House Cleaner Broke My Stuff @SavvyCleaner

House Cleaner broke my stuff! It’s never intentional, but how you handle breakage and damage at a client’s home is paramount to the success of your business. Some clients feel weird about asking their cleaning person to pay for damages – but you know they’re tweeting “My cleaning lady broke my things”. The House Cleaning Guru, Angela Brown weighs in on what to do when you break stuff while cleaning and proper protocol to resolve the issue. 

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Hi there, I’m Angela Brown, and this is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house cleaning question, I get to help you find an answer.

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Today’s Question: I Broke Something While House Cleaning

Today’s question comes from a house cleaner who was being very careful inside someone’s home. She picked something up, she dusted it, when she went to put it back, she put it back too hard. It cracked and it broke, and now she wants to know how she’s supposed to deal with that in replacing that with the customer.

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Answer: Everybody Breaks Stuff When they Clean Houses

So, it’s a great question because every house cleaner is going to smash something.  If you clean houses long enough, you are going to break, crack, chip or drop something.

Nobody plans on breaking things, and it’s not in anybody’s goal “Hey, I’m going to come to your house, and I’m going to shatter your stuff.” Nobody decides to do that. That’s just not good for the bottom line.

But it is going to happen. And you have to address it right up front.

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Broken Stuff WordTrack

Now for me, when I go to a customer’s house, I say these things: “Listen, I’m going to come to your house, I’m going to clean your house, I’m going to do an amazing job and I’m going to break your stuff.” And they’re like “What?”

“I don’t mean to ruin your stuff. I’m as careful as I know how to be. And it’s one of the reasons that I carry insurance. In the event that I break something, I will always tell you, and I will always replace it. But because of the nature of my job, I get to move hundreds of things in the course of a day. I pick stuff up, I duster under it, I wipe it. I put it back. But in that process, I break stuff.

And it’s not a lot of things, I break two or three things a year.  But when I do, I feel really terrible about it. It’s super embarrassing and I will let you know.

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Say This On Your Walkthrough

As we go through your house, will you point out anything to me that is already broken that might just be sitting there very gingerly that’s already broken so I don’t think I broke it?

And if there’s a mirror that is hanging on one nail, will you tell me, so that I can brace the mirror while I’m cleaning it, so that I don’t just think it’s secure on the wall. And then I go to clean it and it drops and shatters and it breaks. Because that would be unfortunate for everyone.”

So, I just ask the customer right up front, “Will you tell me if there’s something that is a family heirloom and it’s a hundred years old? No amount of money can replace that. Because I want to make sure that I give that particular item either extra special attention or I don’t touch it at all.”

And there are customers that have said “You know what? That is super important to me, don’t touch it at all.”

Okay, we’re agreeing right up front, I’m never going to dust this item. If it breaks it’s not me. I didn’t get close to it.

Take a Picture of The Thing You Broke Lady taking photo of something broke

It’s unfortunate when it happens, but since you will break something, take a picture of it. Take a picture of it so that you know that you broke it. And you can send the picture to the customer and say “Oh no, I just broke this lamp” or whatever.

But take a picture of it because you don’t want them coming back saying; “Well, that was a $5,000 lamp and you’re thinking to yourself “No, that was a $29 lamp from Pier 1 Imports.” So, take a picture of the lamp so that you can verify and look up online and find out about how much money that cost.

Because you don’t want to be the hook for a $5,000 light if, in fact, it is a $29 lamp. Does that make sense?

super glue mug that brokeCarry Super Glue in Your Cleaning Caddy

Next, if you have super glue, I always carry super glue with me. If I can fix it, I will fix it right there on the spot. It only takes a second to glue something back together. And if you can’t fix it, if you can’t glue it together, then don’t bother. 

Let’s say you superglue the lamp back together and put it back where it was, and the light still works and everything. That just softens the blow of the customer having to replace it immediately if they need a light in that space.

Now, of course, you’ll want to take a picture and send it to the customer with a note. “Oh my gosh, I broke your lamp. I feel so bad. I super glued it back together so it’s still there and it still works, however, I would like to pay for that lamp so that you can replace it and buy yourself a new one.”

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Tell The Customer You Broke Their Stuff

Now, even if you fix it you still have to tell the customer that you broke it.

Here’s why; If they’re sitting there and they are watching TV and they look over and they see that their lamp is broken, and it’s been glued back together and no one said anything about it. Guess what? There’s only been one other person in their house and that’s the house cleaner. They know you did it.

But because you didn’t tell them that you did it, now there’s this whole thing about trust that you’ve just shattered and crumbled. Instead of building more trust, you just ruined it by pretending you didn’t do it.

And you can make all kinds of excuses, and say “Well, I was so busy cleaning the house I forgot to mention it.” Ugh no, that’s huge.

When you break something at a customer’s house, stop what you’re doing. Go back to your worksheet. Now for me, I take the worksheet and I fold one corner over and I crease it. So now here’s the regular worksheet they are accustomed to seeing, but now a page of it is folded. On that, I write a personal note.

I write a hand-written apology. Because it’s in my writing and again it will catch their attention.

“Hey Sharon, I just wanted to let you know I broke the lamp. I know we discussed it and I feel so terrible about it, please, here’s some money, I would like to pay for it.” Or “Please let me know how much it costs”

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That’s Why You Carry Insurance

And if your insurance has to kick in – usually there’s a deductible if your insurance has to kick in. If it’s not really expensive and it’s under say $100 bucks, you’re probably better off just paying for it out of your own pocket.

  1. But the rule is to clarify up front with the customer, “I will break something.” That way there are no surprises when it happens.
  2. “Please, point out the fragile items in your house, so that I can take extra special care when I’m working or cleaning around those items.”
  3. “If I break something in your house, which I will, I will be embarrassed, and I will be sorry, but I will always let you know.”
  4.  “If you can fix it, go ahead and try to fix it.”
  5. Pay for it. Don’t just offer to pay for it, pay for it.

Either leave the check for that cleaning that day or say “here’s money” and pull money out of your pocket if you carry a bank with you. Leave money with them.

Replace The Busted Item

Replace with Money things you brokeIf for whatever reason, you know that particular item and you know where you can replace it, you may leave a note and say “Hey listen, I found this particular unit at Pier 1 Imports. I’m going to swing by there on my way home tonight and I will pick you up another lamp, and I will bring it back around 6:00 O’clock this evening.”

So, you can make an arrangement like that.

But whatever you do, make sure that you do replace it or pay for a replacement.

Because it’s going to get back. When this particular customer tells their friends about you, what is it that they’re saying? “Well, yeah, she’s not perfect, she broke something at my house, but you know what? She had a replacement to me later that evening.” Or “She paid for it the same day. So, she’s good for it. She’s not trying to rip me off and break stuff and be careless.”

Your Reputation Will Expose or Promote You

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Okay, so that’s it for today. If you found this tip helpful, please pass it along, share it with a house cleaner that you know. You probably know some house cleaners that could use these tips.

If you do, share it, pin it, post it, tweet it all those good things that you do on social media. And until I see you again, because I will see you again, because you will come back and visit, I hope. Leave the world a cleaner place than when you found it. 

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About @SavvyCleaner // Angela Brown

Angela Brown, The House Cleaning Guru // Founder of SAVVY CLEANER // Author of the book: How to Start Your Own House Cleaning Company