Something’s Rotten In Keller

There’s been a stink recently about the problems with garbage collection in Keller.  It seems that some areas weren’t getting their garbage picked up until the next day.  There were some angry people who complained about all the garbage that was collecting on the street.  It spawned an article in the paper and several letters to the editor.  Some of which were from enviro-nuts who berated the residents who complained for generating too much garbage and not recycling.  It must be nice to be omniscient enough to know the exact habits and activities of all the people in that neighborhood in order to determine that people were above their “garbage quota.”  I certainly know that there are a lot of people who recycle quite a bit of stuff, as some of it always manages to end up in my yard on Fridays¹. 

It’s happened in my neighborhood a couple of times now, with yesterday being just the latest example (they finally came at about 8:30 this morning).  I don’t get too bothered by it, since I usually put my garbage in a well-sealed rolling can.  The only thing about it that bothers me is that if I can manage to drag my zombie ass out there early in the morning to put out the garbage, then they should hold up their end of the bargain and come pick the crap up (it’s not like they have a contract or anything</sarcasm> ).  But that’s only a minor annoyance.  What really annoys me is that the garbage collectors have a habit of throwing my garbage can willy-nilly halfway across the street, where it becomes a hazard to vehicular navigation. 

¹  I’m just about fed up with the recycling program and I’m leaning towards just throwing it all in the regular trash collection.  The program costs extra each month and while they give you two bins for free, the lids are “optional” for a cost of $6.00 each.  I’m careful now to make sure my bins are well-packed to make sure nothing blows away.  But I think we’d all be better served if the lids were included. 

And on that note, I’d like to say something to last Friday’s good samaritan who left the “Zep” hair clog remover bottle on my mailbox post:  I’m sure you thought it a great way to point out my negligence in leaving trash out, but I’m sorry to have to tell you that it wasn’t mine.  Like many other things that I get the joy of throwing away for others, my yard seems to be the place where this crap lands.  Someone down the street has a problem with securing their garbage and recycling and I end up with their stuff about every other Friday.

One of these days I’m going to have to take the time to walk down the block to see where this crap is coming from.


  1. queuno says:

    This might be a good question for Jim Carson (since I’m too lazy to go look it up), but I’d be curious as to the general framework of the contract with the garbage service provider.

    I work in outsourcing, and in any outsourcing contract, you have service level agreements or key performance indicators and if the provider can’t meet those agreements, they pay a penalty.  Issues of “we don’t have enough drivers” or “there’s more garbage than we expected and we didn’t cover that in the contract” are the vendor’s problem, not the clients (at least until renewal time).

    If the vendor can’t do the routes due to turnover (which was cited in the Citizen), that’s not Keller’s problem—the vendor needs to suck up the cost of overtime and get it done, or Keller should go walking.

  2. Jim Carson says:

    Good question indeed, and one I don’t have an answer for.

    We rely on the city manager to enforce the contract, and he’s told us (and the newspaper) that they’re enforcing the terms of the contract re: noncompliance.

    I’ll get another update from him on Friday.  I’ll probably post on it even if I have no new information.  Two-thirds of the emails I’ve received as councilman have been trash pickup complaints.

    Would it help to say I’m sorry?


  3. Jim,

    I don’t blame you, this problem has been building for a while. 

    Of course, I have to wonder just what can be done.  It’ll take a while to negotiate a contract with another company if Allied doesn’t come through.  In the meantime, Allied is claiming it’ll take a while to train more drivers.  Whatever happens will take time. 

    So far, even if it takes a while, the garbage eventually gets picked up.  I guess I’m more amused by the furor over the issue than I am bothered by the problem itself (e.g. the back-and-forth letters to the editor).

  4. queuno says:

    I’m sure the city manager is doing all he can;  I’m just wondering the terms of the contract.

    I work for a $5Billion (with a B) outsourcer and our ITO practice accounts for about $1.5B in revenue.  If we mess up and bring down a customer’s system, or if we don’t get a technician on the phone in a certain timeframe, etc., we have to pay back money.  It varies from client to client, and it’s all in the contract that was agreed to up front.

    So we’ve had people quit in the last few months, and we can’t necessarily replace a senior IT person in a couple of weeks, so we’ve had a lot of people working extra to make up the slack.  Our clients, while understanding our predicament, went into business with us because (in part) they don’t want to have to worry about staffing and vacations and training.  They don’t want to have to worry about the details of their IT environment.  They just want it to work.  They just want to pay their rate and go on.  If we miss our service level agreements, we have to kick back money.  If we meet our agreements, then their company stays running and we make money.

    Now, there may be very little that can be done right now.  But I think that any future contract should have pretty clear service agreements and penalties that can be enforced.

    I was noting that the monthly cost is about a dollar per trash day (about $9 a month, I think, although I don’t have my statement in front of me).  That may be the starting point for establishing financial penalties for Allied in the future.

    When I worked for IBM, we used to say that no one ever fixes a problem—any problem—until it starts causing them pain.  Until Allied actually has to start giving back money (or else otherwise has to endure pain), they won’t be motivated to fix their problems – or at least manage them to Keller’s satisfaction.  If the Citizen article is correct and they have had issues retaining drivers, that means that they are sitting on a pile of money that they aren’t paying out in salaries.

    I don’t mean to pretend the solution is as simplistic as I’ve made it sound.  But the key to getting Allied to fulfill the contract is to make the penalty sufficiently painful that they’d rather endure the pain to avoid the penalty.  Of course, if the contract is one-sided in Keller’s favor, then they have no incentive to do anything.

    I know, it seems simplistic.  But most customer service issues are.  It comes down to their motivation to provide the service.

  5. queuno says:

    Incidentally, I’m kind of glad that they missed my street on Tuesday and didn’t get it until today (Wednesday), as my wife had a couple of extra bags of non-recyclable garbage that wouldn’t have made it on Tuesday.

    Of course, now that they didn’t do it until today, maybe I should hope they get the next run on Saturday and not Friday, because now a 2-day cycle doesn’t do me a whole lot of good now.

  6. I completely understand the issue of contract penalties.  Part of my job involves working on systems that are used by our customer support area.  If our systems don’t work right (don’t open a problem ticket in a timely fashion, for example), we can end up being penalized if the customer doesn’t get a callback in the period specified in the contract.

    When I read the article and the comments from Allied, I couldn’t help but notice the bit about their retention problems.  It sounds like they aren’t paying enough (or perhaps they’re working their drivers too many hours).  And given some of the things I’ve seen in the IT industry, I certainly wouldn’t put it past them to have lowballed the contract thinking they’d make it up with lower pay or longer hours (depending on how they pay the drivers).  Frankly, I’d been wondering for some time how Allied was making any money in Keller, given how generous the rules are with regards to what we can put out and how much we pay.  In most cities you end up with a little container and strict rules about how it’s to be used, and you’d likely end up paying more than we do.  Regardless of that, though, Allied agreed to those terms, so they need to be held accountable.  I agree that it’ll likely take some pain on Allied’s part for them to correct the situation.