Carpet Cleaning “Smarts” Overshadowed by “Stupids” (Ed Sez / Tips N Chat, 2nd-3rd Quarter, 1976)

Ed York penned this editorial in 1976, regarding his view on associations. The carpet cleaning association he mentioned at the beginning, the NIRC (National Institute of Rug Cleaning), turned into AIDS (Association of Interior Decor Specialists). Since the writing of this article, it has made two more transformations: AIDS became the ASCR (Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration), and then the ASCR became RIA (Restoration Industry Association).


Sometimes our “smarts” are overshadowed by our “stupids” even in the carpet cleaning business.

I was appalled when I was a member of the plant-owner dominated NIRC (now AIDS) by their biased attitude when it came to on-location cleaners. While they say they are not exclusively plant cleaners but now accept on-location cleaners as well, I deny that. They have never accepted the on-location carpet cleaner — only his DUES. This is even in spite of their token vice president’s chair for their on-location division. Why, it was only a few years ago that they were even black-balled from membership. It took a threat of a court suit by a few on-location carpet cleaners like Wally Darling and Louis Weil to break down the barriers. Now their black-balling never helped a bit. If history could regroup and try again, the entire industry would have been better off and held in higher regard if they had been welcomed and efforts channeled into professional growth for ALL dirty carpet cleaners.

Now we have a new breed of the IN-GROUP and they are once again trying to legislate competition. A California-based association is outlawing their members from advertising flea killers. A new group from St. Louis, Missouri area that has real organizational strength and leadership has outlawed and black-listed anyone who solicits carpet cleaning on the phone. A Florida group is considering adopting a rule expelling any member who advertises a flat price of $19.95 for living room and hall and other such nonsense. Last week I chatted with a Northern California leader who was organizing a new group to apply political pressure and, if necessary, sue firms who falsely advertise statements like “drys in 1 to 2 hours.”

I used to shake my head at the way Deep Steam and ServiceMaster used to spend thousands of dollars telling the folks in Santa Barbara how the other firm would RUIN their carpets, but at least they did it as independents and not as organized professional trade associations.

It’s hard to know just what to do anymore. Should we share or should we hide? Should we cooperate and boost our industry, or should we outlaw everyone but us? As Executive Director of the Society of Cleaning Technicians I urged our Board to extend the hand of fellowship and invite other associations to attend a special program called “Operation Teamwork.” I didn’t succeed in getting one thank you but did receive one editorial blast from a professional association for doing such a ridiculous thing. Claimed I was acting due to special “motives.” I still haven’t been able to learn what my gain was on this one. If it failed I was to blame. If it was a success, those that participated won. I did the work and all they had to do was pay their own way. Now if they were talking about learning some extras that turned into a profit someday, then this person is correct in the statement regarding my special “motives.” I have always said that I wanted to earn a profit from the cleaning business. Frankly, I have always looked suspiciously at a person who enjoys cleaning dog pee out of carpets or smelling urinals to see if they were okay for the building’s inhabitants for any other reason than profit. I do it because it provides me a good income, and I suspect that is the reason given by the majority of those doing these tasks.

Now guess I’ll have to gamble once again and hope that I won’t lose some good customers that are members of those associations mentioned above and say, “I think you are WRONG.”

Associations are to SHARE experiences so members can do a better job… to TEACH what you have discovered… to LEARN from others a better way, regardless of how old or seasoned the giver is… to RECRUIT others in our field so that they will be able to do a better job… to COMMUNICATE a more professional way… to UNDERSTAND the motives of others and the reasons why they do what they do. Most important, I believe is to PROMOTE clean carpets. I am positive my firm will receive more business next year from the GOOD work my competition does rather than from the BAD work they do. I am convinced if a member of the 600 block on Main Street in each of our towns has her carpets cleaned, or even cleans them herself, that it will be easier for ME to SELL her neighbors and friends that they should have THEIR carpets CLEANED by MY FIRM.

