Why I quit my most recent dog grooming job

Next month it would have been 2 years that I worked for a business in the West Loop of Chicago.  It seems  her groomer either  ‘disappeared’ or quit, and  the owner, a non-groomer, needed a groomer, She asked me if  I’d also be willing to  groom in  a mobile van.   I told her I ‘d consider it, but didn’t want to do it, because I could do more dogs in a shorter period of time with less hassle in a  stationary place.

She brought me to the grooming room.   It was, essentially, a storage area. No  windows, 2 tubs, 2  grooming tables,  stuff piled up under  a 60 watt bulb.

I said, “Well, you need to install fluorescent lights to start.”

She responded, “Well (X)  groomed here.”

“And she’s not here anymore, I can’t groom  in this low light.”

“Well, how about this lamp?” she responded.

“No, that casts a shadow.  It will be ok for just bathing dogs, but it is not enough to do a good job. And where are your dryers?  This Force dryer is ok, but not enough, You need some crates, too.”

“Well, we have the hydrosurge!”  This is a shampoo delivery system that  allows you to use  concentrated shampoo & not have to hand dilute it.

“That’s fine, but  we need to  set this room up.  Now, how do you contact your grooming clients?”

We went back to the office, and she used  a very common software that I was familiar with.  “Click on this one, this one  comes  frequently,”the owner said.  I clicked on the client, and there was the client’s name, and the dog’s name, and no contact info:  no address, email, or phone.

“Why don’t you have contact information for  your grooming clients?” I asked her,  She shrugged and looked at me.”You have  contact information for your boarding and daycare clients, right?”

“Of course!”

“Then why not  your grooming clients?  What if someone drops off a dog & you have to reach them for an emergency, or they just abandon a dog?”  I asked.
“Do you want us to have clients fill out a form?” she asked me.

“Of course!”

“So, when can you start?”  she asked.

“Lets do this. Post on your Facebook page that you now offer grooming 3 days a week. Lets do Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to start, and as we book up, I will add more days.  But—this is a big one, you have to get  fluorescent lighting in there, and we have to get more dryers and crates.  And you need a fluff dryer—a stand dryer, because  I will ask my clients if they want to come over here,and you can’t do a decent job with just a Force, or cage drying.”

“We have other dryers in storage. I am not going to buy another dryer, but if you buy one, and stay with me for  six months, I will reimburse you for  the dryer you buy.”

That sounded fair, so  we started the following week. I told the manager that I thought  the owner was nice.  The manager rolled her eyes.”Wait and see.  She has a lot of opinions, but is never here and is always changing her mind.”

Mostly, the clients were just bath dogs that didn’t need grooming, but she did have a few that needed haircuts. Her prices were very good, as she was  very close to the Loop, However, she  then  decided, to build business, to offer  social marketing (GROUPON, LIVING SOCIAL, DAILY CANDY) discount coupons, after I had worked for her for about 3 months.   Initially, the manager was giving me the full commission, but when the owner did her stats at the end of a month, she discovered she wasn’t making anything on grooming.   Instead of stopping the  marketing, she decided to cut my commission.

I told her this was not fair to me, that we were not breaking even, but she had another idea: TO HIRE A MANAGER TO MANAGE ME—AND NOT GROOM…JUST MANAGE.

Huh?  She found a girl,  who had been trained by Petsmart,  the only grooming job Claire had ever had,  the only management job, to  take grooming appointments and order supplies (since the store-room I worked in had no phone, and she felt I was too busy? Not sure…)

Claire was a good groomer, but she told me she didn’t want to groom…but what was happening  now was, instead of telling prospective clients, on the day I was not working, “Oh, the groomer is booked today. How about tomorrow?” Claire was taking those grooming clients,  and I was getting fewer dogs…but it gets better.  Claire, who was not yet 30, was given  an open, unlimited budget to redesign the grooming room.

The grooming room was not pretty, but I had made it functional.  Yes, it needed some shelving, we needed another dryer, and a paint job was in order (funny thing…it was Chartreuse—a dayglo sort of yellow green…& I came in one day & Claire had painted it deep blue.  So dark…& Jennifer was put out that I didn’t appreciate the fact that Claire had come in on her day off & painted it FOR FREE!).

