Posts Tagged ‘Doggie Bath House’

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

April 3, 2015

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.

 

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The damages—“Yelp!”, anonymous sites on the interenet, and what people believe.

September 8, 2011

A dog grooming client I had not seen in just over a year called me to groom her dog.

Last year, she googled (key words) dog groomer Chicago Miniature Schnauzer show grooming and found my single web page (embedded in another web page).

This year,  by Googling me, she found the  petition to have me banned from Craigslist (It has been up over 4 years.  I’ve signed it 3 or 4 times, my friends have signed it—there is no author or monitor…so it is going….nowhere)  and many libelous comments.

“Robyn, they are terrible!  Why are people posting this?”

So, I explained  about how I refused to work for Dan London, Doggie Bath House, back in 2008 (he has a ridiculous WORDPRESS  post up about what  a liar and mental idiot I am—but, for some reason, has never posted anything else…I can only think that I really aggravated him before he WENT OUT OF BUSINESS….) and between him and the pet brokers who use Craigslist to sell…

“But that’s not allowed, is it?” she asked.

“Well, no, it isn’t, but  if you can’t find a lawyer to sue them, and a subpoena alone costs $5000, and even if I find out who they are, so what, they have no money, so they are not worth suing.   So, by not enforcing the law, that makes it—libel— ‘legal’ .   Do you know how much illegal activity happens over the internet because the laws are not enforced?  The government is broke.   These people are making money selling animals, but not a living….  & it’s legal.” By warning people that the breeders who use Craigslist to sell, I am cutting into their  extra income.

I am in Chicago, & I told her that one of the brokers has posted as far away as Texas.  They called Paradise4Paws and threatened  the manager, Linda Lee, with death.  I didn’t know that until they fired me, and neither did the business owner…but the owner,  Saq Nadeem, told me he would pursue these people, and he did not. I don’t know  who all was calling, and harassing them, but he knew it was Dan London calling him when he first hired me, & he even had  his phone numbers.  Saq’s strategy was to ignore the guy, so  Dan London made sure he would not be ignored.  Meanwhile, Saq continues to open new branches of his kennel, because his business  plan and formula are good ones. But this is not the issue. Saq is not the target—-I am.

I told the client that there is one  ‘rescue’ in Clifton Illinois.  She calls herself Poyner Pet Rescue.  She is a puppy mill breeder among other puppy mill breeders, & ‘rescues’ the dogs her fellow ‘farmer wives’ breed & can’t sell, & will also take  puppies and purebred adult dogs from area pounds &  post them on http://www.adopt-a-pet.com .  Several of us have told http://www.adoptapet.com  she is not a bona fide rescue.  By Illinois law, she is supposed to  include shots & neutering in the fees, and she does not, & Dr. Ernst won’t shut her down—she is a licensed breeder.

I am not saying licensed breeders can’t do rescue—but they do it with a bona fide group.  It’s the puppy mills that get away with this scam.

I told my client how Dan London and his friends had posted fake reviews on “Yelp!”   My client had never heard of  Yelp!.  I told her it was a site that you can review businesses.   It doesn’t matter if you are a client of the business.  Many of the bad reviews are from competitors.   I often check the reviews. Sometimes they are accurate, sometimes not.  Any slick business owner can get his friends to post reviews of his business, and also get his friends to slam  competing businesses.  Dan London had called several of the businesses I worked for besides Paradise4Paws and claimed I had injured his (dog, cat), & the  managers were looking all over for client records—that did not exist—because this guy was not a client.  Illegal?  Only if you have the money to sue the bastard.  Unethical?  This is capitalism.  It was legal for years for banks to tell people they could afford homes they could not afford.  Really.

“Aren’t you worried about your reputation?”  she asked?

“Yes and no.   As I said, Craigslist would tell me who the posters are if I can get a subpoena.  Like I said…even if I did find a lawyer, these people have NOTHING. They are breeding animals to sell—like livestock—for supplemental income. They  can’t support themselves by working real jobs.  The irony is, that if the state would enforce the laws, and Dr. Ernst at the Illinois Department of Agriculture wouldn’t rely on voluntary compliance and, instead,  fine these people who are out of compliance, the  department could more than break even on fines and make a dent in the number of animals killed in shelters, but it is not a priority.

