Here's the bottom line with Colonial Maintenance: during our very unpleasant interactions with the owner / manager, she came across as unbelievably obnoxious, rude, immature and unprofessional. She was inexplicably confrontational and defensive. And she seemed to have either a low regard for the truth, or a questionable grasp on reality. So while Colonial Maintenance has some good employees, the company is run by a very bad person. We definitely do not recommend using this company.
Around the time we were expecting our first child, we realized that between our work schedules and need to take care of a baby when we were home, it was going to be difficult to find the time to do thorough cleanings of our house. So we decided use a housecleaning service. I don't recall how we chose Colonial Maintenance, but we signed up with them for one cleaning a month. Over the course of the next couple of years, there were several different housecleaners who were assigned to us, and some were better than others. But we were relatively satisfied with the service. We especially liked the latest housecleaner we had.
Fast forward about a year, to May 2003. Our scheduled monthly cleaning was coming up and we received the usual reminder phone call. After getting our son into bed, I spent a couple of hours the night before the cleaning straightening up the house. The next morning, I put the key under the doormat, and left for work. When I returned, there was a note stuck in the door from the housecleaner saying that the key wasn't there. I looked under the doormat, and found the key, just where I had left it and just where it is left every time we have a cleaning scheduled. I did notice that that the key stuck to the underside of the doormat for a few seconds, and then fell to the ground, so I guessed that it may have also stuck when the housecleaner looked, and that's probably why she didn't see it.
So I went inside, and noticed that there was a message from Colonial Maintenance on the answering machine. It was Mary, the owner / manager, and she immediately launched into an angry tirade about (1) how we forgot to leave the key, (2) how she has repeatedly asked us to give a copy of our key to them, and (3) how this has happened many times before. As noted above, the first claim was mistaken, since we actually did leave the key. The second two claims are just lies. When we first signed up with the service, we were presented with an option - give a copy of our key to the service, or leave a key under the doormat on the days the housecleaning was scheduled. We chose the later. And neither of us has ever been asked to give them a key since that time. This arrangement had worked well - the company would call us a day or two before the cleaning to remind us, and we would put out the key in the morning before we left for work. There was only one previous incident (not many) where there was a problem -- we were on vacation and had forgotten that the cleaning was scheduled while we were away, so we never heard the reminder and there was no key there when the housecleaner arrived. When we returned, we apologized for our oversight, rescheduled the cleaning, and everything was fine. Or so we thought.
So after listening to the answering machine message, I called Colonial Maintenance, hoping that there would still be someone in the office. There wasn't, but I left a message. I decided to take the high road and politely explain that I had in fact left the key in the agreed-upon place, but that if she would prefer, we would be happy to leave a key with them instead. I did not mention the unprofessional tone and and the numerous falsehoods in the message she left on our machine.
At about 9:45 that night, the phone rang. It was Mary from Colonial Maintenance. Even putting aside the inappropriateness of a business calling someone at home at 9:45 in the evening for a non-urgent matter, this call was simply unbelievable. She literally started throwing a tantrum on the phone. Using profanity and an extremely confrontational tone, she repeated her false claim about the multiple requests to leave a key with them and she accused me of lying about actually leaving the key under to doormat. Given the non-stop nature of her tirade, and the fact that I was completely taken aback by her bizarre behavior, I didn't get a chance to say much. I simply wanted to resolve the matter and move on, so I asked her whether or not she still wanted our business. When she continued her profanity-laced attack, I told her that I would not listen to this and hung up.
Apparently that wasn't enough for her. She felt compelled to leave a message on my wife's work voice mail, in which she called me a "real jerk." (really - I'm not a "jerk." People who know me often say that I'm one of the most non-confrontational and easy going people they know.)
Now I certainly understand that different people can have different perceptions of the same events. But Mary's apparent perception of this incident is so divorced from reality that one has to question her mental faculties. She invented a background to the incident that never took place. She created a confrontation where none had to exist at all. She apparently thought that I was the one being rude and confrontational when it was obvious that she was the (the service provider) was attacking me (the customer). This is obviously not the kind of service that we want to pay for, so we immediately sent Colonial Maintenance a letter confirming that we will not be using their service any longer. A copy of that letter is below. The only change I made was to replace the name of the housecleaner with Xxxxx in order to protect the identity of the innocent.
14 May 2003
Mary J. Hennesy
7748 Corliss Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98103
I feel compelled to write to express my deep disappointment and extreme displeasure with the way you dealt with the situation today involving Xxxxx’s inability to enter my home.
In communicating with us, you immediately took a confrontational tone, both in the message you left on our answering machine, and especially in the conversation we had later in the evening. And to add to your unprofessional manner, you went so far as to use profanity and to accuse me of being a liar. Not only is your rude behavior incredibly offensive, it is just unbelievable for someone who is supposedly in the service industry.
There was no conceivable reason for you to turn this into a confrontation or to “take sides.” I am perfectly willing to give Xxxxx the benefit of the doubt. Although I did put the key under the mat this morning, and it was still there when I returned in the evening, I have no doubt that Xxxxx was telling the truth when she said that she didn’t find it. In fact, when I looked for it when I came home, I didn’t see it immediately either, because it stuck to the underside of the mat for a few seconds. But the key was there. It’s certainly possible that the same thing happened to Xxxxx when she looked, and that the key did not fall before she put the mat back down. I would have explained this to you had you not immediately attacked, accused and berated me.
Moreover, your accusation that you had “repeatedly asked” Janet to leave a key with you comes across as somewhat less than sincere. When we first signed up for your service, leaving a key with you was presented as an option – nothing more. And neither of us has been asked to give you a key since that time. Your strategy of “blaming the victim” is not an effective way to retain customers.
When I left the voicemail message for you after I came home, I was only
slightly annoyed at the situation. I had stayed up late last night straightening
up the house, clearing off surfaces, and putting things in closets, so that
Xxxxx would be able to clean more efficiently. So I was disappointed when I came
home and saw Xxxxx’s note saying that she didn’t find the key and was therefore
unable to clean. Of course, given the way you responded to the situation, I am
now far more than annoyed. I will not do business with any company that treats
its customers in such a disrespectful, unprofessional and juvenile manner.
If, on the other hand, you had conducted yourself as a reasonable professional, I’m sure we could have easily worked something out. In my voicemail message to you earlier, I had said that I had no problem leaving a key with your company. That should have solved the problem, and that should have been the end of it. If you had simply called me to make arrangements for me to drop off the key (and had conducted yourself cordially and professionally), you would have had a happy and satisfied customer going forward. Instead, you lost a customer.
In fact, in all likelihood you have lost more than one. In the past, we have recommended your company to several friends and colleagues. We will make sure to tell them, and many others, about this incident, and recommend that they use other cleaning services. I also plan to post a detailed description of this incident, and a copy of this letter, on the Web so that others who search for information about Colonial Maintenance will have more information about how you conduct your business.
To be clear, the cleaning should not be rescheduled, and no further cleaning
appointments should be scheduled for us. Obviously, no further charges should be
made against our credit card.
P.S. Just for the record, we have always been very happy with the service provided by Xxxxx. We do not at all hold her responsible for our displeasure with your conduct or our decision to no longer do business with Colonial Maintenance.
22 July 2005