Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2008   by Jim Anderton, Technical Editor

Can I borrow…?

Jim's Rant

Anybody who’s been in the trade for any length of time has worked in an environment where techs helpeach other out with a tool every once in a while.And most techs have had to chasedown an errant tool from a fellowtech as well.

Ever lend someone a tool and then never get it back again? Anybody who’s been in the trade for any length of time has worked in an environment where techs help each other out with a tool every once in a while. And most techs have had to chase down an errant tool from a fellow tech as well. In most shops, forgetting to return a tool doesn’t generate hard feelings. But there are circumstances where a tech’s generosity can be tested, even when the borrower acts in good faith. In my opinion, there are a few unspoken rules that should apply in every shop regarding the borrowing of personal tools:

1. Always ask. Do this every time, even if the lender doesn’t insist on it. Better still, get the tech’s attention and show him/her the tool you’re borrowing so everyone’s on the same page.

2. Return it promptly. This means put it back as soon as you are done with it, not when you’re done the job you’re using it on. Borrow only as long as you need it.

3. Borrow only if you really need to. Basic hand tools are a necessity for any journeyman, so invest the money. If it’s an oddball special tool, fair enough, but don’t constantly borrow tools that you should own yourself and can afford.

4. Return it clean. Give it back clean and in good repair. The solvent tank is right in the shop, so why return a greasy tool? Clean it even if you received it dirty; it’s a common courtesy. Call out to the lending tech to let him or her know you’re retuning it to their box or bench.

5. If you break it, repair or replace. It happens, even to the best of us. Apologize, then fix, adjust or replace the broken tool promptly. It doesn’t matter if you abused the tool or not…if it breaks in your hands, it’s your responsibility unless the lender “waves it off.”

6. Don’t take it personally if a tech won’t loan you tools. Many techs are territorial with their tools, either from bitter experience or just a desire to avoid later hard feelings. This is fair enough and shouldn’t affect your working relationship. Get around the missing tool or call your jobber.

If you’re loaning your tools, there are a couple of good practices that you should also consider:

1. Engrave everything. This is just a good idea for theft/insurance purposes as well as for tracking down your tools. I have a favourite Snap-on screwdriver, for example, and I want to have that tool back, not another just like it even if it’s identical. Tools do get mixed up.

2. Get it back at the end of the day, every day. Establish a rule that borrowed tools are returned at the end of the day, even if the borrowing tech needs it again first thing in the morning. Start every day with a full box and you’ll never forget who has your tools.

3. Be clear about your personal rules. If you don’t want to loan your tools, don’t, but make it a consistent policy. If you think a tech has one of your tools, ask. Chances are he or she just plain forgot about it. A little tough love here can prevent a lot of friction later.

Every tech has his or her personal policy about lending and borrowing tools. Establish ground rules and professional courtesy from day one and you’ll have a shop where everyone makes money with fewer cut knuckles.

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