Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When strangers show up during your pet sitting visit

Play date

I pulled up to the front driveway at 8 am on Saturday morning. A row of trucks awaited me out in the street. Contractors huddled around cars, waiting for something… or someone.


The client’s home is newly built, and there is detail work to be finished inside. These guys were here to install the baseboards. The client wasn’t expecting them.

The men had opened the door and gone in, setting off the alarm. “Don’t worry,” one of them told me, “It turned off.” Not likely, I thought. I went in and disarmed it, since they didn’t have the code.

And then we waited for the police, while I walked the dog.

Be prepared

When discussing the visit schedule with your clients, ask them if anyone might be entering the home. It is frightening to walk in on someone. And you need to know if the intruder is authorized to be there.

I get surprised all the time, and I hate it. Last week I got a call from a friend of a client’s. She told me she was going over to take the dog for a few hours. I was so glad she told me, as I would have panicked if I’d arrived and the dog was gone. I checked with the owner, and all was well.

I’ve walked in on teenagers the morning after a big party, a grandma washing vegetables in the kitchen sink, and clients who arrived home early. You can’t always know everything in advance, but it will help your peace of mind if you have at least asked.

One time I got a call from a client’s security alarm company. The guy explained he didn’t think the alarm was functioning properly. Could I meet him at the house and go through the alarm test with him?

No. I couldn’t contact the clients because they were out of the country. I wasn’t comfortable letting a strange man in the house and working there alone with him. So I said no. When the client returned, they understood completely.

The contractors

In the example at the beginning of this post, I spoke with the police and gave them my ID. I called the client and got authorization for the contractors to work in the home. I moved the cat and dog to a room where they wouldn’t be able to escape. It all worked out, but if I hadn’t shown up just then, what would have happened? The contractors didn’t have the client’s phone number.

Be safe, not sorry

Listen to your gut. If the stranger in the house makes you uncomfortable, don’t go in. I strongly recommend you read the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker.
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© 2011 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.


Linda Ward said...

Recently we turned up to do a cat sit to find the sister of the owner in the house, telling us she would look after the cats so we didn't need to bother going back.

The owners had told us they got us in because when the sister looked after them she didn't empty the litter tray and the cats were (understandably) really unhappy. So we had to gently say no, that we'd been paid and had a responsibilty to do the job we'd been paid for. The clients were *very* happy we'd stood our ground.

I've also come across parents of clients who weren't expected, and had to tell them no I wouldn't let them in until I had authorisation from the clients. That's an uncomfortable one, but luckily hasn't happened very often!

Terry Albert said...

Ouch, both of those sound pretty uncomfortable. But you handled them well! I assume if someone doesn't have a key they aren't authorized to just come on in, so even though it was the parents, I can see why you hesitated.
Now that it is so easy to keep in touch with clients by cell phone, it is much easier to resolve these issues!

Holly Heiman said...

Yes I certainly hate being surprised. One time I was on an overnight and at 6 in the morning I heard the garage door open ...it was the owners coming back 2 days early with no advance notice