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General Business Tips

Perception: Sweeping Contractors Cheat Business Customers at Night

This 'expert writer' for a popular web-based ezine has a poor opinion of parking area sweepers in general. How would you answer his critique?

by Lance Winslow and Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Thanks to Joe Macri, principal with Davidson-Macri Sweeping, for sending us the link to this article.

Lance Winslow writes on a wide variety of topics. Many of these are posted at the online resource called '' One of his articles is reprinted below.

The subject of the article came to Winslow during his travels and, although clearly he doesn't know the details of the industry -- the difference between street sweeping and parking area sweeping, for example -- the fact is his article hits squarely on a core value of the parking area sweeping industry: It's important to keep parking areas clean because customers, and others, notice whether a lot is clean or not.

Below is essentially a reprint of Winslow's article as it appeared online. Once you read Winslow's article, I challenge you to respond to what he says. Send your response to using the email link shown at the end of the article. I will then forward all submissions on to Lance Winslow, as well as post the replies below the article.

Although you may disagree with what Winslow's opinion, there's no disagreeing with the substance of what he writes about, any more than you can disagree with a customer who doesn't think a sweeping contractor is doing a good job.

The question might better be stated, rather: Is a contractor doing a good job for the money being paid and, if a contractor cannot afford to do a great job for the contract allotment, can they afford to attach their reputation to the account?

Reprint of article by Lance Winslow:

Lance Winslow Many street sweeping companies, which have large contracts with retail outlets and shopping malls, often cheat the company on their services. In fact, as I travel around the country I am appalled at this particular industry. It seems that so many of the contractors who have street sweeping businesses cheat the customer. I asked myself why this is? It appears to me that the lowest bid will get the contract and many of the companies bids are so low that they cannot afford to do the work or by adequate equipment to do the job right.

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I have watched street sweeping folks come into a parking lot and drive around a few times putting a little bit of dirt in the air kind of like when you take your home vacuum cleaner and forget to clean out the bag and the vacuum blows all the dust all over the place while you are vacuuming. Then the street sweeper leaves without cleaning anything, as there is still debris in the parking lot and trash. This seems rather dishonest and I guess no one notices that they did not do their job.

Who is to say how clean a parking lot is supposed to be? As long as they showed up and drove around who is to say they didn't do what they said they were going to do? My question is why show up at all if you're not going to do the job? It seems there is a lack of integrity in many street sweeping companies. A very smart national firm, which operated professionally and responsibly could probably through economies of scale do the work for the same price and actually do what they say they're going to do. Please consider this in the future.

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Comments to Date:

In his initial response to Mr. Winslow, sent to him via email, Ranger Kidwell-Ross wrote:

Mr. Winslow-
If you want to know more about the other side of the story, let me know. You'll find that most parking area contractors provide a level of quality that is commensurate with their payment. Unfortunately, especially in a down economy, businesses are looking to cut corners in any way they can. Sweeping is one of those areas.

You are correct when you say that dirt typically blows into the air when the sweepers operate. This is primarily due to the pavement not being flat. Wherever there are gaps, potholes, etc., the dust-laden air is able to escape the rubber gasketing that's there to contain it.

And, you are correct that some contractors don't do the job they could do; the questions is, are they providing a decent job considering whatever they're being paid. Since sweeping is so competitive, other contractors will certainly notice where a good job isn't being done and will then contact the customer. However, what is typically the case is that a 'good job' for the money being paid is already being done by the current contractor.

The free market being what it is, for any place that a good job for the money isn't being done, there theoretically is some other contractor ready and willing to take over. Hope that helps you to better understand our industry.


PS By the way, what you're discussing involves parking area contractors. Street sweeping companies sweep streets (though many do both).

The following is the response by Byron Skaggs, principal in Kentucky-based sweeping company, BEJA Environmental, Inc. BEJA's response is also available as a pdf file.


RE: Response to E-Zine Article

Greetings Mr. Winslow,
I am writing in response to your article regarding parking lot contractors.

Your observations, in many ways, are quite true. Parking lot sweeping, when unmonitored, can and does lead to sloppy service, unsatisfactory results, disgruntled store managers and possibly "cheating," as you have alluded to.

Allow me to comment from an insider's perspective. There are a few dynamics in play:
1. Regardless of the service industry, you get what you pay for. Property owners and/or managers often look to squeeze every penny. When they "tighten the belt" for cleaning service, the service provider also must find ways to limit cost.

2. In an attempt to satisfy every client, sweeping contractors may offer a range of services from a basic "show up and pick up the big pieces" to a detailed "blow off sidewalks, remove and replace garbage bags, sweep the curbs and back alley." Of course, the range of pricing matches both the level and frequency of service.

3. Also, consider the fact that many malls and national retail stores are, in fact, managed nationally. They provide their own sweeping services, but oftentimes lack equipment training, ability to perform routine maintenance and the support of the national power sweeping network.

This leaves us asking, how can we improve our service and the overall perception of the parking lot sweeping industry? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Ask the sweeping contractor for proof of membership to the North American Power Sweeping Association (NAPSA) and/or's Contractor Locator listing. For the latter, members sign a statement agreeing to, among other things, ethical standards for service and proper disposal of material.

2. Seek out sweeping contractors who offer accountability for their services. For example, do they leave a nightly report of service or a monthly printout of service dates and sweeping times?

3. Above all, check references of the contractor to help ensure quality work, gauge response times and determine their level of customer service.

We are continually changing and improving our equipment and services to meet our client's needs, exceed their expectations and remain compliant with national regulations. Sometimes it is easy to forget the impressions we leave upon others who pass by. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

Byron Skaggs
BEJA Environmental, Inc.
Environmentally Minded, Customer Focused

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