Our 4 year anniversary to ourselves is our new office. Centrally located, we will be able to more easily access all areas of Atlanta. This will reduce our gas and labor cost, which will make us even more competitive. The office is great with three offices, a work station, an area for all our materials. We waited for so long to find this because we needed a place where we could install security cameras to watch our vans at night, since we have some unrighteous competitors who I have no doubt would try to sabotage our vans. Will take video this week and post it. I’m So Excited!!!
Archive for the ‘Tales of a Gutter Cleaning Company’ Category
While the rest of the world was prepping for the Superbowl (and being from Mississsippi, “Who Dat!”), I was going around the city knocking on doors of some of our long time debtors. Three customers, two who have used our service before, and one first time customer, with bills more than 30 days past due.
The first was the home of JF. JF wasn’t home, but his kids were. We didn’t know that none of the adults were home. We sent all three of the customers emails stating we were coming out, and none replied. We didn’t know what to expect when going out. In 4 years, we’ve only been to 9 homes, including these three. I can’t explain it in anyway other than to say that when you physically show up to someone’s house who has been ducking their responsibilities, it has a way of getting results.
Alas, there were no results to yield from the first house as it was only kids at home. We asked the kids if there was a number we could call a parent at, or an address we could go and see one at. We learned nothing new, and just left a copy of the invoice.
With JF, we don’t understand what has happened. JF never complained about service, and has used us more than one time, but for some reason they are putting a lot at risk to get out of paying a $95 bill. We are at a point where they give us little choices in moving forward. The next step is placing a lien, which would put their home in limbo and seriously affect their credit report. Most people don’t realize that a lien can appear on a credit report, but it does. If you pull your credit report and look at the “Negative Public Records” section, it appears there and it does have affect on one’s ability to get credit.
The next step after this attempt is pressing charge for theft of service. Once this is filed, JF will be arrested and charge, and will have a few hours of jail. He may not have to even pay bail to get out as it is a low misdemeanor, but the fine who could end up paying to the court along can be up to 1050% more expensive and, if not paid, a short jail period. The disturbing part of this for me is that JF would rather risk paying more, going to court, and possible jail time over paying a small bill he owes. He has kids for christ sake.
The next debtor is DW. DW’s situation hits me more personally than JF. I don’t have kids, so I have never had either the obligation or responsibility that comes with the role. JF’s inaction could affect his family in serious ways, but I haven’t walked a mile in his shoes. I have, however, when it comes to DW.
DW is a failed millionaire with a failed business. He worked in talent representation, web design and hosting, and tried to make himself a small-time media mogul. Picture Russell Simmons but with a small business. It seams that a few years ago, DW was doing well for himself. He bought himself a 400,000 home that would be work almost twice as much in another neighborhood. He seemed to have a staff and several businesses, but all of those business seem to have closed and failed, with their contact information invalid or inactive, and their websites dysfunctionally operating.
We did a little more work for DW than we do for the average customer, but though he lives in a big house an boasts himself as an entrepreneur, he did have the money to pay the bill. He paid part of the bill, and we negotiated other aspects, but he still has a lien on his house which will negatively affect him. If only he had settled his account on time, he could have avoided the extra costs in money and in future financial stability.
What worries me is that DW has become a total failure in his successes, and I have never experienced failure yet. In a relatively short amount of time, I built us the largest gutter cleaning company in Atlanta. And before this, in previous jobs and careers, I always excelled. I’ve never experienced failure, but I know that it is only a matter of time. I would almost trade the remainder of what he owes to know how it happened, what caused such a collapse.
My theory is that he invested too much in industries that are designed for him to make his living off of the management of talents of others. If the people you hire aren’t talented, then you are going to loose.
I had suspicions of the motivations of DW and JF, but all my suspicions of KB were easily confirmed by KB. He told me that he hired my company without the funds or ability to pay, and was out of work without a job. Her purposely stole services from us, but regretfully. He has been proactive in communicating with us, unlike his counterparts, and we’ve worked out a way where in can work off the balance.
Though everything is settled now with KB, I can’t imagine hiring someone for work when you know there is no way to pay. The ethics and logic escape me. I can wrap my head around the sociological idea of the desperate, the idea that one must steal to simply survive; but stealing the elective service for gutter cleaning is not even close.
I still have more respect for KB than the others. KB was honest about his actions, regretful, and prepared to make amends. JF is trying to ignore the consequence of his action, and DW simply doesn’t care.
