Winning the Anecdotal Fight Is Just A Myth

rat in toilet

anecdotal |ˌanikˈdōtl|
adjective (of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research: while there was much anecdotal evidence there was little hard fact | these claims were purely anecdotal.

Not to long ago I wrote an article titled Chasing The Exceptions; The Route Killer. It’s an article where I explain the pitfalls of a small company owner or route tech who exhausts far too much energy and resources trying to solve that one dilemma that “doesn’t fit the mold” A problem that just creates more problems or that get’s stickier with every layer of evidence you think you’ve uncovered. In other words, a waste of time….And you know what?,, since writing that I’ve STILL caught myself doing exactly what I said I /you/we/ shouldn’t do!!! What’s up with that?!!!

Well– I’m happy to report that I’ve also held true to my word a few times too. Actually backed away from a few jobs that although may have been good short term money, I’m pretty sure would have been a drain.

Also, in a rare moment of clarity I came to a realization that the “chase” that I spoke of in that article almost always has it’s roots in anecdotal evidence. And while identifying what may or may not be an exception isn’t always so easy, anecdotal evidence is always pretty clear and this may help you steer clear of wasting your precious time,

Have you ever heard this before?

“Whenever you see ONE roach, there are a thousand you don’t see.”


“Rats get into your home via your toilet”

These are classic lines of thought or beliefs and I’ve heard all types of people recite them from the everyday housewife to the college professor. In fact, these are so engrained that the speaker who believes these to be true may have never had either pest inside their home. They’re simply repeating what they’ve heard so often and come to believe…so it must be true right?

The fact is, I’ve done tens of thousands of roach jobs over 30 years and perhaps as many rat services. In all that time I’ve found one rat actually in a toilet. (think he drowned trying to get water) and oodles of accounts that had a roach or two…but I never did find the 1000. (german roaches) However, even with this strong evidence (or lack there of), even I can’t un-convince a person who believes this even though they have nothing to back it up.

The Difference Between Anecdotal and Myths

The thing with anecdotal beliefs is that they’re not completely unfounded. Although rats using your commode as an entry point is rare, it does happen. In fact if you read my article on the subject and the many many comments on it–you’d think it was an everyday occurrence. However when you consider that there are over 125 million homes in the U.S. alone–the small number who do report this happening wouldn’t move the percentage meter even a tic. It’s just that rare.

A myth on the other hand is something different all together. Most of us have heard the one about the rat or mouse that eats the poison, searches for water and then explodes. This story is very popular- I’d say just as well known and recited as the toilet story. But exploding rats is something that’s NEVER happened and there is no bait out there (never has been) that even comes close to causing this. It just isn’t true.

Still, both are hard to refute and people will stand by their claim sometimes to the bitter end. At least with a myth however the facts win out more than not…anecdotal?? not so much.

Why Is It So Hard?

Anecdotal is difficult to overcome because it is a belief. Beliefs are pretty strong for most and changing or realizing a belief is wrong (or just not completely true) can sometimes hurt a persons pride. Beliefs are built on a way a person thinks, on how he or she pieces information together. Shattering that system can be quite personal. Many times the anecdotal has come from a trusted source such as a friend or relative. So to dismantle the view is a slight on them. It’s almost always an uphill climb.

Myths, because although never really seen, it’s been repeated enough that a person may even “swear” they have seen it with their own eyes. However facts usually win out when presented. The person still may something like “I could’ve sworn they did such and such” but they do eventually relent and are often happy to have these new ‘facts.’

So either way it can be a huge challenge to try and RE-educate your client about their pest issues but just remember this:

As we grow older, our bodies get shorter and our anecdotes longer.
Robert Quillen

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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