How about it, fellows. Let’s admit we are not doing a very good job in selling our product, otherwise there would be more clean carpets than dirty ones. Let’s not work to restrict, but to enlarge. Outlaw flea killers? …Why, we are developing better methods to do this. What a beautiful way to obtain a new customer: to clean carpets. Termite folks might kill fleas by re-soiling carpets, but carpet cleaners with an available federally registered product CAN kill and treat FLEAS as they CLEAN CARPETS. I just wish companies like those in California that now do it would stop GIVING it away. How about promoting it at $.05 per square foot? People with fleas in their carpets are happy to pay it. STOP soliciting customers by phone? Now all this does is promote carpet cleaning jobs. A code of ethics on when to call, and some training on how to call might make a better association meeting than some I have attended that had little on the program except which was the best brand of beer. OUTLAW the price merchandiser? I’m sure thankful we have the K-Marts and variety stores. I would hate to think that those folks who couldn’t afford Sears or your better stores would have to wear gunny sacks if they couldn’t afford the better quality and style. Don’t recall a town where the discount store ever ran Sears out of business. Why should the price merchandiser harm a prestige shop? It’s not the price difference that hurts, it’s really the fact that they are making the old timer get off his differential. Before we spend money on whether we should stop someone advertising dry carpets in two hours, we should find out the legal definition of “dry.”

My suggestion to each of these associations is that educational and planned meetings by professionals with a TRUE spirit of brotherhood will do more to expand your associations than all the DON’TS you can figure out. Let’s build by showing the world some DO’S! Clean carpets, regardless of the method used, DO last longer, DO look better, DO add to one’s home, and DO make us more money.

Tips N Chat was a newsletter published by Ed, dedicated solely for “…the benefit and enjoyment of on-location cleaning technicians.” In each issue, he would include a commentary on topics related to the industry, under the title Ed Sez.

tips-n-chat-1976-blog

Ed York penned this editorial in 1976, regarding his view on associations. The carpet cleaning association he mentioned at the beginning, the NIRC (National Institute of Rug Cleaning), turned into AIDS (Association of Interior Decor Specialists). Since the writing of this article, it has made two more transformations: AIDS became the ASCR (Association of Specialists […]

It Can Be a Van or a Coffin (Ed Sez / Tips N Chat, July-August Issue, 1981)

Ed York wrote this editorial in 1981, preaching the importance of carpet cleaning van safety. Despite Ed working to raise awareness about van maintenance 30 years ago, there are still dangerous and damaging van fires, as well as deadly events from the effects of carbon monoxide.
 


 
For some unexplained reason, owners of cleaning firms are reluctant to report or talk about accidents that happen to them.

It may be the fear of liability, but I suspect it is the fear of being talked about by their peers. This is most unfortunate, as nothing should stand in the way of cleaning up any problems that lead to unsafe conditions. I can never forget the story told by a Colorado SCT member about how he entered the business. He inherited it from his father, who in trying to clean a customer’s oily rug, used a flammable solvent in his shampooer. Standing in the middle, he turned on his wet-dry to finish it off. One member’s mother tells about hearing a loud noise and then seeing her husband running off the burning carpet — a human torch. How horrible. But is it any worse than a few years ago when I sold 24 “sniffers” to carpet cleaners who used propane? When installed, it would set off a buzzer if the propane developed a leak in the lines or was left open. The problem was that “carbon monoxide” also set it off. SEVENTEEN of the buyers demanded their money back because theirs didn’t work properly. It kept buzzing after every job for at least 30 minutes, even if they didn’t use the propane. There was no way they would accept the fact that it was dangerous for their employees to ride in the van with this amount of “carbon monoxide.”

Recently during the Cal/OSHA test, we could only find one van that didn’t have a lethal amount of carbon monoxide present after the unit had run five minutes. This cleaner placed a blower behind the driver which cleared the collected bad air. This occurred several months ago and I have yet to hear of one person adding this safety feature to their van. It does not require an expensive blower. Pep Boys has a caged fan with brackets for sale at $18.75, that could be hung from the roof of the van, and blow the fumes out the open door while the equipment is working. It is hard to believe a firm will pay from $15,000 to $20,000 for carbon monoxide-producing equipment, and not an additional $18.75 to protect their operators, or themselves. Forgetting the physical liability and only considering the possible financial liability is enough to scare me into action.

