What should a house cleaner that breaks client’s stuff do? How do you move on if you break something while cleaning? As a cleaner, it’s always good to care about your client’s homes and things, but when accidents happen, you have to forgive yourself and move on.
Listen: House Cleaner Breaks Client’s Stuff
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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. You can find this and 400 other answered questions in this series on our YouTube channel.
What Do You Do If You Break Customer’s Stuff?
What do you do if you’re a house cleaner and you break the customer’s stuff? Oh, I hate this question. Every once in a while, there’s a house cleaner that gets clumsy and they break something. Here is a note from a house cleaner who did just that.
“I’m not quite sure how to get over to the trauma of my client’s desk falling apart, and her Lenox porcelain birds getting smashed. Did I mention they were given to her by her mother? I’ve taken responsibility for them, but at the moment, I can’t find a rock big enough to crawl under.
How does one recover from confidence from this? Is this the right question? I’ve looked at the situation and I’m doing what I need to do professionally. I’m finding it hard for myself to move on from this and recover the confidence that I worked so hard for.”
Don’t Ever Lose the Feeling of Breaking Something
I do not know what happened, but that sounds pretty dramatic. And I am so sorry for you. The first thing that I want to do is I want to just stop for a second. And I want to say, don’t ever lose this feeling. I know you want to crawl under a rock. I know you want this feeling to go away. But I don’t want you to ever lose this feeling, because what this tells me is that you care, you care about the property of your clients, and that’s important.
If you’re going to be a house cleaner and you’re going to be in someone’s house, I want you to care about their property. Something bad happened, I don’t know what the bad thing was, and I’m sorry that it happened, and I’m sorry that it happened to you.
I’m sorry that it happened to your customer, but I don’t ever want you to lose this awareness that “Oh, my goodness, I wish that didn’t happen.”
You Will Break Things as a Cleaner
When you are at a customer’s house, and this is going to happen to every house cleaner, they hire humans, not robots. At some point, you will break something. I don’t know why, but you will. Now, one of the things I like to do on a walkthrough with a customer, upfront, I like to tell them that I’m going to break things.
Tell them, “Hey, I’m human, and I break things from time to time. Will you do me the courtesy, as we walk through your house, if there is anything fragile or irreplaceable, will you point it out to me, so I can be super careful around it because I don’t want to replace that thing that cannot be replaced? Would you do me the courtesy?”
Customers Will Tell You About Fragile Objects if You Ask
And oftentimes, they’ll go, “Yes.” “Okay, great.” And when we get to a beautiful antique mirror, “Is it hung properly, or is it going to fall off? It’s just hanging by one nail.”
And oftentimes, the customer will say, “Oh, I’m so glad you brought that up. Yes, every time the wind blows it moves back and forth, and it’s just teetering on one small nail.”
Like, “Whoa. Okay, great. Now, as I go to clean it, I will brace it with one hand, and I will clean it with the other one, and I will gently back up. And as I walk past it, I will walk gingerly past it, so I don’t damage your property.” It’s important to know that up front.
Carry Super Glue With You at All Times
The second thing that’s important is that you carry super glue with you. Now, you can get five or six-packs of this. This is the gel super glue, not the sticky stuff that gets stuck on your fingers, and then on the customer’s furniture, but the gel. Keep this inside your apron at all times.
Now, in the event that you break something, I want you to grab the big pieces and glue them back together, if at all possible. These are one-time-use super glues. And like I say, you can get five or six of them at the Dollar Tree for a buck. And then you toss the rest of it. Don’t try to use it again and again, because it will dry out on you.
Try Your Best to Piece What You Break Back Together
But the good news is this. When you can piece it back together, and I say piece it back together because we don’t often have pictures of the item that we broke in advance of us breaking it. It’s not like, “Hey, I’m going to break that. Let me hurry and take a picture of it, and then I’ll have my picture.”
We don’t have that. We want to put a picture back together. And then here’s a secret. You can go to Google Images, right there on your smartphone. You can grab the picture you took, drag it into Google Images.
And if that same item exists anywhere, at any store, it will pop up, like, “Oh, hey, I live at Mayfair, or Amazon, or whatever, and you can buy a replacement immediately, and you can have it drop-shipped within the next 24 to 48 hours.”
Most Things We Break are Inexpensive
Oftentimes, the things that we break are inexpensive, 12, $15 items that can inexpensively be replaced. If you don’t know, and you’re guessing, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m sure that costs $75“. If you’re comping part of your cleaning, what you’re doing is you’re training the customer, “If I break something, then I will just comp the cleaning.”
And so then they can say, “Well, you broke this. You broke that. And you broke this,” or whatever, looking for discounts.
Why You Should Pay to Replace the Item
Okay, the reason that I want you to buy the replacement is for this reason. On your profit and loss statement, you’re going to have income coming in, you’re going to have expenses going out. One of your expenses going out is going to be items that you replace.
If you have a receipt for that item, it’s easier to track those expenses, whereas if you randomly deducted 75 bucks or 25 bucks or 50 bucks or whatever, that’s harder to track because we don’t know what it was for. We don’t know if they actually replaced the item. We don’t know if they got the new item in exchange or whatever.
But if you order them a replacement immediately, what you can do is take a picture of the broken item that you have, send the note, “Mrs. Jones, I’m heartbroken. I bumped into your thing and I broke it. Here it is, on top of your countertop. I’ve ordered a replacement for you. It should be here in the next 24 to 48 hours. I’m so embarrassed, please forgive,” and then don’t ever bring it up again. They’ve got the replacement. It’s on its way. You’re done.
If You Break an Irreplaceable Item
Now, if it is an irreplaceable item, it’s an heirloom or something, they should have told you upfront, or they should have put it in a locked closet, or they should have put it in a china hutch, or somewhere where it could be viewed and protected.
We cannot be expected, for all the hundreds and thousands of things that we lift up and clean and wipe down and dust underneath, we can’t be expected to not break something at some point.
The fact that you broke something, it sounds like a big deal, I don’t know what it was, but I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, but it’s going to happen. And I don’t want you to think any more of it.
You Have to Move on When You Break Something
Once you’ve thought about it and you feel sad and you’re heartbroken, I want you to move on with the rest of your life. Because this is not one of those moments in life that you cannot undo.
There are a few moments in life where you’re like, “Oh, I wish I could just turn back the hands of time, and I wouldn’t have done that foolish thing that changed the course for me for forever.” There are a few of those moments in life that you cannot undo. This is not one of those.
Take Responsibility, Apologize, and Move On
This is like, “I broke something, and I really hate that I did it.” Okay, you’re human, move on. And so that’s what I want us to think of when we break customer stuff. I do want you to take responsibility. I do want you to apologize.
And I do want you to replace the item. And it sounds like you’ve already done all of those things, so you are an amazing house cleaner. I love the fact that you care so much, and I want you to forgive yourself, and I want you to move on.
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Taking Responsibility for Your Life Participant’s Guide – https://amzn.to/3xowWHn
Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything – https://amzn.to/2S6Mu2o
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