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.