I mean…are you aware that the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has at least 10 sattelite offices in foreign  countries to encourage investment in Illinois?  Johannesburg, Jerusalem, Mexico City, Warsaw,  at lest 1 in China, and there was 1 in India.  When the best thing you can say about Pat Quinn is he’s not  a Republican…”

“Yeah, George Bush did a real number on this country,”  she said.

She made an appointment for the dog and  is now a bit more skeptical about how  business works.

Are YOU looking for a Dog Grooming job in Chicago?

June 23, 2010

I closed my dog grooming  business in mid 2006.  I was still netting about $300 a week (after I paid myself & all the bills), but  when I bought the business, I had over  100 either weekly or bi-weekly clients, and as those owners moved or their dogs died of old age, I was not replacing with new, high maintenance clients.  The economy had changed (due to Enron, 9/11, &… George H. W. Bush  & 2 wars…)  I thought it better to get out while I was ahead.

I am an experienced dog groomer.  I started apprenticing to a hobby breeder  who showed Miniature Schnauzers in 1967, and I graduated from dog grooming school in 1971, and then I apprenticed with some exceptional dog groomers who had been showing or were currently showing dogs. Those were the days, and they are now gone.  Many of those groomers were suspicious of grooming school graduates, and now I know why.  Back then, however, as my parents did not show dogs, there was no other way for me to get  the basic skills I needed.  Now, those experienced groomers  really don’t exist. Why is that?  The corporate refugees who just want to own a dog business either bought or started businesses. They have no integrity, generally know nothing about dogs & won’t learn—but they have the capital—& —if  YOU want to even chance making a living as a groomer, you have to weed through them.

Let me start at the beginning, when I first  experienced this.  It was in the 1980s.  A guy opened a ‘bed & breakfast’ for dogs in Lincoln Park—Cute Name.  I believe the business is now on it’s 3rd or 4th owner, but the first owner just had a concept & didn’t know anything about dogs. The concept was…no cages.   The first night they were open,  one dog bit another & required veterinary treatment, and another dog chewed up a wooden bench.  Seems the dogs didn’t really like that ‘open concept’ kennel all that much.  The owner fired me after about 3 weeks because I refused to bathe Lester Holt’s (yes–the newscaster—he used to live in Chicago)  deaf and thoroughly matted  Old English Sheepdog.  The dog walker  brought the dog in, &  the dog could not be dematted, & she would not  pay to have the dog shaved. I thought it a matter of integrity to not bathe the dog, as I knew he would never dry and I would cause skin irritations.

One shop owner , who didn’t know how to groom & had quit grooming school, but  had bought a  fantastic business in a great neighborhood, fired me for hanging up the collars wrong (& I didn’t even know I hadn’t hung them up ‘right’ at the time).  I had worked for her for about 3 months  when this happened.

One shop owner hired a woman who did not speak English and didn’t know how to groom, and when I told the shop owner that the ‘groomer’, Liz, didn’t know that  heat rises, and was not checking her dogs ( & her dogs were staying wet for hours), the shop owner said to me, “Heat rises!  Robyn, where are you coming up with that stuff?”  So I knew my days were numbered there.  She later apologized to me for all the times I told her to check another groomer’s dogs, and she had not listened to me.  But no matter.  She ended up selling her grooming business to….someone with capital, who had walked dogs—but knew nothing else about dogs.

I was offered a job at “The Furry Bistro.”  They are now out of business.  The owner, a corporate refugee, decided to  combine her love of baking with her love of dogs & opened the shop in a ritzy part of town (across from a well-established pet shop).  I knew things were not good when I came for the interview, she was over  1/2  hour late and did not apologize to me.  The shop was not yet open for business for the day, but she had at least 3 employees (at a minimum of $21 an hour in wages), standing around.  She told me her groomer (who was a snotty  recent grooming school graduate—-at least to ME)  was very busy & needed help.  The reason he was overwhelmed  was they didn’t believe in crating.   They’d tie a dog to a wall—& would just take one dog at a time.  If a client didn’t show up, or showed up late ( since the groomers are paid commission)—you didn’t make money…& that’s one of the reasons they are out of business now:  not managing the time well, too many people on their payroll.  If you take a job like that—where the owners ‘don’t believe in…’ what dog people know will not stress the dogs & keep them in business….be prepared to  not make a living wage, &  for the business to not stay in business.

