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To think the customer is not always right.

(24 Posts)
wwwwd Sat 08-Nov-14 11:50:00

Have name changed.
I run a contract cleaning firm.
About 3 months ago was asked to do a quote for a large office. Told the client it would need 30 hours a week as it is on several floors and lot of employees there.
Client got back to me and said they will only pay for 12 hours and can I amend the quote. Told them the only way we could do 12 hours is in one shift at weekend when premises are empty as cleaning around people at their desks is difficult as you cannot reach the majority of the desks as people are busy working. Also if we were to split this over several sessions things like toilets would need doing each time.
They agreed to contract and a day before us starting said they wanted 3 lots of 4 hour shifts during the day when staff were in.
Told them we would not be able to do all the jobs and would supply them with a specification of what would be done on each shift as most jobs would have to be done rotationally.
Gave them specification, it was given to the MD and an amended one was sent back to me with 8 hours worth of jobs in each shift. I explained this would be impossible unless cleaner did a rush job on every task and no tasks would get done properly.
Took on member of staff and gave her the correct H&S training in safe use of equipment. Trained her for a week and then left her unsupervised. On her second shift unsupervised she phoned me as the client had given her a set of ladders and was requesting she carried out high level cleaning, despite having not done a risk assessment on this and she was not trained in the use of ladders. Told her not to do it and contacted client explaining if they wanted high level cleaning we would have to use our equipment and the additional training and risk assessment would be done at an additional cost.
On her third shift unsupervised they gave me one month's notice and so I asked for details of incoming contractor as cleaner's job is protected under TUPE regulations and by law must transfer to new firm or I could end up in a tribunal. As of yet they are refusing to give me these details as they do not want the cleaner. Allegedly she is rubbish but I inspected the site yesterday and I think she is doing a good job on the limited hours she has. Client now angry with me as he wants rid of cleaner. However he never complained to me, just cancelled contract meaning someone with few employment law rights now has the right to claim unfair dismissal, even with short service, as TUPE is prioritised over service time.
I am disappointed to be honest, especially for my employee who is really good at her job. Turned up to see her yesterday and she had even bought my ds a gift. She was in tears yesterday when I explained what was going on.

wowfudge Sat 08-Nov-14 14:59:24

The customer in this case sounds like a penny pinching arse. I take it they don't have an HR department or that HR is not aware of what has been going on?

I think you need a strongly worded solicitor's - did they sign a contract which covered TUPE legislation? In which case they can be held to their contractual obligations.

Also, it's something to learn from when quoting for other work.

Can you redeploy the cleaner?

wwwwd Sat 08-Nov-14 18:11:54

The TUPE thing will not be a risk for me as long as I write them an official letter demanding that they hand the details of the new firm over. If they fail to do this and the cleaner decides to litigate (which I would in her position) then the liability will rest firmly with them and not me.
They did not even take my original price, they battered me down until I told them go one penny lower and I am not doing the job.
The contract does not specify TUPE but it does not have to. TUPE is not an optional thing, it covers every contracting company in the country.
If they had complained to me first the cleaner would have been easy to dismiss with very little risk to me (not that I would have wanted to do this). By giving their month's notice they have turned this into a TUPE situation and sacking her now, unless she committed gross misconduct, would be unlawful.
I fully intend to speak to the MD about this. So far the only person I have dealt with directly is the company accountant.
The salutary lesson I will take from this is never ever deal with another customer who does not allow a reasonable number of hours work for the job that needs to be completed.

wwwwd Sat 08-Nov-14 18:19:25

Oh and I cannot redeploy her. She cannot afford a car and so travels to work on the bus. I have already given her addresses of other sites she could move to, but the hours are not suitable, or it is over an hour's bus journey and so she does not want to do it.

MsJupiter Sat 08-Nov-14 18:58:22

IME as a venue manager, lots of people have never heard of TUPE and/or have no understanding of it. Several times I've been in the position of my boss wanting me to change cleaning firms as they don't like the cleaner and just refusing to believe that's not how it works.

