What do you do when you walk into a mess your customer left?

Post image for What do you do when you walk into a mess your customer left?

by Tom Watson on January 3, 2016

Walking into a mess your customer left you is a horrible feeling. You feel like walking out and never coming back.

I know! I’ve been there many times over and the feeling it gives you is one I won’t soon forget. But the fact is, it DOES HAPPEN from time to time.

When I was a beginner to the cleaning business it used to bother me a lot. I used to ask myself “How can people be so incredibly messy?” As an example, I had this one house cleaning account where every visit was an adventure.

We used to come out every week and just dread it. If the homeowner dropped an egg on the kitchen floor the moment we finished the cleaning. It would sit there until we came in for the next cleaning!

If you moved the couch, there was a good chance a collection of potato chips would be UNDER IT. I’m not talking a few chips, I’m talking nearly a full bags worth! HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN?

The only reason we kept that account is because we charged them an arm and a leg. The house was a disaster when I bid it, so I kind of knew what I was in for. It also helped that the lady was very nice. An absolute sweetheart.

On the commercial side I had a customer who is kind of slowly going out of business in my opinion. They are just a shell of what they once were staffing wise, and they are always throwing out a ton of trash each week.

It’s almost as if the big bosses know the end is near, so they are getting rid of the clutter in advance of the company’s demise. Well one day they leave me a collection of about ten trash bags to take to the dumpster. No big deal right?

Well each bad must have weighed about 200 pounds. When you tried to move the bags, each one broke open! Guess what was in them? Books, computers, printers and more magazines than your local bookstore carries.

To make a long story short, we had to empty each bag and basically turn one bag into four to make it manageable to carry. I wasn’t a happy camper as they say! I was going to leave a note saying they were too heavy, but once again, I charged these people a LOT for the cleaning.

My thinking was it doesn’t happen all that often, so I might as well “suck it up” and be a man about it. I’m not saying that was the right decision, but that is what I generally do. I want to make it EASY AS POSSIBLE for the customer, so if it’s within reason, I just do it.

I know the initial reaction most people have is to GET MAD, and I fully understand. But you need to remember IT’S NOT PERSONAL. It’s just business as they say. I always charged on the high side, so when these issues raised their head I knew I was getting paid a fair amount to just get it done. So if I can impart any wisdom, it would be this.

You should never think that every cleaning will be a BEST CASE SCENARIO for you when it comes time to clean. Sometimes there will be a party, sometimes they will do a spring cleaning and have a bunch of trash and sometimes they will make a mess for some unknown reason. When you go to bid a job you need to factor that in somehow!

Think of it this way. I had an employee who always was late. When you asked her when she would arrive, you had to add 30 minutes to whatever she said. She was always late because she always thought “best case”, as in NO TRAFFIC and she would get ALL GREEN LIGHTS.

Well that’s a fantasy! We all know that there IS TRAFFIC and sometimes all you get is RED LIGHTS. The same is true of your customers in a sense. It will not always be “best case”, as in clean and tidy. I wish it were otherwise but it’s not!

I’ll wrap this up by asking you to share some of your “horror stories” in the comments below. It may be good “therapy” for you plus it will help all the beginners out there get a feeling for what is possible when you get hired to clean a house or commercial property.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 angela January 3, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Well of course I will chime in here lol
I clean restaurants and it has been a niche to my commercial side for the past 20 years. One of those happens to be an Off track betting facility and another on a college campus University of Delaware. Messy? Hmmm I am thankful half those students remember where the bathroom is and the other half are spared their parents wrath. I wonder why employees leave the building at night and turn off lights knowing vomit is all over the floor or someone’s cloths are stuffed behind a toiled or thrown away with not even worth mentionable body fluids all over it. Maybe that will make you all laugh the next time you are faced with an office situation lolol.
I have had plenty of nights I feel like cashing it all in, going on welfare or grabbing that local walmart job just giving the rest of life that whirl the normal world does. However, I would never be happy doing that and neither would any of you because these “messy customers” are only really rare “messy rare circumstances” and believe me, they will remember you later on when it really matters.

I remember one night one of the buildings I cleaned sewage pipes backed up, yes POOP pipes, and no one was around and I couldn’t get a hold of anyone. I ran out and got my gooloshes and cleaned all the drains in the basements out. I scrubbed all the concrete basement floors with bleach and saved that restaurant. I never charged a dime even though they offered to pay me. Guess what!!! I had that contract for 13years, got paid awesome too always did, the company closed down, locally but they were part of Laurel Race Track but do you know they are still my HUGEST HUGEST reference ever?????? It has paid for itself a million times over.

You never do a favor for free. The universe, God, Divine whatever you want to call it will repay your efforts if your heart is pure.


2 Kelly January 3, 2016 at 6:31 pm

I have a house like that. It also happens to be my biggest account. I see them once a week, the house is over 4000 sq feet.

Two dogs, who go in and out all day at will and the bark they lay in outside gets tracked ALL through the house – not to mention the masses of hair they leave everywhere! It clogs my poor vacuum constantly.

6 people live there and they are ALL slobs. Especially the youngest daughter. Most days I cannot see the floor to even clean her room with all the trash she throws everywhere.

The bathrooms, especially the toilets are a nightmare. The kids keep clogging the toilets so they never throw the used TP down the toilet but in the trash. Its disgusting. Im used to it for the most part, but some days I really have to talk myself in to going there every week!

3 Raymon Samuel January 3, 2016 at 9:37 pm

It has happened and we took care of it.

4 Raymon Samuel January 3, 2016 at 9:54 pm

We clean it first before doing anything more, and later, I talk to my customers about it.

5 rose January 7, 2016 at 8:37 am

I had a house cleaning account that paid very good money to work for a single man, restaurant owner. It was very easy, so supervision at all and I would clean 3 times a week, was a beautiful house right on the ocean in Fort Lauderdale, Fl. Well when got the time for the snow birds to arrive his entire family came, mom, dad, sister… they were a mess, kitchen, bathrooms, floors was a nightmare, hair all over, each one of them would hand me their personal laundry to do each visit (it was a lot) and I should not mix it, it should be done separately, it was a 4 floor tawnhouse, so I had to pile up all the dirt clothes in the elevator and go all the way to the laundry room on the first floor. The mom would ask me to unload the grocery from the car and put it away. Any way, I felt abused. Eventually I was fired. It was a great learning experience on the business.

6 Tom Watson January 7, 2016 at 10:38 am

Hi Angela! Thanks for sharing that. Much appreciated!

7 Tom Watson January 7, 2016 at 10:40 am

Hi Kelly! I know how you feel. They wouldn’t be my favorite account either!

8 Tom Watson January 7, 2016 at 10:41 am

Thanks Raymon!

9 Tom Watson January 7, 2016 at 10:42 am

Good approach!

10 Tom Watson January 7, 2016 at 10:44 am

Hi Rose! Yea, they took advantage of your services. You did your best to make it work, but sometimes it’s best to move on.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: