They Aren’t All Dog Lovers! (A Bully Reappears…)


Nella Poodle 002 (Small)Several years ago, I posted a blog called, “Are you looking for a dog grooming job in Chicago?”  It mostly gets hits from  non-grooming business owners—and groomers looking for jobs.  The gist is, that  because  in our area we are generally paid commission–meaning you only get paid when you  actually work on a dog, it is easy enough to ‘hire’ a groomer whether you have the work for them–or not.  Some shop owners don’t like this blog because  they don’t like the idea that  I am telling groomers looking for a job to be careful.  I have been told  this is the reason many wouldn’t consider hiring me. Well, I don’t want to work for anyone who is dishonest, unethical,  or who doesn’t think integrity is important. We are  working with peoples’ pets.  They are trusting us to be kind, humane, and  honest.  If they are  dishonest or unethical  with their groomers, the groomers feel the stress—and the dogs they work on feel it, too.

This business is a service business. it’s all about relationships:  the groomers’ relationships with clients as well as the clients’ dogs. I always feel sad when I leave a job because I will miss the dogs.  Sure, I will meet other dogs, but  MY DOGS—THE ONES I’VE  GROOMED WHO’VE TRUSTED ME have to get used to new groomers.  Grooming is an intimate act. Too many business owners discount the importance of this.

If you are a novice groomer, or have only worked  one or  two places in your ‘career’,  you probably will take a while to catch on.  So many  people  who want to groom dogs go to  a grooming school, then think they now know  what thy are doing. I did—and soon learned that I didn’t!  I was lucky:  my third job was with a woman who showed dogs and  took the time to learn from her fellow dog fanciers…but that’s how it was in the 1960’s & 1970’s.  Everyone who  groomed  dogs showed dogs.   They showed dogs not only  to  prove they had the ‘best’ dogs, but to be with other dog lovers.  They learned from other dog lovers. That is no longer the case.

The  industry became an industry when Poodles became popular, and more middle class people could afford the luxury of owning a nonshed dog.  That era really lasted little more than a decade.  It lasted until  the practice of real estate speculation started heating up….but I am not writing about economics so much as the dynamics of an industry where most of the skilled labor are women, and how they look at themselves… and  who  the  business owners are now.

Licensing  groomers or shops will not change who has the capital to  own the businesses, or their views on  who provides labor.  Just because a person says they love dogs—does that make it so?  How about the  person who collects a dog or  two, spoils them, never trains them, and makes excuses for them being biters or not housebroken?  For putting prong collars  or harnesses on them? Who disrespects your experience with grooming and training, because they don’t want to believe that they may not have as much personal integrity as they thought?  I have  checked out jobs with these people. I remember  one business owner who got the capital from her husband, and who learned to groom from a pet shop  chain. She had  five dogs—none obedience trained.  She also didn’t have a business plan when she bought  the business, and was out of business in less than six months. Sometimes, you can just tell …

I am going to  revisit several posts I put up several years ago about why I quit a job and how I  got bullied when I  refused to take a job offered.  The gist of why I quit a job  was that an owner, based on not enough information, put a piece of equipment in  a place where we could not use it safely, and  told me I had too much stuff plugged in.  I knew that was not true.  She was also angry that I would not  work  in her mobile grooming van because I knew I was making more money in her shop, and I was angry that she  asked me to give up  work days to the  mobile groomer  (who wasn’t making enough in the van—big surprise!)  and a groomer who had just graduated grooming school.  Down to 2 days a week—that wasn’t a job!

After I quit, she  was told by several people what a huge mistake she made. This was Jennifer Stavrianos at Pet Care Plus, in Chicago. She  apologized and asked me to return.  Because I was unhappy with the commute I was making (and because I knew the business I was working at was going to rehire  a groomer who was out on medical leave, and that groomer was dishonest and unethical…), I consented to return… with  an agreement.  What happened to the groomers  Stavrianos hired to replace me? Well, she told me she fired 1, and the other quit because she wasn’t making enough money.  I am sure I  didn’t get the total truth, and it  had more to do with   the groomers disagreeing with non-grooming management.  I  think this  is the case because although Stavrianos  agreed verbally with what I wanted… she never told her management staff (nor  put it in writing) & there was tension right from the start.

That’s not the half of it, however.  Because Stavrianos did not want to actually manage her own  boarding/grooming/daycare facility, a woman she hired as a customer service clerk was promoted to general manager and put in charge of a building build out..having no actual kennel or grooming management experience..and it all went downhill from there.  You  want to  know why Stavrianos didn’t manage her own business…as this is a business that grosses in the $500,000 range?  She didn’t like the noise or the smell of dogs,  Gave her headaches.   No joke.

She then hired another manager…a guy with food service experience, who had also managed a Big Box pet shop—but also not comfortable actually handling dogs (not even walking them on a leash), to manage staff. The woman manager  was sent to  manage a grooming shop (she was learning to groom dog  by this time). So,  I  had to train my manager how to manage me.  I know Rick thought I was cynical and  uncooperative at first, but  as time went on, he  learned that everything I told him was true:
Stavrianos didn’t want to actually  work with dogs. She continued to spend money on  the vision she had for  how her business should look, whether is was safe or alleviated the stress of the dogs…or not, and was angry when she had to spend money on making the building safe and functional.  Her husband actually told me he agreed with me, but he apparently loved her so much (and had enough of another income) that he allowed her carte blanch on a business they owned together.

Well, it is what it is…and I found other work…. a veterinary practice manager  purposely mislead me  about  how much dog grooming business  his animal hospital had (so he’d have his own options), so I spun my wheels for a while, and I worked for some friends who  had enough business to employ me part time.

I posted  an ad looking for work on a well known  site used by groomers.  I get a call  every  two weeks or so, from  people  who  say either they own a grooming business and are looking to expand, or have no business yet…. but want to see who’s out there.

Just the other day, I got an email from a  guy named “Joey Nimrod”.  That has to give you pause right there.  Evidently  my post(seeking part time work) had been forwarded to him, he said he owned an upscale pet shop in Northbrook, Illinois,  and was looking to expand…and his current groomer was making  over $100,000 a year, doing 10—12 dogs a day…lots of bath dogs.

I emailed him and told him that was  incredible!  I could not do that without a bather. That was less than 1/2 hour a dog!  & he emailed me back, “I know!  & she does $100—200 in tips!”  So….I  then asked him how many business days out she was booked that she could not take another dog,  and told him to call me…and he disappeared..until…

He posted on  the site where he saw my post, same  bs…. and  I felt there was something wrong.  I have been grooming in this area  over 40 years. We all know who is busy and who isn’t…and all the pet shops.  It’s easy enough to find them,  & no pet shop could be doing this volume of grooming without every  other groomer for 10 miles around knowing.  It would be possible for  a daycare/kennel…but not a retail pet shop.  Only possibly a big box store managed by a groomer,  who had  several people working  hourly wage support doing bathing ,brushing, the phones, could possibly do this—and that is not how they operate.  So, I contacted the owner of the website and told him he needed more info…because I bet anything, it was Dan London.

Let me tell you all about Dan London. He is a bully.  He told me his dog experience was walking dogs at a kennel.  He got some capital, either  via inheritance or a structured settlement, and decided to open a self-service dog washing business in the  south Loop of Chicago. Google “Doggie Bath House.:”  it is now closed, but the 1 star Yelp! review left up is telling. I have worked for  a couple of people who decided opening a self-service dog washing business was a good business idea—based on nothing.  One, in Hyde park, Illinois, was  folded after about a year, and one in  Wicker Park, who was able to  keep the business going until he sold the  lease to a  dog trainer who  hired dog groomers.  You have to think:  who are the types of people who would  use a self-service dog wash?  People who  work during the day and are  thrifty. So why would you keep  9—7  hours?  You would have to be open after  others work and get off, and  every weekend.  Still,  if you look at the economics of this idea, unless you  sell product—and lots of it, you won’t break even.  The only way you can possibly make money is get a groomer who  has a following, like a hair dresser.  That means the groomer has to talk directly to clients—& the owners —who don’t groom—don’t like this idea of  staff having a relationship with clients. They could run off with all the clients  if they  think the boss is an ass.  They see the boss doing  no physical labor—not even cleaning up.  A lot of owners think they are above doing the labor—and this causes their  employees to  disrespect them.

