Ask Steve

Ask Steve: Should we be Charging for Complex Spot Removal?

“It all depends!” So let me share a few thoughts…

spot removalGood morning, Steve,

My husband and I opened our carpet cleaning business last year and overall things have gone well. We are making a living and have paid off much of the start-up loan that my parents provided. But I know we should be doing so much better and I just get so frustrated!

For example, my husband is not charging for complex spot removal, such as red Kool-Aid stains. He is scared to tell the customer it will cost more, so he just includes it in the job. For example, yesterday on a very small job there were the usual standard food/drink spots in the traffic area in front of kitchen. We, of course, include common spots like these in our normal cleaning charges.

But there were also three small spots with gum and two red spots from kid’s juice. So after vacuuming, my husband got out our red stain removal kit and spent over 20 minutes removing the red stains. All of them came out and the customer was happy.

But when I told him he should have charged extra for this complicated spotting, we got into a big fight. My husband says he is he is worried about being labeled a “bait-and-switcher” if he has to charge more than we quoted over the phone.

Oh, and by the way, Steve, this was just a tiny minimum price job for $50. So it gripes me that we spent an extra 20 “uncompensated” minutes on the job. Plus, those red stain removal kits aren’t cheap! So who is in the right on this, Steve, my husband or me?

-Bickering in Boise, ID


Wow, Bickering, that phrase “Who is in the right on this, Steve, my husband or me?” strikes fear into my heart! My stock (and very safe) reply? “It all depends!” So let me share a few thoughts…

I do suggest working most spotting into the price of the cleaning. How? By just quoting a bit more for the total job. That way it doesn't seem like you are penalizing the client. Now of course how can you do this when you have priced the job over the phone? My answer? You can’t! That is why for my first-time customers, I really tried to make a separate visit to pre-inspect the carpets.

Now I can hear the anguished screams coming in right now. “Steve, I can’t afford to drive across town to look at a $140 job I may not even get!” You’re right - you can’t do it for a lousy 140 bucks. But if you start calculating the lifetime value of a customer, the numbers change!

For example, I prove mathematically (and very conservatively) in our SFS seminar that this $140 job will easily return you $35,840 over the next 30 years! Now Bickering, my guess is you or your husband will eagerly drive a long ways for over $35,000! Am I right or am I right?!

NOTE: Now of course this entire pre-inspecting first-time clients model comes crashing down if you do the pre-inspection but don’t get the job! That’s why you should download my free “Carpet Cleaning Pre-inspections that Sell!” manual HERE. Or just write me at and I will e-mail you a copy- no charge!

I will mention, Bickering, that you may want to analyze your $50 minimum charge. Now of course everyone has a different cost of doing business. But in most areas of the country your current $50 minimum would be well below the market. As I always say, “There is no virtue in poverty!”

Now what can you do with first-time jobs that you are still pricing over the phone? The key here is to interview your customer before you arrive so at least they aren’t surprised with any bad news.

For example, ask your caller, “Do you have any special areas of concern?” If this question doesn’t smoke out any unusual spots, why not ask, “Have you noticed any spots on your carpet?” (Of course they have! That is why they are calling you!) When your caller fesses up about the spots, simply ask what color they are? Even if they reply that the spots are “dark,” you can then easily explain why you are asking.

I do recommend you have a written policy on spotting on your website, in your confirmation e-mailed “How to Get Ready for Your Big Day” checklist and in your sales literature. You could state, “Normal household spots and spills are included in your base cleaning price. However, red dye drink spills, makeup stains, pet damage, paint spills and other large volume spots may require additional charges. Your technician will always inform you of the final bill before starting work.” Something like that!

I love surprises, Bickering. But not in business. Trust me, your clients feel the same way. However, please tell your hubby that if you pre-orient your clients correctly and are totally upfront with them, then he should not be worried about charging more for time-consuming spotting.

If this doesn’t do the trick, use another one of my SFS quotes on your husband: “All other things being equal, it is better to have more money than less money!” We can all agree on this one!

 Steve and ICS want to consult for you! For a personal reply write Steve HERE with your questions, problems, struggles and challenges!  Your help is on the way! 

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