When people think about psychopaths, they think of killers, serial killers, and movie serial killers. However, a psychopath has nothing to do with killing. A psychopath is someone who acts without empathy for their own benefit. A famous doctor once called them “Intraspecies Predators”. This means that they prey on their own kind, of course. They use anything at their disposal, including charm, wit, manipulation, intimidation, and violence to without guilt or remorse to control others for the benefit of their own needs. Just a few days ago, I had an encounter with a psychopath.
Our psychopath is S. Moore, a project manager at a real estate company, the type of job that attracts those who are good at keep things in control, no matter what. Moore had algae on his roof and needed it cleaned off. We’ve done this type of service twice before and, out of doing over 25,000 services in Atlanta, we found that it wasn’t a really profitable service to keep up. He did, however, need someone quickly, and we had the chemicals. We agreed to take his job. He said he needed the job done by Saturday (we don’t even work on Saturdays), and we told him that we would try to accommodate him, but promised it would be done in the next 2-5 business days, as quoted by our crew manager Rick McPherson. He booked service with us sometime between 11-2 on Tuesday 2-16-10. At around 7 PM that evening, I emailed him his date of service which, given the order in which he booked, and the lack of true emergeancy to the service (ie water wasn’t coming into his house or anything), he was scheduled for Tuesday, 2/23/10, which is outside of the time frame he requested, but within the time frame we promised. At this point, just several hours after he booked, we have informed him that unfortunately we won’t be in his area in the time frame he requested.
The next day, he emails to say that he’d like to be taken off the schedule if he can’t be moved to Friday or Saturday of this week. Now, this is a very, very suttle form of intimidation, but by no means the act of a psychopath. He is simply saying, “hey, you don’t get out sooner, I’ll take my business somewhere else.” Given the fact that it wasn’t an emergancy, and it was a service we really didn’t provide anyway, I replied back to him when I received the email the next day that it would not be possible, but to confirm if we wanted to stay on.
Minutes later, another email came. This time, it was from the psychopath.
The psychopath, who had plenty of opportunity to find another company already, and to even find a company that did his service on a regular basis, would rather force someone unwilling to his will then to change his plans. It is about power for the psychopath, about feeling important, respected. Psychopaths have a “God-like” view of the world, seeing that everyone exists to serve them, and the world revolves around them as such.
2/16/10 11:41 PM
PSYCHOPATH: If the service cannot be completed on or before Feb 20, please cancel my appointment. Please let me know if the service can be completed this week by Friday or Saturday. Thank you, [Psychopath]
2/17/10 11:20 PM
BRAD: I don’t think this will be the case. Please confirm that you want us to remove you from the schedule.
2/18/10 12:09 AM
PSYCHOPATH: Remove me from the schedule. The person I spoke with on the phone said it would not be a problem to come by Friday. I specifically told him I was not interested if that wasn’t the case. You should really sync up your planning and the messages you provide your customers. I just wasted two days trying to get this done. I could have scheduled someone else by now. I will be updating kudzu, google, anywhere I can find, etc. with my negative feedback. I’m not pleased with your service. [Psychopath]
So let us stop here and analyze what has happened so far. The Psychopath is upset. It isn’t that we can’t do the work. It isn’t that we need to charge more. It is just that it wouldn’t be done when he wants it done. He waited almost 36 hrs to find another service because he wanted us to do it; not because we are the best algae removers in the state, and not because we’re the cheapest. He wanted us because he picked us already, and the psychopath always gets what he wants.
When he realized he would not get what he wants, he starts to take down the veil. He threatens to leave a bad review on Kudzu because we won’t be out fast enough. I just wasted two days trying to get this done. The frequent use and focus on “I” is the mark of the psychopath. The psychopath doesn’t think about the time that others have wasted for him. He just made a call to us, and that was the end of his “time”, but we wrote out any invoice, typed up his information, verified he had no liens, mapped out his location. We scheduled him on a day, causing someone else to wait longer because of his turn in the que. The person I spoke with on the phone said it would not be a problem to come by Friday. As close as Rick can assure me, what he actually said was we would “try our best to [accommodate] this, and don’t see it being a problem, but we promise it will be done in the next 2-5 business days”. If we had known it was a psychopath we were talking to, we would know that the psychopath would immediately assume he would be closer to the “2″ as opposed to the “5″ because the psychopath is the most important person in his view of the world.
Unable to get what he wants, the psychopath decides to hurt. He wants to leave a fake bad review of our service, a service he has yet to experience because he cannot wait till 5 business days to receive service. This act show incredible apathy. After all, we didn’t do anything wrong, we just couldn’t get to him as fast as he wanted. If I go to order something off of Ebay, and it won’t be here fast enough, I change my mind and go to Amazon. I don’t write about how Ebay ruined me by not shipping faster. This is the type of thing that you just decide to use someone else, not to complain about it. It’s crazy. The time that he spent not getting another service was his own choice, not ours. We didn’t tell him he couldn’t call anyone else or fire us. The psychopath sees everyone else to blame.
