Here in Westchester County, NY, we've had quite a bit of rain lately, and quite a lot of water damage calls. One client, who must remain nameless, has a beautiful home that I was really quite impressed with as we drove up the driveway.... and then we walked inside. This was a rain-related water damage call, and from the sound of it, there was significant but manageable damage. Little did I know that it wasn't the actual water damage that would be my greatest headache.
As the client led me to her "finished basement", it took all I had in me not to gasp out loud. The rooms were packed from floor to ceiling, each wall completely covered in shelving or tall piles of belongings. We walked from room to room, none distinguishable from the other. Aside from the several inches of water that I was standing in, the closed in, claustrophobic nature of each room began to make my head spin. But we were there to fix what was broken and I couldn't walk away from an emergency. I politely stepped out to catch my breath, and so began the battle between us, "the professional cleaners" and my client, "the professional collector".
Our first bone of contention was the fact that the client wouldn't let us touch or move anything while we were trying to remove the water. She soon realized that it was an impossible demand if she really wanted the job done properly. Although she gave in, allowing us to move items away from the wall, across the room and back, we were really getting nowhere and many of the items were not salvageable. But letting go of her many collections was too much for her to really stand. I really empathized with our client but there was no foreseeable way to properly remediate the damages safely, without moving and disposing certain items. She asked for a day or two before we returned so she could decide how she wanted to proceed with the job.
I did get a call, a few days later, and our client said she preferred that we work around her items. I felt so bad that she was so tied to her possessions that she couldn't bare to let us move them, let alone discard the damaged ones. I had to draw up a special waiver that stated she took full responsibility for the decision and wouldn't hold us responsible for any present or future problems. After she signed, we did just as she asked and cleaned around her collections. Unfortunately, one month later, I got a phone call from this client and she said the basement had begun to smell horrible and she asked if there was anything I could do.
I really wanted to say no, but I thought maybe this was one of those times where I could make a small impact on her life if I just tried to help her. Needless to say, I went back, and yes, the smell was bad, but the client seemed more willing to work with us. Little by little, she discarded the items that couldn't be salvaged and moved the items that were salvageable, into storage. The job isn't done, and I'm guessing that it will take quite a while, but its moving in the right direction. Sometimes there are battles that are worth fighting and others that are not. I guess that on this particular job, we just called a truce and met somewhere in the middle. It's just one of the things that each business owner has to decide for themselves.