While this was going on, the owner also bought the mobile grooming van.   I had told her, “Bad idea. The only people who make money are the groomers who run the van. You will have to pay a groomer, and the overhead.”

“Well, my friend who has a grooming business down the street tells me she is making tons of money!” she  retorted.

“Ask for an audit, ” I told her. I found out , after I quit, that  her friend actually grooms in her own van, and didn’t expand until she had groomers willing to  do it.

So Claire, who didn’t want to groom,  was going out in the van…over 10 miles away, to Berwyn and Cicero.  I certainly didn’t want to drive an hour in traffic to go pick up the van, an hour or so back (you never know when you are going to get stuck in traffic in Chicago…we have winter & road construction season…), but not my worry.  Meanwhile, Claire  is asking me what kind of grooming table I want.
“We don’t need  a new table, This table is fine. We need another dryer. And to stop the Groupons. None of the people stick, half the time they don’t show up. Not worth it,” I told Claire.

“She  won’t buy a dryer.  She wants a new table.  I’ll talk to her about the Groupons. You are right.”

“Why?  Why won’t she buy what we need and quit spending on what we don’t need?” I asked, exasperated.   Claire shrugged.  It made no sense.

& I came in 1 day, and my table is moved out, and I have an ELECTRIC table, that has to be plugged in to be raised or lowered. We have to step over the cord.  My vari kennels (airline crates) were gone, as Claire had ordered a bank of wire cages.  Why?  the owner  didn’t like how the airline crates looked, even though they were safe, easy to clean, the dogs felt secure in them, and we could dry dogs in 10 minutes.  Less than a year later, the wires were being bent on that bank of wire cages, and dogs were getting their feet stuck  on the wire floors—but they looked good!  I made her give me 2  vari kennels so I could dry big dogs.   Her husband   (not a groomer or trainer, but a business owner..)also didn’t like the vari kennels and wanted to get rid of the dryers because a dog could die of heatstroke.   When she asked me how other places dry dogs without heat, I told her, “They don’t. They are under cold air for hours, shivering.”  The other idea they had was to  put the Force dryer in the ceiling & just have the hose hang down, and turn it on with a wall switch.  “That won’t work. You don’t understand  how we use the force dryer, and it will burn out the motors, the switches, and or the  electrical wiring,”    I told her.  She didn’t respond.

The room was done,  after a lot of inconvenience because she hired unlicensed plumbers to  redo the plumbing, and they made a huge mess.  She  didn’t rewire the electrical outlets so they’d be dedicated for the dryers, and I had to unplug and replug.  It took a her another  4 months for her to get around to doing the electrical  because I nagged constantly.

Claire quit (or was fired…nobody is honest), and  right before she did,  both  she & the owner  gave me 4 days of grooming a week, but they wanted me to wear a  uniform scrub.  Fine, whatever.  But then,  the owner  REHIRED H to run the mobile van.  H  is a good groomer.   I know who trained H, but she got fired by the person who trained her for being unreliable…and she is unreliable, because she is has a drug problem.   So this is fine for  a week or so, then the manager, not the owner, tells me I have  2 week days, and if I  want a 3rd day, it has to be Saturday or Sunday, because H is not making enough money  in the van and needs a couple of more days!  So  I  am busted down to 3 days…& the problem with Saturday  is that the  keeps the kennel understaffed as  they don’t  do  good daycare business, so staff is working in the kennel, and not answering the phones. Great.  I have built up this business, been reliable, shown up on time,  kept good grooming notes, and now  I have to find another part-time job.

I do, with Pet SUPPLIES Plus.  I blogged about that  (“I got Fired for Wearing a Scarf”).  Meanwhile,  I   often see the  groomer who trained H as her shop is close to my house.  I stop by.  One day, she asked me if I  ever came across H.  I told her  she was  working where I worked.  My friend asked me to have her give her a call, as she needed her part time and didn’t have a good phone number for her..

The ownerwas furious, but  why?  She has each of us working part -time,  had ‘poached’ H from her competitor, so neither of us is making a living wage…and it went down hill from there.