Further apathy of his threat is that to post a fake negative review would not only, on an extremely marginal scale, hurt us, but it hurts the multitude of employees who work for us who have never spoken to him, met him, or had any interaction or thought. We have a great staff of honest, hard-working people and most of them are the sole breadwinners of their families. The only affect his review could have would be to cost us jobs which enable these people to make money and feed their families.
BRAD: I’m sorry but we have been telling everyone that it would be within the next 3 to 6 business days (rick actually said 2-5). We would love to do the service for you, but blackmail is not the way to go. I can cancel another customer that has been on the schedule longer and put you on Saturday, but I am disturbed by your threats. You are not pleased with our service, but you haven’t tried the service or given us the opportunity to come out yet. I will call you in the morning and work out the details. You will need to be home and be able to pay at the time of service. And for my own knowledge, what is the reason that it could not be done next week and had to be done this week?
Excuse me, but it is not a threat when the person on the phone specifically states that it will be something that can be accommodated by Friday. Additionally, I am not asking you to cancel another appointment. I will not do business with your company.
I would not have signed up for an appointment without being told your company could come by Friday. I specifically covered this on the phone before requesting service. For your knowledge, I am going to be out of town for the next few weeks and want to home when the service is done. I also discussed this on the phone at the time of registration. All of this is covered which is why I am providing feedback on public websites.
I will be sharing this information with my neighborhood association as well.
I normally do not give into terroristic threats such as this, but I did to make him happy. Instead of taking what he initially wanted, he decided to continue to fight and hurt. You see, in the end the service was not important for him, control and intimidation was. Now he can get what he really wants and he doesn’t have to pay for a service to do it. He received more satisfaction by posting a fake review full of inaccuracies and lies than he every would have had with a clean roof.
And why could he not wait till Tuesday? Was it that he was selling the home? No, it was just that he wanted to be home for a service that he already knew he didn’t need to be home for. We had already told him this, and that we would take before and after pictures so he could see the work, and that he didn’t have to pay till he saw the work and was satisfied, but the psychopath is never satisfied.
BRAD: If you are going to post something like this, after I said we would cancel another customer due to your threat, I can’t send a crew to your home. If you remove the review, we will still cancel another customer and put you on the schedule for Saturday. We just can’t make it out in the time frame you requested, does that really justify the wraith you are trying to put on us? We can do the work without you home and take before and after pictures. And you put that you didn’t get an email for two days, but we sent the email the same day. Please call me now at XXXXXXXXXX. I would like to discuss the matter directly in a calm and rational manner.
By this point, I know something is really wrong with this guy, but I have empathy, and have to think about my employees and their families. I continue to try to give in to the psychopath.
PSYCHOPATH: That should have been communicated when we spoke several days ago. Yes, it justifies the negative posting. I took the time to explain my situation and you took on my business and misled me about the timeframe. That is not an acceptable business practice. I reviewed some of the other comments on there as well. According to the reviews on Kudzu, it appears service has been an issue lately, so I’m not alone. The three most recent posts are all VERY negative. I am not interested. I am not and will not be a customer. Please do not call me at this hour. People are sleeping.
He is right that we have three negative reviews. His is one of the three though. One of the other ones was from a competitor, though I am not sure which one (the competitor I believed responsible has contacted me to say he has nothing to do with it, but at the same time, the man is a megalomaniac that cannot be trusted for the truth). The third review was semi-legitimate, but unfair, in regards to a customer whose home we cleaned almost in pitch darkness of night because she needed the gutters cleaned for the next day, but was unhappy when the ground cleanup was not as great as it could have been, despite her yard being a mess. We have a database of 20,000 homeowners. We have grown to the largest company in our field. We have one the super service award for Angie’s List 4 years in a row, and we were just selected to be featured in the 2010 Home Reports after HR interviewed 1,000 of our customers at random from our database. We will be the first “Gutter Cleaning” company featured in the book, and helped them in writing and preparing the general information about gutter cleaning service. We’ve been featured on CNN as their gutter experts. So yes, three negative reviews in a row, 1 from a customer impossible to please, 1 from a competitor trying to sabotage our business, and 1 from a psychopath who never used our service.
The psychopath uses “I” twice this time.
BRAD: I know you don’t want to use us, but let me talk to you and explain. please call me. [Psychopath] I’m begging you, please call me
That’s all there is. Rick made several attempts the next day to call him and try to talk to him about the issue, but he only got voicemail and the psychopath never returned the call.
