Knowing When to Put Your Foot Down: How to Handle an Array of Customer Situations on Meowtel
Our mission statement at Meowtel is to help every cat and cat parent live their best life, and we absolutely want our clients to have a wonderful experience with us. However, it’s also important that sitters know their well-being matters as well. We are committed to keeping our sitters safe. Meowtel has a zero-tolerance policy for any harassment and abuse, and should anyone – client or sitter – demonstrate any form of abuse, they will be removed from the platform.
Sitters often feel like it’s all about the client, but it’s essential to know if and when you should stand up for yourself. Purrhaps you’ve had an awkward encounter with a client but you weren’t sure if it was something that would hold water. That’s ok. Here are a few examples that may help clear that up. If any of these situations (or situations like these) happen to you, hold on to documentation, and alert Meowtel Bellhop as soon as possible.
Pre-Reservation Red Flags
Many people, myself included, have a very detailed and organized schedule. We work on strict schedules which allow us to multitask at all times. However, when you multitask, sometimes you don’t answer potential clients as quickly as they’d like. While it’s important to stay on top of your calendar and your reply times, it’s also important to know what’s acceptable timing and what’s unrealistic. We know that getting back to clients immediately after a request is made is not always feasible or realistic, and that is why we encourage sitters to respond to a client's reservation request within 2 hours of their making the reservation. Of course, faster response times may ease the client's mind, but with busy schedules, it isn't always doable.
An example of pre-reservation red flags:
- A client messages the potential sitter 15 minutes after putting the request in demanding a response. When the sitter doesn’t reply within the first hour, they contact Bellhop berating the sitter, the service, and the platform.
If you ever receive a message from a potential client like this, please contact Meowtel Bellhop immediately.
If you feel a client has harassed you verbally, such as calling you names or yelling at you, kindly advise the client that you will no longer be able to take care of their kitty and promptly report the incident of concern to Meowtel Bellhop. Whether the harassment happens in person or via messages, document it. Any unprofessional, hateful, rude, or derogatory language is considered verbal harassment.
An example of verbal harassment:
- A client calls a sitter terms like “stupid,” “dumb,” “worthless,” or uses racial, sexist, religious, xenophobic, or sexual orientation-based slurs.
Sexual harassment is uninvited or unwelcomed verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature. According to Equal Rights Activists,
For something to be considered sexual harassment, it matters what the person who’s being harassed thinks. It does not matter if the person who’s doing the harassment thinks it’s OK, harmless, not sexual, or welcomed (i.e., they think you like it or don’t have a problem with it.) It’s still harassment if the behavior is something you do not want or find offensive. 1
Talking about sexual harassment can be difficult, anxiety inducing, and possibly may bring feelings of shame. It’s not uncommon to not want to talk about it; however, alerting HQ if you have been sexually harassed is imperative. We want to keep our sitters safe and will remove the client from the platform so they do not contact anyone else. Remember, Meowtel has zero tolerance for harassment.
A few examples of sexual harassment:
- A client says “I’ll only rebook or tip you if you agree to go on a date with me”.
- During a Meet & Greet, a client touches you inappropriately.
- A client sends sexually inappropriate texts to you.
- In home cameras are located in an inappropriate place such as the bathroom.
- You receive an unwanted comment like, “you have a killer toosh” possibly followed by a vulgar joke about sexual acts.
If you are comfortable speaking up to the client then and there, do so. Whether you are or if you aren’t (there is no shame in not being comfortable saying something to the client), alert Meowtel immediately upon leaving the situation.
Schedule abuse is when clients don’t respect the sitter’s time. If you have a client that always waits until the last minute to book or constantly guilts you into making room for them when your schedule is blocked off, kindly speak up. Gently remind them that you have other obligations and a schedule, and while you can sometimes accommodate, you won’t always be able to. Ask them for more advance notice, so you can accommodate when possible.
Other examples of schedule abuse:
- The client demands the sitter be at their home for a delivery that was never discussed prior.
- The client demands two visits a day when only one was booked on the reservation.
- The client demands you to stay longer than the amount of time they paid for (20 minutes in most cases).
- A client repeatedly books and cancels reservations.
What the heck is service abuse? Well, it’s a term that encompasses anything during a reservation that doesn’t fall within the other aforementioned areas.
Examples of service abuse:
- A client books a reservation for 3 cats, but when the sitter shows up, there are 7 cats.
- A client asks a sitter to run personal errands for them.
- The sitter is told to buy food or litter because the client wasn’t fully prepared for their reservation.
- A client is unwilling to honor Meowtel’s Cancellation Policy and begs the sitter to personally refund the fees via Venmo or PayPal.
Sometimes a client will feel as though you neglected things in their house or flat out blame you for things that you did not do. While many sitters offer or agree to do extra services like grabbing the mail, watering plants, feeding a fish, etc, remember that the only thing Meowtel sitters are responsible for on the reservation are the cats. And as a reminder, insurance under The Meowtel Promise only covers the cats on the reservation. This means that if there are surprise additional animals that are not on the reservation request, you and Meowtel will not be liable should something happen during the reservation.
Some examples of post-reservation harassment:
- A client sends scathing messages about killing plants or leaving tire marks on the driveway.
- A client accuses the sitter of home-related damage that has nothing to do with cat care (ie: the chairs weren’t covered properly, and my cat ruined them).
- A client fabricates lies about the keys not being returned or an item of value is missing.
As mentioned in the previous article, When and What to Document as a Sitter, always document particular (or peculiar) requests and how you left everything so you can provide them to Meowtel Bellhop if a situation like this arises.
Sitter on Sitter Harassment
If another sitter starts spamming you with inappropriate comments via the platform, alert Meowtel Bellhop. We’ll handle the situation in accordance with our Terms of Service.
While our hope is that these situations or circumstances never occur, we want you to know that Meowtel takes harassment and abusive situations very seriously. If at any point (pre-reservation, post M&G, or during the reservation) you feel as though there are red flags, abuse and/or harassment occurring, contact Meowtel Bellhop via email, phone, or text, and we will be happy to assist in the situation. Our promise is to diligently and professionally investigate each case and decide on the most appropriate course of action. As a sitter, please stay informed, retain reservation proof for at least 30 days, and keep Meowtel Bellhop on speed dial.
- (2019). Know Your Rights at Work: Sexual Harassment. Retrieved from https://www.equalrights.org/issue/economic-workplace-equality/sexual-harassment
Photo by Tranmautritam via Pexels