How would you respond? Covid 19-edition...
March 23, 2020 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Text communication to landscaping contractor who checked in to let me know he is ready to get to work… essentially he is exposing his four or five employees and by extension everyone they come in contact with.

I’d like to respectfully (I do respect him, he has always demonstrated honesty and integrity in all of our dealings and communications) respond in a manner that will convey something that will give him a sense of what is going on.
I do not want to lecture, I want to inform and inspire. It needs to be in the limited communication context of texting.

Further context: this is a young man,,, late 20's... his employees are younger, late teens early 20's.

Here is the dialog that has taken place so far…

Him: Good afternoon Elf27. I hope you are doing alright with this virus all around. I just thought I’d reach out to you and see if you were ready for us to trim your grass. We will be running a route in near you next week and every week after that all summer so whenever you are ready for us we are here for you. Thanks!

Elf27: Yes, it is about that time. However, I have a question... since most carriers of COVID-19 don’t have symptoms, how are you using physical distancing to prevent making employees sick?

Him: Well I’ve been trying my best to drop off one or two employees at a job per day before I pick up everybody at once. Overall there’s not a lot I can do when it comes to transporting people in the same truck but we have been able to keep our distance from my clients very easily.

Smart hive mind response? _____
posted by elf27 to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
My response would be:
"I want to support small businesses but I can't in good conscience prioritize lawn care over people's lives. Please cancel my service until or unless you are equipped to let employees transport themselves solo to work sites without any close contact with others, or until the pandemic has passed."

Right now is a good time to get solo outdoor work done. Landscaping, gutter cleaning, exterior painting, are all types of work that could be done by a single person without endangering others and those businesses need money to stay afloat. But I wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing I was in effect turning a blind eye to circumstances that enabled virus transmission.

No one's lawn care is worth someone's grandma's life.
posted by juniperesque at 10:20 AM on March 23, 2020 [8 favorites]

I think before you asked about social distancing you should have just said that for ethical reasons you're not creating non-essential labour at this time and reassure him that when it is safe to do so you will hire him and his team again. Express empathy for the hardship it will bring him and his workers but that obviously saving lives in the community must take priority.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:22 AM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

"Do not come to my property until I notify you otherwise. The recommendations for physical distancing are incredibly important, and I cannot in good conscience use your services at this time. I encourage you to reconsider your current business practices. (optional) I will be able to continue paying (all or part of) my maintenance fees if you personally assure me you will continue paying your employees regardless of the amount of work they do. Can you make this reassurance?"
posted by disconnect at 10:23 AM on March 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just be honest. It's weird hard times. Being willing to negotiate when the work gets done while still maintaining the current payment schedule would send a very strong message that the crew's health is more important to you than your lawn's, and that you trust them and want to support the business.

If your agreement permits, how about something along the lines of "Given the important of self-isolation I'd be more comfortable with a later start to reduce your crew's need to expose themselves. Can we check in again in two weeks to sort out when the right time to start will be? Of course we'll maintain our usual payment schedule with the expectation that the same amount of work is done later on this season."
posted by cCranium at 10:47 AM on March 23, 2020 [12 favorites]

Whatever your response might be - and I know you're aware of this, but would like to reiterate - please remember that you are coming from a place of privilege while this young man is probably trying to pay his bills.

If you're able to pay him for this one session even without work getting done, please do so. Then tell him that you'l be curtailing future work temporarily, etc.
posted by Everydayville at 10:49 AM on March 23, 2020 [50 favorites]

My situation is a little more extreme than yours, but it might worth reading this thread from a few days ago.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:01 AM on March 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of people who are depending on income that's recently vaporized. Are you in a position to pre-pay for several months of services that will be done after this has passed? A significant number of people in our communities aren't trying to work because they don't understand the risk, they're trying to work because there's no safety net and buying food, medicine, and paying essential bills can't happen otherwise. If you're in a position to pay workers to stay away, or pre-pay them so that they can support their workers, please do it.
posted by quince at 11:22 AM on March 23, 2020 [9 favorites]

My elderly parents are maintaining their landscaping service... The guys are quite desperate for regular work as all other small business grinds to a halt. my mom gave them some of her extra gloves and extra cleaning solutions, and my dad, a retired doctor, gave them a list of protocols to follow when they get home/move between jobs (obviously, there's no way to ensure they actually follow them, but hey, he thought it worth a go). They are making sure to stay a safe distance away from my parents and all of their other clients during any conversations and are wearing masks non stop. My parents also gave them the option to pause working, but continue the contract, but the crew insisted on working.

I believe your risk tolerance is lower than my parent's. Please delay hiring the crew, but let them know that you will be reaching out in 2-3 weeks to reevaluate your needs. It's fine that it's weird right now. We're all trying to figure this out together.
posted by larthegreat at 11:43 AM on March 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

Every day, those who work retail have to decide to take the risk of possibly being exposed. Since our government is not doing the necessary work of shutting every fucking thing down, and providing a relief fund, workers either go into work or get fired.

It's not a happy decision to go in to work. I can promise you that everyone in the break room is livid with the situation. But workers have to pay bills and sacrificing health in so very many ways is how it is.

Since you don't run the country or even the corporations, you can have little impact except to decide if you're able to compromise your ethics in this case. You are not able to "protect" the employees by not having them do landscape work.

Really, it's not that the workers and boss are ignorant about the risks. And they are also not ignorant about the impact that loss of pay will have for them either. It's possibly hitting them already.

Don't assume they need to be educated about the situation. It sounds like they are at least trying, which is more than any corporate run store is actually doing (regardless of their press release.)

Most of the employeebots have been forced to make the decision that the pay is most important because there's little other option.
posted by mightshould at 12:03 PM on March 23, 2020 [10 favorites]

I said this in the previous thread and I think it holds here too: people's lives and livelihoods are more important than lawn esthetics. So I would keep paying him as usual and simultaneously tell him not to come. I wouldn't even make it conditional on them making on the work later unless it's truly necessary work that you can't afford to pay for twice, because doing that work later will take away hours that they could otherwise use to do paying work, and when this is all over they're going to need as much paying work as they can get.

So pay them now to not come, with the budget you were going to use on them anyway. As someone who wishes I could had the funds to solve someone's problems like that, I'd consider it a privilege to be able to do so.
posted by trig at 1:37 PM on March 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

He doesn’t need to be educated or inspired. They will be doing the lawn route you are on regardless. If you pay but refuse work they’ll make more per hour by getting to more jobs, which will be helpful for them since some are probably cancelling outright.
posted by michaelh at 2:00 PM on March 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

My elderly parents are paying their landscaper and he's not coming. He said he's keeping his people on staff and they'll do whatever cleanup is needed when it's all over, working overtime for a few weeks to do so. In the meantime my Dad is doing stuff like mowing but leaving the heavier work for the landscapers when they come back (this is the time of year my mother traditionally turns into Monty Roberts). I think that's a good compromise.
posted by fshgrl at 2:07 PM on March 23, 2020

"I am glad you are looking out for yourself and your crew. Please skip my house until further notice -- I am just not comfortable having work done right now. I will reach out when that changes. However, I would like to pay you for the next X weeks of what you would have been working for me..."

Doesn't need be long, doesn't need to be educational or harsh, just the friendly facts about your needs and what you'll be able to offer in the meantime.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 2:11 PM on March 23, 2020 [11 favorites]

Our contactless method for our lawn guy - we left a envelope in the mailbox and texted him, please do the work and the money will be in the mailbox.
We trusted him to do the right thing though as we have worked with him for a few years.
posted by gregjunior at 9:56 AM on August 30, 2020

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