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Have you fired your cleaning person?

Sueb20
January 25, 2013

I am about to, and not sure really how to approach it. About ten years ago, I hired this guy (and two female assistants) to clean my house based on the recommendation of a friend. They clean(ed) every two weeks. For the first several years, they were great. About 2 years ago, the original guy started working in the office and his BIL took his place. Ever since then, the cleaning has been inconsistent, they are a little too hurried and rough, they have broken a couple of things, etc. I have complained a few times and then they do a beautiful job of cleaning for the next time, or next couple times, but then they're back to being inconsistent. Anyway, they have totally screwed up on the scheduling over the last month, too boring to get into the details, but this is the last straw. They were supposed to be here today, never showed up, never called, and after I called the original cleaner (the guy who is now supposedly in the office; I don't even have a number for the guy who actually cleans my house) he called back and gave me a total lie for an excuse and said they'd be here next Tuesday.

Anyway, here's my problem. I feel funny about calling and saying, "We're done, please drop off my key ASAP" because, maybe I'm being paranoid, but I worry that they could go make a copy of my key before they deliver it, then come back and steal all my silver. Okay, I don't have silver. But you never know, right? Am I being totally neurotic? So what I thought was that I would plan to be here when they clean the house next week, and when they're done, say thanks, but we are no longer going to use your services, so please hand over my key."

How have you handled a situation like this? PS I am completely terrible with confrontation. (Which is why I have avoided this scenario when I really should have let them go two years ago!)

Comments (35)

  • SunnyCottage

    I had a woman who was "related" to me by marriage (not really related, but that was our connection) who cleaned our house for about a year. She did an ok job, but like your cleaners, she broke a few things and completely ruined an expensive piece of leather furniture by spilling oil all over it. It was awkward dealing with her over these things, as she was "related", in a sense. Anyway, I did let her go and simply told her that we couldn't afford her anymore ... which was a half truth.

    I would do just as you are thinking, and tell them you want to discontinue their services in person, and get the key back at that time. They aren't likely to have made a duplicate key, but you are probably likely to feel better about not giving them an opportunity to do so. You just never know about people ... and where your safety/security is concerned -- better safe than sorry.

  • tinam61

    I don't think you're paranoid, I would even think it might be worth to change the locks. Then again, I'm very careful about who (workers) we let into our house.

    I've never fired a cleaning person because I've never had a steady one. I tried a few (they weren't given a key) and wasn't satisfied with the way they did the job. I found I prefer my own way of doing the cleaning. LOL I'm fortunate to have a husband who helps me out.

    Hope it all works out!

    tina

  • marlene_2007

    I have fired my house cleaner and like you I waited two years too long. I just couldn't bring myself to tell her how unhappy I was with her services (she is a really nice person but her work got worse and worse throughout the years). I finally told her that I decided that I was going to clean the house myself and would no longer require her services.

    In your case, I would call and tell them you no longer require their services and to please return the key BUT I would also change my locks. You just never know. It's easy to copy a key.

  • Caree

    I think it's a good idea to have the key returned on the last cleaning. If for no other reason than you will feel better about it. I don't think it's paranoid to worry about something like that. It happens. Now me, I would not have my house key floating around like that to begin with and would probably have the lock changed!

  • patty_cakes

    I've given 2nd chances to several people~it still didn't work out, so now i'm 'over' cleaning people and do it all myself. I know i'm very fussy, so it's probably better that way. If the baseboards don't get dusted, I have only myself to blame. Besides it's only me in the house so how dirty can it get~well, 2 cats and a dog *do* add to it. ;o)

  • mtnrdredux_gw

    I have fired the cleaning person we have now several times, in my head. It may be as hard to find the perfect cleaning person as it is to find a spouse, LOL.

