75

I'm not sure how to handle this situation without being fired, even though I think that would be an extreme measure.

A little background:

I work for a company that frequently requires employees to go on-site to customer locations. When the customer's location is far enough away or it's an overnight stay, we usually rent vehicles. However, that's considered unreasonable for close customer locations. In those cases, we are reimbursed mileage on our personal cars.

The situation:

A big customer of ours and one that I have to go to frequently is now requiring all contractor cars to have magnets on them to indicate they're a contractor. These magnets just have the company name on them. My issue with this is that I just bought a new car not long ago and I'm doing everything possible to take great care of it. I don't like the thought of repeatedly putting on and taking off a magnet. There's a decent chance it could be scratched. I've also seen cars get sun-baked where the paint fades at uneven rates due to a section of the car being covered a lot.

I'd like to be diplomatic about this, but I can't think of a solution to suggest to my boss. Any advice?

  • 3
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Oct 26 '18 at 6:27
  • Doesn’t a logo on a car impluy it’s a company (owned) car? Have your boss buy a car! Or is his mileage reimbursing justifying? Btw. What country? – nl-x Oct 26 '18 at 19:17
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    @nl-x Exactly my thinking. Was owning a car a job prerequisite, were you even asked if using your private car for work was OK with you? Sounds like your boss is essentially renting your car, why should their rules apply? – crizzis Oct 26 '18 at 20:14
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    I'm confused by your question, are you a contractor or an employee? – Danubian Sailor Oct 27 '18 at 10:20
  • @DanubianSailor Sounds like the employee of a contracting company. – Kaz Oct 28 '18 at 16:45

16 Answers 16

89

I'm assuming this is essentially just there to ID the car as belonging to a contractor in order to allow the client to manage parking?

If so, would it be feasible to display the magnet inside the car? on the dashboard or similar? That way it's still visible but you don't have to worry about attaching it to the paintwork.

If this isn't an option there are steps you can take to protect your car's paintwork (I'm with you on this one.. I can get very picky about protecting my paintwork!).

  • Make sure the paintwork has a good coat of wax or sealant on it.
  • Keep a bottle of Quik Detailer (similar products from other manufacturers are available) and a supply of clean microfibre cloths in the car
  • When you need to apply the magnet a quick spray of the Quick Detailer and buff it off with a clean microfibre and then apply the magnet.
  • Sunbaking is unlikely to be an issue (only certain types of paint are affected - Vauxhall's red paint in the 90s and the SEAT OVNI Yellow are the usual suspects) as modern paints are much better at resisting it and the relatively small amount of time it will spend with the magnet on relative to the car's life will mean any difference is negligible. You can always vary the location you apply it too though if you're worried or know that your car is susceptible.

If you'd like some more information on options for protecting your paintwork see here for a primer (no pun intended).

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    I think your answer would be better off without the automotive car advice too. Good idea to suggest placing it on the inside however. – Summer Oct 25 '18 at 7:31
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    @Summer Couldn't disagree more - without at least a workable suggestion that part of the answer becomes "find a way to attach it without damaging the paintwork" which is profoundly unhelpful – motosubatsu Oct 25 '18 at 8:31
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    Putting it inside the car seems like the ideal solution. I once worked at a company that insisted on you affixing a tag to the windscreen of your car. I simply placed it on the dashboard and they seemed happy enough. – Richard Oct 25 '18 at 22:13
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    @alephzero Or you just take good care of it and don't do more damage then it already picks up. It might not always look 'as new' but plenty of people (me included) want their car in a good state, even cosmetically. – EpicKip Oct 26 '18 at 12:48
54

I'd like to be diplomatic about this, but I can't think of a solution to suggest to my boss. Any advice?

Ask if you can affix the magnet to the inside of a window, facing out.

I've done this with parking stickers that I didn't want to permanently attach to my car. As long as it was visible, they didn't actually care.

