I've worked as a housecleaner to supplement my income for over a decade in Manhattan.
Over the years I've experienced everything from a celebrity trying to pay me with a bounced check to a woman giving me a microwave that she said she no longer needed only to call me a week later and ask for me to bring it back to her. Which I did -- even though it took me an hour to get to her by bus.
When I arrive, I do so with a smile and cleaning supplies, expecting to put in a hard day's work. What I get is often hours of psychological games where clients will do everything they can just to try to save themselves $10 or $20. Sorry, but buying me a cup of coffee does not mean you get an extra two hours of work for free. If I could, I would not work as a housecleaner. But I need to, and I only wish people would treat me with the same dignity they would hope to be treated with if they were in my position.
People spend thousands of dollars on clothes and possessions I see in their homes, but when push comes to shove explain that they tell me they cannot afford to pay me $80. But I am there with a smile and an understanding word. "I understand," I say. When really I am just sad. I'm sad that people think they can treat other people this way.
In that time I have experienced the variety of clients who think that they can manipulate and humiliate you. They use certain words to try to get you to do what they want because they think you are not smart enough to understand what they are saying. These are the things people do to you to try to save a few bucks at the cost of your dignity.
Don't get me wrong: I am grateful for every single client. But there are certain clients who give every other client a bad name.
Here are my Top 6 ways not do be a dick to your housecleaner.
1. There are some things you should have better respect for yourself -- and the maid -- by taking care of ahead of time.
I do not need to see your bodily fluids: mucous, menstrual blood, saliva, urine, feces. Why would you leave your underwear everywhere for me to deal with? Or used tampons on the floor? If you are on your period, please do not ask me to Shout it out for you. Consider that I am a human being here to clean your house -- not a doctor there to perform a medical exam.
2. I do not work for you full time. I understand that you want me to come over when you want me to come over, but I actually have my own personal life and other clients.
Sure, sometimes I can come over at a moment's notice, but most housecleaners are juggling very complicated schedules. If you want me to be available at any time, then hire me full-time.
3. Last-minute cancellation is not, I repeat, not ever OK.
I'm very glad to hear that you are suddenly going on vacation, but there are others like me who do not have a vacation in sight. One of the reasons? People like you who are costing me my livelihood by canceling at the very last minute.
4. If ironing takes you a long time, why do you suddenly think it will take me any less?
Here's a common scenario. I am shown a pile of laundry and told that this should "not take me a long time." Running a washing machine and dryer and ironing piles of clothes takes me the same amount of time as it takes you: hours. I have had clients tell me: "Oh and if you can do this laundry, too" as an afterthought after I have quoted them an initial price. And then they get angry when I adjust the time and quote.
There is no magical ironing fairy that suddenly makes the job easier when I do it. This needs to be considered in the cost estimate. Just because you think that your time is more important than mine, does not mean that it takes me any less time.
5. Your organic products do not work.
What I have noticed is that for some individuals there is this obsession when it comes to the word "organic."
"You have to use Simple Green," I had one woman tell me. And then, after I use it because that's all she would let me use, she gets upset at me when the place is not as clean as she would like it.
When it comes to food, buy whatever organic veggies you want. When it comes to cleaning products, organic doesn't do anything.
6. If your place is a disorganized, no matter how many hours I spend, it is still going to be disorganized.
Please do not call me later and ask me where something is. If you don't know where it is to begin with, I can't suddenly come up with an organizing system that you don't have. I've even had clients call me and ask me if I had stolen some item of theirs, and when I ask them where it was originally, they have no idea. Of course, I have to apologize and say, "I'm sorry." Why? I need the work.
7. You can have a good cleaning job or a cheap cleaning job, but rarely both.
If you want to pay me cheaply, you are not going to get the same results as you would with a longer job. One is a deep clean, one is a quick clean. Stop expecting both.
8. I don't want to hear the story of how you are down on your luck. Guess what? So am I.
Do you really think that this is my dream job? I am working extra hours as a housecleaner to pay for rent and food. I do not need to hear the story about how this has been a rough year for you financially. If you can afford to hire a housecleaner, then you are not doing all that bad. Please stop trying to use your sad sack story as a negotiating tool. Oh -- and I did see that $900 pair of shoes in your closet which tells me everything I need to know. It's your money so you can buy whatever you want, but don't try to talk down a person because she wants to be paid what she is worth.
9. If you want to join me in cleaning, then do it. But don't follow me around and correct every little thing that I do.
It's one or the other. You can hire some woman in a French maid costume if the power trip is what you are after, but you have hired me to do a job. If I am ruining something of yours, then of course, correct me. But I don't ruin things. I am a very careful professional which is the case for the majority of housecleaners. Coming over to me and telling me to scrub even harder is not constructive advice. It's just annoying and rude. If you want, then get down next to me -- and scrub.