Elderly People Who Misplace Belongings - Cleaning Talk - Professional Cleaning and Restoration Forum
 
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post #1 of Old 11-27-2008, 09:26 PM Thread Starter
 
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Elderly People Who Misplace Belongings

I genuinely need advice on this problem.

Please be advised that I am an extremely professional, properly state and city licensed, bonded and insured house cleaner. That having been said, I have an elderly couple (late 80s) for whom I do a bi-weekly/twice monthly complete residential cleaning. I go out of my way to do a lot of extra tasks for them (without charge) and I ought to tell you that we have acquaintances in common.

The problem comes in when these people misplace things (everything from the wife's purse to keys to a letter opener, etc., etc., etc.). I end up receiving a phone call at home asking me if I have seen something. (Note: I NEVER move or throw out anything. When I clean, I pick items up and clean beneath them and then place them back where they were -- without exception.) I try to recall if I remember having seen whatever they are asking for and have finally come to realize that I don't even have to bother returning their calls because I will invariably receive a message on my answering machine in an hour or so, telling me that they found whatever it was they were searching for.

One of the mutual acquaintances we have in common recently told me that the elderly woman half of this couple claimed to have had some pearls stolen some time ago -- originally accusing their former house cleaner and then blaming it on a nephew. When I heard this, I became a bit concerned and the last time I cleaned for this couple, asked the woman if she had, in fact, had been robbed of some pearls and if she had dismissed her last cleaning person because of this. She immediately became extremely embarassed and confessed that she thought it was a relative and that the missing pearls had eventually been found. (Surprise, surprise.)

I have a clean record and the very, very LAST thing I want in my relatively new business (I only started my self-employed business [no employees] 6 months ago) is to have to contend with this sort of potential problematic client who has a propensity for accusing others of dishonesty. The difficulty is that I also clean once per week for her neighbors across the street (they are acquainted with one another). This other weekly account is very valuable to me and I genuinely like the people.

How do I extricate myself from working for these elderly people whom I have no doubt whatsoever are going to be trouble before too very much longer while still retaining my account across the street from them? This is of particular concern at the moment because these elderly people have evidently had a lot of family members in their home for the Thanksgiving holidays and if any of these relatives actually are light-fingered, I don't even want to go over there to work the Monday following Thanksgiving. I know exactly who will get blamed should anything turn up missing following the visit from these numerous relatives.

Help, Please!
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post #2 of Old 11-29-2008, 01:32 AM
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Welcome KleanKat

I have empathy for your problem - in my 22+ years of cleaning I too have had many many elderly clients who put something in a "safe" place only to not remember where they put in and called me to see if I had run across it in my cleaning.

I know that this seems un-nerving to you, and while I could tell you that I doubt that they will accuse you of stealing something I cannot guarantee it so I recommend that you do what feels right for you in terms of keeping or dropping them. In terms of keeping the other client(s) I suggest honesty as the best policy if explainations are even required.
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post #3 of Old 11-30-2008, 05:30 PM Thread Starter
 
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Thank you so much for the welcome and the sage advice, t.peterson.

I worked for quite some time for a large chain-operation cleaning firm prior to starting my own business and one of the primary rationales for going into business for myself was the reprehensible care that I witnessed with respect to the treatment of their elderly customers.

The husband of this particular couple had a stroke some years ago (from which he has recovered to a remarkable extent) and still has difficulty at times holding on to glasses, etc. Hence, I go to great lengths to make certain that all glass shards are found and cleaned up (they also have pets whom I would hate to see injured) and that they are in clean, safe surroundings to the greatest extent possible.

In good conscience, unless and until I am actually wrongfully accused of something, perhaps I will refrain from anticipating trouble and continue to make certain that these people are properly cared for.

My greatest concern is that my business insurance is so very costly (I know I don't have to tell you) that I really, really don't want a problem that might ultimately result in raised rates. Oh well, I'll simply continue to do my best and see what happens.

Again, I genuinely appreciate your input.
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post #4 of Old 12-01-2008, 10:24 AM
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Keep in mind, my brain is only working on less than one cup of coffee this morning...but I have a small suggestion.

See if you can sit down over a cup of tea or coffee for a chit-chat with the clients. Go over some of your concerns with this approach:

Tell them why you went into business for yourself, making sure to discuss why you left the franchises behind. Explain what measures you have in place (ie insurance, licensing, etc.) and how much your professionalism means to you. Explain what "extras" are available to them, such as your concern about the broken glass and making sure items are placed exactly where you found them.

Then wrap it up by saying just what you've already said here...let them know that while you take extra precautions to leave no stone unturned, you are concerned that the appearance of missing items after your visits can be costly in the long run...and leave you with a bad reputation if not handled correctly, whether implied or not. Let them know that you'll keep their items secure if they promise to take measures to look for them before becoming alarmed or assuming they have "disappeared". Cite some examples of items previously missing that later turned up in their home.

Compliment them as much as possible and let them know they are welcome to bring any concerns to your attention, but "let's work together on this issue".

Torrey Shannon
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The only 501c3 nonprofit in the cleaning industry that improves the lives of heroes, one household at a time!
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post #5 of Old 03-14-2015, 07:20 AM
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A quick note here, it is not only elderly people who forget where to put things. My experience shows it can happen to anyone...
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