When Bidding on Aggregator Work,
Read Contract and Carefully Consider Bid Pricing
by Ranger Kidwell-Ross, WorldSweeper's Editor
posted in August of 2011
In the past month the WorldSweeper office has fielded calls from a number of contractors on two distinct, yet related, topics. Interestingly enough, both regard the company that used to be known as "US Maintenance" and which now goes by simply the letters "USM."
One of the topics of concern to contractors is how to get paid by USM for work done months ago when that company had the contract for WalMart. Even though USM's contract was canceled the 1st of this past April, a number of contractors say the company has refused to pay for the work they did at WalMart prior to that time.
To address that topic, we posted an article with tips on how to get USM and other aggregators to pay, in a timely fashion or at all, during the same time period that this one is being written.
The other input I have received that concerns USM is that company's latest round of contract solicitations to sweeping contractors, this time representing the drugstore chain, Rite Aid. Several contractors have provided us with the Excel spreadsheet files that USM sent to them. These detail the pricing structure USM suggests it will pay for sweeping at Rite Aid stores. These prices, as shown in the screenshot shown below, range as low as $17 per sweep for a twice per month sweeping regime.
To put this level of pricing expectation into perspective, shown below are some portions of the contract that was supplied at the same time.
I encourage you to especially note the following:
- the wide variety of areas you must maintain.
- that it is your responsibility for determining permissible hours of service.
- that you must ensure all such areas are free of trash prior to business opening and you must return to meet the requirement if needed.
- you must dispose of all collected debris as part of your expense.
Additionally, the contract contains wording that makes the sweeping contractor liable for any "municipality or similar agency... fines, cost and/or penalties pursuant to this Amendment to the Subcontractor Agreement."
The sweeper operator must also "check in" during every sweep using USM's Interactive Voice Response System (IVR). Here is how that works (note the phone numbers and Pin numbers have been blacked out to protect our information sources):
Alternatively – or if your employee forgets to call and or to call out while on the job – you "may return the work order for that service with
a signature from a member of Rite Aid store management." From all reports, if you did not do one or the other you will not be paid. Period.
And, a little further down in the contract this wording is included "No payments will be made to any vendor until all contractual documents have been signed and forwarded back to USM, Inc., including but not limited to the contract, insurance documents, exhibits and specs, and any and all other items that USM, Inc. requires. There will be no exceptions to this rule."
Have you earned your $17 per sweep yet? For your convenience, I have included a PDF file of one of the "Rite Aid Lot Sweeping Spec V4" documents, which was provided to our office by several contractors. You will find there is more concerning language in it, including that you must be available to USM 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and that you "must inform USM immediately when any damage is observed whether caused by you or not."
Finally, comes my personal favorite clause: "You shall inform USM immediately of any equipment breakdown before, during or after a service." This implies that your new business partner, USM, needs to be notified any time you have an equipment breakdown of any kind.
By the way, each of the contractors who contacted WorldSweeper expressed their utter astonishment that any contractor would sign such a contract or choose to work at such pricing. One went on to say, if everyone JUST SAID NO to these types of 'lowball arrangements,' then "in less than 2 months they would all be gone [and] prices would be back to normal."
He also wrote "Just your office staff following USM or any other nsp work reporting requirements would cost you $17.00 not to mention fuel, labor, insurance, disposal of a month’s worth of trash. We have not even spoke about maintenance cost of the sweeper.
"The typical cost to run a single-engine sweeper is $45.00 per hr. and that is if you are running a fine-tuned operation. We need to educate and unite these contractors. They are clueless. I just cannot understand why any of them would work for any NSP. I believe they just don’t know any better! What else could it be?"
Although this story focuses on USM, other third-party aggregators are requiring or requesting that sweeping contractors follow very similar rules. If you decide to work for USM and/or other third-party aggregators, I urge you to exercise a great deal of caution.
Discuss any contracts with your attorney prior to signing. If you cannot have a contract modified to your satisfaction, take the above contractor's advice and, as exemplified by an actual unretouched screen shot from the email he sent (we are not making this up...):
Editor's Note: If you have more information you would like to add to this story, please let us know. If appropriate, we'll add it to the bottom of this page.