Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning, Wells, Maine – Review


 

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on my blog but I feel so strongly about this that I simply had to warn people.

If you don’t feel like reading this entire posting, the bottom line is, in my opinion, DO NOT HIRE BEN OLIVER FROM LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS CLEANING IN WELLS, MAINE

If you search online for Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning service in Wells, ME, you won’t find much, if any, information. No web site for this company exists, no HomeAdvisor.com listing, and I could find no listing, even on generic indexes of business through various services like the online Yellow Pages.  I assumed this was a small business with not much of an online presence.  I should have seen a red flag. But I was in a hurry and made a rushed decision.

Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning, or specifically its owner, Ben Oliver of Wells, ME, was recommended to me by the person who cleans my carpets.  I found my carpet cleaner through Home Advisor.  He was excellent, professional, friendly, and stood behind his work.  He’s great at what he does and I will use him again.  I gave him high marks on HomeAdvisor.com where I found his company.  I don’t want to name his company here so it doesn’t get mixed up with this review. But, I trusted his judgment and recommendation.

I first met Ben Oliver when we scheduled a meeting at my apartment so I could get an estimate.  He seemed friendly, actually overly friendly, but nice enough.  When he entered my apartment he immediately started evaluating my “stuff” (my belongings), not the job itself.

I am a smoker and after 15 years of living here, I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get everything cleaned perfectly. The landlord won’t repaint, so I was considering paying for it myself.  But to do that, everything needed to be cleaned including the walls and ceiling.  Ben Oliver assured me that he would talk care of that.  I was told that his company always starts a new customer with a “big cleaning”; which meant everything from top to bottom including walls, ceiling, baseboards, behind the fridge, etc.  He wanted to charge me $200 for this cleaning.  I asked if he could come down at all on that and we agreed on $175.  I thought, for that, it was worth it.

We scheduled it for a few days later.  I gave him my house keys during the first meeting because I intended to use him on a regular basis, once a month, after the “big cleaning”.  On the morning he was to arrive, I left a check for $175.00

When I got home that day, at first glance the place appeared to look good.  The first thing I noticed was a broken light bulb, still in its socket, in the bathroom.  I wasn’t too upset by that but thought it was odd he didn’t tell me.  When he was there giving the estimate we talked about previous cleaners I had used and how they had broken things and never told me.  I assured him that if something were to happen, it’s not that big of a deal, just tell me and if its something of value, we’ll work it out in some way.  He agreed.

The next thing I noticed was some white powdery stuff (it looked like comet cleanser) in front of my fridge.  I got out the all purpose cleaner and a paper tower to wipe it up.  But when I wiped it up, the paper towel came up completely BLACK.  i sprayed a little more Fantastik farther away from the original spot and the same thing happened; completely Black. I took a picture where I re-sprayed the original spot a second time.

kitchenfloor

So this is after I cleaned it once.  I should have taken a pic of the first one but didn’t think about the bigger problem until I had already thrown the first one away and took out the garbage. But this is what it looked like AFTER I cleaned the spot.  And as I cleaned further, it just got worse.

This is a picture of my range hood where he used BLEACH!  Can you see the white discoloration and permanent drip mark?

rangehood

And this is a picture of the space between my fridge and the wall where some plastic molding from my fridge is wedged in there and I can’t get it out.. I don’t even know where it belongs.

fridge part

The Walls and Ceiling were NEVER cleaned.

When I called Ben Oliver of Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning, he acted like he didn’t know who I was.  How may people with my name did he have as a customer?  on that day?  When I started explaining the first issue of the kitchen floor, his response was “To be honest, your whole house was black”.  First, that’s insulting.  Second, it’s unprofessional. Third, we had already talked about smoke damage issues, and the linoleum flooring in my kitchen is something I’ve cleaned myself in the past and it’s never been black.  After a long day of work, I wasn’t in the mood to have some argument with him.  In my opinion, he was more concerned about being “right” than about the job he had done that was substandard  at best.  His response should have been “I’m so sorry, let me come back and take a look at it and fix it” to keep his customer happy and stand behind his work.  At the very least he should have agreed to come and look at it.

