WalMart Dissolves Relationship With USM
Throughout the United States
by Ranger Kidwell-Ross
Bentonville, AK – April 1, 2011 (last updated April 29, 2011)
US Maintenance, a Transfield Services Group company, has been terminated as the parking lot sweeping, landscaping and power washing service provider for Walmart. This information has been independently verified in a number of places in addition to the internal Walmart fax a sweeping contractor provided us, which is linked further down in this bulletin.
I have contacted the media relations department of both WalMart and USM several times in an attempt to solicit an interview or gain further information. On April 25th I received my first return response, from Ashley Hardie, WalMart's Manager of Media Relations. Here's what she said:
"Thank you for contacting us. In regards to your inquiry, we have certain expectations of our vendors offering products and/or services to our stores, clubs and facilities. In this case, we have made the decision to allow our stores and clubs to use local businesses who offer these services."
A contractor reports that the following number and email address have been set up for contractors to ask questions of WalMart re: the USM situation. They are: 1-800-932-3367 (Option 5); firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that this number was not provided by WalMart media relations.
Here is the link to an internal WalMart memo that appears, and was reported as having been, sent by WalMart Corporate to a WalMart store manager.
Reports called in or sent to us via email after initial article posted:
You are also encouraged to check out the comments on the WorldSweeper.com Facebook page, located at www.facebook.com/WorldSweeper.
Thanks to everyone who emailed their appreciation for us taking the lead with this story!
Richard Arlington – 4.7.11 – 9:04am, Pacific: Because of Richard Arlington's stature and reputation – he is the person who led WorldSweeper.com's webinar on how to evaluate and work with National Service Providers – I am putting his comments at the top of this list.
On April 7th, Arlington wrote in to say: "I just got back from a trade show at which a Walmart representative did confirm this... WalMart is restructuring their business model and putting the decision on who to hire for parking area sweeping, landscaping, snow removal and power washing back to the store managers."
Indiana Contractor – 4.1.11 – 11:53am, Pacific: By phone and then email: "Like I had mentioned on the phone everyone in our area refused to do them as far as we know. And we have contacted all of our stores we had before USM took them and we received every single one of them back this morning, so I would think everybody else should be able to do the same."
Carolinas Contractor – 4.1.11 – 2:35pm, Pacific: By email: "I have it on good authority, though I cannot totally confirm, that USM expects this to be the entire national contract with Walmart. A regional manager for USM in Virginia told sources close to me this about three hours ago. Stores in our area are not aware of this yet, though 3 stores have "gone rogue" and hired contractors direct in the past 45 days.
"I also have some more supporting background information to lead me to believe this and these are all multi sourced bits of info and all point to a disaster that has been brewing for some time. This is amazing, considering the grass is not even growing in places and most figured it would take the landscape season to tip this thing over the edge. I had predicted dissolution by Memorial Day, but not April Fools Day."
Indiana Contractor – 4.1.11 – 3:18pm, Pacific: By email: "We can confirm that managers at the Wabash, IN, Marion, IN and several northern Indiana stores received the same notice. Absolutely made our day as we had refused to work for USM given their ridiculous pricing expectations and their horrendous contractor service agreement."
Colorado Contractor – 4.1.11 – 3:48pm, Pacific: By email: "We have confirmation from several Walmarts that we were supposed to take over Monday that the contacts with USM are cancelled. FYI no one from USM called or notified us of the cancellation.
"Thank you for sending this out. You saved me a ton of grief and money. We would have sent out several landscape crews on Monday plus several sweepers that evening. In the end we would have been kicked off the property or just not paid for the services."
Carolinas Contractor – 4.1.11 – 4:18pm, Pacific: By email: "On USM -- the snow plow fiasco was the beginning of it and the disastrous sweeping implementation pushed it over the edge from what I can tell.
New York Contractor – 4.1.11 – 4:30pm, Pacific: By telephone: "I spoke to a WalMart manager in my area who confirmed that USM had lost the WalMart account in ALL states."
Arizona Contractor – 4.1.11 – 4:34pm, Pacific: "That's great news, hope one of the states is Arizona!"
Ohio Contractor – 4.1.11 – 6:01pm, Pacific: We were scheduled to start a location last night, and additional locations next week. When our truck arrived last night there was another contractor on the lot. We checked with our USM contact today, and via email were told:
"As it stands USM has the contract with Walmart for Lot Sweeping."
And then later in the day:
"As for the comment about the USM agreement with Walmart, USM is still servicing the Walmarts."
Anyone working for USM should be cautious. The USM contract stipulates that if they don't get paid, the contractor doesn't get paid, and the contractor has no recourse. There is really no reason USM would tell a contractor to stop, since there is no requirement under contract for USM to pay the contractor when Walmart refuses to pay USM. Additionally, there have been no IVR (phone call in system) numbers supplied, so if you perform any work, you will not get paid anyway.
Unknown Contractor – 4.1.11 – 7:39pm, Pacific: We do one Walmart in New England and I have e-mailed and talked with USM. I did not change my bid which was over double and a half which they were offering. Of course I never heard back from USM.
I got a call from the Mgr today and he told me to ignore the certified mail I got terminating our sweeping April 18 and to "Please" continue what you have been doing and stated he was very satisfied with our work. He said there were massive complaints from Mgrs around the country and they were terminating the plowing as well. How could anyone work for $31.00 per sweep !!!
Things are tough enough getting the money we get now with cost of tires, fuel etc. You all know the drill. I wish you luck and stay strong. Support our troops !!!!!
New York Contractor – 4.2.11 – 7:29am, Pacific: I can confirm this to be true. Our company services several of the Wal-Mart locations within our region and we too were forced to rebid Wal-Mart for the parking lot sweeping and landscaping.
While the suggested pricing USM included in their bid docket was far below industry pricing for our region, we elected to maintain our current pricing structure and relied upon relationships with the local store managers established throughout the years. We were delighted when we received calls to our office from those store managers informing us they have terminated the contract with USM and would like us to stay on and continue to service them.
While I can understand to some degree the flexibility and ease of using a national vendor, especially for an organization as large as Wal-Mart, it does pose a hardship on small businesses. Ratios and profit margins aside, we strive to provide the best service possible, often times going above and beyond a clients expectations. I would like to think Wal-Mart; at least at our level and the stores we service recognize the attention to quality we provide to them and their customers.
Indiana Contractor – 4.2.11 – 8:24am, Pacific: Good morning! I am Tim Skinner, President of Best Sweeping Specialist, Inc, of Goshen, Indiana.
When I was first sent an e-mail with an invitation to bid from USM, I contacted one of the seven Wal-Marts I maintain. I was told that the individual store managers had no say in the matter, and it was a done deal. None of the Wal-Marts could give me a date as to when I would be dismissed from their stores. I had worked for USM in the past and was not fond of them.
Their invitation to bid has several items in it that I didn't agree with. I won't go into the details, but I knew I would not work for them. Wal-Mart had about a year ago decided to go with one vendor in one of their districts that was going to bundle sweeping, plowing, landscaping etc. I had 4 of those stores. I was given no notice to cease until the morning of. I got those stores back after several months as the "Bundler" could not perform up to expectations.
I did not wish to wait for that phone call again telling me I was through as of the phone call date. I gave all of my stores a written notice that effective in 15 days, I would no longer provide my service, along with an explanation of why. I hand-delivered these notices to the manager on duty at each seperate location. I can't speak for all contractors, but I lose money cleaning up the snow pile residules [smelt], each spring. The time required, as well as the dumping costs, equal more than the rate of pay. I chose to not lose that money just to hand over my stores to USM. Each manager I spoke with assured me that they understood my position.
Yesterday I was contacted by four of my former locations asking me to return to my service. Once assured that USM was out, I agreed to return. I never burned my bridges, or at least attempted not to. I have been working with Wal-Mart for 18 years with no complaints on my part. They have had few if any complaints against my company. It hurt to lose them having done nothing to warrant it.
Lives are effected when they make changes like this. I have several "Middle Man" companies that I work with, and enjoy doing so. USM is not one of them. Maybe it is just me, but I felt I had to make a stand. I have no idea if my resigning from my service had any input on Wal-Marts decision or not, but I was proud of the stand my company made. I applaud all of the Wal-Mart managers that spoke up against this change. I am proud of them, too.