Part of the psychopath’s threat was to tell others he works with about us, and that could go either way. If his coworkers know his true nature, they’ll ignore what he says. If they don’t, the Psychopath can be both charming and convincing.
The only reason I posted this here is that the psychopath posted his review, and I wanted people to know the truth of the matter. We have a campaign in play to have many of our loyal customers to start leaving reviews on Kudzu, which will make his review a distant memory. I try to look at the blessings in disguise to as I can imagine how the psychopath would have treated our people if he had been home during service.
A situation like this makes me sad. I’m tired of apathy. I’m tired of people who think they can use threats and intimidation like common thugs to get what they want. How come no one can remember that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Either way, the matter is done now and the review will be of no consequence. I only wish that this psychopath remains one of the non-murdering psychopaths. Maybe I should make an anonymous call to the police department and have them check his crawl space. :)
We’ve made so much of the process of booking, scheduling, and receiving payment automated that sometimes it can get boring in the office. When this happens, Mindy falls asleep. The last time this happened, we filmed it. Then, we edited in pictures of hot dogs. Here it is.
We just signed up in early January to advertise with Valpak, a coupon direct mailer. This is our first experience with something like this and with the first mailing going out this past week, we’ve found the response to be slow. This may be expected as a key to marketing is repitition.
The was a problem, however with the mailing. Valpak left off of the $30 coupon the most important part of the coupon, that it is only for first time customers. The problem is that whenever we do a customer for the first time, we give them a big discount, between $20-$30 off depending on various factors, for trying us out. When we do this, we make little-to-no profit off of the first job after paying a 2-to-3 man Certainteed certified crew with full worker’s compensation and general liability insurance to go to the home and use van, gas, and equipment to do a full service. Our hope is that the customer will be happy with the service and return in the future at what their price is before discount, or if necessary, with a negligable $10 discount that we usually offer if the next cleaning is within 6 months. We can’t afford, as a company, to do returning customers who have already received the first time customer discount once at a $30 discount now.
Luckily, Valpak has fixed this on the online coupon on their website and it will be fixed on the next mailing. In the meantime, luckily only 2 returning customers have tried to use the coupon. We’ve directed both to Valpak’s website and offered full explanation. One booked at $10 off their regular price, and the other hasn’t had time to respond to our email yet.
Part of writing this on the blog is to vent about Valpak, but the other part is to have a more detailed explanation on our website in case any more of our previous customers attempt to use the coupon.
It’s 10:26 so time for bed. More tomorrow.
February 1st is only a couple of days away now. In all honesty, it doesn’t feel like 4 years have gone by. They say, ” time flies when you’re having fun” but I’m not sure how much fun it’s really been. I work more in the last four years than I did the eight years before it. I never wanted this company to be successful, I just wanted it to pay the bills as I went on to do other things. I had no passion for “gutter cleaning”, and honestly, who would.
The game changer was the death threat. When my previos employer discovered I had made my own service, with a better website, they threatened to have me killed if I didn’t stop. It was all they could do as I had too much evidence of their illegal activities that they had no recourse other than illegal methods to compete. I never felt comfortable in their environment of cutting corners and taking advantage of customers. It was when I discovered they were taking advantage of me as well that I broke away and tried to do my own thing. I set out, from the start, to be everything they weren’t. I was going to price fairly, hire legal employees, pay taxes. What I wasn’t planning on was growing, expanding, and dominating.
The funny thing was when the death threat happened, it didn’t bother me in the moment. It was sitting around and thinking about it in the days afterwards that changed me. I thought about what would happened if they carried out their promise. I had a wife, I wanted a family. I found myself becoming obsessed with the threat. Finally, similar to in comic books when a normal person makes a vow to rid the world of evil, I made a vow to do everything I could to make sure homeowners were no longer taken advantage of by corrupt companies. This changed our mission statement, and mission in general.
My life became all about work. All my hobbies and interest fell by the wayside. I grew this company from no customers in February 2006 to 20,000 customers in February 2010. I started this on credit cards and made it into a 2.5 million dollar company in 4 years. We went from a staff of 4 to that of 15. We have one awards and received the highest rankings of any company in our industry. And we’ve been a Le to assist multiple charities, including Toys for Tots, local homeless shelters and women’s shelters, and the American Red Cross. I truly believe none of this would have happened had I not received that threat. As I sit here, 4 years later, it is so core to what we do here that it is the first thing that comes to mind.
I’ll be retiring soon, leaving the company in capable hands of people who care as much and are completely professional, but who do not have a zealot mission like I do. I am interested to see where that takes the company. I’ll be happy to move on and put my energy into a new business that is reflective of my personality.
Happy Birthday, Atlanta’s Best Gutter Cleaners.
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