But in my opinion his personality, and ego, prevented him from being professional. It seemed that in his mind, he is right, he’s always right, and how dare I question him.

So I wrote an email to him about the issue.  I explained my concerns and gave him every opportunity to make good on is cleaning job.

He never responded to the email. I sent him a text asking if he’d read the email.  His text response was that he hadn’t received it and if I wanted to contact him I should do it between business hours Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

At that point, I was done trying to rectify the situation.  I sent him a text asking for my keys back.  I work in the town where he lives. So I asked him to drop off my keys at my office with the receptionist.  It wasn’t far out of his way and I was scheduled to be off that next day anyway; I didn’t want a run-in with him.  But as it turn out I did have to go into work that next day.

At one point during that day, I heard front door to our office slam and the owner of the company for whom I work came into my office with my house keys dangling in her hand and said “Some guy just dropped these off for you and said to tell you to never call him again!”.  She sort of stared at me funny.  My mouth dropped.  I was mortified.  To walk into a place of business, as a business owner himself, and make a scene over a set of keys, is reprehensible behavior.  It was none of anyone’s business but he made it personal.

The bottom line here is DON’T HIRE Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning in Wells, Maine.  From my experience, you will be overcharged for shoddy work, and he won’t take any responsibility for work that wasn’t done or for work done poorly.  He is unprofessional, and while I try very hard not to judge people based their personality, or who they are, or aren’t, in this case, all of those issues play and were a big part in how all of this went down.   Additionally, there are things missing from my house that I can’t explain or prove. I never even got into that with him.  I’m not a lawyer and can’t accuse without proof, and just wanted it all out of my life.

As I said at the start, I don’t post to my blog very often these days.  However, this situation warranted some action on my part.  I couldn’t find any reviews of him or his company, so somebody needed to speak up.  I wish I had some sort of review to go on; instead I took the word of someone I trusted.  I believe that Lighthouse Keepers Cleaning can’t be found online because he doesn’t want a place online for anyone to review him.

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So long Stugazzi’s Restaurant


The last thing I ever want is for a local, small business in my town to fail.  But just because a business opens, doesn’t mean it will be successful, or deserve to succeed.  It is especially difficult for a restaurant.  One in four restaurants fail (or change ownership) in the first year.

Maine is place where even international chain restaurants like “Chili’s” can’t even stay open,  so a small, private restaurant has to have a lot of luck and something very special to offer the public if it’s ever going to make it.

I wrote a few reviews of Stugazzi’s Restaurant in Springvale, Maine.  I was harsh, and it spurned some lively debate.  That’s a nice word for “arguing”.  My reviews had hit a nerve.  I wasn’t being snarky.  I was being honest.  It it was awesome, I would have said so.

By all accounts, even by those who stood up for this restaurant, if anyone took an honest look at this restaurant, had to admit it was below average.   The truth hurts, I know.  Maybe one or two of their food items were good, but overall, a restaurant can’t call itself an “authentic” Italian restaurant and serve “chicken fingers”.  I don’t care if some people think that restaurants need to cater to the kids; Italian mothers in  “authentic” Italian kitchens in the Tuscan countryside don’t feed their kids chicken finger.  If you want to serve kids a crunchy, chicken appetizer, cut up an “authentic” chicken cutlet, pounded thinly, pan-fried in a very light and delicious coating, quick-cooked to perfection.  Top it with fresh buffalo mozzarella and a side of home-made marinara sauce, and you are good to go – without compromising your “authentic” principles.  It’s not more expensive for the chef to cook the real version than the insipid American concoction known  (which by the way started in American-Chinese restaurants) unless that restaurant is buying them frozen from a restaurant bulk frozen food supply house, in which case you’ve lost your way on the “authentic” road anyway so you should pack it in.

