Yesterday, I returned home from teaching piano lessons to find that there were several little white signs all over our yard that read: "Pesticide application, keep off!"

Now. You probably know by now that I feel very strongly about the practice of dumping chemicals on the ground, especially on lawns. It's unnatural, it's wasteful, it's unhealthy, it's unsafe, and it's all for the sake of a really stupid idea based on solely suburban vanity that it's okay to cram your yard full of toxic chemicals as long as it's uniformly green and devoid of anything natural, like weeds and bugs.

Obviously, the fact that our lawn got sprayed with God-knows-what was a mistake. Somebody somewhere screwed up. Royally. And they had to deal with the wrath of ME. I immediately called the company who had placed the signs in the yard and left a vehemently angry, explosive message on their answering service. I actually managed not to swear, though the phrase "How could you stupid fuckwits put that shit on my yard?" damn near made it through the language filter. Within minutes, someone called back, apologizing profusely, explaining that the "applicator" (the dude spraying the poison) had misread the address number on the order; the lady two houses down had ordered the chemicals.

I was still livid. "Do you realize I'm pregnant? And that I have a toddler who loves to play in the yard? And that we grow edible plants, like herbs and tomatoes? And now thanks to the toxic junk you put on my yard, we can't eat that stuff, much less walk on the grass!" And so on. Believe me, he got an earful.

I will give the service manager credit for being calm and polite, apologetic, and thorough as possible in his explanations. The dude who screwed up is getting his pay docked for 30 days.* (I considered suggesting that the people they hire to spread poisons on personal property should at least be literate enough to read numbers correctly, but I had cooled off a little by then. I wanted him to know I was angry, not crazy.) Our yard was sprayed with a "mild herbicide" for Creeping Charlie and some fertilizer pellets were put down as well. These things were only applied to the grass, not the wooded or garden areas, and it would be safe to tread on our turf in a few hours, as soon as everything was dry.

The guy on the phone also reassured me that their company does business with so many homes close to the Arboretum, they're not allowed to use anything that's in Agent Orange, so not to worry about that. My jaw dropped. I was over my fire-hot anger and shocked enough by this statement, I just squeaked out "Oh, that's good," but internally I wondered, "YOU MEAN YOU WOULD USE THAT SHIT NORMALLY? IT WIPED OUT HALF OF VIETNAM FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!"

They called again this morning to apologize profusely. I think they get that I was pissed, and it won't happen again. It damn well better not.

*Just to clarify, after Mrs. Ann's comment: the fellow who made the mistake is not getting his pay completely eliminated for 30 days. Rather, his hourly wage is reduced by $1/hr for 30 days. For the record, I think that's fair.


Mrs. Ann said…
Do you think they really docked that guy 30 days of pay? Is that legal?
Suze said…
They didn't completely eliminate his pay. It was docked by $1 per hour for 30 days.
Mrs. Aluhu said…
Oh, good. Totally fair. And he deserved it!
Becca said…
OK, I'm going to throw out a different opinion, although I completely agree that spraying your yard was a bad, bad thing and most definitely should not have happened.

I don't think it's fair that this guy is getting docked in pay for a month over a mistake in transposing numbers. Maybe it's because I work in the service industry, but there are any number of failure points (he's dyslexic and transposed the digits, the dispatcher transposed the digits writing the orders for the day, the sales person wrote down the wrong address when the lady called for service) that I don't think this guy should have to shoulder the entire burden for the error. I certainly don't think this guy's hypothetical family should shoulder the burden of a minimum of $160 missing from his gross pay for an entire month (if the boss meant 30 calendar days, not 30 business days). I just don't think it's ever fair to penalize someone personally for a mistake professionally. Give him a written warning, alternate responsibilities for a month, suspend a performance bonus, something that impacts him at work and work only and doesn't impact his ability to provide what he expects to provide on a weekly/monthly basis.

Honestly, I'd have been more impressed if the boss had impacted *himself* financially if that was the accepted answer. I'm definitely not enamored by the idea that the boss saw fit to announce the punishment to a customer--whatever the action was, it should definitely be within the business itself and discussed with the person affected. Not tossed out over a phone call to placate an angry customer.