  • 7
    Double sided tape. Stick it to the back of your rear-view mirror so you don't even get to see it. – Nelson Oct 25 '18 at 1:21
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    Sorry, I meant @Nelson's comment. I would like to see that posted as an answer. It's the only one that will really make both parties happy. – Mawg Oct 25 '18 at 7:21
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    @Nelson in my experience, branding "magnets" are actually sheets of magnets large enough to be viewed from a distance, its a cheap temporary alternative to having vinyl signage applied permanently to a work vehicle, ie they are generally quite large - as large as a standard door panel in some cases. Sticking it behing the rear-view mirror, or even on the dashboard, might not be feasible depending on size. – Trotski94 Oct 25 '18 at 8:22
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    @JamesTrotter This doesn't seem to be for branding purposes, though. It sounds like it's essentially a parking permit, which doesn't need to be visible from far away or while the car is moving. – Anthony Grist Oct 25 '18 at 13:42
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    @AnthonyGrist I'm not sure either way, the question makes it ambiguous. – Trotski94 Oct 25 '18 at 14:22
46

Park your car elsewhere, and walk to the office.

If the magnet is simply used to identifier contractors' cars, why not park in an adjacent lot (where nobody is looking for magnets) and walk to the building?

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    This is not always possible, but if it is, it's certainly a good option. – Cyonis Oct 25 '18 at 7:37
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    And, sometimes it's possible, but not a good idea. Your car now becomes another company's problem (which they are free to have towed), and another company's responsibility. (Presumably, the same security team which checks for magnets would also be likely to notice a car jacking.) – employee-X Oct 25 '18 at 17:00
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    @employee-X I assume he means a public lot, not to trespass on some other company's property. – Barmar Oct 25 '18 at 19:46
  • This can still be viewed as a "betrayal" by a snoopy boss or coworker, who thinks you aren't being a "team player". – Christopher Hostage Oct 26 '18 at 15:21
16

The customer's rule is that cars must be marked. That rule is not yours to change, and neither your manager's.

The only solutions are:

  1. Attach the magnet to your car. Ask on Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair on how to do it safely.
  2. Attach the magnet to another car and use it. That's the only thing your boss can do: give you a rental car. This is not an unreasonable request.
  3. Don't drive a car there at all. Take the bus or park your car outside premises and walk the last mile. Most likely not feasible, but I'm putting it here for the sake of completeness.

Placing the magnet behind a windshield is unlikely to be possible. If they wanted markers to be placed there, they would not put the extra cost to make them magnetic.

  • I assume that the location's owner (i.e. the client) is not willing to pay for anything, which is why they did not provide a parking permit with their own branding to hang on the mirror. So, that part of it is most likely under the control of the employer, not the client: that is, as long as the security team is satisfied that they can do their job properly. – employee-X Oct 25 '18 at 17:05
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    This is about the only answer that answers the question asked so +1 – Notts90 Oct 25 '18 at 19:13
  • I also think this is more of a question for Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair. @Jim, if you want it migrated, you can flag your own question and ask the mods to do so. – WBT Oct 26 '18 at 14:10
15

You could also put a thin material as buffer between the magnet and your car.

Depending on how strong the magnet is, you could:

  • Put a really thin fabric under the magnet like one of the soft fleece things people put into their laundry to perfume it or stop colors from bleeding

  • A tissue paper might do as well. You can change it regularily to avoid dust scratching your paint

  • Tape the underside with masking tape. The slightly crincled texture is flexible enough to avoid scratches

    All these materials have to be changed regularily to dispose of dust particles that would otherwise scratch the paint. Especially if you drive on construction sites you want to change the buffer every time.

An alternative offered by Ellesedil is to apply the buffer to your car permanently:

There are actually automotive products on the market that are essentially a thin material, specifically a transparent film, that is applied to the car with the sole purpose of protecting the paint. The shorthand term for this film in automotive circles is "clear bra" and is designed to be essentially imperceptible unless viewed up close. This provides really long term paint protection and removes all of the drawbacks you list in your suggestions. But, it costs a little more than a box of tissue paper. Other options also exist, but a clear bra best matches what you suggest in your answer. – Ellesedil

  • this doesn't resolve the possibility of the paint work getting sunbaked unevenly – Pixelomo Oct 24 '18 at 23:25
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    Put the sign in a different place evertime. Like a screensaver but for your paint. – Harper Oct 25 '18 at 3:37
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    There are actually automotive products on the market that are essentially a thin material, specifically a transparent film, that is applied to the car with the sole purpose of protecting the paint. The shorthand term for this film in automotive circles is "clear bra" and is designed to be essentially imperceptible unless viewed up close. This provides really long term paint protection and removes all of the drawbacks you list in your suggestions. But, it costs a little more than a box of tissue paper. Other options also exist, but a clear bra best matches what you suggest in your answer. – Ellesedil Oct 25 '18 at 9:25
  • Similar to what Ivan suggests, I believe it would be reasonable to have your workplace to pay for the Clear bra, if that is the best option. It is a material you "need" to perform your job, and is much cheaper than providing you with a company car. – employee-X Oct 25 '18 at 16:56
  • With the right magnet (soft and flexible), none of these extra steps would be required. The idea of tissue paper between the magnet and vehicle would actually scratch the coating MORE and significantly increases the chance of the sign falling off while moving (and that probably WOULD damage the vehicle). – Phil M Oct 26 '18 at 17:40
13