The food itself wasn’t the real problem with Stugazzi’s, it was the design of the customer experience.  Nothing worked.  From confusing self-seating, to “where the hell do I park”, to an uncomfortable entrance where the patrons landed right at the bar, to the rude staff, to the restaurant’s inability to properly pack take-out food —  the gaping holes in service were endless.  This isn’t rocket science.  And if there is one thing that Sanford/Springvale needs is more quality restaurant choices.  For god’s sake, the hot dog truck on Main Street is one of the better establishments.

It’s not my job to tell a restaurant owner how to run his restaurant.  But if the owners and their friends had read the clues (which could hardly be called clues since they were not inconspicuous in my writing; they were direct and on point) instead of firing off nasty emails and comments about my comments, then maybe their authentic Italian restaurant would still be open – and successful.  That would have been awesome!

I truly am sorry that a local business failed.  I really am.  It’s the last thing our little town needs. But I’m not sad to see a low-quality restaurant with poor service close up shop;  in my neighborhood or anywhere else.

Now, if the owners would like to re-open, with a new attitude, and a new outlook on how to serve quality food to the public, in a unique, satisfying, affordable, and authentic way, I’d be happy to help wherever I can.

The biggest problem with Stugazzi’s is that it appeared as if the owners never walked into their own establishment as a customer (incognito, or send in a mole with a hidden camera), as if they never had seen the place before, and experienced it from the customer’s perspective.  They needed to do that objectively.  Call in an order for pickup. Sit and order food, on several occasions on several different days and times.  Eat at the bar, and eat in the dining room.  Then they would have seen what most of us saw.  A successful restaurant is about its customers, not its owner’s ego.

I do wish the owners well, and I hope, maybe, they learned something that can take them on to their next endeavor, which will be successful.

Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are fired


Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins don’t care about your health.

Mainers think that we have elected these women to represent us, our issues, our needs, and our views in a legislative body that governs our Country.  It would be awfully nice if that were true; that they actually listened to their constituency and spoke on our behalf in Congress.  But that is not at all what is happening. 

Why do certain individuals run for public office?  I would think it would be because the individual believes he or she can offer good ideas, new ideas, to solve the problems of our nation and to better the lives of the people in it, especially the people from the State they represent.  But more often than not, voters are left scratching our heads and thinking “what are these people thinking, that’s not what we want”.

People in Maine are suffering.  They need to see doctors, dentists, specialists, mental health professionals, surgeons, and the list goes on and on.  Maine is no different from any other State but Maine is where I live so that is what I will speak to.  In a million years I never thought I would find myself in a position where I did not get the health care I need because I simply can not afford it.

Senators Snow and Collins earn about $170,000 a year, this year.  They are also entitled to lifetime benefits after serving for just five years, including health insurance and a pension.  Members of Congress are eligible for a pension when they reach the age of 50 if they’ve completed 20 years of service. Members are eligible at any age after completing 25 years of service or after they reach the age of 62.  When they retire, they are eligible to receive an annual salary equal to as much as 80% of the three highest grossing salary years.  So even if their ONLY income was that of their Senator salary they could retire after 5 years in some cases and earn about $136,000 a year, EVERY YEAR, IN RETIREMENT.  They ALSO  have choices in health care too numerous to even begin to explain on this page.

What’s the bottom line?  Senators like Snowe and Collins don’t have to care what happens to you and your family.  They don’t care if you have health care.   They just have to last long enough to retire with a government pension.  And the more years they are a Senator, the bigger their pension will be.  So they do everything they can do to keep the contributors happy so that the Senators can spend lots of money to get re-elected, so that the Senators can continue to amass a fortune.  And if you are interested to see what a Federal Employee’s health insurance plan looks like, click here

So while Maine’s portion of the 47 million uninsured in this country continue to suffer, and while untold numbers of “under-insured” citizens in the State of Maine continue to go bankrupt and live in poverty because of health care costs, Senators Snowe and Collins don’t worry about such trivial things.  They need those campaign contributions from the health care industry, and will do anything to keep those contributions coming, so that each of them can stay in Congress as long as possible, to receive lifetime health benefits and Pension benefits that are a crime when compared to the CITIZENS THAT ARE PAYING FOR THESE BENEFITS.  Yes, it all comes out of your tax dollars.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that our illustrious government representatives get an AUTOMATIC cost of living increase unless they elect NOT to let it happen.  What would you do if every year your salary would be adjusted upward for a “cost of living” increase unless you got all of your co-workers together and “voted” not to accept the increase.  Pretty nice gig, huh?