Now I hear by the grapevine of another truck explosion. I have to consider it as non-confirmed because the principal won’t answer my calls, and others say they would rather not be quoted. According to hearsay, this cleaner had a propane powered truck mount unit in the back of a fiberglass body that replaced the pickup bed. Rather than have the propane tank on the outside, it was attached to the inside wall. Evidently the bottle came loose and fell over. This ruptured the copper line, which allowed the fumes to reach the water heater’s pilot light. One source says that flames went 80 feet into the air. Evidently the cab of the pickup saved the operator from being a fatality, but what if it had been in a van? Not only are there lots of carpet cleaners driving around with a liquid petroleum tank inside their van, but many of them leave the manufacturer or installer’s place of business with this temporary connection that becomes permanent.

Let me ask you carpet cleaners this question. Why do you think safety is for the other guy? Wives, please tell me why your husbands insist upon taking chances? Children, why does your daddy tell you it’s not safe to play with matches, or loaded guns? I don’t care what state you live in, there are ample places where you can have your van checked FREE of charge without worrying about getting a fine. If you know it’s safe, then why be scared to have it checked?

If you own the company, then it’s up to you. It’s your choice whether you want to work in a van or a coffin.

Tips N Chat was a newsletter published by Ed, dedicated solely for “…the benefit and enjoyment of on-location cleaning technicians.” In each issue, he would include a commentary on topics related to the industry, under the title Ed Sez.

 

Photo Credit: Annie Roi

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Ed York wrote this editorial in 1981, preaching the importance of carpet cleaning van safety. Despite Ed working to raise awareness about van maintenance 30 years ago, there are still dangerous and damaging van fires, as well as deadly events from the effects of carbon monoxide.     For some unexplained reason, owners of cleaning firms are reluctant […]

We Lost a Battle, but Won a War… (Ed Sez / Tips N Chat, May/June Issue, 1982)

Ed York wrote this piece 34 years ago, about a clash between the Federal Trade Commission and the Carpet and Rug Institute. (Ron Van Gelderen, referenced below, served as president of the Carpet and Rug Institute for 20 years, before stepping down in 2000.)

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On June 24th, the Federal Trade Commission failed to approve its proposed care labeling amendment, which killed it. The FTC had attempted to require manufacturers to advise consumers if any of the known and commonly used chemicals or methods would harm their goods. They also wanted the manufacturer to put in print at least ONE method which would clean their product. This was something that the entire industry, led by the CRI, fought with all its strength and financial resources. The manufacturers really didn’t mind doing this. The problem was that carpet manufacturers simply don’t know how to properly maintain their own products. They also have no desire to research them and find out. Their marketing folks keep changing their products faster than their technical people can test them. Besides, it is easier for the manufacturers to sell their goods and take their chances with the public. Actually, the percentage of claims the mills pay off is less of a financial loss than what a testing program would set them back.

I entered the fracas on the side of the big, bad FTC because I was tired of having the mills blame their problems on the cleaners. I was tired of hearing the retail stores advise their customers that they shouldn’t ever have their super carpets cleaned. I was tired of listening to advertising claims which were simply not true. Through my influence, the SCT tried desperately to work with the carpet manufacturers. Dedicated cleaners spent their hard-earned dollars traveling to Georgia to establish a working relationship. While the mighty CRI did go through the motions of showing some slight interest, for the most part, the reception was akin to that of a distant relative who arrives at a big social gathering in overalls.

The carpet manufacturers as a body refused to accept carpet cleaners as knowledgeable people. It was the product which received the glory when someone was happy and the operator who was at fault if there was a problem. It was convenient to have something on which to lay carpet defects. So, while the CRI celebrates its victory, some extremely interesting facts are noticeable. The manufacturers, including CRI, are now advocating printed materials for maintaining their products. CRI President Ron Van Gelderen was recently quoted as saying that installers were important people. Past Chairman of CRI, Irv Harvey, who is also President of Galaxy Carpet Mills, was quoted in Floor Covering Weekly as saying, “Our testimony concluded that of the number of good cleaning methods available, the operator was often more of a factor in the quality of the job than the actual chemicals.”

So, while the CRI rejoices in winning their battle with the FTC, members of the cleaning industry and SCT can also rejoice in the fact the CRI has started to recognize the operator as more than a poor, distant cousin.

I, personally, salute Ron Van Gelderen for winning a battle which seemed impossible and encourage him to direct even a small portion of his skills towards working with our part of the industry in a campaign to assure happy customers. When the carpet industry decides that happy customers buy more carpets than disappointed customers, we will all benefit. I am positive members of SCT can help the manufacturers’ customers enjoy their carpets more while they own them. We have offered to work together towards this end in the past and once again offer our cooperation in a new program. When and where do we meet Mr. Van Gelderen?

