Ever wonder what it's like to own an ice cream parlor, a beauty salon or a funeral home? We did, too. So, we set about asking business owners of all stripes to tell us what their day-to-day work lives are like. As part of an ongoing series, we'll bring you our "In Their Shoes" features every Tuesday.
Business: Junk hauler
Owner: Drew Trautman
Business Name: 1-800-GOT-JUNK? (Franchisee, Northeastern N.J. )
Why do most people hire you? Moving, divorce, just cleaning out?
Most people hire us because they are in some sort of transition. Typically, they are either moving, downsizing, renovating, changing offices, getting new furniture or simply want to park their car back in their garage!
What do you do with all that stuff?
The first thing we do is try to donate any items we get. After that, we recycle what we can. The remaining items are disposed of properly (certain material needs to go to certain places —i.e. e-waste , transfer stations or landfills). We did an internal audit recently and determined that system-wide we divert around 60 percent of the “junk” we remove for our customers.
Have you ever had families argue over what to throw away?
Sure —all the time. We’ve had couples argue, mostly good-naturedly, as to what is junk or not (think golf clubs and a bunch of “tools” in the garage preventing the car from being parked there, or a bunch of clothes in a closet that haven’t been worn since college). We’ve had families argue while downsizing elderly parents. We’ve had couples in the middle of a divorce trying to determine what is junk —and whose junk it is. It happens, but we train our staff to empathize with the clients. Transition can be a hard time for everyone involved, and we’re sensitive to these types of situations.
Have you ever told someone that something they had was worth money and they should keep it?
Yes, absolutely. Sometimes the client is thankful and sometimes they simply want to get rid of the item even if it may be potentially valuable.
Are there things you won't take?
Yes, we won’t take anything hazardous. Chemicals, asbestos, medical waste, etc.
How many houses a day do you clean out?
It’s not just houses — we do a lot of offices/commercial business as well. It depends on the size of the jobs on the schedule. We’ve had office cleanouts that last a full day and we’ve had days where we’ve helped clean out over 20 homes.
Do you encounter a lot of hoarders?
We encounter quite a few people that have a lot of stuff in their house and we’ve seen varying levels of hoarding. We’ve been featured on the A&E show “Hoarders,” so we’ve seen an increase in this side of our business.
What the most common thing people get rid of?
Our most common items are furniture, appliances, exercise equipment, desks and filing cabinets in offices and boxes of old stuff in the basement, attic or garage.
Have you ever kept anything for yourself?
We’ve kept items for the office such as filing cabinets, desks or chairs. We make sure the client does not want them donated beforehand. We also had a commercial client get rid of boxes of paperclips and staples. We didn’t have to buy those for awhile.
Do people ever cry when their stuff is taken away?
Yes. Most people are in some sort of transition so it’s an emotional time for some of our clients. In some cases, the people have become attached to the items. In other cases, we’re helping clean out a house for families that may have been in the home for years. At times, the whole process is overwhelming to our clients so we constantly train our staff to be empathetic to our clients and their particular situation.
Have you had people change their mind after everything is put on the truck?
Not really. But, we have had clients ask for one item that they didn’t mean to throw away, which means we might have to dig through a truck to find it. It’s only happened a few times and we’re happy to make sure the client has their item back.
Do you get annoyed when people hover over you when you are doing your job?
Customer interaction is key to our business, so we love it! Since we provide the labor to remove items from our customer’s homes or business, we’re constantly talking to our clients to make sure we’re removing exactly what they want. Thus, we don’t consider it hovering —it’s more a part of the process and a part of the job.
Do you try to look around people's homes without them noticing?
Absolutely not. Anyone acting in such an unprofessional manner would be terminated.