I rented a Steadicam Pilot system under ****’s 4 day hire option, which includes 1 day for delivery, 1 day for collection and two days of use for £238.50 (including vat) I was also asked to leave a £1000 damage deposit.
The equipment was delivered to my home address by courier on the morning of the 8th November.
A preliminary check of the equipment raised some concerns, as I discovered there was no manual to assist in setting it up. I contacted **** who told me they did not provide a manual, but they would source one and email it over to me. I waited however the manual did not turn up.
Without a manual I was unable to correctly balance and set up the Steadicam, the best I could do was check all of the components were present, which according to the equipment list, they did appear to be. By the time I was able to locate a manual via the internet, I had no time to go through it as I needed to pick up more equipment on my way to the location of the video shoot in Cumbria.
On the 9th November I was filming until 4pm without the need of the Steadicam. When we wrapped, I decided to set up the Steadicam in preparation for its use the next day. The first thing I did was power up the 8” viewing monitor and it was at this stage that I discovered a hairline crack running down the screen. (This crack was not visible whilst the monitor was powered off) I immediately stopped everything and despite being in an area with no phone reception, drove to an area where I could get signal and placed a call to **** to explain I had discovered damage to the monitor.
I returned to the farm house where I were staying and attempted to continue setting up the Steadicam. It was at this stage I discovered two more problems. Firstly the arm post which connects to the gimble handle was connected by only a small nut and no washers, meaning the arm was free to move around in the join. Fortunately I managed to do a temporary repair job with a rubber washer and two aluminium ring pulls to ensure the arm sat securely without moving around. Secondly and more importantly there was no balancing stud attached to the docking bracket. According to page 4 of the Steadicam Pilot manual, the gimble handle of the Steadicam should be hooked over this stud and is the first stage of balancing the Steadicam The lack of this stud meant the Steadicam could not be statically balanced making it unusable for its intended purpose. I tried calling **** but by now it was 7pm and there was no one answering the phones.
The next day on the 10th November I was once again filming in a no reception area, however once I reached an area of signal, just before 1pm, I placed a call to **** to explain the problems I was having and also inform them that I would need to return the equipment to them rather than have it collected. They apologised for the problems I was having and confirmed it would be no problem to return the equipment myself on the evening of the 11th.
I returned the equipment to the TNT drop off address they had given me, on the evening of the 11th. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me at that time, it appears that I had forgotten to include the metal stand for the Steadicam, as I had accidently returned it with some similar stands, to another hire company that same evening.
Once I returned home, I filled out a complaint form on the **** website, explaining the problems we had had.
After the weekend, on the morning of the 14th I received a call from **** informing me the Steadicam had been received but without the stand which would need returning as soon as possible. I was on location on a job at that point and unable to collect the stand from the other company I had accidently returned it to. I was able to collect the stand on the afternoon of the 15th and organised a courier to deliver it to **** by 9am on the 16th.
I phoned **** just after 10am on the 16th and was put through to someone called ****, who I was told deals with all matters regarding fees and damage deposits. She told me she was unaware of the complaint I had made, but would look into it and call me straight back.
By the afternoon of the 21st (5 days later) I had still not been called back, so I placed another call to ****. I spoke to **** who apologised for not getting back to me as she had been particularly busy with meetings, however she would look into the matter and get back to me.
On the afternoon of the 22nd I received an email from ****, saying she had listened to recording of the telephone conversations, however she only made reference to the first conversation regarding the manual that took place on the day of delivery and the call placed on the 9th when I reported the damage to the monitor. She went on to write that as they carefully check their equipment and the fact I did not notify them of the damage on the day of delivery, I was therefore liable for the charges and they would raise an invoice.
I promptly replied to this email, reminding **** they did not provide or email to us a manual for us to correctly check the setup of equipment, hence our lack of awareness to the damage on the screen as we had not powered it up. I also pointed out once again the two main issues we had with the condition of the Steadicam; that of the loose arm post and that of the missing balancing stud. I ended the email by reminding them of the sense of urgency there was in this matter, due to the fact they were still holding my £1000 deposit.