– Tim Skinner
Unknown Contractor – 4.2.11 – 10:06pm, Pacific: I am sweeping 31 wal-marts for USM so my concern is very high. But when I read the quotes from others complaining about $31 sweep rates I can't believe any part of their complaint. Of my 31 stores not one is below $42.50 and most are near $50. This all sounds like sour grapes from people who like to complain instead of work.
Midwestern Contractor – 4.3.11 – 1:57pm, Pacific: We can confirm that midwestern Walmart managers have been notified of the split, however they have not been informed on how they should proceed.
East Coast Contractor – 4.3.11 – 11:28pm, Pacific: I have heard from a second source within USM that they expect to be terminated by Walmart for all services. This second source says it looks like a national wind-down will coincide with the natural end of the current snow contract, which will be the end of May.
Texas Contractor – 4.3.11 – 8:26pm, Pacific: Down here in Texas we bid these Walmarts to USM in Sept. 2010. We were awarded 2 initially, to start 11/1/10. Then we got another call in late Oct. 2010 saying not to start the stores, that USM was going to rebid them.
So in Feb. we got the list again, this time it had "target" or "suggested" prices per sweep included on the spreadsheet. Those prices were a total joke - $22 to $27 per sweep! So we rebid with the exact same prices as the first bid. Then we got notification that they had extended the bid due date to March 24. And since then we have had no word from anyone.
Virginia Contractor – 4.4.11 – 6:56am, Pacific: USM screwed us out of $114,000.00 for snow removal in Virginia, I think that they should take Virginia away too!!! This is GREAT news!!!
Colorado Contractor – 4.4.11 – 7:11am, Pacific: Thank you for the alert Friday. We were scheduled to start 18 Walmarts Sunday night. I do not like doing business with these national accounts, however they are taking over a large part of our market. We will go after the Walmarts direct this week so it may very well work out better for us.
USM never notified us and after your email we finally got a hold of USM about 5pm Friday or we would have swept a lot of centers for free. Keep up the good work.
East Coast Contractor – 4.4.11 – 7:19am, Pacific: I lost my Wal-Mart locations a few months ago after being contacted about the USM takeover only days before I was to be relieved. My store managers were contacted the day after I was and had no prior knowledge of the takeovers. I was never given the option to bid to keep the locations I had.
Yeah, I sent multiple emails to the address shown to become vendors, I called the hotline number, no return call. While still servicing adjoining shopping centers I have witnessed why the Wal-Mart store managers had a right to fuss! Their locations have not given the concern for detail I once gave them. The grass is knee high in places. The parking lot is hideous. As of now it has not been cleaned in multiple days. My old store managers have been seen often cleaning their own parking lots!
I can see why they would be fired! When a compnay takes on multipe locations through places like USM they are not giving the attention someone like me and other "personal relationship" vendors can give. These other companies are on such a tight schedule they cannot give them attention they are used to.
Wal-mart has always been a company that works tightly with local business'. They are not used to the relationships USM requires, i.e.: Managers calls USM, someone in some other state says "Ok I'll call the company and tell them your complaint," and the company never comes back to fix the problem, or they never get called at all!
Texas Contractor – 4.4.11 – 9:26am, Pacific: Talked to a USM gal this am. She confirmed they lost them ALL.
Colorado Contractor – 4.4.11 – 10.32am, Pacific: Re: Wal-Mart & USM (Colorado). We have so many contractors here in Colorado taking these USM contracts for irresponsible pricing ($27-$30) a service for a Super-WalMart. They should have no right to complain as they are supporting the very basis in which USM, FM Maintenance, Mirror Turf Lawn, etc...all exist.
Tennessee Contractor – 4.4.11 – 11:44am, Pacific: Just recieved confirmation from store managers in TN, that USM has been cancelled Nationwide, sweeping to end May 30th.