If it's your personal car, check your insurance. Standard only covers commuting to a single place of work, not visiting customers.

The company therefore can't make you use your car.

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    This is very country-specific. In Poland (and probably most of Europe) there is no such limitation. Would you mind adding a country to which this applies (I presume USA but I might be wrong, also can it differ in various states)? – Ister Oct 25 '18 at 10:27
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    In the UK insurance policies that exclude business use are widespread, so I wouldn't necessarily assume the opposite is true for most of Europe. – Will Oct 25 '18 at 11:05
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    While this is (sort of) accurate (for the UK) at least.. this doesn't actually answer the question and you also miss the fact a company can ask you to use your car and it's up to the driver to arrange adequate insurance for that purpose. The mileage allowance/tax-relief that employees can claim is (partly) intended to pay for this. – motosubatsu Oct 25 '18 at 12:49
  • Additionally if this is in the UK (and the OP has given no indication as to their location) this would mean this suggestion would be telling the OP to either lie to their employer (saying they don't have business cover when they do) or admit committing a crime to their employer! – motosubatsu Oct 25 '18 at 13:18
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    @employee-x I can only speak for the UK but here you claim an amount per mile travelled for business purposes, the gov't sets the figure and it in theory compensates you for insurance, fuel, wear and tear etc – motosubatsu Oct 25 '18 at 17:26
8

I would expect more scratching from pebbles thrown up by other cars on the highway than from a magnet, but you can't avoid these if you move your car out of the garage.

Getting a wax coating makes sense, but more than that is unlikely to be worth the money. Your car will depreciate in value whether you use it or not, and doing so while being reimbursed is the best deal you can get. Any potential buyer in several years will care more about the state of the motor than about whether there was a magnet attached or not.

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    OP isn't saying he worries about financial impact (when selling a car). It's an emotional and esthetic problem. – kubanczyk Oct 25 '18 at 10:40
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    Sure, but my point is that driving the car at all will "damage" it more than the magnet ever will. It is the wrong thing to tune, a lot of effort for a non-measurable effect — especially if you stick the magnet on after arriving at the customer site and removing it before leaving. – Simon Richter Oct 25 '18 at 11:40
6

Ask your boss to put clear vinyl coat on whatever panel you're putting the magnet on. Clear vinyl is pretty hard to see and does a pretty good job of protecting paint.

  • Good idea! More generally, I think it's perfectly reasonable for the OP's company to pay for whatever solution works best. – employee-X Oct 25 '18 at 16:59
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    Clearcoating just one panel will over time lead to a noticeable difference in appearance. Would be better to treat the entire car. – barbecue Oct 26 '18 at 15:15
3

Have you looked at ways you could mount it in the window? Explain exactly as you did here.

There's a decent chance it could be scratched. I've also seen cars get sun-baked where the paint fades at uneven rates due to a section of the car being covered a lot.

Then see if there is an easy way to affix it inside your window like a sun-shield. I managed to find magnetic ones on Amazon with a quick search.

You could also try putting a thin blanket between the magnet and the car, but I'd try to window shade idea first.

3

First, depending on the quality of the magnet you can get lucky and have a few scratches or sun marks or you can have rust on the location. I would not allow a magnet to be attached.

If the magnet is for security reasons ( i.e. allowing entrance into certain areas ) then you can suggest to your boss that they use your license plate as a form of contractor identification as it is actually more secure than a magnet stuck on a vehicle. If some visible company logo is required, you can suggest a printed ( color ) stock placed on the dashboard. Under no circumstances should you allow any item to be attached to your car's exterior and you can cite probable damage to your vehicle as the reason.

