When Your Client Needs Professional Help….

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The phone rings…

I find myself speaking to a new customer who feels something “biting”, but describes it as a burning sensation.  He schedules a high priority spray quite willing to pay for after hours service.  The technician assigned to treat the home find little if any signs of pest, but notes the signs of excessive chemical use.  Most notably stains on the walls and around the baseboards.  Routine questioning reveals the client has attempted to self treat.  Translation dozens of cans of Raid have been sprayed throughout the home.  So much in fact that the carpet is stain for inches around the baseboards.

As the technicain continues through the questions we have trained in these situations the picture begins to develop.  Other pest control companies have visited this home before us, however their employees simply sprayed the home, collected their pay and left knowing they would talk about the thin client for weeks to come.  However, the numerous call backs soon made the easy money less than desirable.  And yet they could find no pest present, nor did trapping produce any proof of life.

Further conversations with the client show his doctors cannot find a cause and there are no BITE marks.  And with that our tech informs the prospective client we will not spray the property because there is no visible sign of an insect population.

A tough call after all we normally drive our techs to grow the business.  But in this case another company’s technician has already fogged the place and sprayed several times, but still the customer complains that the “biting” continues. Continuing to treat the property is the wrong path to take, and can only get that technician into deep doo-doo. Even if there truly is a biting pest present, without knowing exactly what it is you would not be able to go about a control effort in the most effective way. Generally spraying pesticides around is not likely to get to the source of many possible pest problems. You might continue to try the monitoring and trapping program until you are reasonably certain no arthropod pest is present in this home that could account for the sensations this person is experiencing, and hopefully your negative results will also convince the customer that bugs are not the cause.

This is the tough part – convincing the customer, who may already have his mind set that bugs are the cause, and YOU simply cannot see them or capture them. Another issue here is that even if this person showed you marks on their skin that they claim came from bites of some bug, there really is no way either you or the doctors could look at them and definitively say that they are bug bites, much less determine what KIND of bug is causing them based just on the bite marks. There are dozens of other possible causes of skin conditions – bumps, rashes, necrotic sores – that are not related to arthropods, and any of these might be occurring. Unfortunately for the customer, but fortunately for you, YOU are not in the position to try to determine what is causing the sensations other than for arthropods, and a dermatologist is probably the best next resource for this person to consult with.

Just why people focus on “a bite” as the reason they are feeling these things is hard to say. Maybe a friend or co-worker planted the suggestion, or the internet – you know, that vast library of factoids and misinformation – could have been the resource consulted. Even doctors appear inclined to take a stab at it when they are stumped by suggesting that maybe there are rat mites or spiders or fleas in the home, and no one questions a medical expert. There is ample evidence that people who use cocaine and meth will experience the sensation of bugs crawling on their skin or burrowing into them, but it is not our place to treat drug problems.  And in case you haven’t already guessed this client clearly had a drug issue with residue flung around the home.

Meth use is epic in parts of the United States and as such we find ourselves dealing with more an more folks with those horrible side affects.  We tell our techs they should refuse chemical service and suggest the client contact their dermatologist.  We do however offer to institute a monitoring program with glue traps. Making sure we examine the glue under good magnification, because some biting mites can be pretty small, and might be overlooked without magnification.

In the end our job is to help the client, either via treatment or peace of mind that the home is pest free.  We believe business is all about the ethical choices we make, and we hope our techs always take the high road.

Gateway Pest Control, exterminators serving the I-55 corridor between St. Louis and Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  (636) 525-1008

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