When the first Continental Congress was formed, Benjamin Franklin proposed that elected officials not be paid for their service.  In the end, that obviously did not happen.  But why do U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives earn more than the national average salary.  That’s what they should make, about $40,000 to $45,000 per year. That’s the average salary of all the workers in the United States.  As for health care and pension benefits, they don’t work harder than anybody else and don’t deserve more than the people they represent.  So they certainly should not get more in benefits that the average U.S. worker.   Congress doesn’t even work a full year like the rest of us.  The MOST number of days that a Senator like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins would work is 153 in 2009.  Subtract from that the trips they take paid by the taxpayers, or trips they take paid for by lobbying firms, and then they get so many days off to campaign if it is an election year; what do we have left.  I don’t even know the answer.  Nobody will tell me the truth.  HOW MANY DAYS TO YOU WORK, MS. SNOWE?…MS. COLLINS?….ANYBODY?

This government was designed to be for the people and by the people.  Right now, “the people” are hurting and struggling.  Yet Senators like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have a gross take home pay of about $3,270 a week.   A WEEK.  But that number only applies if they actually work every week.  They don’t.   Again, the 2009 schedule calls for Senators to work 153 days.

Nothing I am saying here is new information.  I am just saying that something has to change.  If you took all of the money out of politics, you would be left with people who are there because they want to be there, and want to make a difference.  Instead, we are stuck with people who make a lot of money, amass retirement benefits and life long health insurance, and yet the country is suffering.   Don’t you remember reading the book “Animal Farm” in junior high school?

Olympia Snowe has said that she doesn’t trust any “government-run” health care system.  But she sure trusts the government enough to funnel my tax dollars into her paycheck, her pension, and her own health plan.

Like I said, Maine’s so-called “moderate” Senators are probably no different from any other Senators.  But I can only speak about Maine Senators because that’s where I live.  We all wish they were in it for the right reasons.  But when Maine’s Senators don’t want Maine citizens to have universal health care, for all, I have to wonder why they are our Senators.  What do they think they are accomplishing for us, and why are they financially benefiting so much for doing nothing except saying “no”.  I have no idea what these women are “for”.  I only know what they are against.  At this point, they are against me; and you.

Since Snowe and Collins work for me (I help pay for their salary) and they have not fulfilled their obligations to me, I am firing them effective immediately.

Maine Senators don’t care about health insurance reform, or you


Today I called the offices of both Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, you know the moderate Republicans, the progressive Republicans.  Bull shit.

According to the staff person that answered the phone, Olympia Snowe “hasn’t finalized here position on health care reform”.  She hasn’t??  Everybody else in the country has chosen a position.  And most of them don’t know what they are talking about.  So Ms. Snowe is the only person in America who hasn’t decided on a position?  They asked me if I wanted a response.  Of course I want a response.  I want to know why you don’t have a position and I want to know when you will publicly state what your position is.

As bad as Susan Collins position is, at least she has one.  She categorically is against a public option and against a single payer plan.  OK.  So if you extrapolate that, she’s against reform in general.  Susan Collins released a statement.  I couldn’t find it on her site but I found it on a political blog.  If you are interested, here it is: http://principalquattrano.com/images/collins_lg.jpg

It is FILLED with standard Republican talking points and phrases like “Washington-run public insurance” and continues to quote “The Lewin Group”.  Now, the Lewin Group is quoted by literally every Republican member of the House and Senate.  The Lewin group is touted as being the foremost  independent experts in the country regarding health care.  Well, by right wing politicians and pundits, at least.

In reality, the Lewin Group is a front.  They are a fake independent health care consulting firm wholly owned and operated by United Health Group, one of America’s largest health care providers.  There is nothing independent about Lewin.  Yet, if you listen to any Republican in Congress when they have the floor, or when they are on Fox News, you will hear each of them continually reference the Lewin Group as a preeminent source for what a catastrphe Health Insurance Reform would be on every level.