East Coast Contractor – 4.4.11 – 11:54am, Pacific:
We just received an email that said the following: "The contract between Walmart Corporation and USM, Inc. has been terminated. Per the terms of your USM, Inc. Subcontractor Agreement ("Subcontractor Agreement"), we are confirming the termination of your Landscaping and/or Lot Sweeping service(s) at all Walmart locations that USM has employed your company to service, please see attached for locations.
"The USM OPS team will be calling your company to confirm receipt of this email. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
There was an attachment that included store #'s also. We were scheduled to begin services today with this Management Company and unfortunately received this letter.
It's disturbing to not have any notice. I hope this helps other from the initial shock and possibly save their accounts.
East Coast Vendor
California Contractor – 4.4.11 – 5:11pm, Pacific: Do you have any info for Walmart discontinuing their service in California? Some of us out here are still putting together info on how USM is using undocumented, unlicensed and no insurance sweepers not to mention them ignoring the fact that two companies they brought on are sub-contracting the services themselves which in their rules is a big "no no."
We have contacted USM and they won't respond. The sweepers who are operating legally are owed alot of money....$17000 to $19000 for all the work they have done and they still have not paid them for 5 to 6 months.
Missouri Contractor – 4.4.11 – 8:21pm, Pacific: Ranger, as of May 30th WalMart will end all operations with USM. That is what our WalMart manager told us today. Yes, Yes, Yes!!!!!
North Carolina Contractor – 4.5.11 – 11:52pm, Pacific: In November 2010 I was called one evening and was told by a USM Representative that they were taking over all the exterior maintenance of all Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Clubs. On December 23, 2010, I received by welcoming letter from USM Procurement.
On Dec. 31, 2010 I received my invitation to bid. On January 5, 2011 we received specifications for landscaping and sweeping, and also bid quote sheets for the surrounding counties, as well as employee and equipment lists sheets. I bid on 8 Wal-Mart Centers.
On Jan. 27, 2011 I received notice that I was awarded 2 locations. The start up date was set for Feb. 21., 2011. [The notice further stated that we] would be contacted by a USM Representative. We were not given a startup package for either store, so continued to sweep until the 6th of March. Neither Store Manager had any information either.
On the night of March 7, 2011 one of our trucks was sweeping at one of the locations and another sweeper truck came up and said they had the contract. At the other location we were awarded, another truck showed up and asked us where they were supposed to sweep since that location joined another complex.
After being awarded two locations, we were kicked out with no notification from USM. That's a poor way to treat people. USM's motto is "Partners for change; we lead the way/ we do what's right/ we care for each other/ we take responsibility." Personally I feel USM is in it for QUANTITY PURPOSES, to get the most for putting out the least and that's not the way we work.
My company's board members and I have decided to not push the issue and let the USM Contractor go broke sweeping these Wal-Mart locations for "south of $40.00" so USM can pocket the balance. It will surely be interesting to see how this matter is settled. It takes a low class of people to do what USM is doing. They promise they "will get back to you" but never respond.
Florida Landscaping Contractor – 4.5.11 – 1:35pm, Pacific: I just got a robo call from USM MGT (stop all spring cleanup) wait for a message in 48 to 72 hours. We already did the spring cleanup at a $5000.00 cost in materials and labor. Now What?!
Editor's Note: Here's what I told the contractor above when we spoke on the phone: Document everything! Write it down, send it as an email to yourself and to others. Take good notes about every aspect of the situation that you might need documentation for in the event of nonpayment or other liability needs. Talk to your attorney if you believe you may have issues that warrant it.
Alabama Contractor – 4.5.11 – 4:33pm, Pacific: We were notified today by USM via a telephone recording, not even by a real person that Wal-Mart had cancelled all Spring Cleanup Services.
We then phoned USM and finally contacted Shawn Smith to find out about the Lot Sweeping, which was not metioned at all in the recording. It took some persistance to get a person to talk with us but finally Mr. Smith confirmed by phone that USM was being cancelled by Wal-Mart for Lot Sweeping as well.
We would not have known to phone and confirm this except for your article breaking the story first. Thanks again. Hope I don't go broke waiting on them to pay me what is owed me.
Connecticut Contractor – 4.5.11 – 5:12pm, Pacific: We are experiencing a nightmare with USM. The paperwork, red tape, IVR call ins, weekly inspection forms that no Walmart manager seems to have time for.