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    You can suggest to your boss that they tell the client their security procedures are wrong, sure. Do you think your boss is likely to take you up on that suggestion? If s/he does, do you think the client is likely to completely change their security procedures? – David Richerby Oct 24 '18 at 20:33
  • If this is really about security, then magnet signs wouldn't be permitted at all -- at least without other security measures in place (like license plate and personal identification verification). – Phil M Oct 26 '18 at 17:35
  • @PhilM I agree. It seems like a stupid policy. But it's the client's stupid policy and it's very unlikely that they'll budge on this. In particular, whoever at the client is responsible for hiring the contractor almost certainly doesn't have the authority to change this policy. If the contractor tries to insist, it's almost certain that the response will be "You want to contract for us, you use the magnet. You don't use the magnet, we hire somebody else." – David Richerby Oct 27 '18 at 15:04
3

By providing hire cars for longer-distance site visits, your employer has already shown to some degree that they wish to limit the burden on your personal property. If their request to you places your property at risk in a way that makes you uncomfortable, make sure they're aware of the potential problem so they have a chance to do what they can to help solve it.

Let's break down the possible options:

  1. There's a way to attach the magnet provided without damaging the car. Then you don't really have a workplace problem and you should do this and move on, with consultation with Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair on how to do this safely.
  2. There's a way to meet the customer's wishes (identifying the company your car is associated with) without attaching a magnet to the paintwork. That's between your boss and the customer, who might be quite happy to agree to a satisfactory solution, such as putting something in the window.
  3. You can't negotiate an exemption from attaching the magnet and you can't be sure it won't damage the paintwork. In this case, it's a question of how much of this cost associated with keeping this customer your boss is willing to bear for you. If the risk of damage isn't certain, perhaps your boss would agree to cover the cost of any resulting paint damage should it occur. Or if they won't simply make a hire car available for visiting that particular customer, perhaps your boss could lend you their own personal car!
3

Being diplomatic means choosing your battles.

If I was your boss and you started causing trouble about this I would be annoyed with you. If you're the employee that makes a stink about something stupid, how are you going to handle real challenge? It wasn't my decision in the first place, it ultimately came from an important client. It seems security related, and clients tend to be particularly strict about that stuff.

My advice is to accept it for what it is and move on. Show what a team player you are, get a raise, and spend some of that money getting your car detailed.

  • 3
    The job of a boss is to play fullback and block for their employees, getting obstacles out of the way and providing resources. If a boss can't do that, they are incompetent and should be fired and replaced with someone who can. – mindcrime Oct 25 '18 at 18:33
  • As a general thing I'm with you but this is about personal property and there is a principle involved. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 26 '18 at 9:52
  • @mindcrime that's a very good point- if the OP's manager is the boss of the company and has direct negotiations with the client, it really is the boss's responsibility. I was assuming that this rule was coming from higher up and OP's boss had no direct say in it. – Rob Elliott Oct 26 '18 at 13:03
  • Yes, it is about personal property, but the fact that the company pays mileage (and the OP is OK with that) is essentially a short term rental contract that both parties agree with. As such the company does have some rights in regards to requiring the sign to be affixed to the personal vehicle. – Phil M Oct 26 '18 at 17:31
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    @mindcrime If the client is insistent that the badges must be used, no boss, regardless of their level of competence, is going to be able to change that. At the end of the day, the client is perfectly entitled to say, "Fine. If you won't do the magnet thing, we'll hire some other company." Wow, what a competent boss -- they lost the client! You can't go around declaring people to be incompetent and should-be-fired because they can't achieve the impossible. – David Richerby Oct 27 '18 at 15:00
2

What did you expect? "We have all contractor cars tagged. Except Jim's car, he's afraid that the tags damage his paint so we let him"

It is not upon to you or your boss to dictate the client his own security rules. Imho it sounds reasonable that contractor cars become tagged, I also think that your fears are unfounded. Should one of my coworkers come to me with such wishes I would not have him fired but will place him on the list of "difficult" persons, as he wants to bend reasonable rules because of unreasonable fears.

In my place it is ok to "bend" certain rules if the reason justifies it. For something as client security rules the mark is quite high. To even begin discussion, one must have a very well founded reason.

An example for "bendable" rules is the requirement to only use company issued work boots: It is fine when somebody uses other shoes, as long as they have the needed safety certificates (to please both insurance and lawyer), cover the ankles (see before) and the exterior is not too different from the company issued ones (so somebody in the upper floors can still boast about the fancy uniform work dress the company uses to project their image).

