A timeless discussion from December 2010 on the CMM Online Forum focused on the overuse of rock salt during inclement winter weather.
Excerpts from that discussion follow below.
I know that during the wintery snow months — I'm in Cincinnati — there is salt usage.
But, what do you do when an account is going overboard with the salt?
They have a 20-foot section of sidewalk with two entry doors and they use two 50-pound bags of salt on this small area.
Needless to say, about one-quarter of that gets tracked in from all directions, and it adds an hour and a half or more to our time just trying to vacuum it up.
I tried to explain to them that they didn't need that much salt in such a small area; I even gave them an article called the "Dos and Don'ts of Salt."
They didn't listen; we barely got an inch of snow and it was loaded on the sidewalk.
I told them last year, if we had to work more than half an hour longer due to the salt cleanup, we would start charging them hourly as extra cleaning.
Is anyone else having an issue like this?
If so, how do you handle it?
I think it's a common issue for building service contractors (BSCs) and, as winter approaches, we all put in more hours in order to keep the buildings clean.
We have the same thing in schools and daycare centers, and I also had a situation where I tried to explain to the principal the problem with the salt.
But, she told me that they have kids and parents coming to the building and they need to make sure that sidewalks are safe to walk on.
My advice is: Next time you give someone a proposal, calculate how much extra time you will need to spend in winter and include it in your price.
For example, you clean the building five days per week and you know that it will take you four hours per day to clean the building.
But, in winter, you will need four and one-half hours per day.
Let's say that winter in your area lasts 13 weeks on average.
So, four hours times five days per week times 39 weeks — spring, summer, autumn — equals 780 hours.
Four and one-half hours times five days per week times 13 weeks — winter — equals 292.5 hours.
Then, you have 780 hours plus 292.5 hours, which equals 1,072.5 hours per year.
Take 1,072.5 hours divided by 260 days in the year, and you are cleaning an average time of 4,125 hours.
You should always think in advance about what problems you might have in the building.
I don't think it's proper to charge them extra because you should have known that.
Like Terry said, when you calculate a bid, always keep winter in mind.
This will save time and the embarrassment of having to go back and complain to a customer about having to charge extra — especially in a poor economy when there are others lined up ready and begging to take over any account they can get.
A lot of our customers don't seem to abuse the salt too much.
Since our winters can get long, it gets a little expensive for them.
For the ones who seem to make it snow one inch of salt, we just sweep most of it away from the building entrance.
It's a little easer to sweep most of the salt away from the building than to clean it up from inside.
Then, we get a couple who consider it cheaper to toss dirt on the entrance ways; God bless them.
The dirt turns into mud and then tracks in, now they need the carpets cleaned for frequently: Cha-ching.
They feel it's cheaper and believe it's better.
Whatever rocks their boat; it's their money and their building.
The over usage of salt creates a slip-and-fall condition in itself without having snow or ice.
Unfortunately, it will take a lawsuit for them to figure that one out.
People in possession of chemicals who do not follow manufacturers' directions are a danger to everyone.
I see this all the time and there are only two solutions: Charge more or teach more.
Show up the next time they have ice before they put it down; show them the proper use of salt.
Maybe take different types and show them the difference.
To remove ice, it is almost always a two-step process.
Apply the ice melter and let it work to degrade the ice and then scoop, scrape or broom it away.
All ice melters only have so many British thermal units (BTUs) then they stop working and the water will refreeze.
It is common for most people assigned to snow removal from within the company or institution to think that snow removal starts with the salt.
After all, why shovel when you have all this salt just sitting there?
By the middle of the snow season, the over salting comes to an end when they realize the company is not buying any more ice melt and the boss is asking where all the ice melt they already bought went.