Tips N Chat was a newsletter published by Ed, dedicated solely for “…the benefit and enjoyment of on-location cleaning technicians.” In each issue, he would include a commentary on topics related to the industry, under the title Ed Sez.

tips-n-chat-edit

Ed York wrote this piece 34 years ago, about a clash between the Federal Trade Commission and the Carpet and Rug Institute. (Ron Van Gelderen, referenced below, served as president of the Carpet and Rug Institute for 20 years, before stepping down in 2000.) On June 24th, the Federal Trade Commission failed to approve its […]

Are You a Sitting Duck? (Ed Sez / Tips N Chat, May-June Issue, 1979)

They say history repeats itself… but is it a true sentiment? We’re willing to find out. How, you ask? ServiceMonster was generously gifted a veritable treasure trove of documents, newsletters, photos, and other historical memorabilia from Wanda York, Ed York’s wife.

We’re slowly sifting through this archive, and thought it would be fun to share interesting items with YOU that we come across! We hope that you find this blast from the past as fascinating as we do.

We’re going to kick things off with a note from Ed. Tips N Chat was a newsletter, published by Ed, dedicated solely for “…the benefit and enjoyment of on-location cleaning technicians.” In each issue, he would include a commentary on topics related to the industry, under the title Ed Sez.

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Our first Ed Sez comes from the May-June 1979 issue of Tips N Chat, and has to do with the propensity carpet cleaning veterans have towards becoming complacent.


Ten years ago, there was living upon this land a group of high and mighty carpet cleaners who had it made. They were the select group that had it made. Everyone knew of their reputation. They didn’t have to respond to night calls for help, because they were the establishment. They didn’t have to advertise, because everyone knew who they should call if they wanted the “right” person to clean their carpets. They didn’t have to go to workshops or attend formal classes, because they were the old timers, and certainly knew how to clean carpets. They didn’t have to buy new equipment, or try out new chemicals because they had proven over many years that what they had served the purpose. They certainly didn’t have to look into new procedures or techniques, because they were currently doing it the only way that worked. Boy, do I ever remember those days. One thing that was obvious — these veterans and established firms were sitting ducks.

Over the next couple years, an entire new breed of cleaners came into the field. They didn’t know how to clean carpets, so they asked questions, gathered in groups to talk about new techniques, joined advertising co-ops to tell the public about their talents, looked into new equipment and chemicals, and most important made themselves available to those folks that had carpet problems. They were new, but eager. They were inexperienced, but willing to learn. They had pride, ambition, and desire to do the best job in town. They walked the streets, and knocked on strange doors. They worked to build their firms’ names. They succeeded, because the old timers truly believed they had their customers locked in, when in actuality they were sitting ducks.

Today, in my travels around our land, I find many new and bright faces entering our carpet cleaning world. These are strangers to me, even though they have the same determined and eager look I saw on those faces ten years ago. I also see the faces of the old timers. They are not the same as those so classed a decade ago, but they are not strangers, just older. While their faces have the same lines as those eager lads of yesteryear, something is different. No longer are they talking shop, because it is old hat to them. No longer are they sitting in classrooms, because they took a similar class ten years ago. No longer are they cooperating in their advertising, because it’s not necessary to advertise anymore. No longer are they answering night calls, because if they won’t wait ’til tomorrow, they don’t deserve to have the old Pro. HEY, wake up, good friends. Don’t you see those eager, new faces all around you. Doesn’t that fresh, aggressive step look familiar to you. Don’t you remember what exciting times it was to sit up all hours of the night over coffee talking shop after the clinics with those new-found friends. Did you hear what they are saying… Seems like they are talking about their future and how their business is growing by leaps and bounds. Seems like they have found that many of the present batch of “Old Timers” are in reality easy competition; in fact, they are sitting ducks. — Ed York


What do you think? Do industry ‘old-timers’ turn into sitting ducks? Let us know your thought in the comments section below!

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They say history repeats itself… but is it a true sentiment? We’re willing to find out. How, you ask? ServiceMonster was generously gifted a veritable treasure trove of documents, newsletters, photos, and other historical memorabilia from Wanda York, Ed York’s wife. We’re slowly sifting through this archive, and thought it would be fun to share […]