A plea to all classic car owners
For the second time in as many weeks my blood has come close to boiling. Grr. There, I feel better. A researcher from X Factor emailed us, clearly with a blanket email, asking for a Ford Mustang for Dermot O'Leary to drive on stage.
Now normally this kind of thing is quite exciting. We've provided cars for lots of TV shows, the BRITS being a memorable highlight. But then I got to the part where they were 'happy to provide a credit and a tweet mentioning us.' Oh, I see, so you want the car for free.
Now, perhaps you're thinking 'yes, but you'll get to meet Dermot and Simon and all the other snazzy people.' And yes, we would. All of which will actually cost us in excess of £1,000 in car hire, insurance, fuel, subsistence and time.
But there's the credit and the tweet, Graham, seen by millions upon millions of people!
Yes, there is also that. A single tweet from X Factor is like a grain of sand, nobody will notice. Likewise an end credit - we are on the credits for several BBC programmes many times a year and I can count on the fingers of one hand how often people call up as a result of it.
There is also some kudos from hiring out the car driven by someone famous on TV. But, frankly, not much. It doesn't get more customers, it just makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy. My business and the staff I employ live on more than warm and fuzzy.
And yet, even if that did mean something and would assist us, why should we do it for free? If X Factor likes what we do, tell people about it. But pay me first - I am a small company, not a charity.
After the email from X Factor I tweeted about it and received several replies from people with similar stories involving high profile TV programmes. It's a regular issue - Made in Chelsea wanted us to do something similar a couple of weeks ago.
The reason it persists is because someone, somewhere will agree to do it. It may be a classic car owner or another hire company. So I make this plea to anyone in a position to assist these TV shows: JUST SAY NO. If you agree to help you are helping to perpetuate a system that takes advantage of small companies and classic car owners. It devalues what we do and the cars we own. Free cars do nothing except feed the bottom line of the large, commercial entities that make these programmes. And that isn't right.
I want to see classic cars on TV, but I want TV programmes to value and pay for the service more. We provide a lot of cars for TV and film use and we're lucky enough to work with companies and crew that value classics. They pay for the cars and our service - and, occasionally when things go wrong, we're able to resolve it because there is a contract in place. That is a much more sustainable and fair system.
Great Escape Cars provides action vehicles for many static and film projects, including 50+ cars for Antiques Road Trip and Celebrity Antiques Road Trip.