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Adina1968's avatar

How would you feel about this business related situation?

Asked by Adina1968 (2747points) March 29th, 2009

I own a small pet sitting business with a few employees. Whenever a new client calls to establish service I am the one who goes out to do the consultation. Yesterday I ran into a very uncomfortable situation. I went out to do a consult and when I arrived there was a car in the driveway for another pet sitting business and a “gentleman” was coming down the walkway from the house. I assumed it was the owner of the other pet sitting business and that their consult had run long. Sometimes prospective clients will interview more than one sitter and really that is no big deal, I welcome the competition. However it turned out that the guy coming down the walkway whose pet sitting business was the owner of the house who called me for the consult! I really felt trapped at that point because I am out of my car with my paperwork in hand with this guy greeting me. I am really upset that he did not tell me upfront that he was a pet sitter and I am dissapointed in myself for not speaking up and saying something. He got me there under the premise that he needs care for him and his wife’s cats in June. I am left with a bad feeling about all of this. I honestly think he was drilling me for information. He seemed nice enough though but the fact that he didn’t tell me upfront that he owned a pet sitting business just seems wrong. I feel like I need to say something but I am not sure if I should and if so what??? Please help Jellies this is really upsetting me. :(

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12 Answers

Adina1968's avatar

Just an Fyi: I have been in business for 5 years and I have never had anything like this happen. I am speachless.

cwilbur's avatar

Did you get the sense that he was really looking for someone to look after his pets?

It’s not beyond possibility that he has very few employees, and it may be the case that he and his wife need petsitting services at a time when his business is already booked to capacity.

Regardless, if your business is doing well and you dealt with him honestly and fairly, I’m not sure you really need to do anything.

Adina1968's avatar

@cwilbur That’s just it… I can’t be a 100% sure that he really is looking for someone to care for his pets. My gut instinct is that something is just not right.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Adina1968
This certainly seems like the type of situation that this guy was just trying to gauge the competition. I have a hard time imagining that anyone in this type of industry would seek outside help for that which he could easily acquire with “in house” help. I would have turned around and said have a nice day unless there was immediate money to be had.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

It sounds like he was pumping your for competitive information. It’s snarky, but not unfair. He could certainly ask a neighbor to pose as a potential client, and you would never know.

Did you take the opportunity to ask him questions about his business?

LuvBubble's avatar

It seems to me that the person was in fact drilling you for information. No matter how you look at it, business is cut-throat. If I were you I would take a Pro-Active step towards the future, and trust your gut instinct. Why not ask a couple of “feeler” questions when your giving a quick phone interview?

LuvBubble's avatar

Always trust your gut instinct.

cak's avatar

Ack! If he truly was just doing this to gather information – it is low, very low. There are much better ways of doing market research than by tricking someone into spilling their information under false pretenses.

Hindsight is 20/20, I’m sure if it were me, I would have walked away feeling the same. During the greeting would have been a perfect time to say, “Oh, I didn’t realize you had a pet sitting business, as well!” It might have opened the door to find out why an employee (if he has any) couldn’t have been responsible for his pets, when needed. Again, though…I feel pretty certain I would have been just like you, just amazed that you were in the situation.

What kind of questions did he ask? We all know “normal” interviewing questions, things you would ask when hiring someone to look out for your pets or to do services in your home. Did he go past the norm and seem like he was doing more of a market research type of interview? That would have really burned my butt! Once you were there, did you recognize his business name? Is it a strong competitor?

I’m not really sure what you can say to him, now? You could do a follow-up phone call, but at this point, you have strong suspicions and it might not come up as the normal follow-up call.

On the other hand, if it is a true call and he does hire you – there is always a good thing in developing goodwill between competitors. If your services are not available, you could always develop a relationship strong enough to be able to refer each other’s services. (some even have a referral fee they will pay to each other.) Not an unheard of situation.

I say trust your instincts – but I don’t see much you can do about this now. If you call and express your concerns, if he was truly looking for a service, you’ve just killed a lot of goodwill and a chance work with him. If you express your concerns and he admits that he was just pumping you for info – no apologies, just matter of fact. You’ve outed a sneaky competitor. You’ll still be left with the same crappy feeling.

I’m a small business owner – in time, we do see the crappy side of some competitors, don’t we?

VzzBzz's avatar

If he called you on the premise of being a potential client then that is very shady and I would tell him politely it did make you uncomfortable. Let him know you weren’t uncomfortable to meet a fellow business person as you are a professional would welcome an exchange. He needs to get the drift he was shifty which isn’t good business and it’s a real “pussy” move on his part.

Mr_M's avatar

When you get right down to it, the problem is all because of this jerk’s truck giving him away. If he parked in his garage you would never be the wiser. Makes you wonder if any of your interviews in the past were ALSO of pet sitters trying to find things about the competition. I don’t know why he wanted a face to face if he was pumping you. A phone call would tell him all he needs to know.

You’d love to retaliate, I know. Chalk it up to a learning experience. Watch out for the rats.

SeventhSense's avatar

It’s common in many home based services for this type of behavior to occur. I know a guy who would call his competitor and say that he was invited to bid on a project but was not going to underbid him. So he needed to know what his bid was so he could come in over his price. This was the way he found what his competition was charging and in doing so, managed to look really nice to his competition by not underbidding them. Regardless of your personal feelings, be wise and know that business is often like that.

Adina1968's avatar

Thanks guys! I am am walking away a wiser woman and I want you all to know that I GREATLY appreciate all of your advice!

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