About  2 weeks before Easter, I see the owner  has hired another groomer.  I email her and tell her I am demoralized.  She calls me into the office and tells me she does not want to lose me, I have priority, but she has another business idea in the works, and needs another groomer, as H isn’t showing up.  I know she does not need another groomer. She alternates between saying the mobile van was the worst idea she ever had and  how much money she is making.

H calls in and says she has walking Pneumonia and won’t be in all week.  I tell B, the new groomer, to offer to do the van.  The owner will be delighted…. but the owner won’t give me another day of work.  I go to get a mammogram, and I stop at my friend’s grooming shop to get dog magazines. There is H. She is not sick, she is making more money with less hassle. I called the manager (this was the owner’s 2nd hire in 3 months. She doesn’t want to manage her own business, doesn’t want  any hands on dealing with dogs, and  the 3 people who are on her staff—her  ORGANIZATIONAL MEMORY who are well qualified,  won’t  take on the responsibility as  the owner changes her mind constantly and then blames other people).

The owner has  fired the manager. I had also told the manager that H was  running off with the nail grinder, not returning towels,  wasting shampoo, and had used up all the  special (we charged for a shampoo upgrade) shampoo  and wasn’t charging for it. She also  almost started a fire when a  dryer blew out an outlet, and she told NOBODY. She was screwing herself and the business, & obviously didn’t care.  The manager told me she could not order shampoo without the owner’s permission.  Very frustrating.

A manager who quit returns to work part time, The owner emails me and  tells me not to ask for shampoo, we have plenty, what is wrong with me?  I email her, “Yes–we have plenty of shampoo, but not the upgrade shampoo, and I won’t charge for a service we do not provide…and nobody told B that he has to dilute the shampoo.”

Meanwhile, B doesn’t like the same things I don’t like:  the wire cages, the way the room is set up, the problems with the electricity, and Jennifer’s latest impulse—to again, put the Force Dryer in the  ‘attic’ with just the hose hanging down, to be turned on by a light switch. …and, nobody had told B anything. I show him where the fuse box is.  I do what I can, but  by this time, there should be a manual.

We —the owner and I, have 2 big issues now.   Because she is still angry that I put H in touch with her old employer, and dared to complain about electrical problems and shampoo. she feels she has lost control.   I had been coming in just before  I have dogs to groom on Wednesday (the slowest day of the week—& I had offered several times to  take a 20% commission cut is she would offer it for Wednesdays!), and she didn’t like that, but she didn’t tell me.  Because she might get a walk in nail trim!    Now, the new rule, which she instituted before she told me, is she is paying me $12 an hour against commission, and I have to be in the shop  8:30 until 3.  I can read if I  want…. and she is taking the  nail grinder away and I have to bring my own if  I want the commission. “Don’t you understand? The nail  grinder battery pack has to remained plugged in!” I yell in frustration. She just smiles.

“So, I guess you won’t get the commissions!” she retorts.

“I am not working for $12 an hour.  This is crazy.   If you  value my work, my integrity,  let me switch out  Wednesday to either Monday or Thursday.”

“End of discussion.”

Now,  groomers know…the Force is a great tool, but delicate.  It is really powerful. You are taught to  turn it on 1 switch at a time, let it power up, then turn on  the second switch.    Often, we use just 1 switch. Motors and switches are  constantly burning out, You need to clean the filter frequently, as dust will  burn out the motors.  We unplug it when we are not using it as it draws a lot of electricity even when off. With it up in the ceiling, she wants us to use a wall switch to turn it on.  B, the new groomer, agrees with me.  This is dangerous. We are either going to burn out the  force dryer or start a fire.  In the meantime, my own Force dryer at home, burns out the switches. The motors are ok, but you can’t plug it in without blowing the dedicated circuit.  My roommate, a forensic engineer, replaces the switches for me, but tells me it will happen again (I know,….), it is not well designed (I know…).  I tell him  what is happening at work—that she leaves it plugged in  with the switches on, and it is blowing the circuit several times a day, even when off.  “Robyn, bring your personal effects home. There is going to be a fire.”

I have  left notes for the owner, and emailed her that this is happening, and her response is, “Stop emailing me! If you hadn’t left 1/2 hour early on Saturday, my husband would have  fixed it, You have too many things plugged in!”

