Good evening. I'd like to hire one of your cars for a wedding."
"Certainly, sir. Can I have your address and so forth, and I'll give you a quote."
"Well, I live in Dartford, and I-"
"Sorry, sir, we can't do any jobs in Dartford!" "But my daughter Linda has her heart set on having one of your lovely Rolls Royces for the big day!"
"Well, if you lived anywhere else, sir, we could help, but not in Dartford, sir."
"This is ridiculous-what do you have against us in Dartford? If you're worried about being paid, we'll let you have the relevant amount in advance."
"No, sir. It's nothing personal, and I've nothing against Dartford. We used to have a lot of good jobs down that way.
"It's like this, sir. Some time ago, Parliament passed a bill giving local councils the power to make very strict rules about private hire (car rental) firms. Now, in this area, only Dartford has chosen to bring in such rules.
"First, Dartford authorities told me that if I wanted to do any jobs in their borough, my drivers would all have to take a medical. Now, we only have three cars, but I use about 20 part-time drivers in a year. At £10 per man for the medical, that's 200 quid!
"Next, they said that my cars would have to be inspected by one of their mechanics, and could they all be driven to their garage? Well, sir, all my cars are Rollers and the warranty on the engines says that only Rolls Royce-trained mechanics can touch them-or the warranty's no good. Do you think that Dartford has a Rolls-trained mechanic?
"But the real killer was the next one. The council decided that no car more than five years old would be allowed to do private hire work. Well, sir, as you know, all our cars are veteran and vintage white Rolls Royces...."
The conversation continued for some time. Eventually, the proprietor said to his would-be client, "If your Linda's so keen to have one of my cars, I'll come and do the job myself-for free. The regulations only cover jobs that are 'for hire and reward,' so it'll be okay if I don't charge."
His offer was gratefully accepted, and a few months later he did indeed do the job at no cost to the bride's parents. However, the story of his kindness in the face of such bureaucratic nonsense had spread, and on the big day the national press turned up to cover the "free ride." "Rolls Bride Cuts Red Tape" was just one of the subsequent headlines, and the press reports detailed precisely why the car-rental proprietor could not charge for the job.
Naturally Dartford's council took quite a beating, and it retaliated. A few days after the wedding (in late 1978), Dartford legal officers began a court case against the car-rental proprietor, claiming that his actions had generated substantial publicity for his firm and that this publicity was so valuable that it constituted "for hire and reward."
The case eventually fizzled out. And by listening to solicitors and others who know how to interpret and advise on the regulations, the proprietor learned to avoid such future legal confrontations. He was told that as long as a job starts outside the borough and is one continuous job, with no breaks to pop off and do another quick job elsewhere, then he may accept weddings in Dartford. Consequently, when contacted by potential clients in that area, he now starts off by saying: "Yes, we can do it. But I'm afraid you'll have to bring the groom to the borough boundary and drop him off a few yards this side of it!" So if you are ever in Britain's Dartford area one Saturday and see a groom getting into an old white Rolls Royce a few yards before a sign that reads, "Welcome to Dartford," you'll understand what's going on.