Tough customer instills pride


June 20, 2023

Jerry Schappert

Jerry Schappert, ACE

Editor’s Note: This is Part I of a two-part series. Part II will appear in the July issue.

I have a couple of anniversaries coming up, and both have played a huge role in my life.

One is with my wife of 38 years, without whom I truly wouldn’t be where I am today.

The other is with Mrs. Adams. It was 39 years ago when I knocked on her door, not knowing how she would shape my career and instill in me pride that lasts to this day.

Unique customer consultation

In 1984, I was a new technician and unprepared for what was behind the door on which I knocked. A small woman answered and gruffly told me to come in. This Mrs. Adams had on a large fur coat and a Russian-style winter hat, even though it was summer. Her boots, as well as her socks, were mismatched.

She asked me to come in and turned to go into the kitchen. There were so many newspapers, clothing, boxes and shoes that only narrow pathways led to other areas of her home. I had heard of hoarders, but had never seen one myself.

I followed her through the path that led to the kitchen, her puppy happily leading the way. We sat down at the kitchen table that was piled up with all sorts of clutter, and she told me she wanted to hear my plan.
My plan? I had no plan or training on how to deal with this. But despite her garbled, rough, heavily accented voice, I saw a woman who was very proud and probably didn’t ask for much help in her life. It must have been quite a dilemma for her to sign a one-year contract for pest control services. I guess I muttered something plausible because she soon said, “Jerry, get to work.”

Hard work and determination

Mrs. Adams had it all: German cockroaches, every stored product pest (SPP) known to man and mouse droppings galore. I had no use for my trusty sprayer because there were oh-so-few cracks or crevices to be seen.

There were quite a few sticking points along the way — I guess from her hoarder mentality. I told Mrs. Adams we needed to throw out some items that were infested with SPP, but she would not budge. “What if I need that?” she would exclaim. Although this went on for a few months, I was determined to help her any way I could.

With limited tools, I worked very hard to get rid of Mrs. Adams’ pest issues. As I worked, she would talk. She told me about growing up, being new to this country, and how life was very hard. But one thing she knew how to do was work. “You know how to do that, too, don’t ya, Jerry,” she said with a rare smile.

I grew to admire Mrs. Adams, and now some four decades later, I still think of her and credit her for teaching me to have pride in pest control.

The Pest Cemetery Crew

“I used to not have pride in our industry. Then I worked for a company that serviced mostly food plants. It’s hard not to have pride when you help protect the country’s food supply.”
— Brad Carrier, Owner, Bugsy’s Pest Solutions, Waterloo, Iowa

“I shied away from being the ‘bug man’ at first, but now I proudly proclaim myself to be a pest management professional. I can’t think of a more noble profession than to help others in ways they can’t help themselves.”
— Jacob Bryant, Service Manager, Orkin Pest Control, Bowling Green, Ky.

“I absolutely love the feeling you get when you help a customer go from a majorly anxiety-filled life with an infestation and eliminate that problem for them. You can literally see and feel the weight lifting from their shoulders. We change people’s lives!”
— Brian Zahringer, Co-Owner, BugBoss The X-Terminator, Clintonville, Wis.

“I have an immense amount of pride for what I do and the impact I hope to make. It starts with providing education and breaking the barriers of misconceptions of everything from the industry to the species we deal with.”
— Elise Rome, Home Inspector, Rentokil Terminix, New Orleans, La.

About the Author

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SCHAPPERT is owner of The Bug Doctor, Ocala, Fla., and administrator for Facebook industry discussion group Pest Cemetery. He may be reached at

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