I  got hired by Best Friends Pet Care.   I have to mention this because  although they ultimately  addressed my issues by continually sending a regional manager  to observe the manager  assaulting me they never fired him. I should have known something was not right, not only because their website tells you to apply with the  local facility directly—but then the manager needs corporate approval to hire you—-  but because staff  told me their last groomer had just walked out. Why? Turns out the  manager, Bruce Blaine, was verbally abusive.  As he was with me, for over a year.   He hated that clients went out of their way to  fill out reports that told corporate I was the best groomer they had ever brought their dog to.  Granted, I did have some communication problems with some clients who wanted their short haired dogs shaved,  but they were few and far in between.  Even though human resources told me I had increased their  dog grooming revenue by over 10%, they  cut my health insurance benefits because I was not working an average of 25 hours a week.  I said to them, “You are cutting my benefits because I manage my time well.”  & they said, “Yes, we are.”  I gave  notice, but no matter.  They are struggling again.  The worst thing, however, was that  they had a high turnover because Bruce was so abusive.   The regional manager was  always coming out to talk to Bruce, and I was not the only one who complained to her.  He was horrible to the women.  & After   the regional manager came out, things were ok for a day, and then he was right back demoralizing the women & blaming them for the incompetency of the guys on his payroll.The company was ultimately sold, and Bruce was  sent to another location as kennel help with no management responsibilities!

I was spirited away by a manager (who was the owner’s father’s girlfriend, Dena Conn) for a start-up, “The Chicago Academy of Dog Training.”  They are also now out of business—for several reasons.  The owner, Courtney Simon, suffered from some mysterious  chronic illness.  Although really an excellent dog trainer, she was not keeping dog training appointments, nor could she manage her own staff. Plus, the way the ‘kennel’ was set up, it was very labor intensive to clean.  An added problem was that the owner of Doggie Bath House, Dan London (they are now out of business, too), called and harassed them constantly.  Why?  He was just an evil son of a bitch, and because I refused to work for him— because I told him he didn’t have enough dog experience—his way of getting back at me was to force other small businesses to ‘fire’ me.  He had my resume (because I had answered a blind ad—very stupid of me…) , He even posted fake reports on Yelp!  Yelp did nothing.  In fact, Yelp!  charges business owners to remove bad reviews now—sort of a bribery situation if you ask me—but a legal business!  Sure, they’d remove the false reports, & he’d post again using a different name  and different email address.  Take Yelp! reports with a grain of salt—especially the glowing reviews.   The irony was–I was right.  So much for being right.   You would think this is illegal—right?  It is not.  It is legal for 1 business to harass another business.

Dena told me that the CAODT had a 300  client base waiting for a groomer. They did not. They had 1 client waiting for grooming.  I had to take part-time work elsewhere.  It’s not illegal to lie to employees.  From their lies, I went to PETCO.

I had applied at PETCO  a couple years before, & was suddenly called as they were booked 6 weeks out.  To make a long story short about them….I asked, & they (store manage & grooming department manager) told me —how many groomers they had on payroll. They had only 1 groomer, & 1 bather. “So,”  I said to the store manager & the grooming manager, “I will get bath dogs if there is no grooming so I can make commission.”  “Of course!”  They said, It would not be a problem. We cleared up the  6 week grooming backlog in 2 weeks—because, the first day I came to work, they  posted a congratulations poster to the bather who was now a groomer, & had hired 3 other bathers.  The only person making commission was the  grooming manager.  She also lied about taking my personal clients, they never  diluted shampoo—so the bathers were rinsing dogs forever.  They  didn’t believe in heating elements (they never checked the dogs anyways), so the dogs sat cold and shivering for hours with cold air blowing on them.  They really didn’t need me, & I could see the store, situated in a very affluent community, was not even breaking even.  They fired me for insubordination  after telling  me to break one of their  policies to accomodate a client, who then complained.  I told them  they had too many people on their payroll, and they told me it was none of my business. They also, against corporate policy—-took dogs in  for grooming without  proof of shot records, which led to  an owner accusing me falsely ( they  determined that).  If you need health insurance  and can live on minimum wage, go for it, but if you love pets, this is not the place to be.