We were awarded Walmarts that have private landlords and after sweeping them for 3 weeks were told to stop by USM. Shouldn't USM have known that already? At several locations other sweeping companies were there. USMs right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. As of tonight, no more Walmarts for us. The price per sweep is laughably way too lowww.
I called USM and after being transferred around a few times was told that many sweeping companies were calling with the same complaints regarding getting the weekly reports signed by managers. Send the invoices anyway and you will get paid, she said. We'll see. We've been servicing Walmarts for 30 years and the price per sweep is less than a third of what it was then. Maybe time to get out of the sweeping business.
East Coast Contractor – 4.5.11 – 7:46pm, Pacific: Thanks you to everyone for your frequent updates! Please continue to send them in for all of us who are waiting patiently to get our Walmarts back. Your news gives us lots of encouragement for the future!
Idaho Contractor – 4.6.11 – 7:37am, Pacific: USM just confirmed that the end date for sweeping in Idaho is May 30th and they don't expect to release the pressure washing contract.
Nevada Contractor – 4.7.11 – 8:13am, Pacific: RE: Snow removal & landscaping in Nevada, USM is done completly May 30th. Best news I have heard in a long time; still not soon enough for me.
Tennessee Contractor – 4.7.11 – 8:40am, Pacific: Tennessee WalMart managers are hearing that USM is out. End dates range from May 4 through May 30.
Arizona Contractor – 4.7.11 – 11:27am, Pacific: That is great news and I want to congratulate all those companies that stuck to their standards and price structure to help rid USM from Walmarts exterior maintenance. I could go on and on and on with all the issues I had with USM prior to them taking my Walmart locations away from me, but I will spare you all the bore.
But I will tell you this, we did bid the properties for USM and were awarded them, then right before they took them over we walked away and stuck to our morals. I will NOT work for a deceitful misleading snake of a company like USM, who wants to put all the liability on the sub contractor and threaten to sue them in every clause of their pathetic contract, and their true colors were REALLY revealed in this bid process a couple of months ago. I'm glad I stood up to them, and I'm glad many other companies nation wide did the same thing.
Maybe other companies like Lowes, Home Depot, Target, etc will take note of what happened here. This is a great day for Walmart and the little guys like you and me! Thank you all for the information and keep up the good work!
Minnesota Contractor – 4.11.11 – 3:59pm, Pacific: Good news in the sweeping industry in Minnesota, with North Dakota close behind.
Editor's Note: We have also linked the letter this contractor received in regard to the cancellation of his WalMart contracts. In addition to the cancellation confirmation, this letter confirms that the USM non-compete agreement is null and void for future WalMart work. Unfortunately, the date of the letter coincides with the date of the cancellation, hardly sufficient notice to professionally stop service, remove equipment, etc.)
Unknown Location Contractor – 4.11.11 – 7:22pm, Pacific: Good news in the sweeping industry in Minnesota, with North Dakota close behind.
Walmart paid USM (3) months inadvance for these services. Let US MAINTENANCE NEVER LIE AGAIN AND SAY "YOU dont get paid till we do" because they have always been paid in advance.
North Carolina Contractor – 4.21.11 – 9:57am, Pacific: We were unfortunate to have taken on a few WalMart locations with USM. I just called for the 6th time to check on the status of our payment and was told by our rep (she read me the email she got from mgmt) that all payments set to go out were being held until further notice.
My husband is certain that this sounds like the start of bankruptcy proceedings for USM - as he has been through this same scenerio with other companies in the past. I could not find any hint of this on the internet and was wondering if there is anyone among your group that may be able to substantiate this possibility.
Editor's note: In a phone conversation, this contractor told me the payments referenced above included services provided in mid-to-late February. If you have received a similar message, or have info on this topic, please let us know.
Southeast Contractor – 4.22.11 – 11:08am, Pacific: Does USM have any intention of paying their contractors? This has been a concern for many, and all I can tell you is this: a retailer (NOT Walmart) told me they had paid USM for snow 120 days ago, and that at least two contractors they knew of had not been paid yet for that very work.