So Susan Collins, the moderate, is quoting the same bogus sources as every other republican.  Further, on one hand, Collins says that the reduced operating costs of a government backed health insurance plan would bring an end to private insurers and it’s not fair.  On the other hand she says we can’t accomplish Health Care reform because the cost is too great.  WELL IT CAN’T BE BOTH.  It can’t be a cheap-to-run health insurance plan AND too expensive at the same time.

The contradictions go on.  She states that the increased costs of health care are a burden to employers.  Well, that’s true.  But if employees don’t like their plan, or feel they could get better coverage from the government plan (and I can tell you from experience that many employees would bail on their existing health coverage), employer costs, in most circumstances would GO DOWN because fewer people would need private coverage.  Again, Susan, you can’t have it both ways.

And finally, she said she talked directly to the President.  She states that in her conversation with him, she pointed out that States with high-quality, low-cost health care like Maine (?) should not be harmed by reforms but rather rewarded for their efficiencies and innovations.  I don’t know what State she lives in but I can tell you the following:  finding a primary care physician, or finding mental health care, or finding a dentist in Maine is next to impossible.  There are not enough doctors, they are not taking new patients, there aren’t enough dentists, psychiatrists won’t take a new patient unless they have the right “kind” of insurance.  I don’t have a clue what she means by our “efficiencies”.  When I was out of work for 18 months, I was denied for the State of Maine health insurance program (for the unemployed, disabled, people on public asistance, etc) because they weren’t taking any new applicants right then.  They put me on a waiting list – a waiting list to get health care.  It was 2 months after I went back to work (18 months later) that I receive a letter from the State of Maine with an application to fill out for the State health insurance program for the poor.  What exactly was efficient about that.

In conclusion, if my Congressional representatives don’t want to fight for a national health care system, then let me join the health insurance plan that they have.  I want to pay the same amount that a Congressperson  pays our of his or her own pocket and I want the same level of coverage. 

That sounds about right, doesn’t it.  What could they possibly have against that.  I am not asking for anything more than Congress gets, and they work for me; I pay their salary.  Maybe as your employer, I will decide that we can’t afford to provide you with health insurance anymore.  That’s what employers are doing all over the country to make ends meet.  I think it’s worth considering.

Restaurant Review – Stugazzi’s – Springvale, Maine


This is my first restaurant review.  I don’t know why I haven’t done one before; I am a bit of a foodie and have some basic training from culinary school.  I like good food and I think I know what good food is.  So maybe I’ll do more, we’ll see.

When I moved to Maine in 2001 the first thing I missed was the incredibly good food and restaurant choices I had in Connecticut.  Every time a new restaurant opens here in my neck of the woods, I have high hopes, and I’m usually disappointed.

With little fanfare, a small Italian restaurant called “Stugazzi’s” opened in my neighborhood.  When I say that I mean my apartment building and Stugazzi’s share a common parking lot and dumpster.  Our dumpster sharing should have been an omen.

When I walked into Stugazzi’s out of the blue on a very rainy Friday afternoon, I was a bit confused.  I saw a few tables and a big window cut-out through which you could see the pizza oven’s and the kitchen.  The cut-out had a large flat bottom that resembled a counter and I saw a cash register there so I thought maybe it was a walk-up window to place an order.  To the right there was a door to what looked like a dining room but there was no sign that said “Please wait to be seated” or “Please seat yourself” or “Order Here”; nothing.  I later noticed that other customers walked in with the same confused look on their faces which seemed to say “Where do we go, who do we talk do, how do I order food here?”.

In any case I stood at the “window-counter” staring at the pizza ovens directly behind it.  I stood there for several minutes before a man approached me, somewhat gruff, and asked “Can I help you?”.  I wanted to say “Yes, can you tell me how I eat in this establishment, I could use some instruction because there is nothing here that is welcoming me in” – but I didn’t.

