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What is Your Moonlighting Policy?

Originally published
Originally published: 10/2/2021

Most companies have a “no moonlighting” policy.  This is grounds for immediate dismissal.  And it is painful when you discover your best installer or service technician moonlighting.

Most companies also have a “family” policy.  With permission, a field employee can install a unit at a family discounted price or perform service work on a relative’s system.  

Here’s one contractor’s story:

One day we got a call from a person saying that our employee didn’t fix the problem when he was at their home last week because the system wasn’t working again.

My customer service representative (CSR) asked for the customer’s address, and she could find no record that our company personnel were at her home last week.

The person was insistent that someone was there.  She explained that he was in our company truck, used our company’s invoices and our company’s materials from the truck.

My CSR was quick and thought to ask, “Who did you make the check out to?” Her answer was, “I paid in cash. He told me he could give me a discount if I paid in cash.” 

Something was definitely wrong. I went to her home and looked at the invoice my employee had left.  Yes.  Our company logo was on the invoice. I recognized the handwriting on the invoice.

I apologized to the homeowner and said, “The company has no knowledge of the repair.  This employee was probably doing unauthorized work.  How did you happen to call us?”

She said, “I had a problem, so I searched the internet.  I liked your company’s website, and when I called, I got an answering service.  I left a message with them, and your employee called back quickly.  He was nice, asked what was happening, and explained the charges to come to my home.  I said “yes.”

I knew that my employee was taking our work and pocketing the money.

What did I do?  I had a different employee fix the customer’s system and fired the employee for moonlighting.

Two critical aspects to this story:

  1. Even though the company did not authorize the work and did not get paid to do it, the customer thought it was our company. The technician showed up in a company uniform, the company truck, and used a company invoice.  She had no knowledge that it was a side job. As a result, I have to honor the work and fix the problem.
  2. The owner enforced the company policy of no moonlighting. He fired the employee despite the fact he was a productive employee. It hurt losing his revenues until he replaced him.  However, he needed to send a message to the other employees that he would enforce the policies in the employee handbook. 

Here are the procedures to put in place to make it hard for this to happen to your company:

  1. Review the answering service logs each Monday morning. Find out what calls were run and make sure the company got paid for those calls.  Even more important, if there is no record of someone running a call, contact the customer to make sure that a technician did not go to her home.
  2. Unfortunately, even if the customer paid by check, it is very easy for a service technician to say, ‘I’ll make it out, just complete the amount due and sign the check”.  Then he writes his name next to “Pay to the Order of. “ 
  3. The stealing technician goes to the ATM  to deposit that check.  He does not go into the bank where a teller can question the check.
  4. Beware, even if a check is written out to your company, it is rarely caught if the technician goes through the ATM to make a deposit.
  5. Match the service calls with payments.  You should see an accounts receivable, cash, credit card, or check payment with that service call.
  6. If you use QuickBooks, then you have to do another step:  Make sure the undeposited funds get deposited in YOUR company’s bank account.
  7. Review the GPS logs every Monday.  If your company policy is that the “”truck does not move”” on weekends without permission, you would have seen this technician’s truck at the moonlighting location.

Enforce company policies, even when it hurts to lose an employee.  It sends a message to the remaining employees that the company is serious about enforcement and is fair to all employees.   

Ruth King has more than 25 years of experience in the HVACR industry and has worked with contractors, distributors and manufacturers to help grow their companies and become more profitable. Contact Ruth at ruthking@hvacchannel.tv or call 770-729-0258.

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