If I had any outstanding invoices with USM or was doing work for them, I would be very very concerned. We know they must have invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars in their Walmart roll out in admin costs, and they’ll likely do whatever they can to recoup that.
Unknown Area Sweeping Contractor – 4.23.11 – 7:29am, Pacific: "I got the Wal-Mart stores back when USM took over. Then I found out I right back to working for Wal-Mart again. Everytime I called USM I would get a different answer about any question. They have rejected invoices that were ok'd by one member of the team and then 30 days later guess what They said the invoices were wrong.
This is another way of them not paying. I would not do the landscape spring clean-up because they do not even give you enough to cover the cost of the mulch for the stores. Over a 8 month moving season it pays off but after they were fired they still expect us to do it. Yea Right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
California Sweeping Contractor – 4.26.11 – 1:21am, Pacific: Good riddance to U.S. Maintenance and their ilk. They are driving down the contract pricing across the nation. They are, fittingly, the "Walmart" of the maintenance business.
New Mexico Sweeping Contractor – 4.27.11 – 3:47pm, Pacific: It's a good thing that Wal Mart listened to their store managers in reference to the poor level of service provided by USM. What's sad is that they don't understand that the unreasonable prices offered is what kept the services below standard. That is why most of us declined the USM contracts.
I have nine Wal Marts in three N.C. counties wanting me to come back. Only thing is they now have a recommended price per sweep. These prices are right in line with what USM offered. I told one manager today that for nine years our two-man crew has cleaned his lot in just under two hours. For $46.00 I could not even pay my crew and provide fuel in the sweeper.
I thought USM already proved this. I can understand Wal Mart doesn't want to get ripped off. But looks like someone within the Wal Mart Corperation could find a source for reasonable pricing. USM wasn't it, but looks like they want to keep those prices. Anyway, we would love to bring back the service they came to expect. Just got to have a fair price.
Southeast Sweeping Contractor – 4.29.11 – 6:51am, Pacific: Found out yesterday I officially got my Walmart locations back effective date June 1st. I'm sure it will be many, many hours of cleaning to get them back to my standards!
Sweeping Contractor – 5.26.11 – 2:00pm, Pacific: I have spoke to an employee from USM and she had not been paid in two weeks according to her. She was worried because it was entering into the third week without a paycheck. Can you verfiy this? If this is true than what hope do we vendors have to possibly be paid? USM does't even seem to be paying their employees.
She said that she had not been with them for very long and that alot of temporary workers like her had been hired to help process paperwork and that she was in the dark just as much as we were about the possibility of being paid. She said there was much chaos surrounding the paperwork and that she had spoke to a lot of vendors looking to be paid. One vendor had broke down and cried saying that he was broke and didn't know how he would be able to feed his family. She was having a hard time dealing with these type of phone calls.
She could not get a straight answer from USM about what to tell the vendors. Today I spoke to the Supervisor of the contact person I have with USM and he told me over the phone that if it was him, he would have quit cleaning the parking lots and cutting the grass at least two weeks ago. This does not give me much hope about getting paid myself. USM owes me roughly $18,000.00 as of today. I guess I will be talking to a lawyer tomorrow to find out my options.
All of the Wal-Mart clients I serviced was very happy with my work and even had some of the managers to put "exceptional" on some of the paperwork. The managers at Wal-Mart cannot seem to understand why I have not been paid. They said that the funds for our services had already been paid to USM by them. Wal-Mart cannot pay twice for the same service.
When USM tells you that they don't get paid until we get the paperwork is "correct" is a LIE! It is just a stall tactic being used by them. Also can you tell me if there is perhaps a class action being organized against USM? I would appreciate any information because there is strength in numbers and I need to try and get my money out of them because I am almost broke as well. No one cares at USM about getting me paid because they are worried themselves about their own jobs right now.
Editor's Note: The email above was forwarded, along with a 'cover letter email' from myself, to the head of WalMart media relations and to the media contact for Emcor Group, the announced buyer of USM. I will note it here when a response is received.
If you have more information about this story, please let us know. If appropriate, we'll add it to the bottom of this page.