    I would not worry about this, as long as you treat them nicely (but firm). White lies make it easier all around (face saving for them, and less hostile for you). I might tell them that you have a friend who is moving and doesn't need their person, and since scheduling has been an issue you are going to use them. Whatever, just something that sounds like it isn't ONLY because they are schmucks, KWIM? Let them think it is another reason. I say this because you do not want to rehabilitate them or give them another chance, so why be honest at risk to yourself?

    I do think of that risk as low, though --- even a whiff of wrongdoing and they have no more livelihood.

    I had the same cleaning people for many years, from my single life all the way through three kids. They went from coming twice a month to twice a week, and from light housework to everything including laundry. They were part of the family, we still keep in touch (a man and wife). When we moved it was too far.

    I think about firing my new person all the time. But as far as the most important things, eg showing up, being honest, and really cleaning, she performs. I can't decide if it is petty to tell her no more perfume, please dont talk on the phone the whole time, and stop putting everything I own at a jaunty angle.

    In the end, I am grateful to have so much help and it is the last luxury id give up. My standards for a clean home are pretty high and I know id never do it myself.

    Good luck, Sue!

  • DLM2000-GW

    I've had various house cleaning people over the years so of course have had to 'fire' them even if it is only a matter of changing our spending from time to time. It is especially awkward if the reasons are not financial. I've never given my key out to anyone but would change my locks. For the most part I'm not paranoid but I do err on the side of caution and limiting risk whenever possible.

    As an aside, I'm cleaning my house today and feeling both sorry for myself that I do not have cleaning help now and ashamed of myself for feeling that way. I need to snap out of it!

  • fourkids4us

    I haven't had a cleaning lady in a while (wait, I do, but she is me!) but I did have to let a couple go over the years. One didn't show up when she was supposed to, the day I was having a big party and didn't have time to clean so I was royally angry. After I calmed down, I did call and say that I needed someone who was more reliable. I don't think I even spoke to her directly - I got her voicemail.

    I never had an issue with the key though. I never gave mine a key. I always just left it hidden outside if I wasn't going to be home. Often I was here when she arrived, so it was never really an issue. If you can't get the key back at the same time that you give them notice, then I'd definitely consider getting the locks changed. If that's too much trouble, I'd keep the appointment for next Tuesday, arrange to be there when they arrive, and then ask for the key when they are done, telling them that you have decided that you aren't going to be needing them anymore. You don't even need to give a reason. I'm sure they'd be able to figure it out, especially since you've already complained over the years!

  • hhireno

    If you don't like confrontation, which I totally understand because I'm the same, then your easiest route is to change the locks & then call and cancel before the next scheduled visit. Doing it over the phone will be easier than face-to-face.

    I think you'll have more peace of mind if you change the locks. Even if they made a duplicate for safety sake (for instance, in case their copy of your key was lost) and not to rob you, you'll feel better knowing any outstanding keys are invalid.

    That said, my 2 cleaning ladies did not return our key and I never changed the locks. Who better to know that there is nothing here worth stealing than the person who cleaned? Actually because they were both single person businesses, I don't worry about who had/has access to the keys. They both worked here for 8+ years so I don't worry about them robbing us. It would be different if they were businesses with multiple employees that I didn't know, then I would change the locks.

    Since the cleaning lady quit, I've been doing the job at our regular house. I do a much better job in some areas and not nearly as well in others. I also do a much better job some days than others so I'm hoping that in the end it all evens out.

  • nancybee_2010

    I've had a few and the thing that always bothered me was that they would sometimes ask to be paid in advance and I would do that. (I think that sometimes, sadly, cleaners aren't the most financially stable people.) I clean my own home now, and although I rarely have that "everything is clean at once" thing, I much prefer it this way. I don't miss that getting everything straightened before they come thing at all, and it was never comfortable while they were here, even though I didn't dislike them.

    I would get the lock re-keyed if I were you.

  • fourkids4us

    "I don't miss that getting everything straightened before they come thing at all."