No.  I do not have too many things plugged in.  Her husband is NOT an electrician.  In fact, just 5 months earlier, she had had an electrician put all the outlets I use on dedicated circuits in the fuse box, , and then, because she wanted to stuff more boarding dogs in, taken out our storage/dog drying room, put 4 kennel suites there, and taken out the 3 outlets she had just paid to have dedicated!!!

So, it came down to this:  I showed B where the fuse box was, and told him that HE had to tell   the owner same thing. I told the kennel manager that SHE had to tell the owner, because, she was risking the lives of the kennel dogs, as nobody was there at night.

Tuesday, a  manager called me early in the morning, and asked me if I could come in and groom. They still could not find H (no manager, so they didn’t give the owne the message of where I told them she was…), and B was busy. I told them I would be in at 1, I was busy until then…but the owner  also wanted to talk to me:  “Someone called, she has a Standard Poodle Old English Sheepdog mix. She has to have the dog groomed today.”  “Tomorrow would be better…”  I respond.   “NO, she says today, and I really want to accommodate her.”  Me:  “Ok, tell her to come in at 1, and I will talk to her & can feel the dog.” Which I  did, and I charged her a lot of money, more than  normal, because she told me who usually grooms the dog, and I knew what he charges.   And—the dog had to be done TODAY!!! She ended up being overjoyed and gave me a $25 tip.  But… we are still blowing the circuit even when the Force is off.

I  emailed  the owner on Wednesday night  after talking, again, with my roommate,  and told her that if the Force was not brought back into the grooming room where we could  plug it in & use it properly by Friday, I was quitting. She was endangering the lives of her boarding dogs. I  also emailed office staff and told them the same thing.

She had the manager call me to tell me, since I had been overworked the  Friday before (they really don’t care and don’t respect that I manage my time well…but, after I had asked the  management staff 3 times to  help me make room for dogs I  had to dry, and jokingly asked, while they were on break, if they were crazy.  I could not take a break, but  had no place to put dogs, they  helped me move dogs around—& told the owner that I had called them crazy.  Really).  I came in  30 minutes before  the owner was ready to see me. She was busting me down to 2 days a week and not moving the force dryer. “What days are you going to give me?”  I asked.

“We are doing things more professionally now, You are going to sign this paper that says I  am disciplining you for hanging around the office and calling a manager crazy…”

“Hanging around the office? To call clients and tell them their dogs are ready because staff is too busy? Really?  I am not hanging around.  And I always ask if I can get in the computer and put in grooming notes.”

“Well, you should not be in there at all.”  She would not  give me a chance to tell her that  I often find that the managers have not input contact info for clients.   “And I found out you were working (somewhere else), and you have violated out non-compete agreement.”

“I am not working somewhere else. I am an independent contractor, and you can’t decrease my days  and prevent me from working.” I was going to go to the grooming room and get my  equipment, and Jennifer yells at me, “You are not going back there,  I have hired another groomer, I have 3 groomers working for me now.  Here is your stuff. Call me Monday and we’ll talk.”

“I am busy Monday.” I said as I was leaving.

I was going to an event on Saturday (which I  had offered to cancel),  but she had already hired ANOTHER GROOMER.  So, I stopped in to meet her, tell her I  had no hassle with her.  Show her where the fuse box was (she had already blown a circuit and had no idea…), and saw that—lo & behold—the owner had allowed the Force to be brought down from the  attic…but she again had gotten rid of the vari kennels and the  cage dryer!  I told the new groomer, “You will not be able to dry the number of dogs you get without that.   You have to tell her.  Give me your email address, and I will give you some more info.”    Turns out the girl had built up a grooming business for another non-grooming business owner, and that owner wanted grooming 7 days a week, so basically split this groomers’  job with another groomer.  I told her that was what Jennifer was doing to me, and she would do it to her—make money while  you can.

The owner  called me Sunday to  tell me I had gone over the line giving out proprietary information, and that the new groomer didn’t want to talk to me, and she was going to have her lawyer contact me.  I  am scared…not.  Seems she also forwarded my email to her competition down the street—with all the proprietary information  (so how proprietary can it be?), and the competition told her I was right.  I don’t need a job that badly to  stay where a business owner puts dogs lives at risk.

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