So, Dan London interviewed me,and I could see I would have to bring my own table. dryers, and crates.  I didn’t say anything, as he  hadn’t brought it up.  His plan, though, was, he told me, to  set the prices on all the dogs.  I knew that wouldn’t work.  They always set the prices unrealistically low & think they are going to raise prices 400% (they go out of business before this happens).  So, I told London I could not work for him.  He asked why, and I told him that he didn’t have enough dog experience.

As I said in the previous blog,  he decided that if I wasn’t going to make money for HIM, I was going to make money for nobody.  He had my resume—in fact, because I stupidly  sent my resume to blind ad on Craigslist, he had my updated resume, and promptly started posting  fake Yelp! reviews for these businesses. An example is, “I went to XXX for a tour and saw ROBYN MICHAELS, their dog groomer, beating a dog…”  I didn’t know this until a manager asked me, “Do you remember this guy coming in?”  I checked the Yelp! reviews for my most recent jobs (I was working as an independent contractor) and he had  done this to  several of them.  He’d also call them to make appointments, ask if I was the groomer, and tell the owner, “I saw her beating a dog…” or “She cut my dog!”  He also  cooperated with  the  brokers  and breeders posting on Craigslist, and they decided to post in cities around the country that I  beat dogs, that I was taking dogs from animal shelters & rescues to resell…

He called Pawsatively Heaven Pet Resort in Chicago Ridge (a wonderful  kennel, by the way—really nicely designed and managed by hands on dog people) and claimed that   I stabbed his cat. Well,  they knew that couldn’t be true as I didn’t groom cats, but they said they couldn’t find him in their  client base, and I told them he wasn’t a client.  He continued to harass them.

I worked for Saq Nadeem at Paradise  for Paws.  They did the grooming build out around me.  Saq called me into his office and asked me who  he was.  I told  Saq to get all his contact info, as he would not be ignored, but Saq first told me he would ignore him, and when  the  harassment continued, told me he would get  the ‘internet police’ on him. In fact, Saq had the capital to get a lawyer to find out who was  providing service to  Dan’s 20 or so  email accounts. That’s right.  He used so many aliases, but then he, again, started posting in  all these cities (on Craigslist) that I was a breeder,and to call Paradise 4 Paws and have me fired.  It took him almost 2 years, but when people actually threatened  Linda Lee (the manager)’s life, Saq  told me I was too much of a disruption.

Well , I learned.  I stared blogging, and patching jobs together.  I have been grooming for decades.  I  finally got  to Stavrianos and told her what was going on, and it didn’t matter to her.  Dan London’s trail to me  ended  at Paradise 4 Paws.  He did put  up one blog on WordPress where he claimed he made all this money, and I was a nut case and he had moved to Hawaii, and didn’t understand my crazy obsession with him.

Well, you can harass people from anywhere with the internet. NOBODY KNOWS YOU’RE A DOG ON THE INTERNET!  About a year went by, and I got a call out of the blue from…an architect.  He asked me if I knew who Dan London was.  I  told him my experience.  The architect was calling on behalf of a female friend—who was not a dog groomer. She had posted on Craigslist looking for people to hang out with as she was new to Chicago, and Dan London started bullying her. Why?  Because this is how he gets his jollies.   I may be mentally ill, I may be a nut case, but I can find more to do with my time than bully a stranger for no reason.

You can google Dan London, but nothing will come up—or rather—all the DAN LONDONs who do show up (6 of them)are not him.  He’s a shape shifter. & he’d not dead.

 

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: