What the market will bear and the bug guy couldn’t

I’ve worn a bunch of different hats over the years. Some were really fancy sounding and looked great on a business card. I used to get looks at meetings from others who remembered me as just a tech and I can only guess what they were thinking. I am proud of those accomplishments but out of all of the things I was over my career the most satisfying for me was being a tech, more specifically a commercial tech. I loved going to hospitals, factories, prisons you name it. I saw so many different things and had pest control experiences I don’t think you can get anywhere else. I was making pretty good money, I didn’t have to make any calls to set my day as I did with my residential route and even though I was out the door at about 3 am every morning my day would end about 1 and being a young man this was just great.

Being a technician however is pretty demanding and some of the places I did on a weekly basis really wore me out. I would come into the branch office after my day to turn in my work & I’d sometimes see the salesman hanging out. They were always in a good mood joking and laughing and flirting with the secretaries. Several of them were at one time technicians that I had worked with-good guys. Now however they wore ties and were always clean and it seemed they all were doing very well. They used to keep daily numbers on the board and I’d look at it with amazement. It wasn’t unusual for them to sell $1500.00 or more per day & I wondered how in the world they could do that when they just a year ago were running a route like me. Still, I was happy and my job had it’s perks too but this subliminal promise of a better way was always in the back of my mind.

Fast forwarding now, to the day the ‘straw on the camels back began to seriously bend.’

It was sort of a funny sight really, several managers from our region that I was so use to seeing in suits and ties suddenly dawned green coveralls and caps as we gathered in a parking lot of one of the busiest food markets on the east coast. All the residential techs pulled in and even some of the sales guys showed up but they weren’t so giddy at 2 am as they were during the day. I never saw so many snap traps and B&G’s in one place and I felt as if we were going to war. The account was a huge open food market and most of the vendors were only separated by half walls constructed with hollow block. The maintenance crew was just wrapping up and it’s as if every pest inside the place knew it. Within minutes there were rats and roaches popping out from every crack, crevice or hole big enough to house them. I think we all just stood there and gawked at the spectacle for at least 10 minutes. At this point it hadn’t dawned on me yet but next Tuesday morning at 2 am-this was my baby and I wouldn’t have the crew that was with me now.

Our strategy was to start the account off with the mother of all clean outs but I don’t think any of us were prepared for the size of the bldg. or the true population of the pests. We were to paint killmaster insecticide in key control points but ran out about half way through. Our plan for the rats consisted of ‘shock and awe’ using snap traps galore and tracking powder in the basement and voids. In theory it was a pretty good plan and we actually bagged about 50 rats in our traps while we were there. When we were finished with the stalls we had to wait for the maintenance crew to unlock the security gates of some of the larger stores that lined the outer walls. Standing there we witnessed german roaches crawling all over an electronic food scale that was still turned on. Now I don’t know how much a roach weighs or how many in number were on that scale but the digital read out said it was about 3 and 1/2 ounces worth. What’s worse-this place was downtown in the heart of my city route area and I had eaten here many times.

The next Tuesday came all to soon and I felt very alone in the parking lot and I glanced around hoping I might see a friendly bug truck coming up the street but there was none. I felt like an ant in a shoe box as I entered the huge structure and right on time the rats and roaches were coming out for their nightly feast. Our shock and awe was more like sprits and hope and it seemed to me like we hadn’t killed a thing. Tuesday after Tuesday I showed up to the same nightmare, I had rats jump on my shoulders or brush my leg all the time and roaches would boil out of cracks in the hollow block walls and scurry about my feet as I flushed them out week after week. I got very good at rat trap placement and would find them hanging from pipes in the basement on the string I attached-half eaten and decomposing. I only had until 7 am to get the job done each week so there was no time to dally and by the time I left I would be worn out. When the account was sold it was the talk of the entire region because it was a prestigious place and a feather in our branches hat. For the salesman I’m sure the commission was sweet but for me at 15% it only added up to about $20.00 per service and I was really hating life after a few months.

I continued on and the rest of my week was enjoyable as always but I dreaded Tuesday mornings and the subliminal thoughts of more money and a clean uniform for a change was becoming a dull roar inside my head. By this time I was soon to be married and thoughts of my future and having more money naturally came along. There was an opening in the sales team and after oh, about 3 seconds I told my manager that I would like to have that job. I was kind of surprised at myself for stepping out like that and this was something I had never done before so it was a huge risk for me. He smiled as if he knew why and lined up my replacement and asked me if I could take him on the route before coming on. My replacements name was Jerry too and we had worked together many times on big bird jobs or apartments. He was (and probably still is) a great tech and a hard worker. He loved the route and caught right on but we hadn’t had a Tuesday yet. To my surprise he did very well with it or as well as could be expected. He was just as wore out and complained of the things that got to me but perhaps he was still in awe of the commercial world and how different it was from the residential. I know he hated scheduling as we all did and this opportunity with its set route was perfect for him.

I often think back on my commercial route days and think of all the great things I’ve seen and sometimes wish I never left. That is until I think of Tuesday mornings and the account I just could not bear.

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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  • OMG that is a great story, I’ve never had rats jumping on me but roaches yes and fleas… Good job