So how was Christmas? It was busy as ever and we broke our records of the previous year because we took more in one day that we had done before. So, as we take payment in advance, we took by card payments the most we had ever taken in one day. And overall we had an increase in sales of 30%.
We cleaned about 400 ovens in December, our four guys were working 6 days a week doing about 4 a day, and I went out cleaning AGAs for a week or so.
We had some complaints and I have been going out to see people this week to find out what the issues were. In all we had 5 complaints – so just over 1% not bad but zero would have been better – and they were:
1. AEG oven – scratched inside, or chipped as the customer said. I went out and saw this lady. The scratch was about half a centimeter long and it was just a slight scratch were the operative had been trying to get some burnt off carbon from a ridge. The chips were old ones and what you often see in older ovens. I apologised and told her this was the first time anyone had complained about scratching the inside of the oven in 10 years of operation, and told her that the chips were a sign of age of the oven. She was happy about this and we agreed on us giving her a discount for her next clean.
2. Mercury Range – Hob racks have gone blotchy. I went out to see it. The hob racks were completely clean of burnt on carbon, and black and there were some grey watermarks on them. To me they didn’t look bad at all. The issue here wasn’t the standard of the cleaning but that we hadn’t told her that her perfect hob racks would be affected by the clean. This was an older Mercury range and the hob stands are cast iron and not enamelled. Normally when we dip these they go a light grey, though we can get around this with a quick dip. Most of the time when we come to clean these hob racks they are already light grey in colour because the owner has been putting the racks into their dishwasher which strips off the finish (I suspect some sort of oil). In this case the lady had contacted Mercury and asked them about cleaning; they had told her that if she put them in the dishwasher they’d go grey, so she had washed them in the sink in soapy water. As the cooker was 11 years old she had been doing this all the time and kept them clean. So that was the issue, blotchy top. I offered a refund and told her that the way to get rid of the marks completely (we had tried oiling them) would be to put a different finish on them, for example an enamel finish, which we could arrange, but we would have to look at putting it through our insurance.
3. Gas oven not going to full flame after clean. If I’m cleaning a gas oven this is something I check at the beginning and the end of the job. You turn the gas up to max for the oven and wait and watch the flame. It should stay low for about 60 seconds and then suddenly jump up to full height. If it doesn’t it is normally bits of flaky grease covering the jets. For this clean our operative didn’t check this. I’m now producing a new list of checks for the guys to do on cleans. She had the oven cleaned on the 9th of December. She phoned us on the 10th of December. We went back on the 11th of December and we couldn’t get it go up to full flame. We called out and engineering company. Then we didn’t hear anything until we got a letter in the post yesterday – 8th January 2015. The lady said that because the guy we had contacted hadn’t contacted us she had made her own arrangement to get it fixed. The worksheet she sent us showed that she had paid £85 for an engineer from Hotpoint. He had fixed the problem, which was – ‘fsd phial moved by cleaning company causing flame not to stay lit’ and door catch broken. Replaced catch and refit phial.’ Okay fair enough and £85 was pretty reasonable. But the lady had sent her credit card payment which showed the date she had paid for the service, she had paid on line for Hotpoint repair service with a set payment of £85 to include all parts and labour. The date on this statement showed that she had paid this on the 10th December! Why would you she have paid for the repair without waiting for us to see if we would fix it. So for a bit shady. She hadn’t mentioned this to us when we had spoken to her on the phone on the 10th or the 12th when we arranged for the engineer visit. I have spoken to her and said it looks dishonest but if she sent me the full invoice for the Hotpoint work I’d look at paying it – it had a bit missing at the bottom and didn’t have a VAT number. I expect she called them out to fix the door catch and then they put that we had broken it to justify us paying it. Whatever the Phial is, I’m guessing it something that if you just move slightly affects the flame control and perhaps they set this up for us to pay for the door catch.
4. Transfers missing after clean. An old New World gas cooker. The numbers had come off during the clean. I bought some replacement ones on Ebay not knowing it was a gas cooker. So when I got there to replace them the numbers didn’t go in the right direction, that is the knob turned anti-clockwise and the transfers I bought were for an electric oven so the numbers went clockwise and not to a high enough in the numbers. Again goes back to pre check list which we need to get right.
5. SMEG single oven range cooker. We replaced the bulb when we cleaned it. The bulb blew straight away and the oven stopped working. Our operative was unsure of how to fix it. I went out and pulled out the oven and replaced the 13 amp fuse in the power point behind the cooker – fixed. I didn’t put another bulb back in – I told th customer there may be problem with the circuit in her oven’ s light. As she had breakdown cover with Domestic and General. I told her to arrange a visit to see if they could fix it.
I’ve been doing some stainless steel restoration for a while now. Just bit and pieces when I’ve seen a problem that I can sort out when I’ve been cleaning something else. For example I was cleaning a Britannia Range and noticed that the stainless steel splashback above it was scratched to hell. So I removed them all. The client was pleased but wasn’t super excited like I would have expected. I got the feeling that she may have just got used to her ‘scratched to hell’ splashback and really couldn’t remember what it looked like. But the end result was like a new splashback. I’ve done a few range hobs and I’ve done a couple of sinks and a couple fronts of ovens. I made a dramatic difference to one in our training kitchen; I had previous been using it to show how easily you can scratch stainless steel if you use the wrong techniques and had scratched it very badly. I managed to remove all the scratches and it looked pretty good afterwards. Today I did my first paid job for removing a large scratch on a splash back, see pictures. I charged £70 as I thought it would take up to an hour depending on how badly scratched it was.The end result was okay, the customer was happy with it, but I think if I had some extra heads for my tool I would have made a better job of getting the grain right on the brush marks. As the scratch was a big one, and deeper than I was expecting, I had to use the extra coarse head to remove it and then finished it off with the finer one. So my process can be refined. In all I think there is a market for Stainless steel restoration in the UK, I can remember rejecting an American size stainless steel fridge freezer once because it was scratched in transit. Scratches must be costly to resellers and without, from what I can see, a service to remove them what do they do?
I’ve been out cleaning for the last few weeks, doing lots of AGAs and for a couple of days I’ve been out doing standard oven cleans as our guys have been getting ill.
Last week I cleaned three AGAs, a couple of two oven AGAs and a four oven AGA with a couple of them being repeat business (though this time dirty as they hadn’t had them cleaned for year) and really loved doing them. It’s great to be out cleaning again.
It’s been busy, busy, busy this week. Monday I was out, and cleaned two AGAs, and then on Tuesday I was out again to do three standard ovens, as our guy was sick. I was going to do four but in the end we switched things around and one of our other guys did the last job for me. The cleans were pretty dirty. Not like normal cleans! I’m getting used to do repeat business these days where the ovens aren’t that dirty. Two of the three were very bad with the third one being not bad at all. So in the end I had a lovely day.
I’ve been back in the office and we have been busy taking calls and we have beaten our weekly record of sales which we set in the exact same week last year by quite a margin, so that has been very exciting. Now it’s a case of filling in the gaps for us and the franchisees for Christmas to start looking towards the new year.
Let start planning for 2015. Things are getting busy for December in the oven cleaning world of OvenGleamers. Here Graham talks about somethings he is planning for 2015.
How much do oven cleaning businesses charge. What sort of business models do they have?