We got screwed on a job, the client refused to pay full price for a deep cleaning. If you’re a solo house cleaner and your customer backed out of the agreement, what do you do?
You want to avoid cleaning jobs that waste time and money, so how do you protect yourself from clients who don’t pay? How you can safeguard your cleaning business?
Listen: We Got Screwed on a Job – Now What?
Watch: We Got Screwed on a Job – Now What?
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.
We Got Screwed on a Job
We got screwed on a job, what do we do next? Today we have a guest that wrote into the show and it’s a very long message. So, I’d like to read it and then I want to go back, and I want to hit the highlights of it so that we can all learn from this. This is a sad story, and I think it’s important that we have this discussion.
One House Cleaner’s Experience
He says, “I need some advice. Sometimes I clean houses as a side job to provide for my family, but I don’t have a company. My brother’s a painter and he asked if I knew someone that could do a deep clean at a house. I said yes. I started to look around at how much cleaners charge for a deep clean on a house that size with pets and lots of kids. The man was very polite and seemed happy that I was even available, and he asked if I was bringing people with me.
I invited my sister and niece. Both of our parents have COVID and I’m currently laid off and I have three boys to provide for. He did not ask any questions. We got there at 11:00 and we were trying to get every corner of the house clean. He said he liked details and we did as much as possible. He told me he had family coming over that day. We wiped the windows, baseboards, and the stove. I got on a ladder he provided, and we cleaned the tops of all the cabinets. We worked so hard as a team so that we could get it done as soon as possible.
He asked me the price and I told him since it’s a deep clean on a huge home like that, with the three of us for the first-time cleaning, it will be $1,500. He looked surprised, but he agreed to pay us, and he wrote us a check. Later on, in our last room, the wife took a long time coming out of the shower. We waited then we tackled her room. When she came out, we started cleaning the bathroom, trying to go home because it was so late. She came out with a mad face and was yelling that she was not going to pay because it was too much money. And she demanded that I give her the check back.
She kept yelling at us and intimidating us. We didn’t take a break the entire time. We were there with no water, no nothing. I gave her her check back and I felt humiliated.
I even ripped it because she said she was going to block it or something like that. My entire body was trembling because I was so tired and mad at the same time. She told us to leave from the back door like we were some type of bad people. Then she offers to pay only $500 for the mansion cleaning. I said no. She made us feel hurt. We are honest people. And what we do is worth a lot and we were only charging what is fair. She insisted that it’s too much and we don’t get paid.“
This Story Breaks My Heart
So, this breaks my heart for a lot of reasons. I want to back up a couple of places and I want to go over a couple of things. First, at the very beginning, you said you are not a business owner, that you did this on the side.
Unfortunately, when you accept money for a job, it is a business. The government looks at it as a business that you’re running, even if it’s part-time, and they do expect that you’re going to pay taxes on it. So, you cannot work for free because you owe taxes, number one.
You Can’t Refuse the $500 Because You Had People With You
Number two, you invited a couple of people to come work with you. That means you hired them to do the job. So now you have to pay them as well.
And so, you don’t get to say, “Oh no, my pride gets in the way. I’m not going to take the $500,” because now you owe the IRS and you owe the two people that came and worked for you all day. You also owe yourself, and you have to reimburse yourself for all of the supplies.
So, whether we like to admit it or not, whether we think of it this way or not, you run a business part-time. And your business part-time is cleaning houses. So, it is a business and we need to treat it from here on out like a business.
You Can’t Do a Deep Clean on Last Minute Notice
One of the things that caught my attention, in the beginning, is you said when you talked to the man, he was excited that you were available at all. The reason he’s excited is that you cannot get a house cleaner to do a deep clean on last-minute notice.
And so, you should have charged more money for the inconvenience that it causes you. So that we have that squared away. One of the questions that you could have asked him, and you said right up here that he did not ask any questions.
So, this is the chance where you jump in and you ask your questions.
You Have to Take the Guesswork Out
There’s one question that I ask on every single job, and it seems kind of like guesswork, but I don’t like guesswork. I like to know exactly who’s paying me for the job. My question is this, are you the person that’s hiring me and handles paying me for this job? And I love to ask that on every walk through.
And if the person says no for any reason, then I stop. I stop talking and I say, “Is that person available? That’s the person I need to be speaking with right now.” And if the person that is hiring me is not available, we’re done with the job.
