The Handyman Effect – I Named It You Solve It

Jerry, I’ve got my plumber in today and he’s looking up under dishwashing rack and says you need to bait up there. It’s the worst he’s seen in awhile. Can you get out here today?

Hey Stu, my electrician said I have 30 or 40 thousand brown recluse up in the attic and you need to get out here NOW.

Keith, my handyman noticed sawdust where he’s working-what kind of termite damage guarantee do I have with you again?

Wow, is this something you’ve ever heard before? I hope not but the reality is somewhere down the line you probably will or already have. The surprising source of this doubt so often comes from established customers & to me that’s real real rub of the whole deal. Clients you’ve known (or thought you did) and some maybe for quite some time. You’ve helped them out before in other situations, been the hero with a big bees nest, found termites long before any real damage was done- don’t they remember? Now all the sudden they’re listening to this intruder who came out of nowhere and giving him more trust than me. What the hell?

It takes a lot of strength for you not to scream out but somehow you bite your lip and remain calm. Usually by the time you get to the account the plumber is long gone the handy mans at lunch and your client is no where to be found. Your investigation finds no brown recluse or you ask yourself bait for what? as all you find under the rack is food scraps and mold. Or that the sawdust in question was from dough boys (our beloved handyman) portable table saw being blown by a fan in the corner. So what’d ya do? Pull your hair out? Scream? Argue with the customer? Call out the pseudo pro?

I know many of you are already saying you’d of never went out anyway-you’d have asked your client “where’s this guy’s license?” right up front. But me, I usually keep my mouth shut until I’ve had a chance to visually see what’s going on and then by God I let em have it!….. Well that’s what I tell my office I’m gonna say as I’m getting the info on the phone. In the end I usually find nothing or what is evident is mis-identified or blown out of proportion. I still say very little until I’ve scoped out all I can so as not to have any surprises but mostly I maybe shine a light, put a dab of bait and just move about my day.

I REALLY HATE IT when the handy mans word is suddenly gospel and mine is worth nothing but I got a whole day ahead of me and I just can’t afford to be brought to a halt over stupidity. I really want to say something but I’m a glass is half full kinda guy and I most often conclude that the customer will eventually forget about it or come to realize who really was the professional. If I am asked or the handyman is there I find that I most often just state the facts and don’t get into a full blown diatribe of why I’m right and he’s wrong because most often it just gets into a pissing match of whose either got more knowledge or is more believable. Shoot, in my mind the customer already displayed who they were more trusting of so I’ll just say the bare bone facts and get on to someone who wants my expertise. (besides, my feelings are hurt)

I know the handyman effect is real in many professions which ironically includes- handymen. But I don’t think it’s had a name before so I’m gonna go ahead and coin and claim it right now. I guess the point of this article is I know what to call this situation, I just don’t think I know how best to handle it. I’d love to hear what you have to say and how you’ve dealt with or how you would solve the handyman effect.

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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  • Mel

    Those types of calls are annoying and I do agree with having to go out on that call to investigate the legitimacy of the complaint. I have to see it with my own eyes if there is a problem or not.  Sometimes there  are pests and I appreciate the extra set of eyes helping me help my customer. Other times it is an honest mistake by a handyman but to tell your customer how you should do your job is wrong. I know I do not go around telling my customers your handy many should have put more screws into X,  roofer should have done this and your plumber should have done that. I almost always suggest them to ask a professional regarding the paticular area of expertise. I just wish they’d show the same kind of respect I give them.   In degense of the handymen/contractors. It is my opinion they’ve generated many more leads for pest controllers than reservices.

  • Jerry, I cant tell you how many time handymen have found HUGE termite mud tubes, only for the “tubes” to be mud daubers.     Also, I might add, the handyman always ” know a good exterminator”.

  • Hahaha… That brings back a few instances in my memory…Yea those mud daubers can get expensive! It’s almost always the Organ Pipe Daubers and the person who who was screaming bloody murder about them gets quiet real quickly if you notice.. 😉

  • Well put– Even after all these years though–I still find I’m doubting myself on the trip over. I think that’s the part I hate worse. 99 times out of 100 it’s just something insignificant and mis-identified but that 1 time will bite you if you let your guard down.

    I too like the handymen as ‘bird dogs’ that refer us to work. That can be very powerful as well.

  • Mel

    Here’s one a similar encounter. A customer last week threw away all his furniture based on the word of the people he hired to move his furniture to a new house. I went through everything and could not find a single bed bug, their feces, or egg clusters. He throroughly cleaned the house before I arrived of course. He told me  the bed bugs were so severe he was finding them crawling in his pantry and garbage cans. Luckily he saved a sample for me. Drug store beetle larva. He threw away all his furniture and a lot of  personal belongings all because a mover misidentified an insect.

  • wow– You think people that would go to all that effort to supposedly ‘rid themselves’ of a certain bug would take just a little time to confirm they have it. I got to thinking about what Total pest said and I too have had service people mistake mud daubers for termite tunnels. I’m thinking- “that plumber almost cost you $1000 bucks” good thing I wasn’t a schiester.

  • wow– You think people that would go to all that effort to supposedly ‘rid themselves’ of a certain bug would take just a little time to confirm they have it. I got to thinking about what Total pest said and I too have had service people mistake mud daubers for termite tunnels. I’m thinking- “that plumber almost cost you $1000 bucks” good thing I wasn’t a schiester.

  • Scott Mcgrath

    I get calls all the time saying y’all were just out here and my (insert service trade here) guy said they found termites. 90% of the time it’s water damage or a few ants inside the wall. That’s why I’m glad I have my own handyman on my staff now.
    Scott McGrath
    McGrath Pest Control

  • Well that certainly is a good way to solve the Handyman dilemma. Excellent work Scott!