I have muscular dystrophy, which means my muscles are dying. It’s a daily struggle to perform common tasks like holding a spoon (because I drop it) or standing for lengths of time (because I fall down) or even projecting my voice (I used to be a teacher). After I was declared totally disabled, I stopped teaching and shifted my free time to volunteering for various charities. I make pillow cases for the infirm, I prepare teddy bears for clergy to take to patients in hospice, and help community organizations file their legal paperwork to become recognized as non-profit corporations. One task that is impossible for me to do is keep up the outside of my home. It is a two-story replica of a Georgian Manor (a popular architectural style immediately prior to the Victorian era). I live on a river, ten houses from a lake, and we get all kinds of bugs that thrive in this environment. My former home never required exterior cleaning, but this Downriver home requires constant attention, mostly from moss accumulating on the northern exposures and endless spider webs spun into every niche.
Getting the exterior cleaned is a major proposition, and I knew it was a task almost nobody could properly do. I called a power wash manufacturer asking for the best company in the local area to perform exterior cleaning. The company came out and talked about the amazing work they could do for me. They bring trucks with giant containers of detergent water, and an whole crew of workers to make your home shine like the Taj Mahal. The problem is, I don’t have the budget to pay for cleaning the Taj Mahal. We are talking $2600 after a senior discount. The price just felt way too high, so I put the company’s written quote on the Mensa Facebook page and asked people what they thought of the price. I was flooded with responses saying the price was outright crazy. Mensans said a perfectly satisfactory job could be done for two thousand dollars less.
So I posted the work list without the price on a different Facebook page asking for quotes from power washers. Nobody knew how much the Taj Mahal company was charging. I received a myriad of messages from people telling me to inquire with a third party. I answered those posts with the reply that I am not willing to go on wild goose chases. I was not asking for recommendations. I know from past experience, people recommend their relatives, regardless whether the relative can do the job, regardless whether the relative has any skills. They just know the relative needs money.
My home requires a lot of aerial work. Climbing 30 feet to power wash trim and gutters, holding a sprayer for eight hours, and having the agility to swing back and forth at dangerous heights rules out all amateurs. I got messages from incredibly naïve people telling me their son could do the work. I don’t want a high school kid breaking his neck on my property and suing me for his incompetence. It was extremely frustrating wading through the unqualified people claiming they could do the job.
Several of the professional companies who answered my ad were idiots. They claimed they wanted the job but were no-shows and no-calls on the day they were supposed to come and look at the property and give me their price. One roofer showed up and asked me “So, what kind of work do you want me to do?” This was after he read my Facebook post and knew exactly every task that was required. He even showed up without the list I posted. He told me he wanted $1900 but wouldn’t put anything in writing. He said if he put something in writing then I could use it as a way for others to underbid him. That made no sense, since I provided a detailed task list of everything that was expected. He wanted a “gentleman’s handshake” instead of a price in writing delineating every item he was proposing to clean. He didn’t even have a business card. That was a giant red flag. When he told me he was a roofer, that set off a second red flag. I know from experience with Richard’s Roofing, that cleaning up is not a priority for roofers. I still have stuff on my roof from a year ago that they left behind and still won’t clean up. I’m not hiring a roofer to be a cleaner.
Then there were the people who refused to look at the property and told me they were charging $300 for the job. When people are that cheap, you know they are hacks without insurance looking to make a quick buck to buy crack. Those are the last people I want around my house. Based on my experience with companies who do fall leaf clean up, and feedback from the Mensa group, I calculated $600 was the correct ball park figure for this job, but I didn’t want anyone on my property who lacked insurance.
Several people claimed they had insurance, but when I asked for proof, those people disappeared. They were liars. They weren’t insured. Facebook always draws liars, con artists, and scallywags who do more harm than good when it comes to home service. I know two people whose homes caught on fire after trusting scallywags to do electrical work.
Then the right man showed up at my door. He had a clipboard. He had my list of required tasks. He registered his own LLC as a cleaning company, not as a roofer. He has insurance. He has 20 years’ experience doing aerial work. But would he be in my price range?
I did my homework to see if his claims checked out. Sure enough, I saw pictures of him dangling on a wire from the top of the Penobscot Building cleaning windows in the dead of winter. This is a man who can control a power washer from a dangerous position.
Dan Kaiser also had a business card, which legitimized him as a professional in the exterior cleaning business. If it had said roofer or sheeny man or exotic dancer, I would have smiled and sent him on his way. I asked him to give me his quote in writing, detailing the services he would provide. Dan Kaiser did what he said he would do, unlike most people from Facebook who are full of hot air. He calls his business Rise and Shine Window Cleaning LLC. I always prefer workers who have LLC as opposed to Inc because it indicates this is a closely held corporation, where income flows through to his personal income tax, as opposed to being a stand-alone corporation, where nobody really owns the company or takes responsibility for the jobs performed by the corporation. This assured me he was actually going to do the job himself, rather than farming out the work to incompetent workers.
I like Mom and Pop businesses. I saw a re-post on his Facebook timeline, part of which reads “Remember, when you support a small business, you are helping families feed their kids and pay their mortgage, not adding a few more zeroes to a celebrity’s bank account.” I agree with him 100 percent. I am a strong believer in keeping money in the local economy. These people should always get our business first, not the billionaires who exploit the working class for immoral profit.
His Facebook page shows he has an infant and a toddler. I knew this is the kind of person I want my hard-earned money to go to. Instead of lying on the sofa on a Saturday watching sports, he’s out working a second job to provide for his family. I place a high value on that ethic, and if there’s anybody I really can’t stand, it’s a dead beat dad. I have utmost disgust for men who won’t support their families.
It was a bonus when Dan showed up for the job and brought his brother Scott. It was a relief, because “helpers” rarely care about a business – they have nothing to lose. But when the owner is your brother, you care about his reputation and you do quality work. Together, Dan and Scott performed professionally, courteously and conscientiously cleaning the exterior of my home. As a bonus, Dan cleaned my interior windows too – I wasn’t expecting him to go beyond the call of duty and do that for me.
As a disabled man with muscular dystrophy, I can’t climb ladders or hold spray guns or climb up on top of roofs to pull weeds from the gutters. I do try very hard, though, to show compassion and concern for hospice patients and those confronted with life-altering circumstances, such as losing their home to a fire or suffering the death of a spouse or child. I believe in karma, and I try my best to treat people right. What goes around comes around. I appreciate those men like Scott and Dan Kaiser who went out of their way to help me tackle the monumental task of cleaning the exterior of my home without taking advantage of the disabled.