PCT incorrectly identified a photo in its August Bed Bug Supplement. The correct caption appears here. PCT regrets the error.
Michael R. Linford (left), president of TPE Associates; and David E. Hedman, CEO of TPE Associates.
Thanks for the Advice
Sandy "Ladybug" Honess
Editor's note: Rich Kozlovich, a 30-year veteran of the pest management industry, recently provided the following response to the article, "Why I Hate the Word Exterminator," which appeared in the June issue of PCT magazine.
I Am an Exterminator!
I am not a pest control operator. I am not a pest management professional. I am not an entomological consultant. I am an exterminator and I am proud of who and what I am and what I do! And I am proud to be called an exterminator. Exterminators have been manning the walls in the war for public health for centuries; telling the world by our actions that as long as we man the walls no one will harm them on our watch.
As Robert Sullivan said in his book, Rats, "exterminators are the hunters that keep the tribe healthy." He worked very closely with exterminators in New York City and clearly admired them. He didn't care what they were called.
Terms mean things. Terms give impressions. Using PCO, PMP, entomological consultant or whatever else we want to use to shine up our image is smart marketing. I use "pest management" in my company name, so I have no objection to the marketing aspect of the business. All of this linguist magic may give the impression of a higher degree of professionalism than "exterminator" does. I have no problem with this as long as we as an industry never stop believing in our hearts and minds that we were exterminators yesterday, we are exterminators today and we will be exterminators tomorrow. And we absolutely should never be embarrassed by that; we need to be proud of it! When I go to a meeting of one of the associations that isn't part of the pest control industry I tell them clearly and proudly that I am an exterminator! Try it some time. You may be surprised at the reception you get.
What constitutes a professional? What they call themselves or what they do? Do we, as individual exterminators, need gilded terms to feel we are something special? Do we feel that being called an exterminator diminishes who we are? It would appear that is the impression for some in our industry.
Many of us remember Mike Royko, the famous syndicated columnist out of Chicago. Many years ago, he had some personal experience with the pest control industry and he wrote an article about this experience and about a guy who just killed bugs! That was what they hired him for and that is what they wanted. No fancy names, no fancy treatments, no fancy policies. The "blond" — as he referred to his wife — tried that approach and it didn't work. He hired the guy around the corner who just killed bugs. He was called an exterminator! If he were alive today and we could ask him who he thought the professional was, what do you think Royko would say?
A couple of years ago I wrote an article titled, "Let Me Tell You About Mike Royko," and cited this in my article. Mike's son sent me an e-mail saying that he normally never responds to articles about his father but he said his dad would have loved this one. Royko never lost sight of what became known as "Royko's People" — the guy on the street that faces reality everyday and has no need for blurring reality to bolster and appease weak egos.
We have slowly accepted this idea of changing what we call ourselves over the last 25 years or so and thus laid the groundwork for changing what we do. We accept the idea that we are not supposed to kill bugs, but control them with "green" pest control or Integrated Pest Management — neither of which exists in structural pest control. I will happily debate anyone in the world over that statement.
Is it any wonder we have fallen under the illusion that what we have been doing since the 1850s is something to be ashamed of? We have lost sight of who and what we are. Is it any wonder that we strive so diligently to be found acceptable to regulators and environmental activists in order to be patted on our little heads like little children with token acceptance because we are so unsure of ourselves that we are prepared to jump on whatever bandwagon is the latest philosophical flavor of the day? The fact of the matter is that no matter what we call ourselves the jokes about killing roaches with pointy toes shoes will always be there. Get over it, run with it, and laugh…it's funny. Take what you do seriously but stop taking yourself so seriously. Remember, they won't be reading your resume at your funeral.
Pest Management Inc.