NorthEscambia.com Investigative Series Part Three: Walker Says “Allied Is Providing Inadequate Service”

March 12, 2008

Today, NorthEscambia.com continues our seven part investigative series looking at Allied Waste and their service to the citizens of the North Escambia area. We will take a look at Allied’s service through comments both good and bad from dozens of Allied customers. And we will learn where our representative on the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority, Larry Walker, and the ECUA stand on Allied Waste service in North Escambia.

In today’s installment of this series, we will take a look at some specific comments from Walker about Allied Waste from a document obtained by NorthEscambia.com from last month’s meeting of the ECUA. On Thursday, we’ll have comments submitted by NorthEscambia.com readers. On Friday, we will take a look at some of the positive comments about Allied’s service. On Saturday, we plan to have a response from Allied Waste officials. On Sunday, we will end the series with a wrap-up and a blog.

“Allied Is Providing Inadequate Service”

“Allied is providing inadequate service.” That’s what District 5 ECUA member Larry Walker said in a memo NorthEscambia.com obtained. “Allied continues to perform at a substandard level. Many allied customers continue to be inadequately served.”

Walker wrote the memo in an attempt to have Allied’s franchise agreement, which expires in 2010, revoked. The follow is text directly from that memo. The examples that he references “above” were examples of poor service to particular customers. Many of those are mentioned in our story yesterday about Allied. Click here to read that story.

Apparent Management
Policies of Allied

The complaints cited above imply the existence of certain Allied management policies, as follows:

1. Apparent Allied policy: Arbitrarily limit the number of customer calls that are answered by office employees. Route many customer calls to “hold” status or to an answering machine. Incoming calls placed on hold sometimes are never picked up by an Allied employee. (See Mrs. Dagen’s report, above.) Some customers have been unable to speak to an Allied representative by telephone, despite repeated efforts. (The reports above include three such cases, including one report of “repeated” efforts to call Allied over a thirty-day period.)

2. Apparent Allied policy: Ignore many customer messages left on Allied answering machines. Customers who have left recorded messages often receive no response from Allied staff. (Six cases of this flagrant form of poor customer service are reported above.)

3. Apparent Allied policy: Do not allow office employees to route calls through to a supervisor. Many customers have reported to me in the past that Allied office workers have refused to–or have not been allowed to–forward calls to an Allied manager. (See reports of Mr. Steadham and Ms. Rickard, above.) Sometimes an Allied office employee places a customer on hold, and no one ever takes up the call again.

4. Apparent Allied policy: Office staff are to placate skipped customers with promises that “a truck will come tomorrow,” even though, in the words of one customer cited above, “they never do.” I have heard many customer complaints about such unkept promises.

5. Apparent Allied policy: Allow office staff to treat customers disrespectfully. (See report of Mrs. Hughes, above.) I received similar reports, prior to January 2008.

6. Apparent Allied policy: Largely ignore scheduled pickup times of day, or even days of the week. Allied trucks often run much later in the day than expected. (See Mr. Baldwin’s comment, above.) Sometimes a route is run a day late. Sometimes a route—or a part of a route—is completely skipped. As Mrs. Hughes said, above, “They come when they want to”—at some locations, at least.

7. Apparent Allied policy: Either (a) require or (b) allow drivers to skip pickups at times. (See comment by Mrs. Hughes, above.)

8. Apparent Allied policy: Skip certain pickups (on dirt roads, mainly) in holiday weeks. Mr. Lowery, Mr. Macks, and Mrs. Hughes report that Allied skips one or both pickups at their respective residences during every holiday week.

9. Apparent Allied policy: Drivers and managers are to ignore defective containers (broken wheels, broken lids, and missing lids), and office employees and managers are to ignore customer complaints about defective containers. In fifteen cases noted above, defective containers were not replaced until Allied was pressured by ECUA. Some of these containers had been in bad shape for “years,” according to the customers. Some of the customers report that they had tried repeatedly to get Allied to provide a new container, without success. Some said that, finally, they had given up and had quit trying to get a better container.
(If the incidence of broken/missing lids in Eagle Ridge subdivision in January was representative of the entire Allied franchise area, some 770 Allied customers had containers with broken/missing lids at that time.)