A groomer who was trained at Petsmart borrowed money & bought a shop, and her 2 groomers  took her whole client base—which she didn’t realize, and after 1 day she didn’t even have 1 dog a day for me.   She was totally clueless.  She was out of business in 3 months.

Another groomer with an excellent reputation told me her  assistant was moving, which was why she hired me. We were busy for about 3 weeks, but her assistant didn’t leave, and that was all she really needed.

A groomer  hired me, her shop caught on fire.  My hiring was delayed.  I came in, finally, to work, and she had a bather—& she only did 6 dogs a day!  So that didn’t work out.

I was hired by Pawsatively Heaven Pet Resort for Sundays & Mondays. They are down in Chicago Ridge, over 30 miles from where I live.  This is a  wonderful kennel, and the  manager, Marty Sullivan, is a great guy.  So are the actual owners.  But the groomers are  little divas. Marty told me one was changing careers & moving on, one was retiring from grooming (but she wasn’t), & nobody wanted to  work on Sundays. I wasn’t even paying for my gas, but Marty assured  me things would pick up.  I was developing a bit of a following, but still needed part-time work, so I stupidly  responded to a blind ad on Craigslist.  Dan London—Doggie Bath House.  Again!  When I realized what I had done, I  went immediately to Marty & told him to check  his Yelp! reviews (sure enough, Dan  had posted lies) . Dan also started calling them and harassing them, claiming to be a current client.  He actually did this to several grooming shops & kennels he thought I worked for.  Can you imagine having the time to do this? Well, when you don’t actually work for a living—just own a business, and are not busy, you have plenty of time to be an asshole.    One Sunday I came  in to Pawsatively Heaven, & there was only  1/2  a gallon of diluted shampoo left.  I asked  the owner if she had some stored somewhere.  She told me what was in the closet was it.  I told her the girls had to know  they were down to this. What was going to happen? They were going to come in Tuesday & claim I used up the shampoo?  Suddenly, another groomer decided they’d work on Sunday & Monday, as I was getting those clients, & they no longer needed me.

I  kept interviewing.  Shop owners, not groomers, could not tell me how many dogs their groomers did in an average day.  One told me it was very important to learn the computer program for booking.  She had also been trained by Petsmart, & I  knew there would be an issue when she told me her breed was cocker spaniels.  Also,  the actual bathroom was in the shop next door.  Lots of issues there. They allowed an owner  to ‘help’ groom her own dog, & stuck her unbrushed Collie/Newf directly into the tub without brushing it.

I  worked up at Yuppie Puppy in Lake Forest, for about 8 weeks, going up there  twice a week. Go see for yourself.  See if you would want to board your dog in this  Ill. Dept of Ag. licensed kennel.  It is owned by the Whitakers—very  proudly a family owned business.  With daughter Lucy in California, Simon  going to Texas, and Dad clearly not knowing  one breed from the next,  and not really caring….he is a BUSINESSMAN—this place would be a joke were it not so stressful for the dogs…but it is totally legal. They constantly bitch about how hard it is to get help, but the lighting in the grooming room—which is also the kitchen—is terrible, and they don’t have enough dryers.  You really have to manage your time well. The owners do not do any physical labor beyond feeding the dogs.  I showed them that they were not charging enough for the grooms, & they told me I was an employee & it was not my business—-yet they didn’t mind me raising prices at all, and their main issue was my bad customer service.  Yep—I’m terrible with people who allow their dogs to urinate all over  and don’t control them.

