Sunday, February 09, 2014
Are cleaners cleaning up too much?
A reader in California decided to hire professionals to help keep her house clean. She made a verbal agreement with a husband-and-wife team to clean her house every other week. She writes that they told her the fee would be $30 an hour for a two-hour session.
The couple arrived and cleaned her house within an hour. The reader had already made a check out to them prior to their service for $60.
"I gave them the check with no discussion about the shortened time," she writes. "The next time they came, it was the same scenario. Again, they accepted the check without question or discussion."
Now, the reader is a bit flummoxed. She wants to know how to handle the situation when the cleaning crew returns.
"If they only clean for one hour, I feel their pay should be for an hour's worth of work," she writes. "If they want to get paid for two hours, I feel they should be working in my house for two hours."
She writes that she wants to discuss her concerns with the couple so they can come to an agreeable solution, but wants to know if she's wrong in her expectations.
It often can be a challenge to talk with independent service providers about their charges after they've completed a project. If a charge is more than, or a service less than anticipated, then the right thing is to ask the provider for an explanation of the charges.
Of course, initiating such discussions can be uncomfortable, particularly if you're pleased with the quality of the work being done. It's important to be clear that while you like the work performance -- if that's indeed the case -- you want some clarity on how you're being charged and what you're being charged for, particularly if it doesn't seem to jibe with your initial agreement. Any responsible homeowner has a right to know where his/her money is going. And responsible professionals should be more than willing to explain their charges.
The challenge for the reader in California is that she paid her cleaning crew $60 on at least two occasions, even though she believed she only received half the amount of cleaning time committed to her. When that concern first arose was when she should have broached the subject. At that point, the clean crew could have made clear whether the $30 was a per hour charge, or a per person per hour charge. Since this remains unclear, the issue should be raised.
Handing the cleaners a check for an amount the reader felt was too high simply because she'd already written the check was no reason not to have raised her concern at the first visit. The issue certainly should have come up on the second visit, when she once again paid double what she thought appropriate.
As difficult a conversation as it might seem, the right thing for the reader to do is to come clean with her cleaners and let them know that she believes their charge is not what she agreed to initially.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin