Sunday, December 15, 2013

Vacation Management Service Red Flags

Although we'd love to take our fur baby on vacation with us, at times, it's not always possible for various reasons. You've thought about boarding options, but you'd prefer leaving your fur baby in the comfort of their own home. What does that mean for you? You need to find a reputable and trustworthy vacation management specialists to take care of your fur baby while you're gone.

This is a big deal. Not only will you have someone coming into your home, they will be responsible for the care and well being of your fur baby. That requires a lot of trust to be established in a relatively short period of time.

How can you be reassured the vacation management specialists you hire are legit, trustworthy and reputable...before you hand them the key?

1.  Anyone providing vacation management services should be bonded and insured. Don't just ask. Require proof. This is a vital part of being a responsible business owner. Keep in mind that anyone can open a pet sitting business without training or experience under their belts. This is scary, but it happens a lot.

2.  Ask for written references and make sure phone numbers are included. Anyone can type out a great reference using an alias name. How you would you know if these references were genuine or fake? Make a list of important questions before calling and be adamant about detailed answers. For example, if you ask, "Is Mr. Jones someone I can trust to take care of my dog for a week while I'm on vacation," don't just accept "yes" for an answer. Ask why. Keep asking questions. If these people are legit references, their replies will flow without effort. If conversation falters, stumbles or you feel as if answers are rehearsed, that's a huge red flag. Also, make sure they aren't related and are from legit sources.

3.  Keep eye contact and observe body language. Has someone ever lied to you and you just KNEW they were lying because of their voice, facial expression or inability to keep eye contact? Body language is just that...language. It often speaks a thousand words and tells you most things you need to know. When meeting and interviewing vacation management specialists, red flags would be obvious nervousness (especially when asked a lot of questions), fidgeting of hands, constant movement, sweating, being occupied with something else, scurrying back and forth, repetitive movement of a specific body area, twitching, nervous laughter, etc. If you are interviewing a pair, are they continuously looking at each other for cues after each question, bickering, cutting each other off, or contradicting each other? Make sure to stand close enough to observe personal odors such as alcohol on their breath.

4.  Observe their surrounding area or business. Some of these folks run their business out of their home while others have a business location. Regardless, it's more than acceptable to ask for a tour. The condition of their environment can tell you a lot. Things to check for would be cleanliness, water in the mop buckets, how fresh the water is in the dog bowls, odors, the condition of the floors, are the other animals supervised or roaming free, and the overall atmosphere. If you walk through a business and you are uncomfortable with anything, ask about it. For example, if the mop buckets look as if they haven't been emptied in a few days, ask why. If there's a lot of feces or urine on the floor, ask why. Catch them off guard. This is often when you'll learn the most. Another trick is to stop by a few times without announcing your arrival.

5.  Do background checks. Always. If you're looking for a daycare provider, you do a background check. If you're a landlord, you do a thorough background check on potential tenants. You are about to leave on vacation, hand over a key and trust someone to take care of your fur baby. Under NO circumstance should you ever do this unless you've done a complete background check on someone. These are inexpensive to complete and one of the most important measures to take. Do they have a police record? If so, for what? If anything about their background check sounds shady or questionable, do not hand over the key.

6.  Have a chat with local vets. These can often be your most reliable sources of information. Word of mouth gets around. Visit a few local vets in the area (you'll get more details face to face) and ask questions. Explain that you're going on vacation and thinking about hiring Mr. Jones to take care of Fido. Although vets are hesitant to make recommendations of who to hire (some will), if they feel your fur baby will be in danger or not taken care of, they will tell you. This is also a good time to observe body language and tone. Sometimes this can tell you all you need to know.

7.  Are extra services offered that seem a bit odd? Vacation management specialists focus on the dog. As we say here at K9 1-ON-1, "It's all about the dog." In other words, any time spent at your house should be with your fur baby. Whether it's to play outside, take for walks, spend an hour watching Animal Planet,'s all about the dog. Those that start including extra services like housekeeping, laundry, yard work, deep cleaning the carpets, etc...that can possibly be a red flag. There are common ground duties that go hand in hand with vacation management like picking up dog poop, washing dog bowls, making sure your fur baby has a fresh blanket, or sweeping an area where there's food or excess hair. However, mopping your floors and washing your undergarments. No. There's no reason why a vacation management specialist should be offering additional services to that extent unless it's a friend or relative.

8.  Who will be staying at your house? If you opt to have a vacation management specialist stay at your house for the duration of your vacation, there are additional precautions you need to take before and after you leave. It's important that you set the ground rules. Who will be staying at your house in addition to who you're hiring. Will they be bringing other animals to your house? Is company allowed? Are there areas off limits. To be safe, install a few nanny cams. With all the modern technology out there, you can have live coverage 24 hours a day and check what's going on inside of your house while you're gone. It would be a wise idea to ask your neighbors to observe any unusual behavior while you're away and pay extra attention to the happenings at your house.

9.  Watch for the "I'm begging you to hire me" tone. There's a difference between having confidence and enthusiasm in what you do and downright crossing the line of being creepy. Let's say after interviewing Mr. Jones you feel it won't be a good fit. You shake hands, let him know you'll review everything and call back in a couple of days. Mr. Jones senses he's not going to be hired. A professional will thank you for taking the time to meet with them. Someone who is questionable, shady or is trying to save their failing business might not do just that. Instead, they'll offer a discount, throw in some extra services as a courtesy, self promote, hand over a coupon, or make a promise for a free service after you return from vacation.

10. Trust your instinct. If anything sounds, feels or appears uncomfortable, keep looking. Your instinct doesn't steer you wrong. Negative vibes or those one or two things that rub you the wrong way is a nudge there might be something shady going on. This is your home and your beloved fur baby. In this day and age, you have to be hyper cautious and dig as deep as you can to find out anything and everything about a vacation management specialist before you hand over the key and take off.

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