One Contractor’s Saga of Sweeping for Command7

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross, Director of the World Sweeping Association and Editor of WorldSweeper.com

When it comes to dealing with third party vendors, it would be great to say stories like the following are rare. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Rather, these types of ‘money loss scenarios’ play out frequently when contractors work in good faith with a variety of third party vendors throughout the U.S. The following article is just a ‘snapshot’ of one such incident with one of the many third party vendors contractors are now forced to deal with in America.

On April 13th, in my role as the Director of the World Sweeping Association, I received an email message from Chris, a contractor based in Georgia. He said he had received a call from a representative of Utah-based third party vendor, Command7, with a request to sweep a Lowe’s store in his area. The representative told him they needed it swept right away so the contractor said he would do so. A price per sweep was agreed to; however, he also told the Command7 Account Specialist, Sheree Wicklund, that although he would provide insurance and other documentation Command7 requested, he would not agree to sign their contract until he could have it reviewed. As a member of the World Sweeping Association, the contractor asked the WSA office to give him any ideas we might have about the contract, in addition to any legal review he might also choose to get.

WSA’s take on the agreement was that it included a clause appearing to put the contractor into a lead liability role in the event most any injury claim was made involving the exterior of the property. The contract also had a ‘pay when paid’ clause which, in the past in other instances, has proved a problem since it is very difficult for a contractor to find out when or if a third party vendor company has received payment.

By the time the contractor had received the contract review(s) he requested, he’d swept the Lowe’s property a total of seven times from March 20th to April 10th. At that point he decided that, given the somewhat onerous clauses, he did not want to sign the contract. However, he offered to continue sweeping for up to an additional week to give Command7 time to procure another contractor. What happened next is quite a saga… Unfortunately, it is also only one of the many similar types of stories that have come out of interactions with third party vendors in the U.S. marketplace.

On April 13th the contractor emailed Sheree Wicklund, his Account Specialist at Command7, the following:

“I received some information and I must protect myself so I will not sign the contract.  I am sorry for the confusion.  I was told… [in] the contract it says you will pay us after Command 7 gets paid. So that is one reason.  The other reason is that it puts me as lead on any law suits.  Which I understand we have insurance for that but I cannot afford to take the risk of getting sued and my premium payment on my insurance goes up.

“I called and left you a message. I do not want to be ugly at all so since I said I would sweep, I would cover it this week if you need me to, to give you some time to find someone. If you need me to stop now, I understand and that is fine as well. My question is, will I get paid for the days that I have swept already?”

About two hours later he received an email response from Ms. Wicklund that included the following:

“Because you are breaking the contract, Command 7 is NOT bound to pay for services already rendered. However, if you were to fulfill the contract, we would be more than happy to continue payments.

“I know we are in uncertain times and many people are fearful of the future. I am honestly here to tell you, we stand behind our providers and pay them every time. Especially the providers I work with. In the event you change your mind, please let me know. I’d hate to lose your services.”

At that point the WSA Member emailed us to tell us the outcome. He said he guessed he’d just have to let it go, since the under $500 total was too small to involve an attorney. That’s when WSA decided to get involved.

I phoned Ms. Wicklund’s supervisor, Daaren Tapia, on April 15th. After explaining the situation on the phone, I sent him an email of the above email exchange between the contractor and Ms. Wicklund. Mr. Tapia said he would “look into it.”

The next day the contractor received an email with the subject line “Termination of Parking Lot Services Effective Immediately; Payments Suspended.” The boiler-plate email terminated the contractor’s services (remember, he had already quit), and went on to say “This service termination is a result of your failure to provide services in a professional and workmanlike manner, pursuant to paragraph 13 (“Warranties”) of the Master Services Agreement (MSA) and your Notice to Provide Services (NTPS), under which your company has been providing ParkingLot service at the location(s) listed above (however, with the permission of Ms. Wicklund he had never signed the MSA document) and which documents control the relationship between your company and Command7 regarding services provided at the location(s). This failure to provide services in the manner prescribed constitutes a breach under your MSA and NTPS.”

This message contradicted the first email, where the contractor had been told he wouldn’t be paid since he wouldn’t sign Command7’s Master Services Agreement. And, in which Ms. Wicklund had tried to persuade him to keep sweeping the account with zero mention of any “failure to provide services in a professional and workmanlike manner.” Since that second notice referenced poor service, which was the first the contractor had heard about any such, WSA then spoke to the manager of the Lowe’s location that the contractor had been sweeping. We asked if he had registered any complaints about sweeping, to either the contractor or to Command7, during the time the contractor was servicing the account. The manager said he had not and that all sweeps had been checked off as being okay in Lowe’s ServiceChannel system.

