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The Cleaners Ate My Sandwich

It was just another day at The Boardwalk Cleaning Co. until I got *this* call…

Client: ”Hi.  So I didn’t realize that lunch was included with my cleaning…”

Me: “Sorry, what was that?”  

I replied feeling a sense of extreme confusion.  This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill unhappy customer call, and all these things started racing through my head…

  1. Am I being punked?  Is someone from the office next door playing a joke on me?
  2. What on earth is this lady talking about?
  3. OMG. This is not my life.
  4. How the hell am I going to make this right?

Client: “Your girls helped themselves to lunch, I understand if they get hungry and take a break, but to go into MY fridge, make themselves a sandwich, get some chips AND take a break — Is different!  I have cameras everywhere!”

I silently gasped and took a deep breath. I then apologized and responded to her very honest and said that this has never happened before and that the situation was absolutely unacceptable.  At this point, I let her know that there would be absolutely no charge for the service.  I apologized again and there was no two ways about it – Our employees had completely overstepped their boundaries.

I continued the conversation to see if she was happy with the overall cleaning, to which she replied, “The cleaning was excellent, I just wasn’t expecting to have to provide lunch!” She giggled when she said that, and *that* is when I knew I was taking the conversation in the right direction. I let her know that if she would be interested in using our services again, that the next cleaning would also be completely free of charge.

I did this for two simple reasons…

  1. This was the first time the client had used our services and it was a key moment that could make or break our relationship, and…
  2. I wanted to be sure that I did *everything* possible to make her forget about the ill-conceived sandwich.  Surely an additional free cleaning would keep her from racing to her Facebook page to post her horrific experience online, or it would keep her from calling everyone on her speed-dial to let them know that “OMG!!! THE HELP HELPED THEMSELVES TO MY SANDWICH MEAT, CAN YOU BELIEVE!?!?!?!”

So we wrapped up our conversation.  I made extensive notes on her file so that there was *no way* that it would fall through the cracks.  We also made sure to *never-ever-ever* send that same team to her home again.  I was lucky to have been able to resolve this quickly.  Thinking back, she could have been less understanding and considered this to be theft.

A Teaching Moment

You must be wondering what happened to the sandwich-eaters.  Did we treat it like theft or just an incident?

Ultimately, we decided to use this incident as a teaching moment.  The team was suspended without pay for 2 days and the incident was put on file.  We also held a team meeting the next morning to remind everyone that we are a professional services company and while we’re wearing a company uniform or driving a company-owned car, they are expected to carry themselves professionally in everything that they do.  They were also reminded of two important, common-sense policies:

  • Do not open a clients’ fridge unless you intend to clean it.
  • Do not eat inside a clients’ home.

We also encouraged our teams to take a break as-needed between jobs/homes, or if it’s a particularly large home, they are encouraged to take a break every 3 to 4 hours so that they can eat (in their car) and get refreshed before returning to their work.

By the way, the client still uses our services and there hasn’t been another single incident (or picnic) in her home.

Remember that anytime that you discipline your employees, you must detail the incident and counseling report in writing. If you have to fire them in the future, it is best to be protected.  I also recommend that you check with your local authorities to ensure that you are following all state and local labor laws.