If you haven't heard, the world is now overpopulated with crickets, and we humans are responsible for the outbreak.

Are you contributing to the problem?

Before you answer, I should define the meaning of crickets in this context.

Rather than referring to the insects that chirp, my crickets represent the silences that fall after certain people are watered and fed. Upon receiving all that they desire, some individuals abruptly cut ties with those who’ve delivered the goods. Utterly unconcerned that their providers might require something as well, the fat and happy disconnect.

True Story

My sisters and I co-own a commercial building, and I recently took on the task of hiring a company to replace a large section of glass for a window with a small but noticeable surface crack. Our preferred source for glass repairs said this job was too big for him to manage, so I contacted two other businesses that were referred to me. They both seemed quite capable of handling the work and willing to give bids.

While pleasant enough when I first spoke with Company A’s representative, the woman did not deliver an estimate as promised. Considering that she might have replied to me with an email that landed in my spam folder, I called her. She initially said she had no recollection of our conversation during the prior week, but when I gave her a few more reasons to remember, she acknowledged that we had spoken. She claimed that she had the estimate on her desk and would email it to me that afternoon. I did not receive her proposal until the next day.

Meanwhile, Company B’s representative replied to me sooner than promised, and her estimate for the identical glass and installation was considerably less than Company A’s.

In my email reply to Company A’s proposal, I thanked the woman and said that while I had chosen a different supplier, I would keep her business in mind for future needs.

And then there were crickets.

Any other correspondence from Company A’s representative—I would be happy to answer any questions regarding the proposed contract; Thank you for letting me know; Please keep us in mind for future jobs—might have given me a reason to reconsider her bid (maybe she offered additional guarantees) or to call her in the future if the need arose.

Company B requested an upfront payment for the glass, which would be a special order. When I spoke with the owner, she assured me that all would be handled in a timely, professional manner; she had been in business for twenty-plus years and would do everything possible to expedite the order. Even so, it could take two weeks to receive the glass. In turn, I let her know that I lived several hours away, so my tenant would be the right person to contact to schedule the installation. I provided his name and phone number.

And then there were crickets.

Having paid for the glass and hearing nothing in three weeks, I called Company B for an update. Instead of communicating in a pleasant, positive tone as before, the owner flatly said the glass wasn’t yet in and I’d just have to wait until someone notified me that it had arrived. I reiterated that the person to contact was my tenant, who would arrange the best time to meet the installer on location. I had also sent the same instructions in writing with the payment and in a separate email in response to the original proposal.

Crickets, by the way, had replied to my email in which I'd accepted the proposal.

Several more days passed when Company B’s representative at last called me to schedule the installation “between one and three on Friday.” Instead of making a fuss about whom to call, I contacted my tenant, who said he’d happily be there. On Friday, about fifteen minutes before one o’clock, the installer called me to say he was there and waiting for me. (The business that operates in the building wasn’t scheduled to open until later in the afternoon.) Pointing out to the installer that he was early, I shared my tenant’s name and phone number, which he should have had. I also asked him please to call me if he encountered any problems reaching my tenant or installing the glass.

And then there were crickets.

Although no news likely meant all went well, I wanted to be sure. (Personally, I would have called my customer back as a goodwill gesture to say everything was fine.) When I assumed the installer should have had plenty of time to complete the job, I attempted to reach him directly on the same number identified when he'd called me.

And then there were crickets.

In truth, I encountered the standard “the person you are trying to reach is not available” recording, as if he’d turned off his phone. Therefore, I called the main office. I could have contacted my tenant, but I was curious to hear what the owner would say about the installation. By then, it was 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon. She answered, at least, but curtly told me that she didn’t know anything and wouldn’t have any information until Monday morning, when the installer arrived with his report. I asked if she would please call me on Monday with an update. She said she would.

And then there were crickets.

My tenant let me know that Company B’s installer had done a great job. However, noticing another problem, the installer had taken some photos for his boss to share with me.

And then there were crickets.

Nearly one month later, I have heard nothing from Company B about the need for an additional repair. Maybe the owner deemed the job too small to pursue, but my knowing that her installer saw something and she didn’t follow up makes her seem unconcerned and unprofessional. Granted, a business has the right to channel resources into profitable areas. (However, treating a small customer well could pay off later, when the same source returned with a large opportunity.) I would have respected her decision if she'd had the courtesy to tell me about the issue and either asked if I'd be willing to wait for an opening in her schedule or suggested another possible resource.

No matter, I’ll contact the glass guy who specializes in smaller projects. His work is reliable, and he does not employ crickets to communicate.

The Lesson

Crickets destroy relationships and business opportunities. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much effort to confine them to areas where they might do some good—as when scammers come calling!

My best to you,

Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady

Thoughts or questions? Please contact Sallie Boyles, owner of Write Lady Inc., to exchange ideas about effective communications and gain from professional writing and editing services. Receive monthly tips and insights by subscribing at www.writelady.com.