3 Moral Dilemmas For The Termite Control Operator – What Would You Do?

moral dilemma sign http://pestcemetery.com/There are moral and ethical challenges in just about anything you can think of. Some are as simple as black and white, right and wrong and there is no gray area at all. It’s pretty easy to decide what actions to take in those instances. It’s also one of those times when breaking the cardinal rule of “judge not lest ye be judged” is usually widely accepted–because you’ll have so many agreeing with your assessment.

However there are many many situations when it’s not so clear what’s acceptable, what’s right. When taking one action means the other left undone will be seen by some as worse than what you did. When you yourself wrestle with what to do and honestly–you can make a case for either or.

I suppose when I read this back, the last couple of sentences will make little to no sense. Maybe, that’s just perfect because it encapsulates exactly this gray area of those questionable ares of ethics and morality that every pest control tech and/or inspector will be faced with at some time or another.

So with that. Here are 3 situations that I’ve been faced with or seen others do. (explanations & other possible scenarios are also given so as to cover as many possibilities as possible)

What do you do?

Case #1- In On Or Under The Structure

You’ve been in the industry a long time and you know quite a bit about how homes are constructed and the process. You know for instance, that when roof trusses are shipped to home site they come preassembled. You’ve seen them off loaded and often times stacked on the ground waiting sometimes a week or more for the crews to come and put them up. This was especially true during the busy housing boom a few years ago.

The Dilemma ; You’re called to inspect a newer home (a year old or less) and there is no evidence in the entire home…that is until you get to the attic. There you find a truss that has evidence of subterranean termites. Just a foot or so of some mud and perhaps the faint start of feeding on the surface. It’s just one truss and you can see where the termites came and went and there’s absolutely nothing suggesting that they are active or that they came from below- the report form asks for you to check yes or no on visible evidence. What box would you check?
Ok, that’s kind of clear and hopefully if you check yes you’d do your best to put something in the comment section that might satisfy the bank, the buyer and the realtor. Good luck… How bout spicing it up? What if this was a home that a friend or relative was buying and they asked you to do the inspection? Or one that they were selling? What would you do then? Do you report it and get caught up in a firestorm of endless phone calls, explanations and possibly pissing off business associates or acquaintances? Like I said– it seems pretty cut and dry but if you noodle this through a little bit you may get my point. On the one hand you are positive that this ‘strike’ came while the truss was on the ground either at the site or where it was built. You know there’s no problem. On the other hand, it’s evidence, and there’s no denying that. What would you do?

Case #2 – Baiting Not For Control

Most termite companies use the motto. “There are two kinds of homes; those with termites and those that are going to get them.” These companies know the biology of termites and often times couple their motto with a sales strategy to get more termite sales. The technique is to place wooden monitors around the home in the soil. Not a baiting program- just the wooden stakes. I’ve seen these encased in home made pvc or just a milled piece of wood like a survey stake complete with the company logs and #. The salesman periodically checks the station and as is most often the case- a termite strike somewhere down the line is inevitable. With this ammo they move in for the close.

Is this an upright standard for our industry? Is this above board? There are many places in our country where you can get a strike very quickly. (consider those trusses) Does a hit on a stick of wood plunged into the ground constitute a problem or is that just nature? Isn’t this what termites do? Couldn’t you find some termites in a near by stump or some roots? Is this a valid “alarm” system that termites are getting too close or just a ‘bait and wait ‘system where you know the answer ahead of time but it’s just the timing of the hit you can’t be sure of? Again, just a scenario for your consideration, what would you do?

Case #3 – Boosters

It’s renewal time for a long standing client. For years your company has provided ‘booster’ shots as part of the service. That changed a few years ago but this customer refuses to accept the new policy. You’ve explained it at great lengths and they agree that they don’t want excess chemical in the ground, they understand that the label is the law….but, when it comes to their home, you either spray it or you don’t get paid. Ok, again, straight forward and seemingly cut and dry. However it’s late in the month and you may need the numbers or you’re a single operator and losing just one client is like putting a huge hole in the boat you’re trying desperately to launch. You have 10 or 15 gallons of product in your tank from a recent job- it wouldn’t really cost you anything. Do you “squirt” around to appease this stubborn client? Do you hold the line and refuse to treat even though you know no one will find out? If you do treat, what do write on the receipt? (these kinds of clients always want receipts with a running record) Do you list the treatment and then do a quasi “CYA” stating excess moisture or landscaping as a reason for your ‘re-establishing’ the barrier? How do you handle this because I KNOW this kind of client is still out there in droves. What do you do?

Although I’d be interested to hear your comments on any of these or other such dilemmas you may want to include. I’m in no way going to get into the “you’re right or wrong” debate. That’s not my point. While some live by the strict letter of the law others may say there’s exceptions for every rule. Shoot, many industry experts will even readily admit our product labels can be quite ambiguous and yet we’re asked to adhere strictly to them. So if you care to comment on one or more of these scenarios great- you’ll not be judged by me. If not that’s fine too, perhaps it’ll just stir up some new thoughts on situations which may help you handle that question when it does come up. (and it will) The question of- What would you do?Comment arrow http://pestcemetery.com/

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • #1 Every State may be somewhat different but a termite, termite tube or evidence is just that – evidence and here in AZ must be noted. I agree on mentioning something in the comments but how could you prove it.
    #2 Just an indication termites are near a structure nothing more.
    #3 The Label is the law, if there are termites or if you have had numerous retreatments then a retreat is in order.
    My opinion only!

  • You’ve been certified in two states (that I know of) so your opinion is something to take stock in. I just think of scenarios like these and hear stories of how inspectors get into trouble….

  • exterminatorsrock

    I agree with Mr Birkemeyer on all counts

    1. Evidence is evidence. I try to take advantage of the “notes” section on NC WDIR100 and take as many photos as I can.

    2. We use monitors on those people that just don’t believe the NCSU study that determined there is, on average, 23 different termite colonies per acre in N.C. Also, to make that person think about termites everytime they walk to their side door to combat the “out of sight out of mind” mentality.

    3. We follow the US forest service data on the lifespan of chemical in the soil. Also, our contract clearly states when we will do a “Booster” treatment (ie: 10 years from original treatment date)

    But, no way would I “squirt” 15 gallons “per customer request”, mainly because it negates everything I’m pushing my techs to do. We have spent hours in classes, we have taken all the tests, we think of insects and how to control them for most of our waking moments. I would never take suggestions from a person that “stayed at a holiday inn last night”. I have lost a few customers with that mind set, but I would rather have a customer that values professional opinion, even if it means staying out later to sell an account to replace the one I lost

    representing the dual staters!
    NC-CA448PW & VA 126897-C 🙂
    NC Lic# 1882PW (inactive)

  • Well said