I have seen New York City struggle before, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) is different from anything we’ve experienced. With 9/11, the city fell down to its knees. But it quickly stood up. We did it together. We prayed at memorials. We sang the national anthem at sporting events as loud as we could. And we hugged every damn firefighter we saw.
But with this unseen virus, the enemy is not some distant group. The enemy is us. It is our friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues. Rather than comfort each other with hugs, we are forced to push each other away.
Restaurant and hospitality customers make up about 65 percent of our company’s accounts. While I was paying attention to the possibility of shutting down restaurants, my New York City swagger assured me it would never happen. Nothing shuts down this city. I was wrong.
New York City has an eerie feel. It’s deserted. Forgotten. Traffic, people, cabs are all gone. Office buildings are empty and nearly all stores are shut down. I hear fear in my customer’s voices. About a quarter of our restaurant accounts completely shut down. Fortunately, most remained open for takeout and delivery. But many reduced their service program. One of our largest, most prestigious hotel accounts has only seven rooms occupied.
How can pest control businesses survive? Through flexibility and compassion. We moved to a four-day workweek to save as many technicians as possible. We implemented safety procedures, including masks and sanitizers. My management team and I alternate time in the office while administrative staff works remotely.
Our flexibility extends to our customers. We allow them to suspend service despite a contract. We’re treating some accounts weekly with reduced rates. We’re using this time to sanitize and treat problem accounts.
We’re doing everything we can to keep our technicians working while understanding the struggles of our customers. We’re in this together. Many of our customers have reached out to share their appreciation over our partnership.
New York City is going to have a different landscape when this is all over. I think a tremendous number of restaurants and retail stores are not going to make it through this. For the foreseeable future, empty storefronts and for rent signs will become the norm. But it won’t stay that way.
A few days ago, a restaurant owner said to me, “This is a catastrophe, but we will get through this. After all, we’re New Yorkers.”
He’s right. We will get through this.
Soon, the masks and gloves will come off and the real healing will begin. As long as we work together, we will rise up again.
Michael Broder is president of BHB Pest Elimination, which is located in New York, N.Y. The company provides general pest control services in New York City’s five boroughs of New York, as well as New Jersey and Philadelphia. He may be reached at 212-242-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more COVID-19 coverage here: MyPMP.net/COVID-19