10. Apparent Allied policy: Drivers are not required to set containers down with the lids securely atop the container; rather, drivers are allowed to let the lids hang down on the back side of the container when the container is returned to the pavement/ground. When the lid is left hanging in that manner, the container is more likely to be blown over and damaged by passing traffic. (See comments by Mr. Lowery and Mr. Baldwin, above.) Further, if the customer allows the container to remain in place with the lid hanging down until the next pickup, the driver may then allow the grappling hooks of the truck’s pneumatic lift to close on the suspended lid, pulling on it from both sides and causing it to split. This is the most common cause of damaged lids in the Allied system.

11. Apparent Allied policy: Drivers are either (a) required or (b) allowed to operate at an inordinately fast pace, in terms both of (a) driving speed and (b) container-handling speed. Such excessive speed contributes to several problems:
a. Broken/missing container lids are due to driver abuse, primarily. The grappling arm of the truck causes most of the breakage (splitting) of lids.
b. Broken wheels of containers are due to the containers being pounded down onto the pavement by the driver. (See Mr. Cantrell’s case, above.)
c. General abuse of the containers is caused by the driver beginning to accelerate before setting the container down properly. (See comments by Mr. Lowery and Mr. Baldwin, above.)
d. Trash escapes during the container-emptying process when the driver does not take time to empty a container with care. (See comments by Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Leath, above.)
e. Trash blows out of the Allied trucks when drivers drive at excessive speeds and/or when they fail to close the truck properly. (See comments by Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Leath, above. Also, Mr. Scott Poynter, Sunshine Hill Road, Molino, reported to me in November 2007 that he had seen approximately fifty pieces of trash blow out of an Allied truck on Highway 29 between Molino and Cantonment.)

12. Apparent Allied policy: Remedy service deficiencies only when pressured by ECUA to do so. Ignore customer complaints. Ignore obvious, readily visible deficiencies, such as the twelve missing/broken lids in Eagle Ridge subdivision. Make corrections only when ECUA presses for them.

Conclusion

Allied is Providing Inadequate Service. Allied continues to perform at a substandard level. Many Allied customers continue to be inadequately served.

Allied is Not in Compliance with Franchise-Agreement Requirements. Because of the service deficiencies noted in this memo and other aspects of its performance, Allied is not in compliance with all requirements of its franchise agreement with ECUA. This non-compliance constitutes grounds for termination of the franchise by ECUA. ECUA should initiate proceedings to terminate the Allied franchise.

Failure of ECUA to Meet Its Moral Obligations. ECUA is failing to meet its responsibilities to residents who are poorly served by Allied. The responsibility of ensuring that Allied customers are well served falls on the ECUA, ultimately. ECUA is allowing Allied to perform poorly! ECUA is to blame, ultimately, for each of the instances of poor customer service by Allied that are reported in this memo and for each of the questionable Allied management policies identified in this memo. ECUA should be sending letters of apology to those residents who are badly served by Allied.

Your Chance to Be Heard

If you would like to add your comments about Allied Waste’s service (good or bad) in North Escambia, email your comments to news@northescambia.com. Please include your name and your address. In our story, will will only use the area in which you live (such as “the 13000 block of Highway 97″) and will not print your name. You can also send photographs of your can to the email address. We will feature NorthEscambia.com reader comments on Thursday.

Also, Larry Walker of the ECUA had requested that NorthEscambia.com readers contact him with their comments, whether good or bad, about Allied Waste by email to lwalker@ecua.org or by phone at 723-6094. Note that emails sent to the ecua.org address would be public record under Florida law (this does not apply to emails sent to the northescambia.com address in the paragraph above).

To read part one of this series from Monday, click here, for background information.
To read part two of this series from Tuesday, click here.

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