Definitely speak to someone else in the firm and send them a few links or information so they fully understand. But definitely, the customer is not always right and in this case clearly they wanted something for nothing and have taken the piss.

wwwwd Sat 08-Nov-14 19:03:39

The thing is I could probably salvage the contract if I promise to get rid of her, but there is no way I am prepared to do this. I would have no issues sacking her if she had dossed about and not done the job, but she has worked really hard. Felt awful turning up telling her, especially when she had a gift for my ds. She is a lovely lady and this is horrible for her.

MrsItsNoworNotatAll Sun 09-Nov-14 08:19:35

Ime some Cuntstomers are a total pain in the ass and want the moon on a stick!

BoomBoomsCousin Sun 09-Nov-14 10:15:55

If she's a good cleaner I suspect you couldn't really salvage the contract. They want more than they are prepared to pay for. They don't like her because she won't do work that isn't in the contract. If you got rid of her and brought in someone else they would have the same complaint about them unless that person was prepared to do things they shouldn't - which you don't really want.

pluCaChange Sun 09-Nov-14 11:20:15

It sounds crazy to say this as evidently you're obeying the kaw, but good for you!

Let's hope that, in that company's "race to the bottom", they all have ti wallow in crap for a bit, till they pay more for a cleaner!

maddening Sun 09-Nov-14 11:24:26

Would you want to keep that contract - they will be a constant nightmare - you are well rid.

quietbatperson Sun 09-Nov-14 12:33:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

wwwwd Sun 09-Nov-14 12:36:22

I would not want to keep the contract to be honest. They asked me to start with zero notice for the first 2 weeks so I cleaned it myself in that time as it gave me no time to recruit. They even pulled me in and spoke to me like dirt because something that was not even on the specification had not been done.
When I started my business I cleaned contracts personally to keep payroll down but now my company is too big for me to clean, I just manage and cover annual leave. I have one customer who states he "puts the bunting out" when I come to cover as I am very good at what I do and often put in 30 minutes unpaid overtime as I pride myself on my standards. I was gobsmacked when this accountant started criticising my work, it is years since anyone has ever criticised my cleaning. I do not tell him how to process accounts so he should not be telling me how to clean.
This is one of those damned if you do and damned if you don't situations. If I agreed to promise them the world, they would still end the contract as the jobs would not get done. I promised them what we could do in the time and that was that.
I would love to name and shame the customer here but doing so would be very unprofessional on my part.
I guess the salutatory lesson from this is be far more careful in choosing customers.

LovleyRitaMeterMaid Sun 09-Nov-14 12:40:55

This is familiar, have you posted about this before?

wwwwd Sun 09-Nov-14 12:44:50


Andrewofgg Sun 09-Nov-14 12:45:49

So long as the customer can go elsewhere - the customer is always right.

Tbh I think that that phrase is really meant in the context of retail.

wwwwd Sun 09-Nov-14 12:48:16

They did not even give me the month's notice they said management made a decision 2 weeks ago so you will finish in 2 weeks. I said don't think so it is one calendar month from me being informed.

quietbatperson Sun 09-Nov-14 12:54:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

wwwwd Sun 09-Nov-14 12:56:37

No that's the amazing thing. They are a massive company that was set up several decades ago by the MD's dad. MD's dad passed away last year and the business was passed to his son.

LaurieFairyCake Sun 09-Nov-14 13:00:26

I've just come on to say I think you're great and I really admire how hard you've worked for your employee.

Coolas Sun 09-Nov-14 13:00:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

wwwwd Sun 09-Nov-14 13:05:26

Thank you Laurie. I do not want to out myself on here but started my business to rehabilitate myself after a long illness that meant I had to spend several months in an intensive care facility. DH is unable to work as he is far more disabled than me and I just want to provide for him and ds. When I started I was far worse off than on incapacity benefit due to capital outlay but now we are doing well and money is coming in.

LaurieFairyCake Sun 09-Nov-14 13:06:05


HangingBasketCase Sun 09-Nov-14 13:07:26

YANBU! "the customer is always right" is the biggest load of bollocks ever.

quietbatperson Sun 09-Nov-14 16:33:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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