    This made me laugh. Just today, my friend was stressing out b/c our kids got unexpectedly let out of school early due to weather and her cleaning lady, who hadn't been there in 6 weeks, was coming, and she was rushing around trying to "clean up" for her. My husband (and a few other husbands I've heard say this too) would say, "What do you need to clean for if the cleaning lady is coming?" Um, because they can't clean if your crap is all over the place! I'm not paying them to put your things away!

    I miss having a cleaning lady. Every so often I think about getting one but I just can't justify it as a SAHM with all my kids in school. I really just want someone who will come out and do the deep cleaning that I never seem to get to - like cleaning the baseboards, the top of my ceiling fans, etc.

    And my friend whose cleaning lady was coming today? guess where her kids are? At my house making a mess LOL (just kidding, they are here, but not making a mess).

  • Sueb20

    Changing the lock seems like a PITA. Maybe I'll keep the cleaners for another year or so.

    One thing that has stopped me from firing them until now is the idea of finding someone new. I know several people with cleaners and seems like none of them are happy with their service. So, I may just clean my own darn house. If nothing else, it's a bit of extra exercise. How many calories would I burn by cleaning my house every Friday morning??

  • Sueb20

    Changing the lock seems like a PITA. Maybe I'll keep the cleaners for another year or so.

    One thing that has stopped me from firing them until now is the idea of finding someone new. I know several people with cleaners and seems like none of them are happy with their service. So, I may just clean my own darn house. If nothing else, it's a bit of extra exercise. How many calories would I burn by cleaning my house every Friday morning??

  • stinky-gardener

    I've never had a cleaning person, ever! I really like doing my own housework! I do spend a fair amount of time cleaning inside & outside, & you are right- cleaning is good exercise! I'm sure you would burn many a calorie. It's also very rewarding to stand back & see the results of your efforts! You will get things clean, organized & prioritized to your satisfaction, because you know what you want, & will work until you achieve that result.

    I can totally understand your concern over the lock & key issue. You do not sound paranoid in the least. As far as how to gracefully say goodbye, I know someone who made her dh the "bad guy" to prevent feathers from ruffling over a dismissal.

    She said, "Sally, I am so sorry, this is awkward, & frankly hard for me, but I have to stop using your services. My husband just thinks I should do the housework myself from now on. This comes as really bad news for me, but when you're married, you have to pick your battles, & I feel I just have to let my husband win this one. I will surely miss your hard work around my house!" Sally felt worse for the client than she did about losing a job! (I'd still change the locks!).

  • gwlolo

    I have been thinking about this but am going to try something a girlfriend told me. It just reaqlly annoys me if I have to remind them about the same things each time (clean inside the fridge, behind the sofa, etc.)

    She said to have a checklist similar to what they have in offices for the janitor and have them check off each week.
    Empty trash
    Put a new bag in
    Take bath mats to the washer
    Strip the bed
    Clean the inside windows
    Scrub sink, tile and the faucet..

  • mjlb

    I have 'fired' cleaners, a few times -- most recently for financial reasons. But even then, the money would have been found had the work been really good.

    At one time, I used only corporate-type cleaners, to make it more impersonal. But it really is a better deal on both ends to hire an individual -- except when it comes time to fire. My new plan is to hire an individual (highly recommended by a friend) on an 'as needed' basis. That way, if I don't care for their services, I'll just not need them again.

  • Sueb20

    Let's see, my list would include:
    - walk upstairs without splashing cleaning products on the walls
    - vacuum without banging into the walls and scraping paint off them
    - move things to dust without scratching the surface of the table or shelf
    - do not pull up on the plug thingie in the bathroom sink so hard that you break it off
    - do not leave puddles of water on the hardwood floors
    - occasionally stick the vacuum attachment under the beds and sofas (I just had to pull my son's bed out from the wall to plug something in and yikes, I could have built a bear with the dust I found)

    Clearly I am way overdue in letting these people go! We mostly started having someone else clean because we had 3 kids including an infant and DH and I were often arguing over things like "I thought you were going to clean the bathroom this weekend?" So having a house cleaner meant better marital harmony. I have more free time now that the kids are older and I work very part time, so I don't think I'd be as cranky about taking one morning a week to clean the house. Also, my pampered children can learn how to clean bathrooms -- a skill I was well trained in when I was a kid.