Why did they fire me? At the end of a holiday weekend, they  booked too many dogs for us to  dry thoroughly, and my last dog was an out of control Golden Retriever—which they knew was hard to handle.  I told Simon I could not  handle the dog without help, and he accused me of not doing my job. Really.

You might have read in grooming industry magazines that you do not have to groom every dog—especially if it is safe for either you or the dog. But the Whitakers don’t read pet industry magazines. They had the audacity to tell the State of Illinois that I refused to do my job—(never mind that they threatened to withhold the pay I had coming). Initially, they told me  the average fee per grooming dog was $50 (according to their own computer records, it was $35), and there would be a 2 week delay in getting paid (it was actually 3 weeks). Do you want to go work for them?  You might make money.  Or not…

I  am now working for a very nice shop. Very clean.  Problem is, the owner was taught to groom at a grooming school, so she thinks she learned all there was to learn at a grooming school.  Even though she told me  I  am cutting corners, she has no issue with my grooming.  She just can’t figure out  how I get my grooms done faster than her 2 other groomers—also grooming school trained.   I ‘ve  shown her what I do  to get my dogs dried faster and fluffier, but she doesn’t believe it…so she won’t schedule dogs closer together. Here we go again. If a dog doesn’t show up, or is late, I am standing around—& that is after I’ve done laundry & filed cards!

Planet Pooch is opening 7 locations in  the metro Chicago area. The manager told me that they don’t buy from puppy mills, only USDA Licensed Breeders.  He doesn’t know that  ethical hobby breeders don’t sell to others to resell—that they want to meet the people who want their pups & to determine if  their dog would be right for them. He apparently doesn’t know the difference.  I’d rather starve.  This is the reason I lasted but a week at Pocket Puppies.  It just hurt too much, emotionally.  (Update:  they never opened.  Not sure why….)

There’s a businessman who opened a dog daycare in Mount Prospect.  You could make $350 a week!!!  Do you realize that isn’t even $19,000 a year?  Who could live on that?  More important—the person who doesn’t understand that that is not a living wage doesn’t have to work for a living.  Beware!  Lots of business people who own dog daycare facilities need groomers, but they can’t tell you how much you will make.  In fact, there is a woman recruiting for the dog grooming outlets at Walmarts in Aurora & Zion. When I asked her what her average groomer made in a day, or a week, she could not tell me.    But she provides a grooming manager/receptionist to answer the phone & deal with customers.  Wow!  I asked her, “Are you telling me you don’t pay that person at the rate of $35,000 a year, but you can’t tell me what the groomer makes in an average week?”  She stammered and b.s.’d me for a few minutes, but that was, essentially, what she was telling me. The person who did no physical labor was making more than the groomer who  was to provide   the means to pay the receptionist. What am I missing?

I have about  10 years left in my grooming career.  I work part-time at a great kennel, but were it not for the assistant managers who happen to be vet techs,  this job would be a nightmare.  Virtually 3/4 of the clientele  are ‘non-groomable’ short haired dogs:  Boxers, Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, Bulldogs.  This is the nature of the industry now.  Only the wealthy (or those who  are comfortable carrying boatloads of debt) can afford the non-shed breeds requiring dog grooming skills.  If your experience has been different in the Chicago area, please let me know.

The Pet Grooming Industry has Lost Integrity

July 24, 2009

bedlingtonI published a first draft of this blog in 2009 as “My industry is losing integrity due to corporate refugees.”  As it was an early blog, I am updating it…partly because of an experience I had just several days ago.

Let me start at the beginning: When I started grooming dogs, in the late 1960’s,  everyone who was making a living as a dog groomer was a fancier who was also breeding dogs, and showing those dogs, because they were doing so for the ‘betterment’ of their breed.

Not all the people doing this were nice to people, but they clearly loved their dogs and  thought a great deal about making their lives as  stress free as possible.  They really wanted to breed good dogs, too.  You can look at photos from most breeds from the 1960s & photos of dogs today, and see  that improvements were made, in terms of conformation and soundness.   They all were ‘hands on’ groomers.  Not just business owners.

