When clients go bye bye

June 9 2004

We were scheduled to clean Heather's house on Thursday. The thing about cleaning house for teachers is that when June rolls around, they usually let you go. On Wednesday she called. Her voice on the machine was upbeat and professional-sounding. The message was: I don't need you anymore. Heather's a substitute teacher without a contract position, so she is not on a paid summer vacation. And like she said, she can probably handle the house cleaning for three months.

Far from feeling let down, Ev and I were relieved. Our schedule is already full and we don't really need the work right now so we're okay with it. But that's not always the case. We might have been counting on that $75 from Heather for groceries. Heck, it takes $27 to fill up Ursula the Nissan these days.

But still, I wish people would give us the courtesy of giving some notice, maybe a week or two. Two weeks is polite. One week is tolerable -- enough to start arranging for another client or to put in a couple of earnest days of fliering new neighborhoods. But 24 hours notice is just downright inconsiderate.

On the other extreme, our client Bob is moving next month. He and his family are packing up for another house in another town not too far from here. Bob told us more than a month ago that they were going to put the house on the market. The next Friday, our normal cleaning day for him, he met us at the door when we were leaving. He looked apologetic. The house had sold more quickly than they ever imagined, he said, and they'll be gone by July 9.

I remember when Bob hired us, he asked me on the phone if we planned to be in the area cleaning houses for awhile. We had just moved here and I told him that our intention was certainly to stay in the area, but that you never know what changes life will bring. I wanted to be honest. We were under the impression that he was asking because he didn't want to have to "train" another house cleaner after investing his time in the two of us. Now I know that he was checking to see if we'd be there for them as they prepared to sell their house.

Heather and Bob have very different approaches. She gave us 24 hours notice. He gave us more than a month. I like his method better.

How can we get people to be more considerate in their approach to letting their house cleaners go? I don't know. If you ask them ahead of time to give you notice you risk making them mad and losing the job, I suppose. If you don't ask, you just have to take what comes.

Thank goodness for fliering though. I can't believe how people hang onto them. It always seems that when someone drops out of the radar our phone rings with another job. It's happened twice in the past week. I'm so glad we paid that fliering person last February!

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