A handful of local HVAC electrical and plumbing contractors in Kentucky will advertise that their service employees are felony-free and drug-free, which is a genius marketing strategy.
As a safety risk management professional, I commend those contractors for being socially responsible to our community by recognizing that this is a huge safety concern to many. More businesses in our community should follow suit and use this marketing strategy and will distinguish your company in the marketplace as a leader.
Think about it as a consumer: How many times have you invited a computer, cable, TV or repairman into your home? Or maybe even a carpet installer, electrician, plumber, furniture or appliance repairman, or even a delivery man?
But have you ever heard that voice inside or felt that gut feeling that made the back of your hair stand once they arrived? Or maybe even watched your dog react because it was picking up negative vibes from that stranger that you just invited into your home?
I would venture to guess that many of you have unsuspectingly invited a convicted felon into your home, all because you blindly trusted the company that sent the employee, as many of these labor-intensive jobs are filled with people who have criminal records.
Now I’m all for giving convicted felons a second chance and do believe that many can and do become productive members of society once they have paid their debt to society. So I don’t want to lump everyone into the same basket. But there is a certain degree of responsibility that employers must take to ensure their customer’s safety when they send their employees into your home.
The internet is littered with stories of theft, sexual assaults, or molestations from repairmen or delivery men. For instance:
-March 2020 A courier who delivered groceries to a woman returned in the middle of the night, crawled through her bathroom window and startled her awake, demanding sex but fled the scene when she screamed.
-November 2019 An appliance repairman is accused of raping a customer’s 5-year-old daughter after being called to a home to repair a washing machine.
-September 2019 a furniture deliveryman was accused of sexual assault a female customer while making deliveries.
-August 2019 a 75-year-old woman was allegedly killed by a mallet and set of fire by a delivery driver that was bringing her a set of new washer and dryer.
-February 2019 an Amazon driver was accused of assaulting and robbing a Louisville woman after she complained about his service.
-January 2018 a plumber was accused of raping 14-year-old girl in crawl space.
-May 2016 a cable repairman was convicted of rape and murder of two women within a seven-week period after entering the home after being called out for repairs.
In my household, my wife has always been very careful about meeting repairmen or delivery men. She usually schedules appointments when I am available to drop in or work from home.
As a safety and risk management consultant, I provide advice to our clients on how to adequately protect their assets every day, and negligent entrustment exposure claims from such an incident are potentially one of the most expensive claims for a business owner. Such incidents usually lead to a large lawsuit, which oftentimes leads an inadequately insured business owner into bankruptcy.
The issue here is that if the company sends out an employee on a service call or to make a delivery to a customer’s home, it is their duty to ensure that they have done their due diligence that that person will not cause any harm to that customer. At a minimum, they should be properly vetting these employees by conducting a criminal background check and checking their references.
However, as we all know, not every business properly vets their employees — and everybody should assume that anybody entering your home could do you harm.
For consumers here are some tips when hiring a repair technician or when anticipating a delivery:
• Only do business with reputable companies, ask for referrals and cross-reference them with the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List. If you hire a repairman from Craigslist you very well may be inviting trouble.
• When hiring a contractor or scheduling a delivery, personally request from that reputable company to send a non-felon and drug-free tested employee.
• If you live alone, invite over a neighbor friend or family member when your visit is scheduled.
• If you do not live alone schedule your appointment when a spouse or roommate or nearby neighbor may be home.
• If you live alone, give the impression that you have roommate. This can be done in a variety of ways, by leaving a pair of men’s work boots by the front door, placing a picture of you and your loved one, or other manly items in view.
• Remove or hide out of sight all valuables and cash before the visit.
• If you have any children in the house remove them away from the area and never leave them alone with the serviceman.
• Keep your cell phone with you and have 911 programmed on speed dial.
• Upon arrival verify their identity by asking for a business card or invoice or calling back to their shop.
• When they first arrive identify their vehicle and look for anything usual; you may want to even record their license plate number by snapping a picture from your phone.
• Time stamp their arrival by carrying on a phone conversation in their presence that they just arrived to whoever you are talking to. This puts them on notice that others know of his presence.
• First impressions are everything so when you first meet, project yourself with confidence and give eye contact, talk loudly, and show them that you will not be taken advantage of.
• Don’t answer questions with wishy-washy answers and by appearing weak. Again project strength, as criminals look for weakness.
• Take them directly to the spot where they are going to be working, and don’t allow them to wander around.
• If you are gun-owner and have been trained on how to use it, keep it nearby during these visits.
• Leave out the details, don’t let your guard and avoid small talk. Don’t give out such details as “you will be leaving at a certain time” or “I work from this time to this time” or “nobody is home from this time.”
• If alone, tell them your husband or friend is on his way or close a bedroom door and turn the TV volume up loud enough to be heard, to suggest that another person is in the house.
• Close and lock all bedroom doors, open shades and curtains, as the more reclusive and isolated a criminal feel, the more he comfortable he is to act.
• Make sure that extra sets of house keys are not left out.
• Never leave them alone and watch over their every move. If you don’t feel comfortable standing guard the entire time, drop in on them every few minutes to send the message that you are watching.
• Always maintain a comfortable distance, and position yourself so that you are not blocked from an exit route.
• Pay by check or credit and not cash as this gives the impression that you may carry a lot of cash in the house.
•L isten to your gut, it is your God-given sixth sense. If you aren’t feeling comfortable and your instincts are telling you that something isn’t right, act immediately and simply explain in a calm but confident manner that you wish to cancel the appointment and will reschedule. You don’t owe an explanation.
• If you ask them to leave and they won’t or are lingering around or flirting, move towards the exit and stand on your porch until they do or go to a neighbor’s house.
• At the conclusion of the work, watch to see that he drove off, then lock your door.
• Once he leaves remember to check all your windows and door locks, to make sure that they haven’t been unlocked for a later visit.
• Report any unusual or questionable activities to the employer to better protect the next customer.
In summary, when inviting a repair or delivery person into your home, be sure to hire a reputable company, be confident, look for unusual or unprofessional signs, keep your guard up and more importantly, listen to that inner voice.
If you are a business owner, take note that you have a duty to protect your customers. Failure to do so could cost you everything.
Be safe, my friends.