This was in the 1960’s.  Land rents were still low (my parents bought a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath home with a yard, for $20,000). Yes, there was the Viet Nam war going on, & very true—if you weren’t white, you were probably living in poverty & being exploited. No doubt.   However, that is when the dog grooming industry emerged.

Suddenly, middle class people could afford to own Poodles, and there weren’t enough dog groomers, so…some very early  fanciers:  Shirlee Kalston, Ben Stone, Margaret & Mario Migliorini, opened  one of the first dog grooming schools in the country:  the New York School of Dog Grooming.

I don’t know how they  met Don Doessel, but he opened the ‘New York School of Dog Grooming’ in Chicago. Don  bred the ‘Dansel’ Min. Schnauzers.  He started Lou & Seme Auslander (‘Alpine’) in Schnauzers.  Don also owned a ‘Tajmir’ Afghan Hound he got from Pat Sinden before she married  Baird Wallis &, later,  Hobart Stephenson.

Anyways, Don was the  teacher who gave me the opportunity to learn to  clip Poodle feet and  how to start learning to scissor.

I was lucky enough to  continue to apprentice with very talented groomers who ran good businesses, bred good dogs,and who  were always learning from other fanciers (Joan Fredericksen, at Jo-Kor’s Klippette in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, learned to  groom Bedlington Terriers from Charlie Praeger, & taught  me.    d Jan Condurso, whose mother was Edith Tischer  bred Bedlingtons, learned from Bedlingtons from Jack Funk when her mother sent her).  That’s how it was.  We were interested in the aesthetics of the dogs, animal behavior and training, and breeding or showing good dogs.  In fact, Joan stopped breeding Boston Terriers back then. They were all born by C section, often mismarked, &  they broke her heart.

There were no puppy mills.  There was no internet.  It cost too much to ‘market’ dogs.  If a pet shop sold puppies, they bred the dogs themselves.  After all:  Breeders who love their dogs want to meet the buyers of their pups. They don’t sell them to 3rd parties to resell them to to others just for cash. They want to know that you can afford the dog you are buying, that everyone you live with also wants the dog, and that you really have the time for the dog.  Just because you have money doesn’t mean you will care for the dog. We now know how many  dogs were bought for over $1000 that end up in rescues & shelters because rich people just get bored with them.

In fact, it is amazing to me how many people who don’t have a year’s worth of saving in the bank go out and buy a dog they can’t afford.   They lose their jobs & want to be reimbursed for their ‘investment’.  Truly Amazing.

But worse, what has happened in the last several decades is  that people who say they love dogs didn’t pursue their  interest in dogs—or their true love, and got caught up in a corporate environment.  Greed and status.  They quit corporate & decided to open a dog grooming or dog daycare business.  With no real knowledge of dog physiology or behavior.  It’s totally legal.  The attitude is, “What’s to know?  They’re dogs!”  They really disrespect those of us why really DO know dogs.

They have never trained a dog to off leash reliability, and  don’t realize how much you learn about dog behavior when you communicate with a dog enough for the dog to respect you and understand you.

Unfailingly, these ‘dog lovers’ want to hire you (me) to make money for them. Invariably, they are paying too much in rent, have business plans based on nothing, have not  even worked in a pet business for a year (let alone trained or groomed a dog), but they have capital & they are the bosses. They do not know a Bichon Frise from a Maltese, a Welsh from a Lakeland Terrier, or a Lhasa Apso from a Shih Tzu.  They do not know how shampoo cleans, that ‘conditioner’ doesn’t condition ,  why some collars, brushes, foods are better than others, and they don’t care.  What they know is what the marketing rep told them.  In addition, they think their veterinarian, who may have specialized in large animals & knows nothing about genetics, knows more than a dog groomer—just because we do labor (by the way—many of us have college degrees, including masters degrees & Ph.D.s…we just love dogs)

The average person looking for pet care & integrity doesn’t know. They fall for the marketing. Sure, it’s easy. Dog groomers are dog people, We are not people people. We tend to be snarky.  Sorry, it’s the truth.

