How and Why we are Prostituting our Industry?
Updated: Jun 6
Feature Article: BUG-Off! Volume 1, Issue 1 - June 2020
Author: Anthony Rostant, PMATT Chairman; Owner - Ecological Termite Control
One of the problems that the pest management industry experiences is the lack of respect for what we do, and by extension, a lack of respect for us the practitioners.
I know that most, if not all of us, have experienced the demoralisation of being addressed by customers as the Rat Man or the Roach Man, while the person hanging off the back of the garbage truck is a “Sanitation Engineer”. One of this Association’s prime objectives is to raise the image of our industry to its professional status. However, let us first understand the causes and effects of the dilemma in which we find ourselves and the steps that are necessary to change mindsets. Let’s explore each of these one by one.
The problem starts with the fact that any untrained, uncertified member of the public, even an unlearned individual, can walk into an agricultural supply shop and purchase pesticide concentrates. This implies two things to the public: the first is that any “intellectually challenged individual”, who can purchase a spray can and some chemicals, can instantly become a pest control operator. Secondly is that if an “intellectually challenged individual” can do it, then there’s nothing to it and they can do it too. The next obvious progression in the public’s mental process is, therefore, that little or no value is placed on the services we provide, because we are not even classed with other categories of professionals. Remember, plumbers and electricians are licensed, and even appliance and A/C servicemen are certified, but we are just “idiots” that bought a spray can and some pesticides and say we are doing pest control. To be fair, in some cases this has been a true appraisal.
We further exacerbate the problem when we allow customers to:
Manipulate us and have us price-cutting below reason, simply to underbid each other to get work.
Break up our services into components and split up the service between multiple contractors to get an amalgamation of the cheapest from each.
Have us pay for tender packages, invest time, resources, our knowledge and expertise to conduct inspections and prepare proposals, to fix their damn problems and leave us out of pocket.
Force us to take part in group surveys, which are really just walk throughs, exposing us to the possibility of giving away our technical and competitive advantages.
Additionally, when any one of us acts in an unprofessional manner, we erode the image of the entire industry and our fellow members. What constitutes unprofessional behaviour? Anything from misleading a customer with inaccurate information to price gouging or price-cutting. To discuss all possible forms of unethical behaviour, would take too long. Those that are guilty know damn well who they are, what they are doing, and need not be told.
What are the solutions?
We can start by all literally and physically signing onto PMATT’s codes of Ethics and Practice and conscientiously observe them.
We must create our own fully developed training programs that will result in accredited certifications and form the basis for licenses and permits.
Ensure that the sale of pesticide concentrates is made only to Certified agricultural and pest management applicators. This would dramatically reduce pesticide abuse, enhance public health and safety, protect and preserve the environment. This will immediately change the paradigm in the public consciousness.
In lieu of a set of National Standards for pest management, we, the industry, must draft a set of minimum standards for ourselves, which, if good enough, could be the basis for future National Standards.
We must draft tender guidelines, which we would circulate to all commercial and industrial customers and enforce compliance across the board.
Implement a rate scale for inspection fees, agreed upon and adhered to by the membership.
When the hell are we going to stand up for ourselves? The only way to get the general population and commercial and industrial enterprises to comply is to stand unified and unbreakable in our resolve. This will enable us to improve the quality of our services and raise the image of our industry.
If WE refuse to bond together to force the transformation of the industry that provides our livelihoods, WE will forever be “de Rat Man” and “de Cockroach Man”.