This old adage certainly appears to hold true regarding my experience with cleaning people. I bet my sister in law Shannon can chime in here with stories of her own! Still, despite the fact that I KNEW this, I kept giving it the old college try (mostly because I didn't feel like going back to cleaning my house after not doing it, really, since August; however, given the slip-shod workmanship (which I'll describe in a second) it probably wasn't all that clean, anyway!)
Here is how the drama unfolded:
I started doing more than 20 hours per week of consulting work. I really did not want to spend my off time cleaning the house. So, we agreed to try out Merry Maids as I'd used them with some success in California and also we used them to clean up the townhouse after we moved out and they did a pretty good job. I had given some consideration to using a smaller outfit but, after listening to my sister in law Shannon's tales of HER house cleaner, I decided against it.
If you've never used a professional house cleaner (maid company, cleaning company; same thing), here is how it usually works:
They come and give you a "free" (as if you'd pay for it) in-home estimate. This is when you walk them through your house, room by room, explaining everything you do/don't want done. They also provide you with some sort of check list at this point which details everything they do each and every time they come to clean (dust blinds, dust everything, clean sinks, microwaves until "sparkling" (they all like to use this word), vacuum, mop, etc., etc., etc.)
After this is over, they tell you how much they'll charge for a) once a week (as if) b) every two weeks (most people do this) and c) every month.
When the Merry Maid rep was here, I explicitly told her that NOTHING was to be done to the wood floors except mopping with a dry mop (we'd finally gotten the wood floors replaced in June; another long tale of woe that was!) I saw her write it down. She also told me that since my house was already in great condition (this was just after the big family reunion and we'd cleaned it from top to bottom), she'd waive the first time extra cleaning fee of $55 (I guess some houses are pretty disgusting). BTW, they charged us for that, anyway, and I had to get AMEX in on the action in order to get it reimbursed.
We signed up for the every two week schedule and the first time the crew came (we were told we'd get the same crew each time), they did a wonderful job. I was so happy!
Then, the next time, disaster struck. I know I already blogged about this so I won't belabor the point here except to say they used Murphy's Oil Soap on the wood floor which really wasn't good, was it? Not for them. They ended up paying us enough money to replace the floor again (which we've yet to do since Mr. B can, when he works at it, get the floor clean enough so we figure we'll live with it for now).
I decided to try Molly Maid (whom I'd also used in California and was relatively satisfied with).
Same drill. A rep came out, we walked around the house, etc. In addition to the strict instructions about the wood floor, I told him the cleaning people had to make sure they kept the front door shut at all times since we'd just gotten Pete and Lily (and Pete, in particular, appeared to be an escape artist).
The first time they came, they did an okay job. At least they didn't screw up the floors. But, there were some small things that I emailed to complain about. I didn't receive a follow up email or call but the next time they came (January), things seemed a bit better (although I noticed we were getting different crews each time when they, too, had told me we'd get the same crew).
Along comes February and apparently someone didn't tell this new crew (obviously not the same crew, huh?) about what to do with the floors and the doors as they mopped the wood floor with water (and something else) and left the front door wide open. They also left all of our pictures askew, blinds every which way, no liners in the trash cans and a big glob of tomato sauce on the kitchen island (boobie trap courtesy of sneaky Mrs. B).
This time I exchanged emails with the General Manager who assured me the next time (if I gave them a next time, he sure hoped that I would), he'd send out his BEST crew and they'd be our crew from now on. I told him he was lucky the other crew hadn't appeared to have screwed up the wood floor (he doesn't know how lucky he was; hmmm....did I just blow a steady income stream concept?) Anyway, we finally decided to have them come out 3/2.
Then, it snowed 3/1 so we rescheduled for 3/24. He told me he'd waive the extra charge (since it would have been almost two months since the February cleaning). Nice dude, huh? Yeah, right.
Ok, so, this morning. Sure enough, a new crew (three of them) shows up at 9:00. I spoke briefly to them and left for my dentist appointment.
When I got home, they were gone. This is what I found:
1. Dirty kitchen sinks, both sides. One side had gunk in the drain and the other had food in the rubber flaps (leading down into the garbage disposal).
2. Streaks and spots on the granite counters.
3. Dirty stove top. They didn't clean it at all.
4. No liners in the bathroom trashcans.
5. One broken crystal cat figurine (with a note from one of the crew apologizing and telling me it was "ok" if I wanted to call the office about it (as if I needed her permission to do so!))
Of course I called! I talked with the owner this time (after first talking to the office manager).
Here is a summary of that conversation:
Him: I understand from Kathleen (the office manager) that the crew missed some things and that maybe a figurine was broken.
Me: Not MAYBE, it WAS broken, one of your employees left me a note explaining how she'd broken it.
Him: Oh. Well, ok, so, they didn't leave a trash liner? That happens sometimes.
Me: Yes, apparently it does since it's happened here before. Also, they didn't clean the sink or the stove top.
Him: I'm sorry. We can send out another crew to fix it.
Me: No thank you. I'd rather you send me my key back and provide me some sort of reimbursement for my figurine and the fact I'm not happy with the service.
Him: Ok. Yes, I see Ken (the GM) had left many notes here on your account. I'm really sorry they didn't do a good job. How is the floor?
Me: It appears that it is fine.
Him: I see, well, I'm sorry we couldn't satisfy you.
Me: It looks like no one there is capable of cleaning my house better than I can.
Him: I will send you a check and your key later this week.
So, I'm back to cleaning my own house. Frankly, after all of this aggravation, it probably won't bother me so much now, especially if I go back to my MIL's suggestion of having a schedule and sticking with it (not too much every day; a little something a few days a week, etc.)
I doubt, after this, that I will ever engage cleaners again UNLESS it is for a one time deal (whatever that might be, maybe similar to the move out clean we had done on Saratoga).
I'll wrap this up with one of my most favorite stories of (mis-guided) cleaning people.
Torrance, California. I was living in my condo with my cats Nigel and Clyde. I had the service come once a month (we were not terribly dirty inhabitants!)
One night (after the maids had been there that day), I was laying in bed reading. I happened to look up at my dresser and noticed on of my figurines (a shepherdess) looked cock-eyed; namely, her body was pointed frontward but her head was pointed backwards.
I got out of bed and, upon further investigation, realized she'd been broken roughly in half, the obvious culprit being the cleaning people, who, for whatever reason, decided to try and hide the fact they'd broken her (not very well, I might add, since they put her head on backwards).
The next day, I called the cleaning company and spoke with the manager about getting reimbursed for the damage:
Me: I'd like to report that one of my figurines was broken during yesterday's cleaning and want to know how to file a damage claim.
Her: Well, let me see. Hmmm (rustling through papers). Oh, I see here that you have two cats. Are you sure one of your cats didn't break it?
Me: Look, lady, are you suggesting one or both of my cats knocked over the figurine, broke it, and then put the head back on top of it?
Me: And, anyway, believe me; IF my cats were physically capable of even doing this, you can rest assured they would have been smart enough to point the head in the right direction!
Her: Ok, ok, how much is it worth....
Obviously, I fired them, too.
Ok, onward, upward; back to Swiffering, vacuuming, cleaning toilets and the like.
Works for me.