Saturday, August 2, 2008

The One About the Mer*ry Mai*ds

Ok, so here's the thing - someone had given me a gift card for Mer*ry Mai*ds (henceforth known as MM) two Christmases ago. After the summer craziness and a laid back attitude toward housework, I decided to redeem the gift card in the hopes of at least getting part of my house grime-free and ready for the start of school.

So I called the local chapter and explained what I wanted. I knew that MM was expensive, so I told the lady I wanted whatever cleaning my $100 could buy me, starting with kitchen and bathrooms. She said that I could make an appointment for a consultant to come out and give me a free estimate. I reminded her I just wanted to redeem a gift card. Nevertheless, it seems to be MM policy that their "consultant" come out first. Fine. So I made the appointment for a Thursday afternoon. Day 1 of my schedule being cleared or adjusted for MM.

Of course the kids and I spent Thursday morning frantically tidying up the entire house, so the house cleaning consultant (!) wouldn't think we were overly messy and round up our estimate. That done, I put a new tablecloth on in the kitchen and waited. The lady showed up an hour late, full of apologies. Fine. Let's move on. I gave her a tour of the house and she made a few very stoic remarks about what would be cleaned in each room. We returned to my newly-draped table to write up the estimate.

First she showed me what weekly and bi-weekly cleanings would cost, should I decide to become a regular client. The MM fee schedule is designed to punish their customers for not having them come more often. The less often they clean; the more you pay for a cleaning. The prices she quoted me for merely cleaning the main areas of my house, excluding all bedrooms, basement, and laundry room bordered on ridiculous. But that was never my intention anyway. Now about that gift card....

She did a lot of tapping on her Black*erry calculator (how hard can it be?) Then she gave me a total for getting my kitchen and three bathrooms cleaned, just once: $104. A strange figure, I thought - probably meant to make MM look more professional. No even, round numbers here, that's so amateur! My gift card was for $100, so she said I could just give the cleaners $4 cash when they come. Fine. We set up the appointment for the following Tuesday "afternoon." Meaning literally any time after noon. Day 2 of my schedule being cleared for MM.

So the day of the cleaning arrives and again we go through a ritual of tidying up. Funny how that is, huh? Cleaning for the cleaning ladies? I cleared the kitchen counter of all mail, broken crayons, Pol*y P*cket shoes, and Lego creations. I moved on to the master bath and was working on putting away all the things that make me beautiful when the doorbell rang ... at 11:30 am. Now understand, MM has a "lockout policy" that says you pay $25 or 25% of your bill, whichever is more, should the cleaners arrive and you're not home. What if I had decided to run to the store, planning to return at noon? ugh.

The ladies came in and the actual cleaning part was rather uneventful. My Sweetie, who was working from home that day, took the kiddos to the local bounce house so I wouldn't have to constantly shoo them away from the MMs hard at work. New people in our house, especially those that come with equipment, are like a kid-magnet. A (almost 4) and K (2) follow them around staring and asking questions. Even the Big 3 have trouble containing their curiosity, finding all sorts of reasons to walk through whatever portion of the house someone is working in. Funny.

The ladies come. The ladies clean. The ladies leave about two hours later, with a call from the foyer, "We're leaving!" "okay," I say, caught a little off-guard. After they're gone, I walk around to inspect and find several obvious things they overlooked: the top of the fridge wasn't even dusted, let alone "deep cleaned" like the consultant promised all areas of my kitchen would be. Wooden blinds on the windows - not touched. Ceiling fan - gross. Chair rail - still sporting dried spaghetti sauce in several places. Stove - full of crumbs under the drip pans. Trash - not emptied, but rather full of MM cleaning trash. Kitchen chairs - randomly piled in the hallway. Tabletop - obviously wiped with a wet cloth, but not scrubbed for goo. Trust me, in this house, we have lots of goo. I suddenly remembered they were supposed to let me do a walk-through before they leave. Hello!

Frustrated, I tried to call the number to answer a survey and leave a voicemail. (Found a nice letter on my table after the MMs left telling me to share my experiences. Boy, did I want to share!) But the automated survey line wasn't working so I called the local chapter.

The "quality control" supervisor answered the phone and told me how sorry she was I wasn't satisfied with the experience. And yes, those things should have been done. And absolutely they should have walked me through to inspect their work. When can we come out and make this right? Tomorrow at 8:30? I said that was a bit early and we settled on 9 am. Day 3 of my schedule being adjusted to fit MM and redeem a simple gift card.

The next day arrived. Nine o'clock came and went. Ten o'clock came and went. At 10:15 I called back and the quality control lady said, "oh, I thought you meant anytime after 9am." I think a little steam escaped from my ears at this point while I tried to maintain self-control.
"No," I replied, "I was expecting you here at 9. Are the ladies close by where they can come now?" "no ma'am, I'm sorry, they're not." "I've got company coming in a while and I can't wait anymore."