  • stinky-gardener

    Good for you, Sue. You won't be cranky at all! As you mentioned, life has changed & your need for these so-called helpers has expired. It will be a refreshing change to not see puddles of water on your hardwoods! Yes, your children can pitch in at their ages, it will be good for them, & they will do a better job than your previous staff!

  • runninginplace

    "She said, "Sally, I am so sorry, this is awkward, & frankly hard for me, but I have to stop using your services. My husband just thinks I should do the housework myself from now on. This comes as really bad news for me, but when you're married, you have to pick your battles, & I feel I just have to let my husband win this one. I will surely miss your hard work around my house!" Sally felt worse for the client than she did about losing a job! (I'd still change the locks!)."

    Yuck--blaming a decision on someone else, especially a husband, is a pet peeve of mine. For one thing, it is infantalizing. If you are old enough to be married you're old enough to stand on your own, not act as if your husband dictates what you can and can't do. For another, it makes the husband look like the bad guy and I don't condone putting the onus on someone else for one's decision.

    OK, with that off my chest...I have had very sporadic cleaning help, have an incredibly wonderful person now who comes twice monthly and feel as if I've gone to clean house heaven :). However I don't give her a key and don't think I ever would. She arrives in the morning, I let her in, then leave for work. She finishes mid day and lets herself out. Luckily we have a revolving door of people in/out because my two young adult children are still living at home and attending college. My husband also comes home every day for lunch.

    As to the immediate question, I'd go with the option of telling them in person and getting your key back then. Second choice would be change the locks *first* then call them.

    Ann

  • Olychick

    I would think if they were going to make a duplicate of your key they would have already. I'd change the locks; it would be worth it for my peace of mind. Maybe have one lock to a back entrance changed to a combination, punch in # lock so that in the future you just have to give them the combination and can change it when necessary.

  • judithn

    My cleaning person does not have a key but my pet sitter does. we have an alarm system. I have the alarm set for her to disarm it with a special code of her own but when we return from the trip I delete that special code. It is very simple, which is good since I'm terrible with things like this. So, she keeps the key all the time in case I need her for an unexpected trip, but she can't really come in and out if she wanted to because she'd trip the alarm without her code and it's only on the system when we're going away for a long trip and she's watching my pets.

    I would be inclined to change locks, btw. I think it can be done for less than a hundred bucks, but of course it depends on how fancy your handset it.

  • stinky-gardener

    "Yuck--blaming a decision on someone else, especially a husband, is a pet peeve of mine."

    Runninginplace, it is your perogative to find anything & everything as yucky as you please. You are always free to to make everything into an issue, and to take life very, very seriously.

    Is it working for you?

  • kswl2

    I have had the same housekeeper for more than 10 years. Initially she came once a week with her adult daughter. When we moved 35 minutes away, I paid them for their traveling time to come to the new town. When the adult daughter (a nutcase) did something just ridiculous, I fired her but kept her mother. When I went back to work full time our housekeeper gave up her other jobs except watching her grandkids a few afternoons a week and came to work for us about half-time. She does the laundry, errands and grocery shopping, and cooks twice a week. I adore her. She cannot remember which clothes or socks go with which man---makes for fun times when the two boys are home visiting, but I adore her. She does not place things at a jaunty angle (and may I say that is my new favorite phrase and has more connotations than Coleridge ever managed), but rather she places everything in the exact center of tables or consoles. She lines up everything as though it is a firing squad, but I still adore her. She sometimes buys icky store brands trying to save me money which I surreptitiously throw away at the office rather than hurt her feelings. When my husband needed new underclothing (I couldn't remember to get it, he would never bother) she went out and bought it for him without anyone asking. She keeps track of the dog's grooming appointments, how much lettuce we have on hand and when the shutters were last cleaned.