The reason that I ask that is this. There are a lot of situations where someone will hire you and you will get over to the house and you will do the work and you think you have an agreement, then when it comes time to pay, somebody busts out of the bathroom and they’re all mad and they’re yelling and they’re like, “Oh no, we’re not going to pay that much money.” That happens all the time.
If The Man Hired You, He is in Charge
However, it sounds like the woman hired you, not the man. If the man hired you and he wrote you the check, then it doesn’t matter what the woman does, whether she’s yelling or screaming. It is not hers to come in and take the check away.
Somebody came to my house the other day. They did some work for us outside. When it came time to write the check and I was going to be the one writing the check, but my husband had hired him. The price changed. And he said, “Oh, you owe me more money.”
And I said, “I don’t owe you any money at all. Your agreement was with my husband and I will pay you whatever the two of you agreed on.” But if you’re changing your price at the last minute, because the price was not the same price my husband told me. So, if your price changes, you need to get on the phone and call my husband, make sure that you’re both in agreement before I write you a check. I’m happy to pay whatever it is, but you both need to be in agreement, not you and me. The deal is not with me. You made the deal with my husband. “
Then he comes back a minute later, “Oh, okay.” And there’s a new agreement. But at least it’s clear. There are no surprises. I’m not going to step down or step up from a deal that my husband created.
You Need to Know Who is Your Boss on Each Job
So, who is paying me for this job? Who is my boss for this job? The reason to ask this question, and it’s an important question to ask, is, if somebody comes in midway through the job and they start changing the rules, you go back to the person that said they were the person hiring you. No surprises. That person hired me. That person is my boss. If you have questions, please take it up with my boss.
You Need to Take Some Breaks During a Job
Next, you said you did not take a break the entire time. So lots of weird things happen when you work for 10 or 12 hours and you don’t take a break. If you’re not eating and you’re not hydrated, you’re not going to be able to continue on at the pace that you were expecting to do in order to do a good job.
Also, there are labor laws that require you to give your employees breaks. And they have to be able to eat and drink water while they’re working to stay hydrated and get to keep their energy up.
You Can’t Always Please the Customer
You were trying to please the customer; you were trying to race through the project so that they had company coming over and you were trying to get it done before then. All of which is completely understandable.
But if you are a business, and you are because you accepted money for the job, you need breaks every so often. And it’s going to depend on the state that you live in and what the breaks are, whether it’s part-time or full time or over four hours. So, you have to look that up and make sure that you follow those rules.
Tell the Man That Hired You What Happened
The last thing to bring up is you said you refused to accept the $500. Now, it sounds like $500 is all you’re going to get for the job. So, I would recommend that you go back to the man that hired you, tell him what you experienced. Tell him that you expected to be paid the full $1,500.
Let him know that you have supplies, you have a team of people, and taxes that you have to pay.
There are a Lot of Expenses in Running a Part-Time Business
Now, moving forward, with a part-time business, you still have travel expenses. And so, with travel expenses, you have wear and tear on your car, gasoline expenses, and you have your commute time. There’s a bunch of other factors in running a small business, even if it’s only part-time.
So stop for a second and learn from this particular experience because you’re doing this on the side and you’re doing it to pick up some money to provide for your family. So, in the end, you can’t walk away and say, “Well, I’m not going to make any money at all because of my pride.”
There are a Lot of Mean People in House Cleaning
In this business, there are a lot of rude people and they will hurt your feelings for whatever reason. It’s not personal. It’s not about you. The fact that they had you go out the back door, is rude.
It’s possible that the company was arriving from the front door and they wanted to make it look like they lived in a perfectly clean home and that they didn’t hire somebody to clean it today. It could have been something as simple as that. There could have been other reasons.
The full scope of the situation is unclear. But its terrible this happened to you and hopefully it won’t ever happen to you again or anybody else.
The Questions You Ask Before the Job are Important
And so, the questions that you ask leading up to the job, even if it’s onsite during the walk through, there are lots of questions you can ask. “When do I get paid, how much do I get paid? Satisfaction guarantee.”
You want to cover those things upfront. And so even if this is only a part-time job, you want to make sure that the rules of engagement for this job are crystal clear.
And that way it avoids a lot of confusion and weird spouses who maybe she didn’t eat in 12 hours and maybe her attitude was different because she was racing around trying to get ready for a party that night. Who knows!
Permissions To Share
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