Suze, please don't think that I think you had no right to be pissed--you most certainly did! The company certainly should have taken some action for the error, and my complaint is about chosen solution. If they want to boil it down to money, then perhaps they could offer you certificates for the local farmer's market or organic grocery to replace your produce, certificates for services they might offer that could help you (like free mulch or garden soil or composting setup), or certificates to Home Depot for new plants come spring. Something that would hit *their* profit, but not this guy's salary.
Mrs. Aluhu said…
I feel really dingy about my first comment. Can you believe I was serious!

I can see Becca's point. Hopefully at least the boss knew for sure that the mistake was certainly due to the guy's carelessness. (I'd hope a dislexic employee would have some kind of accountability system in place for double checking street names and numbers, if that were the case!)
Suze said…
Becca, I see your point, but this guy (or gal, I don't know for sure, actually), his entire job deals with putting toxic chemicals on property. It's not innocuous like getting your neighbor's mail or someone ringing the wrong doorbell for a dinner party. I think it's entirely appropriate that the person who made the mistake is the person who was punished.
Becca said…
I understand what your saying, and I agree that the person who made the mistake should be reprimanded in some way. I'm just saying that the person who sprayed your yard is not the person who took the initial sales call, is not the person who entered the order, is not the person who planned out the route assignments, and is not the person who put together the workorders--any of whom may have written an incorrect address. The sprayer might be punished for something outside of his/her control.

And if the error was solely made by the sprayer, then the punishment should be confined to the sprayer, not the sprayer's spouse, children, parents, or whomever else might be dependent upon the sprayer's expected income.

My quibble is not with what happened, which was an egregious error, but with the way the manager chose to deal with it.
Suze said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suze said…
Assuming the guy on the phone was telling the truth, the mistake was certainly on the part of the fellow who sprayed the chemicals. He misread the address number on the work order. This tells me that the info was correct, so he screwed up.

I'm not qualified to say whether it was appropriate to tell me what his punishment was. I don't think it was too harsh, though, considering what's at stake. You just don't mess around with toxic chemicals. I don't think his life will be ruined if his pay is reduced for a month. I hope his children don't starve (if he has kids), and I hope he doesn't get kicked out of his home or lose his car. I'm glad he wasn't fired.

Never in my life have I had a job that paid well, so I sympathize with that aspect of the situation.

I don't know how this punishment was decided. Maybe it's company policy that certain kinds of mistakes are dealt with in particular ways, so if you screw up, you know what's coming. Maybe the manager just made an arbitrary decision. The pro-labor part of me hopes that it's in a legitimate contract somewhere, but considering that this company makes its profits polluting the ground, air, and water, nothing would surprise me.

At this point, though, it's not my problem. Somebody screwed up, my yard was essentially vandalized (if accidentally), I complained, the appropriate person is facing the consequences, and I consider it to be over and done with.
Strangeite said…
Suze, you should get compensation for the company's mistake. What they did would be considered criminal trespass and they are liable for any damages occurred to you.

If it was me, I would calculate the cost of all edible plants in your yard, the cost of buying vegetables from the farmers market for the rest of the season instead of from your yard and any other monetary expenses you can come up with. Itemize these and send them the bill via certified mail. I would include a letter demanding prompt payment of said bill and if said bill is not paid within thirty days, you will contact the Better Business Bureau and file a suit in small claims court.

I am willing to bet you get a check in the mail.
Andre said…
Not that you need to hear it from me, but you were right to be angry with the company. All I know is there is a street map at the company affiliate in Madtown with a big red X over your address!

Hang in there, Suze.
Suze said…
Strangeite, that would be worth it if my tomatoes hadn't kicked the bucket a month ago when we had 18" of rain in the span of two weeks. At this point, the only edible things worth harvesting in my yard are a few handfuls of herbs. If I'm being honest, I could get maybe $10 for that, and it's not worth the trouble. Right now my dissertation takes priority over writing letters to errant lawn "care" companies to get a few measly bucks. Mind you, if I had significant produce out there, it would be a different story and I would have demanded compensation when I made the initial phone call.

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