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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It Takes All Kinds of Nuts to Make That Box of Chocolates

David tells a story of a stop at a carwash a few days before opening our company. He pulled up behind a fine automobile and observed the owner, in hospital scrubs, exit the driver's side. This man set out in full cry the instant his feet hit the ground. He repeated the same thing to every carwash staffer he saw, from the pretreaters to the cashier. "I want a good job this time. The last time I was in here it was a really bad job. I'm going to inspect it this time before I leave and if it's not right . . . ." At 100 decibels. Never mind whether any of the employees here, now, had ever touched his car before, this man was a dissatisfied customer and he wanted good service today.

The man was so obnoxious and loud that other customers were exchanging glances, women distancing themselves from him. David hoped he would make eye contact, so an appropriate comment could be delivered to the idiot. David is good with a quip and when his remarks hit a nerve, he is good at holding his own. Finally the man's number was called. His fine automobile was ready to go. He stomped out to take possession of the car, shouting "I want a good job this time. The last time I was in here it was a really bad job. I'm going to inspect it this time before I leave and if it's not right . . . ."

David is a deeply reflective individual and he knew he had just witnessed something profound. Stroking his chin, he thought, "I've spent a lot of money to open a small business with the best work tools I can afford. And that's exactly who my customers will be - the general public." Thankfully he went forward to open the doors anyway!

We see everything. The best people imaginable. The worst people possible. We see kindness and pettiness, appreciation and disdain. People try to work us against each other: "The girl in the office said . . . " We've become such a tight team that home dudes say, "No, ma'm. I know what that girl in the office says. Each time, every time." The technicians are sometimes asked for the "homie hook up" (premium cleaning, rock bottom prices). They hold their ground - we price fairly for the good services we deliver. They are sometimes offered personal services in exchange for carpet cleaning services. None of them is that stupid.

When David hired me, I was not allowed on the phones until I'd listened and absorbed for at least a month. It needs to be said that I was in my 50s and a nice, pleasant person. I'd likely never gone off on a stranger for any reason in my life. There was some fear I might bleed to death, but finally I was allowed to take the phone calls. I can say in literal truth it took 6 months for me to change a lifetime of behavior. I, too, have experienced the loveliest and ugliest exchanges in the name of work. Our business was doing very well when David said, "You don't have to take that kind of nonsense. I'd have hung up 10 minutes ago using foul language." I learned to go off and I have done so. I'm pretty tough. It was a good life lesson to learn at an advanced age.

We live in a place where maybe 35% of the work force relies on tips to make their income really livable. And everyone who lives here knows that. This is a tipping kind of town. Carpet technicians are deeply appreciative of gratuities and each of my guys does the kind of job that deserves a tip for good service. I often hear on the radio, "Hey, Limes, I got a really generous tip. We're going to have a sit-down lunch on Van #3." "Good, you guys!" Other times I hear a bitter, "This customer drained me dry trying to get something for nothing, pulled out a wad of $100 bills to pay, and didn't offer a bottle of water in 115-degrees and no air conditioning. It's a cruel world, Limes." "I'm sorry, home dudes. Find a convenience store."

Sometimes the form of the tip causes a little consternation. Cold hard cash is best, preferably in easily shared denominations ~ say two $10 bills. Including gratuity on the customer's check or credit card is second best. They know they will be appropriately credited by me on the next pay check. Sometimes "things" are given as a tip. New homie Mario came in last week with a boxed set of unused margarita glasses.OK. That's good. One of Cesar's customers thinks so much of him that while he cleaned her carpet, she made a huge home-cooked breakfast, then sat down with him while he ate it. Lovely! One man asked if the technicians would get their tip if he included it in his check for payment. "Yes, sir. We always do." The man proceeded, however, to write a check for payment and then two separate checks made out to "Cash" for the tips. Home dudes didn't know what to do to get their money, so I explained how it was done. Those checks cleared the bank on the third attempt to cash them. Yesterday's offering was a conversation starter. Cesar and Troy are calm, warm hard workers with lots of skill. They had knocked out a huge job for a very nice couple. We're going back there soon to do some more work for these good people. As they were about to leave, the man said, "Wait, I have something for you. It's not a tip, but it's something valuable." Hmmmm. OK. Business card directing them to a website where they will find spiritual salvation. They were still talking about that this morning.

In my ears right now: Justin on the radio a few moments ago. He walked into a home and immediately began to get attitude from the husband. Times are lean right now. Justin knows how to save a job, although he doesn't like to be a whipping boy. After the husband lit into him for reasons unknown, the wife jumped him about the woman in the office who gave her attitude yesterday. "What kind of company are you, anyway?" When Justin radioed in the numbers and told me about that little exchange, I got a little hot under the collar. "Home dude, she booked the job online. I've never spoken to the woman." "Yikes, Limes, you're right!" And have I mentioned that we see it all?

Something that charmed me: Home dudes chewing on the delivery of salvation through a website 24 hours after receiving that hot tip.


  1. Just send $10 to the Church of the Bleeding Heart of Jesus, located somewhere in Los Angeles, California,and next week they'll say your prayer on the radio!

  2. Home dudes will be so glad to be informed of that, they'll run 20 red lights in his honor.

    Thank you Jesus, thank you Lawrd.

  3. Do you think that argument will hold up in court?

  4. Well, one should never over-promise a client, but I've had a lot of experience showing my stuff in hearings. I get high marks for earnest, sincere and passionate. Maybe I could convince the judge she could have HER prayer said on the radio and she'd be so glad to be informed of that, SHE'D run 20 . . . never mind. No. It probably won't hold up in court. Unless I could somehow play the Ranger Presley card.