    We also have Handy Guy who we love just as much. He spends several days each month on my punch list, coming down from another town with his adorable dog, tools, and suitcase---he stays with us because the drive is too long. DH adores him because he is fun and nice and takes tennis court and backboard problems tres seriously. We are incredibly lucky to have these two people working for us!

  • ILoveRed

    I hate to admit that I have a cleaning person that comes weekly even though I don't work anymore. I have had the same person forever. He is awesome and i pay him well. It works much better when you are around. At least that has been my experience.

    I worked full time until ten years ago and had weekly cleaning help while I was working.. I'll bet I fired 3 or 4 people over the years. They would start out good and then start doing a lousy job or not show up. Really ticked me off to pay someone and come home from work exhausted to a dirty house.

    I had one gal that only worked 4 hours a week at my house and my dd walked in unexpectedly and found her in the kitchen eating lunch and watching "the young and the restless". That was her last week.

    If its not working find someone else.

  • runninginplace

    Red_lover, I don't think you should apologize for having cleaning help! That is a very personal decision and one that every one makes for him/herself.

    I mentioned in my previous post that I absolutely cherish the service of the person who is cleaning now. I make sure to tell her how much her work means to me-and it does. Coming home, and living in, a house that is truly cleaned is something that soothes my soul. On a daily basis I am thankful for that. We each make our own decisions on what is important and useful so I say: enjoy that clean house and feel no guilt :).

    Ann

  • beaglesdoitbetter1

    We've gotten rid of two cleaning people, I just told them I was going to clean (which I am SURE they knew was not true). One of them kept rearranging stuff (she actually moved the entire microwave to a different spot in the kitchen- even though she didn't cook for us, she was just hired to clean).

    I LOVE the lady we have now. She is really more of a housekeeper, comes 3x a week and cooks, does laundry, grocery shops and cleans everything (we don't even put dishes in the dishwasher, she does it). I never ever want her to leave! We found her off Craigslist (we posted an ad).

  • moonshadow

    I skimmed, so apologies if this was already stated:
    Changing the lock seems like a PITA.

    Not so! I call my locksmith to change tumblers all the time between tenants at rentals. Takes about 30-45 minutes. Original locks remain in place, but prior keys will not work once tumblers are changed. Once he's done, my locksmith tests new keys in each door, hands them to me, he likes to promptly pitch old keys, I pay him, good to go.

    The only things you need to know when calling to schedule is how many locks you want re-keyed, if you want a distinct key for each entry door or same key fits all entries, how many keys you'd like to have and lock brand(s) are helpful. I get six tumblers total re-keyed (deadbolt + knob lock on three doors), four sets of keys (two sets for tenants, two sets for me) and pay about $100.

    I also change the code on the overhead garage door keypad & remotes. I've never asked my locksmith to do that because it's a quick, easy DIY job. (Instructions can be found online for specific brands/models if the manual isn't available.)

    Do call a locksmith, it's easy and a small price to pay for peace of mind that no one 'out there' has access to your home.

  • chispa

    I'm trying to fire mine too! In the Boston area most cleaning services worked in pairs or threes and would usually take 2-3 hours depending on house size. Here in CA they like to work on their own and take 6+ hours to clean. I don't want someone in my house all day. I did find a pair of ladies, but they just split up. The one who kept my house is now bringing another friend to help because I told her that it had to be 2 people. The work is ok, but I don't have too many choices to find another pair of ladies. Maybe its time to send an email to everyone I know in the area, to see if they have any recommendations.

  • texanjana

    Yes, I have had to let cleaning people go over the years, and I did change the locks afterward. I am blessed to have some wonderful ladies who have been cleaning for me for several years now. Good luck, it is never an easy thing to let someone go even if you know it needs to be done.

  • jmc01

    Last year we fired our cleaning lady. We were never home so always left a check on her scheduled days.

