Ask a House Cleaner, Covert Contracts, Savvy Cleaner

Covert Contracts When House Cleaning

Covert contracts when house cleaning can waste a lot of time. Today on Ask a House Cleaner we look at covert contracts instead of communication. What happens when you have no idea what the customer wants and you second guess their intentions? 

Angela Brown, The House Cleaning Guru on covert contracts: “You don’t read minds. So, if something is not apparent, why would you make assumptions?” Don’t assume you know the hidden meanings you might guess wrong. 

As a maid service reading your customers mind is beyond your pay grade. 

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Hey 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, and I get to help you find an answer.

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Question: Covert Contracts When House Cleaning


Today’s question comes from a house cleaner who arrived at a customer’s home to find a red wine stain on a white carpet in the living room. Next to the stain was a bottle of cleaning chemical that you put inside a steamer that you rent from a grocery store. 

This house cleaner has five issues to her question.

Her Issues With The Way The Covert Contract Was Set UpCovert Contracts spilled wine

  1. First, what was she supposed to do? She did not have one of those machines you rent from the grocery store.
  2. Second, the customer never expressed to her that she wanted her to get rid of the red wine stain.
  3. Third, the customer has fired lots of her house cleaners in the past for not meeting her expectations.
  4. Fourth, this is not part of her routine cleaning, and she did not give this woman a price for removing wine stains.
  5. Five, she doesn’t even know how to remove a red wine stain from a white carpet.

Her question: “What on Earth am I supposed to do?”

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Answer: Covert Contracts – Don’t Assume, Stop! 


All right, this is a great question. The answer is, you already did what you should have done, you stopped.

It would have been easy for you to assume that the customer wanted you to remove the stain using what they had left. That’s what we all would assume, right? 

Covert Contracts cleaning wine stainWhat Could Have Happened Here? 

This is a covert contract, and we will talk about those in a minute.

We don’t know for sure, but this is what could have happened.  

The customer could have spilled red wine and gotten a stain on her carpet. She then could have asked her husband, “Hey, do you know of any solutions that would remove a red wine stain?”

He might have gone to the grocery store and found this solution. The next morning, he might have been getting ready to go to work, and he sees it in his car. “Oh yes, I’ll just run it inside, so my wife knows that I picked this up.” He runs it inside and leaves it by the stain, so his wife sees it. 

Another Possibility

Okay, that could have happened. Another possibility is that the woman already tried to remove the stain. Upon realizing that she did not know how to remove it, she called a professional carpet cleaner.

The guy might have said, “No worries, we will come over tomorrow after your house cleaner leaves. Leave the bottle of whatever you used, that didn’t work near the stain.” So your customer leaves the bottle for the carpet guy who is coming later.

Covert Contracts Make You Crazy! Covert Contracts secret message

See? We already don’t know at all what’s going on. The covert contract is this: We walk into a situation, see something, and make an assumption.

Then we assume that the customer is leaving us a hidden, or covert message to clean the carpet. We are thinking, “Well, if I don’t remove the stain from her carpet, she will fire me.” Okay? That’s a covert contract.

Don’t, I repeat, don’t get involved in covert contracts. Don’t do it in your business, don’t do it in your personal life. Because it will make you so crazy. When you walk into a scenario, and you think you know what’s going on, and you don’t.

Covert Contracts girl doing dishesTeenagers and Covert Contracts

Teenagers are excellent at covert contracts. We know they do not communicate well because they do not have a lot of life skills. So, for example, your teenage daughter starts washing the dishes one evening. As a parent you think, “Oh wow, look, we’ve turned a corner, my daughter is here helping out.”

That’s not what it means at all. The daughter is thinking, “If I wash these dishes, then Mom will let me go to an unchaperoned party Friday night.” 

What? How did washing dishes get connected with an unchaperoned party on Friday night? Where is the correlation?

Covert Contracts Will Come Back to Bite You

Friday night rolls around and your daughter says,“Hey, I’m going to this party.” You respond, “Oh no you’re not.”

“Oh yes, I am! I washed the dishes the other night!”

What the heck? You see, the covert contract makes you crazy! One person does something expecting a result. You can’t give them the result of you have no idea what the contract is, right? 

