Over the last ten years the staff at Propertyserve have certainly had a wide array of call outs to deal with. From lift entrapments to ceiling leaks, flooded drains to blazing buildings, our helpdesk operators have seen the lot. With over a decade of property maintenance calls, some are bound to push the boundaries of what we’d consider normal requests, however. “I’m used to taking cleaning requests from tenants,” says Tori Nagle, one of our most experienced members of staff, “things like flooded carpets or clearing out entire office floors are pretty common. One day about a year ago, though, I answered the phone to a woman who’d just finished her breakfast and had spilt a bit of her yoghurt on the floor. She wanted us to send out a cleaner on an emergency basis to wipe it up”. With a plethora of great stories from our helpdesk operators, narrowing them down into a blogable list was difficult – but here, in a very vague but certainly not definitive order, are four of our favourite call-out requests of the last ten years.
4. Evening of the Living Dead
Saturday evenings can get fairly busy for our out of hours staff. “The time was about 11 o’clock in the evening on a relatively quiet Saturday night and the phone started ringing,” says Tony Martin. “Our typical calls at this kind of time will be for fire alarm activations or leaks – that sort of thing. I picked up the phone and the guy on the other end was clearly in a bit of a panic. He was quite out of breath and was talking really fast and was difficult to understand at first. Even when I asked him to slow down, I still thought I was mishearing what he was saying. When someone tells you there are zombies running around outside, you kind of do a double take”.
Tony’s hearing was fine, however, as it became apparent that the flustered security guard was genuinely amidst a real-life zombie apocalypse. Left alone overnight the guard had headed outside to carry out one of his hourly patrols only to find his torch trained on a limping, torn-clothed, blood smeared zombie straight out of Evil Dead on the road outside his industrial unit. Somewhat surprised and suspecting a prank, the guard walked on to find several more wandering about and a hoard of hundreds groaning and shuffling over the fence to the next door unit. “It took us a while to realise what was really going on. An events company had organised an overnight zombie escape game in the next door unit and the guard hadn’t been told about it. All these people dressed as zombies were running about all over the place – the poor guy must’ve been terrified!”
3. Trouble in the Pipeline
In her three years at Propertyseve, Vanessa Aldridge has taken her fair share of strange calls. “The best one I took has to be the time I answered the phone to a less-than enthused tenant explaining that he’d lost his favourite ferrets into the pipework of a building we take care of”, she says, “They’d scampered in amongst the pipes that served the building and he couldn’t get them out”. Liaising with the sympathetic Facilities Manager, Vanessa was eventually required to call out the fire brigade to cut into the pipes and release the furry fugitives. “I don’t know if they found them – I hope they did.”
2. Where There’s Smoke…
“Four o’clock in the morning is never a good time for anything,” says Tony Martin, who’d only just recovered from his zombie scare a couple of weeks before. “We’ve had fires reported to us before and when we get them there’s a lot of people than need informing and contractors lining up to carry out remedial repairs once the fire brigade have made the building safe, so when the security guard on the phone told me he’d called 999 and that the emergency services were on their way I knew I was in for a tricky morning.”
Following the set procedure for reporting fires, Tony proceeded to call the Facilities Manager, potential contractors to prepare them for any emergency repair instructions and informed the rest of the helpdesk and management here at Propertyserve. “I had just finished informing the last person on my list when the phone rang again. It was the security guard again sounding utterly miserable. The fire brigade had arrived and located the source of the fire: steam was being generated from the rain falling on the slightly warm lamps outside the building. Apparently the orange glow from the lights made it look like it was ablaze.” While false alarms are a common occurrence at Propertyserve, the security guard’s reaction makes this call stick out in Tony’s mind.
1. Another One Bites the Dust
Back when the helpdesk was relatively small, Chris MacDonald – now our Managing Director – was working on the helpdesk and had charge of the weekend phone. “About 5 o’clock in the evening I got a call from a distressed woman in a residential property shrieking down the phone that she had a mouse in the kitchen. As I tried to calm her down I arranged for our pest control contractors to attend and they were able to get to her pretty quickly,” explains Chris. “Once they got there they found her perched on top of the worktop in the middle of the room refusing to get down. Our guys didn’t have to look for very long to find the little perpetrator, but what they found wasn’t entirely what they were expecting.
“Instead of an innocent mouse, a small ball of dust was being blown around by the heating fan in the kitchen. The woman had been up on the counter too scared to even look closely enough to realise she was hiding from a piece of fluff.” Although the dust ball was removed humanely and released safely back into the wild, this story doesn’t have an entirely happy ending; after helping the relieved resident down from the kitchen-top the pest control officer headed back downstairs to find his van had been towed for parking illegally!
Jake Jones – Propertyserve Helpdesk