I had still heard nothing back from **** at about 5pm on the 23rd, so I called **** to chase the matter. I questioned the suitability for hire of a Steadicam that could not be correctly balanced. She put me through to their technical specialist **** who told me their Steadicam balancing post had never had a balancing stud on it and instead they had a workaround via which they put the gimble handle through the hole in the middle of the balancing post and balanced it this way. I explained to **** that this was completely different to the way the instruction manual showed, but he informed me the only instructions he had seen were on an old VHS tape some years ago.
Following the conversation I decided to email **** page 4 of the manual which explains how to balance the Steadicam and clearly shows that the gimble handle must be hooked over the balancing stud on the docking bracket to achieve perfect static balance.
I received an email straight back from ****, with an attached picture showing the gimble handle incorrectly pushed through the hole in the middle of the balancing post. She informed me **** had managed to balance the steadicam in this manner and that the equipment they had was the same as the day they purchased it.
At this stage I was becoming more and more concerned by ****'s attitude to this matter. I decided to place a call to the manufacturers of the Steadicam Tiffen, where I spoke to a gentleman called Robin Thwaites, their International director of sales. He confirmed that the way **** were balancing the Steadicam was not only incorrect but also potentially unsafe as it could tip over. He also confirmed the balancing post should have a stud attached and that the Steadicam would not have been sold without one! I also placed a call to the people who produce the monitor to check on the price of a replacement screen. They told me it would cost £160 + vat and that they had one in stock and could fix and return it within 24 hours.
I emailed **** and explained I had spoken to Mr Thwaites and relayed what he had said. I also reminded them that no one had addressed the fact the bolt for the arm had been loose and we had had to secure it with a washer and two ring pulls.
I had heard nothing back from **** by 3pm on the 24th, so I placed another call to **** to see what was going on. She passed me over to someone called ****, who I understood to be her boss. He told me he had been working with Steadicams for a number of years and insisted that is how their steadicam had come. He also told me steadicam as a company were unreliable and things changed with the way things are set up so often that the manual had probably changed since their version of the steadicam had been purchased. I explained that Robin Thwaites had said otherwise, so he said he would call him and check and get **** to call me back.
I got a phone call back from **** at 5pm, but instead of any mention of a call with Robin Thwaites, she told me they were waiting for their Steadicam expert to come in on Tuesday 29th and check the equipment over.
At 10am on the 25th I received a phone call from **** saying she had spoken to the company that stock the monitor and that it would take a week to get hold of a replacement screen. She told me this would cause them to lose a lot of sales and they would either need to charge me for a new screen and a weeks’ worth of potential lost rentals, which would cost me just over £1000 or a brand new monitor and a couple of days rental, which would cost around £1200. Either way **** said that as a good will gesture, she would reduce the charge to my £1000 deposit. I was immediately unhappy as I knew the monitor suppliers Proav said they had a screen in stock. I phoned Proav and lo and behold they had a screen there.
I phoned **** straight back with this news and she said she would check once again.
I tried calling **** back several times during the afternoon and was told she was either in meetings or on the phone.
I placed a phone call to Proav who told me **** had called them and booked in the monitor for repair on Monday 28th.
I sent **** another email explaining that even if we were expected to pay the costs, following the prices on their website, the most it would come to would be £385 + vat
**** emailed me once again and despite the monitor being confirmed as in stock and available to be repaired within 24 hours, the costs had now increased! The cost of replacing the screen plus lost rentals would come to £2622 + vat and the cost of a new monitor plus lost rentals would be £3102 + vat, however once again as a good will gesture they would reduce both charges to the cost of £1000, the full amount of my deposit. **** ended the email by saying I would need to need to choose one of the options to prevent further days of lost rental.
I immediately phoned the **** office but was told **** could not be reached and that I should contact her via email.
On Monday 28th I emailed **** asking for a breakdown of the claimed costs. I also phoned Proav who informed me they had not yet been sent the monitor for repair.
I then received an email from **** saying I was liable to 15 days worth of lost rentals!!
And that is everything up to date. At the very worst and I was forced to pay for the damage to the monitor. Should the rental company not have fixed the Steadicam immediately? Why am I expected to pay for so many unnecessary lost rentals? and really? Does that Steadicam sound like it was in a fit state to hire?
Thanks for your time guys. This has become a real weight upon my shoulders!
(I have attached the image they sent me of the Steadicam balanced in their office)