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MONDAY MAN: World-class service

Lisa King

MONDAY MAN: World-class service

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His 42 years of service to Rentokil Barbados earned the title of not only the longest-serving employee locally but worldwide.
Charles Harris, who retired last December, has been fighting pests most of his adult life.
Harris was recently honoured by Rentokil Initial (B’dos) Ltd. with the naming of The Charles Harris Wall Of Service Excellence in the company’s training room where recognition is given to colleagues identified by clients as giving “world-class” service.
In reflecting, Harris said he never imagined the wise instruction of a dear friend would impact his life so greatly. He said as a young man he did gardening and even though he had no family, his employer said she wanted him to have a better future.
“At that time I thought it was strange because I thought she would like to keep me, but she saw that somewhere down the road I would have that family.
“She gave me a letter and sent me to Rentokil. I went for the interview the Monday and I reported to work from the Tuesday – March 8, 1971.”
Charles was employed as a service technician and rose through the ranks to pest control service manager in 2007.
“When I joined Rentokil all I had was a birth and baptism certificate. I worked my way up because things were really hard – long hours. When I heard about my first promotion three years into the job I was worried because I had gone and found people there and I was being promoted ahead of them.”
He said many people would call the office and praise his work and request he do their service, saying how nice he was.
“To me I did not think I was doing anything different, but I guess it had a lot to do with the way I was brought up,” Harris added. “I had the privilege of being raised by my aunt, she lived to be 101 years old and she told me once, ‘Charles, two things will take you through this life, honesty and manners’.”
Harris is happy that he developed along with the company, which went from just “selling a treatment” to giving customers genuine service. However, he said he found one fault with the company in that it did not place enough emphasis on educating Barbadians at large about pest control.
“Very often a customer buys a treatment but the situation is so bad that they almost expect you to work a miracle. We do a lot of that because as new insecticides and rodenticides come on the market, obviously the methods of treatment change,” he said. 
He recalled when German roaches were never seen in Barbados. Over the years, they arrived and created a problem.
Harris’ specialty is rats.
“I like to deal with rats because a rat will sit and eat his belly full and in a matter of five feedings, it is dead.”
He explained that rats clean themselves often, so when the rodenticide is a powder the rat runs across it, and by grooming itself, it ingests the poison and dies. 
He spoke of some misconceptions about rodents and getting rid of them. He recalled how “a customer once argued with me that a mouse grows into a rat and I had to carry documents to prove that a mouse is a mouse and a rat is a rat and their habitats and the way they operate are different”.
“If you have the right conditions – food and water for rodents – they will live and stay with you. Also the pests do not live where you can see them, they are always going to harbour in little cracks and crevices. If you have the most powerful insecticide but not the skill you are back at square one,” he said.
Harris said he encountered a farm where the owner was seeing over 500 rats. After some work they were able to rid the farm of them.
He also spoke of a cockroach infestation at a Bridgetown church. “They had a problem with pigeons nesting in the roof and the cockroaches were feeding on the droppings.
“Church was going on and the roaches were dropping on the congregation. I went into the roof myself with other technicians and they ran and left me. When the roaches started to come out I never saw anything like it. The night I went home I was seeing roaches in my sleep. When I went there the next morning the entire courtyard was full of dead roaches.”
He said in the last five years bed bugs, commonly called chinks, were starting to be a problem. Harris said they can go into hibernation for 90 days where they can multiply and if there were ten when they come back out there are at least 10 000.
“I prefer to deal with a million roaches before I choose to deal with bed bugs,” Harris said.