing: In addition to the weekly rental charges, rental uniform companies also charge their customers for damaged clothing. This can include items damaged due to normal wear and tear. Now, not only has the company paid to rent the item, they paid for the replacement and still don’t own anything. Plus, when the contract ends, they “sell” the same uniform items to the next customer.
  • Missing Clothing: Most rental programs enforce high fees for missing clothing. Depending on the terms, this could be the full cost of the item no matter how long it’s been in service or how long you’ve been paying for the item.
  • Buyout: If you decide to purchase items used in your rental program, you are often charged more than the depreciated value of the garment.
Uniform Contract

Problems with Rental Uniform Contracts

As you read your rental uniform contract and discover all the hidden fees, you’ll find other stipulations that can increase costs and headaches for your team.

  • Limited Flexibility: Rental uniform programs lock customers into specific uniform items. Any changes requested throughout the contract could result in considerable costs.
  • Long-term Contracts: Many rental uniform programs lock you in to 5–7-year contracts and include cost-prohibitive penalties for ending the contract early.
  • No Ownership: With a rental uniform program, companies pay to basically borrow uniforms for years and have nothing to show for it in the end. Everything must be returned at the end of the contract. 

When Does a Rental Uniform Program Make Sense?

There are times where a rental uniform program makes more sense for an organization. Mechanics working with oil could severely damage home washers and plumbing systems with heavily soiled clothing. Rental programs can provide access to specialized equipment for getting oil out of the clothing safely. Another example is industries with necessary hygiene requirements. For instance, a pharmaceutical manufacturing company may require employees wear a uniform cleaned to specific standards in order to maintain a clean environment. Having a system where employees turn in the uniforms at the end of the day and start their shift with a fresh uniform ensures there is compliance with hygiene requirements.

Why Rent When You Can Buy?

Despite the few exceptions above, most companies quickly realize the advantages of a managed uniform program. Reduced waste, limitless customization, new uniforms annually, and improved employee satisfaction directly impact the bottom line. Unitec Distribution Systems has helped hundreds of companies get out the uniform business. Is it your turn?

Still not sure if a managed uniform program is right for you?

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