There are times when borrowing things, particularly if you happen to have skipped the formality of asking permission, could get you arrested.
Take the example of superstar diva Cher. At the tender age of 13 she was arrested by Los Angeles police for “borrowing” her mum’s car. Country music hit machines Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw also found themselves on the wrong side of the law in Buffalo, New York when they “borrowed” a police officer’s horse.
While you probably won’t get arrested for borrowing handyman tools, there is a right way and a wrong way. Here are a few things to remember…
Ask for Advice First
Like viewing a solar eclipse, the best way to ask to borrow someone’s handyman tools is not always the direct approach. How, for example, would they go about dealing with the old crab apple tree you’re planning to take down? Or is there some kind of spray they would recommend to loosen up the rusted lug nuts on your old utility trailer?
Seeking knowledge gives your tool-entitled-neighbour the opportunity to demonstrate the depth of their hard earned handyman wisdom, before you benefit from the treasures of their tool collection. Your willingness to listen and nod will be worth more than money and earn you access to tools that could cost you thousands to accumulate yourself.
Look for a Sign
Literally, just look. If you happen to drop by your neighbour’s garage to talk about the weather and see a sign hanging on the wall that says “You can borrow my tools if I can borrow your chequebook”, then you’ll probably need to move onto the next neighbour.
Still, spend a little time in idle tool talk and you’ll know for sure if it’s a gag gift or you’re talking to the retired shop foreman from the prison.
It’s rare to find a handyman with a shop full of tools who won’t be open to lending the odd tool if asked in the right way. If the sign says “No Tool Borrowing” but adds “Unless You Brought Beer” then that’s usually as good as an invitation, so go for it!
Bringing something of value to the intricate sociological transaction more commonly known as ‘borrowing tools’ is a key part in maintaining good relations and access to your neighbour’s tools. The concept of ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’, when applied to tool borrowing means it is hoped you will contribute something in return.
The good news is that what rates as a fair deal when borrowing your neighbour’s chainsaw is orders of magnitude less than the cost of renting the same chainsaw from your local tool rental centre or equipment hire.
Look at the Time
As important as how you ask to borrow someone’s tools is how quickly you bring them back. Punctuality is priceless and bringing them back in good condition is imperative.
‘Stuff’ happens though and even when you use tools conscientiously, they can break. Regardless of whether you think they haven’t used their pressure washer/ root cutter/ reciprocating saw in years, make sure you talk with your neighbour about the damage immediately and offer to help with repairs. It’s likely you’ll hear something like “oh yeah, I should have told you that thing always falls off” and all will be forgotten. In the event that you just burnt the motor out on a $200 tool you may have to take it on the chin. Look at it as a lesson learned and an investment in your future projects. Buy your neighbour the best replacement tool you can afford because you’ll probably be borrowing it often.
Borrowing Tools Online
If your neighbours have 6 foot fences and barking dogs, try jumping online to borrow from your neighbours (as counterintuitive as that sounds, given that you live so close to them and can easily walk over to ask them).
In the UK, you could try Gumtree or Street Bank.
And there’s probably plenty more sites helping you to share with your neighbours – and meet new friends in the process.