After going on this way for a couple of minutes, we settled on 9am sharp the next morning for the original two MMs plus the quality control supervisor to come finish the job. Fine. Day 4 of my life put on hold to redeem a simple gift card.

Day 4 dawns and I don't even lift a finger to tidy up before their arrival. When they come to the door, 2 kids are in PJs, 3 kids still asleep, and I'm in the middle of making my breakfast in the kitchen. I make no effort to stay out of the way and respond as politely as I can manage to the supervisor's apologies and remarks. They make it through the list of forgotten items and leave.

I breathe a sigh of relief and remember now why I clean my own house! With the help of the kids, of course. I think about FlyLady and decide that a little housework, poorly done, still blesses my family. Enough of the professionals for me, though it does smell good, and I'm glad to have clean floors. Relieved to have the whole experience behind me, I head upstairs to get the Littles dressed. As I walk past the dining room I see....

...they left their step stool!!!!!!


blessedwith5 said...

I too had Merry Maids at one time. I did not have a very good experience either. They seem very eager to "get" the job, but not eager at all to do the job right.

Melissa Lester said...

Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that this wasn't a great experience. If anyone deserves a break to feel pampered, you do! If you ever get an opportunity to have someone clean for you again, you might have more success with a college student or lady recommended by a friend. We had someone clean for us for a while when Emma was a baby, and it was so nice! It really helped me feel less overwhelmed as we adjusted to changes in the family dynamic. And the best feeling was walking into a house and being met with a fresh smell. We're on our own again now, and the children are able to be more helpful (except Emma, who is the fullness of 2). But I hope one day to have help again!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

LOL...oh I wish that it had been more helpful for you!

I grew up wiht a cleaning lady coming every other week, starting when I was in high school. We teased my mom to no end about "cleaning for the cleaning lady". The same lady still cleans my mom's home (and does the entire 3 floors for about the price MM charged And every other Thursday night my mom still cleans for the cleaning lady.

mom24 said...

Holy cow! What a hassle to use a gift card (I'll remember not give that to someone - but how could the giver have known)! And only 2 hours for $100? I would be steamin' too!

I never used a cleaninglady before 'cuz I thought that I could do it all and that the moms that hs were lying when they said the housework would get way behind. But this past year, dh couldn't take the grimy bathrooms anymore and decided to use his bonus to pay for cleaning help. She came recommended by my mil (and let me tell you - my mil has HIGH cleaning standards!) and stays for 4 hrs, 2x/months for $60 each time. She gets the bathrooms, dusting (fans & fridge!), vacumming and mopping. That's enough for me - even if it required much early morning scrambling to clean up before she comes to clean up! I'm hoping to be able to use the kids more effectively when they get older instead... ;-)

I think the lesson here is that you really have to search and research for a good person with a good work ethic, to clean your house. And now we all know not to call MM!

It'll be funny later for sure!

Cathy said...

I had a similar experience with MM several years ago. Sorry for your misadventures! You have a knack for storytelling - that could be a funny comic strip or sitcom!

Michelle said...

I had our friend who has a cleaning business come and clean 2 times (once while I was very pregnant & miserable and once while I was in the hospital after having the baby). She cleaned our enitre house really well for $80!!! Still more than I can spend on a regular basis, but I will be warned never to use a company like MM!!! UGH!!!

weavermom said...

Oh, I'm so sorry that you had such a bad experience!

Not all companies are the same though. I use one, and have been so pleased. It is a little more expensive to use a company but if someone is sick, someone still comes (YAY) and I do clean for them, but that is part of what I find it helps me with - keeping that paper clutter under control because I have some accountability! :) I feel very spoiled but I LOVE it - they are my favorite days! Clean house, smells clean, all clean at once. Just love it.

But, sheesh, if it was like your experience - wouldn't love it so much! :)

About Janice said...

Wow - so have they come back for their footstool?
Maybe I should go into the cleaning business.

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Thanks for all the fun comments! I think the Lord is trying to show me that it's ok to lower our standards a bit and relax about the dirt in the corners. The kiddos are only little once, right?
And yes, they did come get their stool. I left it on the front porch, called the MM office, and never gave it another thought.

Mary Bernard said...

Hey, Jennifer.

It's Mary Bernard from Nashville. I'm enjoying your blog. You're a great writer with a lot of interesting insights.

I love the MM post. After my twins were born, my parents gave us a cleaning lady 2ce/month for a year. It was... a blessing and a curse, of sorts! Great to have someone else to do the work, but mix stranger in your house who wants to talk with postpartum depression and nursing twins, and it was just ... HARD.