In early December, my husband and I planned a trip to Las Vegas. I managed to farm out our two younger kids to friends’ houses, and our oldest daughter was slated to pet-sit Pearl, our rambunctious Labradoodle. However, things didn’t quite happen the way they were supposed to and my oldest was unable to pet-sit. I should have known — a friend of mine owns a pet-sitting business and the number one reason many people hire a professional pet-sitter is because a family member is suddenly unable to follow through.
So, yes, I relied on my daughter, and it didn’t work out in a big way because the plans all went to hell the morning my husband and I were to leave for Las Vegas. While trying to pack and get ready to hit the road, I was also scrambling to find pet care. Stressed? Yes, because we had friends in Las Vegas waiting for us.
My husband reminded me that we had the name of a professional pet-sitter who came highly recommended by a friend. My friend raved about the woman, so I gave her a call.
My call went right to voice mail so I didn’t have high hopes. About five minutes later, Erin called. Yay, our trip was saved! We chatted and it was easy to talk with her. She seemed like a lovely person and we clicked right away. She had an opening and agreed to take Pearl. She told me that she would even come to my home and get Pearl because it was “all part of her service.” I declined because I wanted to see where Pearl would be spending the long weekend.
Pearl is my fur teen (no longer a baby) and as her mostly hairless mom, I needed to make sure she’d be safe.
The drive to Erin’s home was very far but it was more or less on the way to Las Vegas, so although it added some time onto the trip, it wasn’t that bad.
We arrived at Erin’s gorgeous home and I was instantly at ease. Did I mention she lives on 4 acres? Pearl was definitely going to be in Dog Heaven since our yard is teeny-tiny. Even my notoriously skeptical husband agreed finding Erin was a miracle.
Flash forward to returning home from Las Vegas. My husband and I came home early because, well, let’s face it, we’re old and not much into partying anymore. We also wanted to have the opportunity to be in our own home alone for the first time in 14 years. Ever been in your home alone — not pets, no kids? It is pretty dang quiet! I think it gave us a taste of what it will be like when they’re all off in college. Scary!
Due to pure Sunday laziness, I toyed with the idea of having Erin bring Pearl home. After all, she said, “picking up and dropping off is all a part of my service.” The time kept passing and finally, I called her and asked her to bring Pearl home.
A final calm before the storm of pets, kids, and reality hit our household. I took the opportunity to go out and get some shopping done. With Christmas only two weeks away, every opportunity to shop needed to be seized.
Searching for and finding Christmas presents was fun, but before I knew it, it was time to pick up the kids. I retrieved one and my husband retrieved the other and we all landed back at home. Pearl greeted us with gusto. After all, we had not seen her for almost four days. She seemed very happy.
Sitting on the counter was the receipt from Erin. Pearl had been returned to us while I was out. I glanced at the invoice and noticed it was higher than I expected so I looked at each line item. At the bottom was a charge for delivering Pearl to my home. Erin charged us .55 per mile round trip to bring Pearl to us. I was shocked.
You’re probably thinking, “Oh, wow, are we talking $5 or $10 extra dollars?”
No, because Erin lives so far from us, the charge equaled a full tank of gas for our Prius, or another full day of Erin’s pet-sitting services. That is a significant charge when one is not expecting to pay anything extra.
And it’s not even the fee I am complaining about, it’s that I thought picking up and dropping off my pet was part of Erin’s service. Had I known the pick-up and delivery was an additional fee, I may have opted to get off my lazy arse and go get our dog. But, I didn’t know.
There are two parties at fault here, though. I’d love to sit back all smug and blame Erin for using a term that didn’t apply to her business (it’s all a part of my service), but I’m also at fault. I did not ask, “Is there an additional fee for this service?” I assumed that when she uttered her tag line she had figured out how much it cost her to drive a dog home and figured that overhead in her daily fee. Gawd knows we never should assume anything.
I am not bashing the pet-sitting services Erin provided. I think she did an excellent job (because Pearl’s a dog, I can’t quite ask her to rate the sitter). The friends who have used her raved about her, so although I just said not to assume, I think in this case, I will have to. And I will use her again for more trips –there is no question about that. My only issue is with her use of “it’s all part of my service” when it really isn’t. She provides the service at an additional cost, but it’s not a part of her service.
Surprises on the invoice make for misunderstandings and negative feelings toward you and your business which is unique for a sale proprietor. Imagine going into any of the Big Box stores and having a bad experience. Most people blame the nameless Big Box store and not a specific employee, but that’s not true for someone who owns their own business. A customer blames the owner AND the business.
Bottom line of this post is to look at what you’re telling your customers and make sure they’re understanding what you’re saying. Be sure your client communications are clear.
As a customer of a sole proprietor, make sure you are doing your due diligence to verify services and know what the fee includes. Checking understanding may seem bothersome but it may prevent an uncomfortable conversation later.