I  was looking for a shop to bring my clients to if they didn’t want to travel up to my neighborhood. this is how I, unfortunately, met a guy named Don London.  He owed a business called Doggie Bath House in Chicago’s south Loop area:  734 s. Dearborn.  He was in business  a little over a year, but managed to screw a lot of dog groomers during that time. Not only that, he managed to  post many fake reviews on Yelp! about other businesses.

I had been hired by yet another corporate refugee who had a good plan, but who had lied about how much business she actually had, so I was looking for other part time work.  I went to see Don & Doggie Bath House.  He kept advertising on Craigslist.  He has several Craigslist accounts.

1.  He had done a very nice build out, but over spent on it.  Meanwhile, his equipment was rudimentary.  He had a fold up grooming table and a force dryer.  No low velocity dryer.  Worse, no crates.  This meant you had to  either let a freshly groomed dog walk around the store (very dangerous, but a lot of people who don’t know dog behavior do this) or tie the dog to a wall—-also extremely dangerous as the dog gets tangles, and is vulnerable to roaming dogs);

2.  You could only groom 1 dog at a time this way. Most groomers, if we can, start one dog, let it start drying, IN A CRATE—and set up another dog. That’s the only way we can make $$$.   Plus, it gives the dog a bit of a break & is less stressful.  Don didn’t care about that & didn’t want to see any dogs in cages  If your next dog didn’t show up on time, you were out the money for that time (for some reason,  a lot of groomers  don’t know how to dry a dog, or are taught poorly, and really believe that  the more time they spend hans on with the dog, the mor ‘value’ they are adding to the groom.);

3.Don ‘s dog  ‘experience’ consisted of walking dogs at a kennel.  He had never trained a dog, he had never groomed a dog –not even his own.  Yet—he was going to set prices.

I was pretty desperate, but what he told me he wanted me to do was bring my own established clients in, & he’d set prices.   Not only THAT—but I had  several regular  longhaired dogs in SPECIALS COAT (that means they could have gone to a dog show & had a chance of winning), but I would have to bring my own low velocity dryer.

Initially, I said I would work for Don  if he could guarantee me at least $100 a day & pay for my parking…but I  thought it over & realized in less than 24 hours that it wouldn’t work.  I called him back & told him I could not work for him because he didn’t have enough dog experience.

Since then, he has been harassing me.  This is what he did:

Like a fool, I answered a blind ad for a dog groomer on Craigslist. I even told them the place I was working was mismanaged.  He used a pseudonym (that’s a fake name) to get more info from me.

He then  started calling the business and harassing them, & posting fake reviews on Yelp! Chicago.  He continues to do that every place he thinks I am working.  Seriously!  He doesn’t work for a living, and has plenty of time.  He’s very slick. You can libel anyone you want on the internet & get away with it.  All the lawyers I talked to said  they could do nothing because of the way that Yelp! and Craigslist are set up. So—be skeptical.

When people challenged me about him, I just told them to go to Doggie Bath House & see if what I am saying is a lie. Go there, and go visit any other groomer who  hasn’t just graduated from dog grooming school, but one who tells you she shows dogs or is involved in performance events.  You will then understand the difference.   He’s gone now (well, he lurks, and is still libeling me…)

As I said in an earlier blog post, I got into grad school because of my experiences with microbusinesses. I can walk into a business & tell within 10 minutes who has too many people on their payroll for the amount of income they have to generate to break even.  It’s not a gift.  It’s a way for me to be able to tell  whether I can possibly make a living at this business.

I wrote this in 2009. Bush got us into a war in Iraq to take our minds off health care. When the economy collapsed, even though he was still president, he did nothing.  Our economy in the U.S, is based on service.  People started losing their jobs at the end of 2008, and it will never be the same.  Middle class Americans will never, every again be able to spend money frivolously.  Very few will be able to afford dogs that need haircuts to  stay clean and healthy.  I know this as sure as I know my name and social security number. What’s going to happen is that people with capital are going to be able to keep these small service businesses afloat, almost as a hobby,  and then there will be the chains, like Petco & Petsmart.  You may get a good grooming, you may not, but when the dog  you have now dies,  IF you can afford another dog, you will get a low maintenance type of dog.  All your other money will be going to  rent or mortgage, energy costs, & health care.  Sad, but true.  Look at the phone book now and see how many dog service businesses there are. Tear out those pages.  Make a note on your calendar to check how many of those businesses are there in 2014.

