Big Mistake. Big. Huge.
If you aren't familiar, we rent a dishwasher from Ecolab for $99.37 a month and are at our halfway point of our first annual contract for services. In short, Ecolab provides the machine and promises to fix it if it breaks (they also retain full ownership of the machine). We are responsible only for buying the various chemicals that the machine requires to wash the dishes. And for digging out all the teaspoons that the machine tries to eat during the washing process.
Not long ago, I mentioned on the blog that we received a bill for $78.17 from Ecolab and the bill stated "MINIMUM PURCHASE NOT FULFILLED". When we called Ecolab to ask what that meant exactly, the customer service rep told us that we were required to buy so much chemical per month and we had to pay for the minimum amount of chemicals a month whether we needed them or not. I rolled my eyes and threw the bill in the trash. And then I did it again the next month. And the next. Because that business model? Well, it is stupid. Maybe I should just charge all our customers for all the pie I think they should be eating each month whether they want it or not.
So, when our Ecolab rep stopped by today to discuss our unpaid bill of $78.17x3, we launched into our reasons of why we have no immediate plans to mail a check. In no particular order:
- No one told us we had to buy $78 worth of chemicals a month;
- $99 for machine rental plus $78 for chemicals PER MONTH is insane for any small business;
- We DON'T ACTUALLY NEED ANY CHEMICALS AT THIS TIME (shouting fully intended);
- Buying mass quantities of dishwashing cleansers and rinsing agents (at Ecolab's suggestion) and storing them at PJP Buttonwood until we need them is not in the master plan. Because it is ridiculous and also because our space is 1,000 square feet and if I'm storing anything, it is pie boxes and pie tins, not chemicals I'll need in 12 or 14 months for a persnickety dishwasher.
Ecolab's response? We either pay the bill and get the chemicals each month or pay the bill each month and choose to not get the chemicals delivered. But we are paying either way. Whichever we chose, the final word was that we should accept our fate as a business that will be paying for something that we have no need for and no immediate plans to use. The reasoning behind their completely flawed logic? This would keep us from purchasing our chemicals at Wal-Mart. Uhhhh...
As you can guess, nothing about the conversation went well and I stewed around for the better part of my day. What gives me hives and puts me on my soapbox is the overwhelming implication that Ecolab doesn't care about our small business at all. The Ecolab representative claimed to care very much...he even suggested we use more chemicals per wash cycle so that we could use up our supply more quickly and feel justified in ordering more chemicals each month. And I'm sorry, but how does placing a minimum order based on a completely subjective determination help my business succeed? Oh, that's right, it doesn't...it only helps Ecolab's bottom line.
And in a sheer fit of being so completely irritated by Ecolab's cavalier attitude of spending $78 a month on nothing, I found myself proclaiming that we will find another commercial dishwashing company that doesn't come with pre-set requirements. And while I was at it, I may have claimed that when PJP achieves World Pie Domination, it won't be Ecolab dishwashers in our commercial kitchens that will eventually cover North America and beyond. Out of principle alone, I'm looking for a company that supports small business growth and is happy to sell me product when I need it...not when they feel I need it or out of some bizarre panic that Wal-Mart will sell me a 40 gallon jug of commercial dishwasher sanitizer on the down low.
So, Ecolab, you may not care about PJP Buttonwood now. But some day...