WSA then contacted the Lowe’s regional manager over that store, who asked that we “leave him out” of this article — so we are not using his name or contact information. We told him of the discrepancy between the reasons Command7 had provided for not paying the contractor. We also asked him to send to both WSA and the contractor copies of any and all complaints that had been made about sweeping during the relevant time period.

Although the regional Lowe’s manager said he recalled receiving an email from the store manager with some type of “concern about sweeping and landscaping,” it was not done through the channels that meant Lowe’s wouldn’t be paying Command7. Further, he told WSA that “if we pay Command7 then we expect that they will pay the contractor.”

At that point, WSA re-contacted Mr. Tapia via email, which was Cc:ed to the Lowe’s regional manager and included the following:

“Since Command7’s later contention… is that service complaints were made for each of the nightly sweeps, please forward them to [the contractor]. The documentation should be from Lowe’s management about the job done by sweeping personnel on the following dates: 03/20, 03/24, 03/27, 03/31, 04/03, 04/07, and 04/10. Please also include any specific information provided contemporaneously to [the contractor] about lack of service quality.
 
“These should note which specific days the Lowe’s management team found the sweeping services to be deficient and in what manner, and be facsimiles of the documented complaints made by the Lowe’s store manager. Since you state that you are not paying [the contractor] for ANY of the work done due to complaints, it is logical that you will be able to provide complaints for all seven of the days [contractor personnel] were on the Lowe’s jobsite.”
 
It was at this point Lowe’s regional manager asked to be kept out. We agreed to do so in an April 28th email that included the following:

“I understand that Lowe’s would like to be “left out of it.” However, Lowe’s has chosen a third party provider that appears to have a very shady — to say the least — business model, one that sends conflicting emails as to why they are not paying the provider while also having provided no input about service quality to the provider. There is no question the lot was being swept: Your ServiceChannel data confirms that fact. 

“The only way the actual service provider can modify a level of service is through constructive feedback, which was apparently not provided by Lowe’s to Command7 — and certainly not provided to [the contractor] by anyone. You have a process in place via ServiceChannel to critique the service level for sweeping and other service contractors. That was not utilized; no critique was provided to the contractor; and, a set of flimsy, contradicting, reasons are given for non-payment. I have to wonder how many other contractors Lowe’s is allowing, via its use of Command7, to be treated in the same fashion…
 
“You told me on the phone that when Lowe’s paid Command7 it was expected they would pay the contractor. What is Lowe’s position on requiring [the contractor] to be paid in this situation?”
 
Since no response was received from either Lowe’s or Command7 in the next week, on May 6th we re-called Mr. Tapia to find out the latest. In that call, after being advised that WSA had been told by the Lowe’s regional manager that all of the sweeps had been deemed acceptable via the ServiceChannel portal, Mr. Tapia asked WSA to send him information confirming that fact.
 
WSA responded that Lowe’s was his client, not WSA’s, and that he was the one who needed to contact Lowe’s store management for the info if he didn’t already have it. WSA also reiterated the request for any service complaints; told him the contractor was on record as saying he had received no service complaints from either Lowe’s management or Command7; reminded him that two different, conflicting, reasons had been given for non-payment by Command7; and, asked for a determination about eventual payment under the circumstances. The conversation was then memorialized by WSA via email to Mr. Tapia, who responded with this on the same day:

“This matter is between [the contractor] and Command7. We will work with him and hope that the right thing is done. If the manager did indeed sign off on services and “paid us” as you claim to have direct communication with someone at Lowes. We hope to receive that information to get [the contractor] paid.”

On the same day, WSA responded to that email: “You are the Team Lead for Command7 so you should have no trouble finding out whether or not Lowe’s paid your own company. If they did not, please contact me back. If they did, please pay [the contractor]. It really should be as simple as that… to do the right thing.”

Later that same day the contractor, who was Cc:ed on all email correspondence throughout this effort to get him paid, also sent an email to Mr. Tapia. It said, in part:

“I was shocked when I got my termination letter that it was because of my services. Go back and read the emails and listen to our phone conversations if you kept them for “training purposes.” There was no discussion over the email or phone calls about my service. Matter of fact, it was Sheree trying to talk me into signing and to stay on sweeping. 

“I would like to ask you a question since someone just wanted to say it was my service for the termination.  IF THIS WAS THE CASE, you wouldn’t ever tell the vendor (me) so they could fix the issue? After 7 sweeps, y’all would just say I was terminated and not pay them?? Seems like to me a good way Command 7 can scam a lot of my sweeping family out there. I would like to hear back from your response on these questions. 
 
“The fact is I swept 7 times for [$XX] for each sweep, with no complaints. Command 7 owes [my company approximately $500] but refuses to do so because Command 7 says it was because of bad service but in reality it was because [my company] didn’t agree with parts of the contract. All the phone calls and all the emails and I said it in one sentence. Please, I ask you to do your research as [WSA] did. Do what is right and pay the people that do the job you asked of them.”
 
After receiving a Cc: of that email, the next day (May 7th) WSA re-contacted Lowe’s regional manager and left a voicemail asking that Lowe’s get involved to make the payment happen. In the voicemail an offer/request was also made that WSA would conduct with him or another Lowe’s manager either a two- or a three-way audio podcast where the challenges of all sides would be discussed, with WSA taking the side of the contracting community.
 
About an hour later, WSA received a call from a man who identified himself as “John” and said he was an Operations Manager for Command7. He asked WSA to “please discontinue contacting Lowe’s regional manager” since, essentially, it was making Command7 look bad. He also mentioned Command7 had lost the contract for the store location that is the subject of this article. Although the call got off to a poor start via both parties, eventually it became more amicable. John said he had every expectation that Command7 would pay the contractor if, indeed, service complaints had not been lodged by the Lowe’s store manager through ServiceChannel.
 
John was also invited by WSA to participate in a future audio podcast to discuss the advantages of, and challenges faced by, third party vendors such as Command7, either with or without participation by Lowe’s. John was also asked to send his contact information to WSA in order to facilitate better future contacts and reduce the chance for any future disagreements to escalate as this one had done. John said he would send an email directly. However, WSA received no email from John in the days following the phone conversation. When no email contact had been received nearly a week later, on May 13th WSA called John and left a voicemail asking him to follow through with sending his Command7 contact information. As of the time of this publication John had not responded to that request.
 
On May 15th, the contractor sent an email to Mr. Tapia that said the following: “As you told [WSA], this was between me and you (Command 7).  I sent you an email 9 days ago and still have not heard from you.  I am following up to see if you found out anything?”
 
Within 10 minutes, a response was received from Mr. Tapia that said: “Yes, I will have an update to you by Monday. Please call me first thing. “
 
I advised the contractor to email, instead of calling, so there would be a record of the decision. When the contractor emailed Command7’s Mr. Tapia on Monday, he was told no decision had been made after all. The week before publication I also called John, the Operations person at Command7 twice, once at the number from which he’d called me; and, once on the main number on Command7’s website. I wanted to offer him an opportunity to review this article prior to publication, as well as provide a statement from the company if they so chose. Unfortunately, no one from the company returned either call.
 

Epilogue…
 
We’ll amend this article to report on whether or not Command7 ever ended up paying for the sweeps or not. And, after the Monday email didn’t provide resolution after all, ‘Chris the contractor’ wrote me this email expressing his thoughts on his experience with trying to work with Command7 and other third party vendors.
 
It would be great if stories like the above were rare, isolated, instances of how business is conducted by the third party vendor community. Although we do not want to paint all of the third party vendors with “the same brush,” the fact is that similar stories are rampant throughout the sweeping industry. Michael Nawa, a WSA Advisory Board Member and former long-time sweeping contractor, said that when he operated his business a large part of one of his employees job descriptions was to deal with all of the various third party reporting and contract issues. Still, he said different of the third party companies would find a way to not pay him on about one sweep per week.
 
Especially with the widespread use of contract clauses that transfer slip-and-fall-type liability to the sweeping contractors, as well as other onerous clauses like pay-when-paid — along with very low prices per sweep — the largely unregulated third party vendor community is costing power sweeping and similar contractors many hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Unfortunately, until the major retail corporations that utilize these third party companies require them to employ more reasonable business practices, it’s hard to know how to combat the blight that a number of participant companies in the third party business segment have created.
 
The World Sweeping Association provides a members-only link to all of the third party vendors operating in the U.S. This listing provides, in addition to contact info on each, an opportunity for members to tell about their experiences — both good and bad — with any of the third party vendors listed. In addition, the WSA offers its members a variety of articles detailing the widespread issues of working with third party vendors, contract language of concern and much more. The organization also assists its members however it can in instances like the above. Here is a link if you want information about WSA membership.

One Response to “One Contractor’s Saga of Sweeping for Command7”

  1. Frank Spezio says:

    I was recently contacted by Command7 to submit pricing for 5 Lowes locations near us. After reviewing the package and having my office staff look into Command7 I declined to submit pricing or work for them.

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