    On her last day, I didn't leave a check. i called her during the day, after she was about done with cleaning and told her I'd drop the check off that evening. I went over to her house with the check and told her that we wouldn't be using her any more. I asked for and got the key right then. She ended up asking me if she had done things wrong and, yes, I repeated the same things I had told her on two other occasions. I told her the truth.

    We didn't change our locks and have had no problem.

    The way I look at it - the truth from me might help her from getting fired in the future. Maybe it won't, but maybe it will. I didn't like the experience of firing her, but I would NEVER recommend lying.

  • runninginplace

    Jmc, that is what I was trying, probably clumsily, to say as well. I have grown to believe that telling the truth as much as possible is always the right path. Your point is well taken--by being honest you might help someone avoid a problem behavior or habit in the future.

    Ann

  • deniseandspike

    I moved and never told her the new address!

    Yes, I'm very wimpy. I haven't gotten around to hiring a new person but we changed the locks on our house when we moved in so we wouldn't have to give out keys anymore. We have a deadbolt that's manual--you twist it to open--but you put in a code first. We have a code set up for our pet sitter and we just take it out when she's not expected. No keys to worry about. When we get another cleaning service we'll set them up with their own code and take it out if I decide to get rid of them.

    My only challenge is keeping my 6 year old away from the door while I punch my code in so he doesn't go to school and give our code out to everyone he talks to. Fortunately we have an alarm system as well so just having the door code doesn't allow full access.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Schlage Plymouth Keypad

  • 3katz4me

    Wow - reading this makes me feel very fortunate I've had a wonderful house cleaner for nearly 20 years. There is no way in he!! I would continue to use those people or continue to pay good money to them. I would simply call and let them know I'd made a decision to discontinue their services - polite, nothing hostile. I would have the locks changed prior to doing so. As someone else mentioned, having the locks changed is not that big of a deal and would be well worth it for the peace of mind.

    We had all of ours keyed the same so we could use one key but if I ever have to do it again, I will have one lock that is different and is the one I give out the key for. Then if there's any issue, I can just change that one lock.

  • Sueb20

    They are actually here right now. I figured I wanted them to clean one more time because my house is fairly dirty after their 3-week absence! (Don't think I'm a pig -- I did vacuum and do some other minor touchups in between!) Calling a locksmith is on my to-do list, and then I will call and let them know that I have decided to clean my own house from now on. Of course, no hostility. The guy who is now "in the office" but originally was my actual cleaner is a super nice guy. He's just not a very good business person.

    Oddly enough, I am sort of excited about cleaning my own house again. I have a whole routine that I've come up with, and I am going to buy myself some lovely cleaning supplies to make it more fun. I bought a new broom over the weekend, so that's a start. I can tell already that DH is nervous that he may have to participate in the cleaning. But DD has 1/2 day of school every Friday, usually hard to get anything substantial accomplished, so I decided Friday morning will be my cleaning time. Like you all need to know that. ;)

  • runninginplace

    "Oddly enough, I am sort of excited about cleaning my own house again. I have a whole routine that I've come up with, and I am going to buy myself some lovely cleaning supplies to make it more fun. I bought a new broom over the weekend, so that's a start. I can tell already that DH is nervous that he may have to participate in the cleaning. But DD has 1/2 day of school every Friday, usually hard to get anything substantial accomplished, so I decided Friday morning will be my cleaning time. Like you all need to know that. ;)"

    It's great that you have a positive attitude and enthusiasm about a new task!

    Now that I have cleaning help I have quickly moved to the 'cold dead hands' camp, as in that is what it would take to pry my housekeeper away from me :). I cannot overstate how wonderful it is to come home every 2 weeks and have the house sparkling clean. And to know that I will not be on my hands and knees resentfully spending an entire Saturday scrubbing the house while the rest of the family enjoys their weekend. Over the holidays the cleaning day happened to fall on Xmas, so I had to do it myself and boy was that a PITA.

    It is certainly a luxury but it's one I truly and deeply appreciate.

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