Covert Contracts in DatingCovert Contracts explaining

Okay, let’s change the story again just a little bit. There was a window of time in my life where I was single. For whatever reason, I look like the kind of girl that guys want to write poems for!

I don’t know why, but I got a lot of poems. There is nothing more uncomfortable than a guy showing up, handing you a piece of scribble and you can read it. He is expecting you to read it and show some reaction.

So, the easiest thing to do is say, “No, you read it to me.”

It Gets Worse

Then he reads it to you, and that’s even more awkward because now he’s performing it, and with emotions.

And usually, these are guys you don’t even know, like second, third date kind of guys, right? 

These aren’t sonnets by Shelley. These are guys that on their free time play Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. Now they’ve written you a poem, and you’re expected to respond.

Covert Contracts awkward gamingWhat Am I Supposed To Say?

How am I supposed to respond to that? What comes next? So, it gets to a point where you’re just, “No covert contracts, okay? I said no poems. Poems are a deal breaker. If I agree to a second date with you and you show up with a poem, I turn, and I walk out the door. I am not doing poems, okay?” I have to make this clear upfront. 

There are covert contracts with something expected at the other end. I have no idea what comes at the other end on a second date with a guy who writes me a poem.

I don’t even know this guy, let alone know how to read his innermost thoughts. And for the most part, I’ll be honest with you; they did not articulate their thoughts well.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen? Covert Contracts woman yelling at guy

Let’s return to the stain in your customer’s house. You are a fool if you try to remove it because you have no idea what will happen next.

If you try to remove it, you could make it bigger or make it worse. This customer could not only fire you, but she could also sue you for ruining her entire carpet.

If you leave the carpet as is, it is possible a carpet guy could cut out the piece of carpet and put another one in. If you make the stain worse by trying to remove it, you might be up for a lawsuit.

Or, you might have to tap into your insurance to replace the carpet all together. All this because you thought you knew what was going on.

What Do I Say to the Customer? 

Contact the customer and say, “Listen, I’m trying to read your mind here. There’s a red wine stain, that part’s obvious. Next, to the stain, there’s some cleaning solution, that part is not so obvious. The solution belongs in a machine I don’t have. 

We never discussed this, and I never gave you a price. I want to meet your standard of excellence, but I don’t know what that is right now. I don’t have any idea where this stain came from and I don’t know what your plans for this stain are. Could you please clarify?”

Covert Contracts ignoring each otherThrow the Ball in Their Court!

When you bring it right back to the customer, you are throwing the ball back in their court.

What you are saying is, “I’m not going to play this game. I’m not going to try to read your mind. I’m not going to try to second guess whatever it is that is going on in your head.”

The customer can’t fire you later on for not having that conversation. They can’t fire you for screwing up her floor because you didn’t touch it, okay?

But, if you try to fix this problem without clarifying, it harms you both. That’s how covert contracts work.

Just Say No to Covert Contracts! 

So, in your life, you will come across covert contracts. Like I said it could be in your personal life or your business life.

Employees are good at this too. If you don’t clarify exactly what’s going on, it harms you both. So just come right out and say, “Oh, you’ve mistaken me for the guy that reads minds. I don’t read minds. You’re going to have to use your words and tell me exactly what you mean. Oh, okay, I get it now.” You see?

  • No poems.
  • Or unchaperoned Friday night parties.
  • No wine stain remover.

Unless it is clear what you’re supposed to do, don’t do anything. 

Say goodbye to covert contracts, because like I said, they will make your life crazy. If you walk into a customer’s house and you see a wine stain, call the customer. 

Alrighty, so that’s it for today, and until we meet again, leave the world a cleaner place than when you found it.

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Resources For This Episode

How To Win Friends and Influence People –

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living –

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition –

Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change –

Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success –

Schedule Your Dream: 8 steps to maximizing your time and mobilizing your vision –

Mindset Makeover: Change Your Self-Sabotaging Thoughts, Tame Your Fears, And Learn From Your Mistakes – Focus On The Real Values Of Life –

Communication Skills Training: A Practical Guide to Improving Your Social Intelligence, Presentation, Persuasion and Public Speaking –

Social Intelligence: A Practical Guide to Social Intelligence: Communication Skills – Social Skills – Communication Theory – Emotional Intelligence –

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