So Education Is The Key?

So as I’m pulling up at 9:02 for my 9 o’clock ‘retreat’ appointment, I see my client outside waiting for me looking all jittery and hunched over, staring straight down as he paces back and forth in the driveway smoking a cigarette. He see’s me, straightens up, tosses his smoke to the ground and crushes it into the dirt with his shoe. I can’t tell if he’s happy to see me or he’s ready for an all out brawl. Guess I’ll find out.

They say that education is the KEY to a successful route. It’s the KEY to promoting IPM, the KEY to better techs, the KEY to fewer call backs, the KEY public awareness and the KEY to the pest control industries future. I’m sorry, it is not.

Scoff if you will, call me a spray jockey who’s behind the times, revoke my license and take away my ACE sticker and patch. It won’t change the truth. If education is the KEY, I contend we must be at the wrong house.

I’m a happy guy. I wake up happy, I bound through my day happy and I always go to sleep happy- I tell ya, I’m just a happy guy. So jumping out of my truck I burst out with gleeful “Hi how ya doing?”. “Grrrumph” is the reply.

Truth be told I knew this guy wasn’t gonna be glad to see me long before I pulled up. He called the office complaining about bugs twice for Pete’s sake and was not a happy camper then. To boot, we had just done his regular service two weeks prior. Now, although our staff went through all of the expectations he should have and explained the nature of the service, the residual of our products and even our company policies, (which did fend him off the first time) this guy now, wasn’t having any of it. At this point his attitude was come out and respray or hit the the curb.

That’s it! What else do you want me to say? All the education in the world wasn’t changing this guys mind. We gave him facts, biologies, rationale, logic and plain old common sense. My office said the same things I said which was the same things our tech said which is what the labels said and there were no mixed messages. We were patient, persistent, persuasive, polite and pretty much matter of fact at one point. To no avail.

So knowing this, I guess I somewhat spitefully put on an ‘extra’ happy tone and face– (hey I said I was happy, that doesn’t mean I can’t be a bit churlish at times) So, knowing this might get under his skin a bit, I over enthusiastically spout out, “ Hey, grrreat to see you, it’s just a wonderful day!” Whoops. With that he simply reached in his pocket and pulled out a baggie of bugs he collected since our visit two weeks ago and snapped back at me something about how his day wasn’t great since he had to live with bugs. All total there were two Surinam roaches, dead, two tiny spiders also dead and a tiny stink bug who, you guessed it, was dead. All found (dead) on the back screen porch or just inside the sliding door which BOTH do not completely close or seal well.
So at this point where do go? What do you say? Hey, I’m asking! You tell me! If you’d like, please refer to the above suggestion of scoffing. But please bear in mind you’d better have a better answer than “education” cause that ain’t working.

Maybe you believe I’ve cherry picked an account to whine about or just put too much emphasis on this one guy. That this one instance couldn’t possibly stand for any significant number of clients or for my entire list I cited above….. Oh contra-ire. It typifies precisely what goes on with this list and many many people we (as an industry) sign up for service. Varying degree’s I grant you, but it’s a frustrating dilemma that quite frankly……The simple adage of ‘Education’, just isn’t cutting it.

Who here doesn’t know a tech that’s been trained, warned, educated, sat in meetings and been preached at that still goes right on out and kills a non target animal? Misapplies a product, breaks things, steps through ceilings, pisses off a client, spouts off bogus information that just makes you scratch your head and wonder where the hell they heard such a load of crap…let alone believed it? Then after all your investment in training and education, they just up and quit or you can’t stand it and fire them…Nice huh?

IPM? Really? There’s more education on IPM out there that you can shake a stick at and yet you can’t get two techs in a crowded room to agree on the same definition. I dare say that the ONLY accounts who adhere to IPM even half way strictly are schools or other government institutions. Why? Because it’s mandated. Does it work? Hardly- those in charge of application just wait until the place is empty (also mandated) and besides a bead of caulk, they are laying down a residual product or spray treatment which quickly and quietly solves the problem.

Oh and the public. Yes let’s educate the public. What’s the biggest story the news can promote besides an airplane crash? A pesticide spill or other such calamity where someone is killed, hurt or sickened by a pest control product. Why? People fear bugs for sure but they also fear chemicals. It’s drummed into them. Chemicals are bad and so an unfortunate situation occurs and they’re all over it like flies to a pile of dung. It seems that no matter how hard you try you just can’t ‘educate’ them out of this fear. The other half of the publics perception is no less frustrating. They must believe we have magic wands and that our sprays magically and instantly rid them from any and all unwanted pests. Show them a crack in the wall, a torn screen or even a beam of sunlight piercing into the living room from an unsealed door jamb and they’re like, “oh yeah, I should get that fixed, but just go ahead and spray your spray cause that’s really all I need.” Two weeks later…. Ring ring…. “your stuff ain’t working.” Seriously????

If It’s Not A Key

Well, I guess I’ve just about used up all the space for this post and probably pissed off a few people in the process. I really didn’t mean too and that was not my intention. I’m actually not against education nor am I advocating we stop trying. I do however think that this simplistic approach to every problem we have has proven to be ineffective.

I believe that the lock to the door is not opened by a key at all. Instead it’s a combination lock. Perhaps a rusty older lock that needs a shot of lubricant from time to time, but one that requires several key spots hit in order to work. One where you have to spin right, then go all the way around past your original point only to come back to the left to get to your goal. If you miss a number by going too far or not far enough. You’ll have to repeat the process until it finally opens. The other thing I believe is you’ll have to repeat the process with each and every client you have. Some have different combinations. Some simple, some complex. But it’s very rarely just one key that will get you in and it most certainly isn’t as simple as educating our way to a better tomorrow. If it was, we’d be there already.

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. 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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  • Daniel D Dye

    Geez, Jerry…Get off the fence and tell us how you really feel! Awesome article, one of your best and full of common sense truths.

  • Thank you Daniel……

  • Danny Cory

    Great article as always Jerry. I can find an article on this site for almost every thought that crosses my mind in a work day. I myself am a firm believer in education (im also still a bit of a noob). I took over the route I’m on 2 years ago. I’d say my extra service calls have gone down about 50 percent since last year, just because I have been able to educate my customers on how we take care of things, what treatments are an additional charge, and smarten them up to the fact that we can’t kill everything. Sometimes, we can’t beat nature. They always say in sales, there are two things you can’t overcome: Poverty, and ignorance. Sadly, there are a lot of people who only suffer from the latter part of that equation, and they sign up for service anyway. These are the people that want you out of their hair the second you show up, and give you words of encouragement like “you know what to do” or “I haven’t seen anything” before you even have a chance to say “Hello.” They expect you to find every single bug that has been within a twenty foot radius of the structure since the last service, and they don’t understand (much like in this article) that if a bug is dead, we can’t re-kill it. We kill things. If you’re finding dead bugs, that means job well done! I really don’t know how to combat this situation. I guess I could grab a couple aerosol cans and go wild on the call back, or use a different product on the exterior of the building. I guess that will make the customer happy for minute, until he finds a dead spider in the basement, then I’m ruining his day again, I guess it’s like any business relationship, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not going to saturate someone’s home with chemicals because it’s what they want. I’m the one who makes that decision. In the end, all I’m going to do is jump through hoops, and make a lot of unnecessary treatments for a customer that has a completely unrealistic idea as to what it is we do. If dead bugs don’t make the customer happy, nothing will.

  • Well said……