I asked how long it would take to get an order of spaghetti and meatballs.  My personal opinion is that in any Italian restaurant, you can get a good feel for the food by ordering the spaghetti and meatballs.  If that’s good, chances are the rest of the food will be good too.  I know that sounds oversimplified but I swear it’s true.  I have proved it time and time again.

The answer I received (and I should have known how this would go by this answer) was “just a few minutes”.  Without thinking I said OK.  The man wrote some stuff down on what looked like an order pad, and asked me if it was to-go.  I said yes and walked away.  During the next few minutes I sat on a chair at a table and watched the other befuddled customers walk in.   I don’t want to overstate the customer base here.  There was me, a table with what looked like a mom and dad with their child, and another couple sitting at a table trying to decide what to order and if they were going to eat it there or take it home.

So I sat and thought and it suddenly dawned on me (Friday afternoon after a long week at work is not my best “thinking” time) “A FEW MINUTES?’  Nothing good can come from that; I just had a feeling.  If he could fix me an order of spaghetti and meatballs in “a few minutes” I had a feeling the pasta wasn’t going to be cooked to order.  In fact it was probably cooked several hours earlier, if not the previous day, and was being dunked into hot water to “revive” it.

It was hot and humid in the restaurant.  So when the gruff gentlemen literally yelled out “SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS TO GO!” I walked up to the counter to pay.  I thought to myself “There are only 6 people in this room, he couldn’t have said “Sir your order is ready” or something like that?  His only option was to yell out “SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS TO GO! as if there were throngs of people there and he couldn’t remember which of the 6 of us placed this order not more than 4 minutes ago?

I paid, walked out, and went home.  When I got home and opened up the package this is what I saw.  A to-go food tin with the plastic cover, wrapped tightly in wads of Saran Wrap.  On top of this package was a few slices of “Italian” bread (the quotes mean there was nothing Italian about it) that was stale and dry and accompanied by butter “packets”; the kind where you have to peel the top off.  I poked the bread with my finger and decided immediately it belonged in the dumpster that I shared with the restaurant from which I just bought this food.

I dont’ know how they did it but the texture of the pasta wasn’t that bad.  The “sauce” however, was another story.  I don’t know how you can call what was on the pasta “sauce”.   “Sauce” indicates something that would slowly ooze across the plate if you were to tip the plate.  There was nothing saucy about it.  It was globs of tomato paste.  It was the same texture as the ketchup gunk that collects around the lip of the ketchup bottle.  And with barely a little more flavor.  It didn’t run, bleed, or coat.  It just sat there in a clump.  It was, in a word, disgusting. 

I noticed on the take out menu that there were some dishes that reference “homemade sauce”.  Spaghetti and Meatballs was not one of those dishes that made this reference.  So are there different “sauces”?  Do other dishes get a  delicious homemade sauce with a refined viscosity and the S & M get the gloppy tomato paste?  Somehow I doubt it.  I was so hungry when I brought my food home that day that I actually ate some of it.  The funny thing is that is wasn’t the pasta that filled me up, it was the sauce.  The sauce was very filling.  The meatballs were obviously bought frozen from a food distributor, or from Costco or BJ’s.  The texture was OK but they had a strange garlic flavor.  If they were made from scratch in the restaurant, they need a new recipe.  A recipe that end up with a meatball tasting like pork and beef, as opposed to garlic and THAT SAUCE.

All in all, the Spaghetti and Meatballs had the refined Italian flavor of something you would get if you ordered Italian food at Denny’s, or Applebees.

There are many interpretations of the word Stugazzi in Italian; everything from “stupid” to “idiot” to “d#%k face”.  I’m not sure which one of those apply here but I know one of them does. 

Stugazzi’s in Springvale, Maine, is an abomination of Italian cuisine.   Here’s a description (verbatim) of their world famous Buffalo Chicken Alfredo:  “Fresh  buffalo tenders serviced in alfredo sauce and poured over Fettuccine”.  Sound Good?  Yes, this restaurant has pulled off the impossible and married Italian food with buffalo chicken fingers.  Stugazzi!!!