That’s what I wrote. Since then, even more corporate refugees have opened more  dog service businesses. They have trouble keeping good dog groomers, so they attempt to get by with the people who worked as bathers  in other businesses, or just graduated from dog grooming school….they don’t realize that  this is  not going to work until a novice groomers screws up a dog (either  shaves a dog that should not be shaved—like a Samoyed, or injures a dog that needs to be shaved). They realize they can’t make it on dog grooming alone, so start offering dog day care and dog walking.  We have no statistics on how many dogs get injured, pick up  parasites or infections in these   environments, nor do we know how many dogs dog walkers lose, or if they are really walking the dogs they are charging for.  Call any business that offers dog walking & ask how you can be assured yur dog is taken out if you don’t own a nanny-cam.

I checked out a business  because I was looking for part time work, it was in an elite area (household incomes of well over $100,000), & the owner told me which dog grooming school she had graduated from,  so I knew she had to  have some skills,  She had a fake non-profit (I have blogged about this, too). that is, she ran a rescue, which is licensed by the state as non-profit, but what she did was  get dogs people wanted to offload, and convinced her friends and clients to ‘foster’ these dogs.  This is not a big operation—under a dozen at a time, She pays for shots and neutering. Frankly, she is a lot better than many.  However, she has no real board of diertors and issues no annual report.  This is legal as well.

I told her that for me to work for her, I’d have to average $200 a day gross.  I do this because  most of these businesses not only undercharge for service, but they don’t keep records. she  balked, and told me what she charged, and I told her  her prices were way to low for the area, but I’d come out and work  a day for her and see how it went.  I am not returning.

First of all, while I understand why she is in an industrial area, and has no internet presence except for the non-profit (she does have a big sign out front), the building is a pig sty.  She has mattresses and  human beds all over for the dogs, but has not washed a floor or walls in years, and the mattresses are filthy.  It looks like a crack den. Sure, the dogs don’t mind, but it was disgusting.  It’s great for the daycare dogs, but since she picks up all client dogs—-they’d either never see the environment, or disregard what a mess it was.  She had told me she had all working equipment, but they dried every dog with a ‘Force’ dryer.  I asked what about the dogs heads, and she told me they got the dogs dry.  I won’t go into all the details of how awful the place  was, but I will say  the owner is in denial, and doesn’t know physics. I was there on a very humid day, and I told her she needed a dehumidifyer.  She laughed.  I told her to let the dogs sit and let the water evaporate after I washed then, and let me continue to set up dogs, Since this is a cage free environment (with cages stacked all over, which she  claims to not use…what’s going on here), no, she wanted all the dogs table dried.  It was her and 2 ‘groomers’.  She claimed they did 20 dogs a day. Do the math:  the shop is open 10 to 3.  That’s 5 hours.  If each dog takes about 10 minutes (more or less) to bathe, an 1/2 hour to dry, and lets be conservative and say only  5 of those are getting any hair cuts or brushing….how are they , if they each do 7 dogs, going to get them all dry?  I told her  she could  stand there with a force on these dogs forever, but if the humidity is high, no matter if you blow the water off the dogs—if  the air can’t absorb any more water, it’s going to land back on the dogs. She didn’t believe this, Even the towels they had dried the day before, and were on a shelf were wet due to wicking humidity from the air.  Since the owner wasn’t actually  working on most dogs, just her 2 ‘groomers’ (1 was actually a bather, each girl had to bathe & dry 10 dogs. Ok, I did 6, but I know those dogs were not going home dry…& since the owner wasn’t actually checking, she didn’t know, or care.  I have too much integrity for that.d/daycare attendant, so she also had to clean up poop and stuff….)

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