The Three Faces Of A Termite Salesman

Mrs. Emory sits in her kitchen anxiously awaiting the first of three pest control representatives she called. She’s anxious because in her living room are tens of thousands of swarming bugs. She has no idea of what they are or how they got in. What started with just a few moth like creatures fluttering about the front window quickly turned into the room filling up an endless mass of wings and tiny creatures that seem to have no end.

Now Mrs. Emory is a seasoned citizen and has seen her share of life’s surprises but even the most grizzled person can quickly become unsettled when a swarm of winged six legged insects suddenly takes over everything and you are helpless to stop them.The house has been checked each year for awhile but her husband handled everything to do with the home and she was at a loss of what to do. Having been on her own now for just about a year it was at a times like this she really missed having her husband there to help her in terrible situations like this. “Is it termites? Am I losing my home? How did this happen?” are just a few thoughts that race through her mind. Although extremely worried she remembered how her husband insisted on at least three estimates whenever they had work done at their home. She made five calls but only three companies could come out that day- she hopes she can make the right decision.

Tom is salesman #1

and he’s right on time. He’s full of energy and quickly surmises the problem and accurately tells Mrs. Emory she has subterranean termites. “Oh they do a lot of damage but we can stop em for you” he exclaims as he rushes about the house. He looks down the basement stairs and say’s “we’ll have to move some furniture it looks like” and then excuses himself to check the outside. ” I got about 180 linear feet and two dirt filled porches” he calls out coming in the back door after circling 1/2 the home. Scribbling quickly on the back of a brochure he extols the virtues of his company and claims there’s no one better. “For $1150.00 I’ll put those termites behind you Mrs. Emory, would you like me to call the office and schedule this for later today or will you be home tomorrow?” For the first time since bursting through the door Tom is silent and waits for the Mrs. to speak. She tries to tell him she’s getting other estimates but Tom passes it off as if he didn’t hear her. Opening the scribbled on pamphlet he almost grudgingly begins to go through the life cycle of termites and hits a few high lights of the treatment needed. Each phrase is fashioned so as to get Mrs. Emory to agree, say yes or at least nod her head in affirmation. With a few nods from the now leery homeowner Tom again hits with a close. In fact he does this several times and very quickly Mrs. Emory feels the pressure to say yes. Getting weaker with each pitch she manages to hold out longer than Tom can take and with that he quickly announces he must go and he’ll check back later by phone. Mrs. Emory is relieved but hopes she didn’t just let the one company that could help her walk out the door.

#2 Arrives

“Hi, I’m Jill from Entomological Pest Services” says a sharp looking woman carrying a briefcase and large note book. She too quickly finds the problem but unlike Tom she spends a lot of time examining the scene. Jill is filled with facts and Mrs. Emory is amazed by all there is to know about a bug so small. While Tom barely turned his flashlight on, Jill’s powerful spot light illuminates the room and she painstakingly goes over each foot of wall but never stops with the encyclopedic facts as she goes. She shows Mrs. Emory her electronic meter that picks up moisture in the walls and she tries desperately to find a place where it will beep and indicate a problem. She insists that Mrs. Emory follow along as she inspects the home and although impressed, it seems a bit to much for the elderly lady to comprehend. “At Entomological, we pride ourselves on thorough treatments and inspections” she says as she shows the Mrs. a detailed drawing she’s made of the entire house when she is done with her inspection. The two sit down at the table and as if starting from scratch Jill begins her sales pitch. For a 1/2 hour Jill fills the woman’s head with rehashed information but even with the second time around Mrs. Emory has no clue. Jill proposes a liquid treatment in the block walls, soil, dirt filled porches and drilling the floors in the basement below. Mrs. Emory has no idea what all this means but she’s alarmed now because Tom barely promised anything and his price was oh so high-hers has got to be through the roof! Jill then slid her meticulously filled out contract across the table and proudly stated, “At Entomological, no one beats our price either.” The total cost was $450.00 and Mrs. Emory was astounded at the difference. She was all but ready to sign the deal when the door bell rang- Jill had taken close to 3 hours and now the third inspector was there right on time, in fact ten minutes early.

#3’s Turn

Jill passed by the inspector with a scowl on her face and he just smiled and said “Nice to see you again Jill.” Mrs. Emory promised herself on 3 estimates and even with Jill’s great price she thought it would be rude to turn her last vendor away. She could have used a break from all the cramming of information but she waved goodbye to Jill and let her third estimator in. “Hi Mrs. Emory, I’m Dave from Daves Termite & Pest Control- Thank you for calling me out” he said with a great big smile. Dave asked a few questions and quietly went to work. He found an exit hole where at least some of the termites came flying out underneath the window sill hidden by the curtains. His bright light and sharp eye found a section of bubbled paint on the baseboard in the corner that fell apart at his touch. Picking away with his finger at the thin layer he showed Mrs. Emory the reclusive worker termites that do all the damage. “No one spotted these” she gasped. For as tired as she was from all the mental turmoil she now gave Dave her full attention.

The two went into the basement where Dave found just a speck of mud in a seam where two sheets of paneling came together. It was right under the area of the swarm. “I’d tell you all about termite mud tunnels but I think you’ve gotten a full education today,” he said with a wink. Then Dave pointed out something that neither of the other inspectors saw and something she wondered about for a few years. In the laundry room where the floor was bare were little patches of cement in the floor about 12 inches apart. “I noticed these on the front porch as well Mrs. Emory, didn’t they tell you about em?” he said in a troubled voice. Mrs. Emory explained that her husband took care of the home and she really never questioned what they were. She knows he had a pest control company come out once per year but she had no idea it was anything more than a free check up. Dave pointed to a sticker on the hot water heater. It was from a competitor and had dates and boxes checked but again she had no idea what it meant. The last date readable was for just about a year ago and Dave asked her if her husband kept any records of the maintenance on the home.

Mrs. Emory’s husband was very thorough and had a file case filled with every receipt, contract and appliance warranty they’ve ever bought. Way in the back was a tab labeled TERMITES and Mrs. Emory pulled out the thick folder. To her great surprise they found a termite contract dated some 10 years ago and receipts for the renewals for every year since. “I had no idea he had this job done she said in amazement- I thought the people that came were just looking for free and I would have called them but couldn’t remember who they were.” Dave showed Mrs. Emory the different clauses in the agreement and explained exactly what she should be entitled to. He also said he knew the company that did the work and they were good people and she should have no problems. He gave her a card and told her to call should she need but for now she should be alright and to try and put this behind her. Mrs. Emory was relieved to say the least and thanked him profusely for saving her money she really didn’t have to spend and for being so honest. She called out from behind him as he walked out the door- “I’ll bet Dave would have been happy to hire you.” Dave turned and said with a puzzled look, “Ma-mm?” Mrs. Emory just smiled and said, “Dave, that was my husbands name, and he took care of me just like you did.” Thank you.

With termite companies gearing up for this years swarm, advertising campaigns are in full swing in anticipation and anxious salesman wait by the phone. Commission checks have been pretty bare with the long cold winter and this is traditionally the time of year most reps make the bulk of their years pay. These three salesman in this story are fictional but I have seen all three in operation for as long as I have been on the job. My question is today- which kind are you?

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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  • Pomona Termite Inspection

    It is easy to forget about termites. What can I do to prevent termite infestation?

  • Missy

    I appreciate this story so much.  However, I would so appreciate hearing it told with a slight twist to the ending.  Suppose there WAS no existing contract with a pest control company.  How would Dave the Exterminator have handled the situation so as to help this poor woman, and to make it possible for her to know which of the three of you (the three companies) to trust?  I just had a major swarm, and I just went through a similar “estimate” today, that went on for hours.  I am a woman, but I am not like the woman in the story; I have learned to take care of my own issues as a homeowner, and do my own research.  Most contractors (of all kinds) really don’t WANT an educated customer.  My gut told me to only schedule ONE estimate for today….and it’s a good thing I followed that instinct.  The company owner was here for 5 hours.  With a chronic illness, I could not have tolerated another “inspection” today. 

    I will get two more estimates over the next several days…….as I can tolerate.  But despite doing my homework, I don’t know how to evaluate what I actually NEED, and what is a fair price.  I will be contacting you, and reading everything I can on your blog.  Thanks for the time you invest in it!

  • Thank you- please feel free to peruse my termite category as i think you’ll find some answers there. Also- my “Ask The Bug doctor” tab at the top sends an e-mail right to me. Feel free to avail yourself to that and hopefully I can help you through this ordeal.

  • Nitorpestcontrol

    I too am a licensed pest control operator in Pennsylvania. I just started my own company. I’m definately not getting rich. I do what I do to help people. I would rather not be wealthy as opposed to being able to sleep at night.Besides,I hate people that ripp off old ladies. I love your articles. Please keep em coming. Thanks, Mark J. Nitor pest control. Phila,Pa.

  • Wow Mark, Thank you so much for the kind words. I have a feeling you and your company are a success already with that approach and I wish you all the best as you grow.