The importance of double-checking a new customer’s address

By |  August 7, 2018
Photo: iStock/helovi

Photo: iStock/helovi

The day started out simple enough. It was mostly routine stops, nothing out of the ordinary — or so I thought.

The office calls and says they have a customer that needs someone out soon, today if at all possible. I say, “Sure, I’ll work them in.” They proceed to give me the address and off I go.

Johnny Runyon

Johnny Runyon

I’m fairly familiar with the area as I’m bouncing down the county road. The addresses painted on the mailboxes are getting closer to where I need them to be — and then they quit. Just blank mailboxes from there on out. But that’s not that uncommon in rural, southeastern Oklahoma. Usually we can get within a house or two of our destination.

I get to where I think I’m going, and the sense of dread starts to sink in. I turn into the driveway and I see this 1960s model trailer that’s in dire need of repair. In the yard is a pair of haggard-looking trucks with the beds piled up with trash.

I put my own truck in park, take a deep breath, and get out. Between me and the porch is a tiny trail in knee-high weeds, alongside old car seats, bicycles, and broken-down weed trimmers. I traverse the trail and begin the ascent up the stairs. I find out the hard way that the first step has a sweet spot to place your foot — or else it gets twisted and you scrape your shin down the second stair.

After composing myself, I make it up the stairs and onto the porch, which is more littered than the trail. After stepping over air conditioners, trash bags, broken toys, and a kitchen table, I knock on the door. Immediately, what sounds like a dozen “ankle biters” begin barking and scratching at the door.

From deep within the trailer I hear “come in,” but I hesitate and knock again. The dogs are barking so loudly that you can barely hear the kids screaming. After a few minutes of commotion, I hear stomping, followed by cussing, as the footsteps get closer to the door. Finally, after what seems like eternity, the door bursts open.

A pack of wild animals

Four little dogs are biting and fighting, more with one another than with me. The whole time I’m trying to keep from losing my cool. The woman, who looks like it took a mighty effort to wake up, roll off the couch and meet me, gets the dogs calmed down enough to put them back behind the screen door.

When she opens the door to put them in, it hits me… the smell. Oh my goodness, the smell. I can only relate it to a putrid combination of dirty dishes, messy diapers, cigarette smoke, cockroach feces, ammonia, dog excrement, soured milk, unchanged litter box and sweaty grade schoolers.

The dogs go into an uproar again from behind the door. She stands there, clearly drug induced, with a half-smoked cigarette in her mouth. Yet another smell hits me… it’s her. She reeks of onions, beer and sweat, and it’s all I can do to keep a straight face. She grunts, “Can I help you?” with a confused look on her face.

“Are you Mrs. So-and-so?” I ask hesitantly.

She sneers and says, “No, she’s across the street.”

At that very moment, I hear angels singing off in the distance as I turn around. I take in a postcard-perfect home with a well-manicured lawn. That’s my customer?

It takes me about 0.47 seconds to come to my senses and tell her that I’m sorry for bothering her and that I’m in the wrong place.

I end the conversation with, “Sorry to bother you, ma’am, have a nice day” as I exit the porch, probably looking like Indiana Jones running out of the Temple of Doom. And I have never taken a house address for granted since.

Johnny Runyon is a tech supervisor for Allstate Termite and Pest Solutions, Shady Point, Okla., who originally told this tale to the Pest Cemetery group on Facebook.

Your turn: Sure, our author lucked out in this scenario. But what happens when a home like this is the correct address? Have you been able to gain control of pests even when it’s fairly obvious the customer isn’t going to cooperate with sanitation? Or do you advise to walk away in nearly every case? Send your insights to

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