Condo cleaner sees business freeze after oil spill, waits for check covering losses


Three years ago, Phyllis Pearson changed careers. A computer software instructor for 25 years, she had also invested in four rental condos in Orange Beach.

“The people cleaning my condos,” she said, referring to those she hired to make her rental units spick-and-span, “were not always reliable.”

So she started her own condo-cleaning company, Paradise Services, which enjoyed revenues of $330,000 in 2009, she said.

In the summer months, she hired 40 to 50 people, and “we worked ourselves silly” using five large-scale washers and six big dryers.

Then, this summer, the oil arrived.

For the year, she has brought in $149,000, with the height of the tourist season having already passed.

“As soon as the oil spill started,” she said, “people started getting nervous.”

Pearson said, “They were scared their vacations would be messed up. They turned around and went to the mountains.”

When condo rentals ebbed, condo cleaning followed.

The summer proved a sliding scale — downward. Her business fell 13 percent in June, 17.5 percent in July and then 34 percent in August.

In August, 2009, she said her condo cleaning brought in $39,192; this year, the month’s figure was $25,839. “It’s painful,” she said. “Our winter started two months too soon.”

She has a commercial cleaning business, too, that had revenue of $163,156 last year, but just $78,000 so far this year, she said.

When asked about her experiences making claims against BP for her lost revenues, she laughed bitterly.

“Claims? Painful is putting it mildly,” she said.

At first, she admitted, the claims process seemed “easy.” She filled out the paperwork and produced financial statements.

In May, she said, she got a check for her condo cleaning business. In June, there was a second check.

“I got nothing in July or August, nor September. I figured they were waiting for Ken Feinberg to take over.”

She has never received a check, at any point, she said, for the losses in her commercial cleaning business.

“I’m told, ‘You’re in review.’ I have rent, utilities, and payroll. We’re running out of money fast.

“At the rate we’re going,” she said, “I may have to wait until December. By then I may be kicked out of my building.”

She is not “waiting on BP’s money,” she said, but “trying to get work.”

“We’re trying to do anything and everything,” she said.

BP spokesman Ray Melick said that the company doesn’t comment on individual claims.

“All claims information is now with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, Mr. Feinberg’s organization,” Melick said. “That’s where she needs to continue making her individual claims.”

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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