However I'd like to present you some viable ways

  • Evasion

    • Park your untagged car somewhere else (Will have detriments for you: "It takes so long for him to come, just because he thinks that the tags will damage his paint")
    • Use a taxi. Detriments: See above.
  • Minimizing impact

    • Cover the magnets with adhesive tape to avoid scratching.
    • While I don't share your fear of sunbleaching, I'd suggest to alternate the location of the tag to avoid it.
  • Alternative

    • Affix the tag on the windows, place some soft fridge magnets on the inside, so that the tag magnets have something to grab on (Pay attention to be outside of the airbag radius should you drive around with a tagged car).
  • Verify it

    • Question your fears of the damage. Wait until damage happens, then have your boss compensate you.
1

If your license plate is a ferrous metal, attach the magnet to the license plate. If it's not, get a slim piece of steel and bolt it (with the license plate bolt) to the bumper between the license plate and the bumper (so it's not visible from the outside). Attach the magnet to that spot on the plate.

You'll probably want to attach and remove the magnet when you enter/exit the customer's property, but if they have a guard shack, you can get out and do it there (passive/aggressively showing your displeasure with the process). If they don't just slap it on when you've pulled into a parking space. (To be fair, where I live in the USA I see quite a number of vehicles with FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) badges attached to the license plate partially obscuring the plate number, but that may be a bit of a special case.)

Unless you live someplace extremely hot and sunny, it's very unlikely that you're going to see fading differences from having the magnet attached to the car, even if you're there for a full 8-hour work day. Just make sure you're attaching it to a different location every time you're there, or move it if you're there several days in a row.

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    Why get all passive-aggressive against the security guards? No one with the authority to change the policy is going to sit in a guard shack – employee-X Oct 25 '18 at 17:09
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    @employee-X that's very true. I was acknowledging that this might be construed as being P/A before it was pointed out in the comments. Instead, I got bit on the other end... :) – FreeMan Oct 25 '18 at 17:19
1

Move the magnet to a different place on your car every so often. That will prevent the same spot from being protected from the sun.

I have a couple magnets on my car and scratching has never been an issue. I would not worry about the car getting scratched while putting the magnets on and off unless you have steel fingernails.

1

You have your concerns... and I want to try to reassure you that most of what you are worried about in your post are mostly minor.

The modern printable vehicle magnets are soft and very flexible and come to the manufacturer on huge rolls instead of rigid sheets. I am familiar with companies using magnets for partial and full vehicle wraps (temporary or seasonal) and they actually protect the vehicle better than a custom paint job.

It is highly unlikely that they would directly cause any damage to your vehicle. If you are still concerned, ask for a design that includes rounded corners instead of a straight rectangle cut and there will not be any sharp edges on the magnet sign to begin with. Think of the flexible magnets that go on fridges, and imaging how difficult it would be to cause any damage to your paint with one of those.

As far as damage from uneven sun wear, you can easily remove it once you leave the job site. They are easy to attach and detach with no more effort than peeling a banana. If you travel to this job site 3 times a week for a few hours at a time... 10 hours of sun exposure during 77 hours (winter) or 90+ hours (summer) per week will make very little difference.

Also does the contract require that you have a magnet sign on both front doors of the car, or is it something that you only need to have on the driver side? (Requiring on both doors makes it more of an effort for you, and its possible you get distracted and forget to add/remove the opposite driver side sign).

Is it something that you would be able to first park and then affix the sign to the door, or does the sign need to be in place before driving onto the property?

For me the bigger concern would be if the sign is stolen, vandalized or falls off.

As an employee are you responsible for the damage/loss?

When you requisition the signs from the boss, recommend that you get 4 copies of the sign even if you are only required to put on one on the drivers side door. Explain that because they are easily removable, they could be lost or stolen and that it is better to have extras in the trunk then to show up on the job site and be refused access because the sign falls off during transit with no backup available. Explain that you think that 4 should be sufficient to last the entire year. (What you want to do is set the expectation that these are "disposable" and not valuable company assets that you need to be held 100% accountable).

Also, it is not really all that much more to order 4 custom signs than it is to order just the 1.

In fact the cost to get custom signs is less about the material and square footage cost to print and more about the setup and custom art. In printing, the cost per item always goes down the more you order... but if you order fewer than what you actually need then you end up spending considerably more in the long run.

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