Cleaned Up or Cleaned Out?

I need your help. I did a good deed recently, but I was gripped by second thoughts. I want to know if you think I should have done this. Here is what happened:

In preparing our condo for sale, we had already moved most of the furniture out and I called Sears to clean the carpets in the living room, bedroom and den. Sears Lady took my name and address, we set a date (not THAT kind of date!) and she said that Mr. carpet Cleaner would call me to set up a time. Which he did. And then he confirmed. And then he came.

Mr. Carpet Cleaner (not his real name) was pleasant, but quiet, and went about his business. When he was done, I had planned to give him a ten dollar tip. Don't salivate too much - these are just Canadian dollars. But on a $69.95 job, ten dollars is a nice tip, especially since I was sure that Mr. Carpet Cleaner did not make all of that $69.95.

After completing the paperwork, Mr. Carpet Cleaner handed me the invoice to sign. I glanced at it and noticed a ten dollar "unscheduled cleaning" fee. I asked him about this, and he told me it was because the price I had been quoted was based on three rooms, but that he cleaned four, including the dining room.

Dining room? What dining room? We don't have a dining room. Well, actually we do, he pointed out. The living room wall is four inches indented (that's right, a whole four inches) at the pass-through window from the kitchen, making it a dining room. Now I have never before seen a four-inch wide dining room, especially since the whole condo living room (including our newly discovered dining room) was no bigger than a typical living room in a modest house. And it was less work to clean than most because we had already moved all the furniture to our new house (with a much bigger living room, but still no dining room - maybe I should invite Mr. Carpet Cleaner over to find me one).

I hesitated, with all my alarms wailing like sirens. I am just winding down a decade-and-a-half career as a consumer advocate. My job has been to battle greedy corporations and sanity-starved governments in the name of consumer protection. Grrrr.

I signed the invoice handed it back to Mr. Carpet Cleaner, paid the fee, and gave him that ten dollar tip ? just as I had planned. I figured he was loyally following corporate policy, and if I had a tangle it was with Sears, not with Mr. Carpet Cleaner. He still was probably not making that much.

When I handed him the tip his eyes lit up. I told him I figured he wasn't getting rich on me. He quickly told me he would be making $14 from the visit, so I had almost doubled his income. Plus he had to provide his own vehicle and pay the gas, and he had to invest in his own cleaning equipment and soap. Which means I paid Sears the remaining $55.95 - oops, I mean $65.95 - just so that Sears Lady and I could set a date. If the economics sound a bit like the escort business, we can leave that for another column.

So did I do the right thing? Did I do a good deed or was I just a floor mat for a greedy corporation? Of course, I want to believe it was a good deed, foot prints on my back would clash with my limited fashion sense. But do I need a reality check? Please let me know at

About The Author

David Leonhardt is The Happy Guy, and author of" target="_new">Climb your Stairway to Heaven: the 9 habits of maximum happiness.

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