We missed 200 Customer Pickups Last Week.

We missed 200 people’s pickups last week. 


At Adams Sanitation, that’s a pretty high number for an average week – even though one missed pickup is already one too many. 

(If you need to report a missed pickup – you can do that here. When you report a missed pickup, it makes sure that we refund you for the miss. It also gives us a heads up about the miss, and where it is and allows us to start an optimization process to make sure you don’t ever get missed again!)

I’ll confess to you that I got pretty frustrated with our people at Adams Sanitation after all those missed pickups. 

Well – someone with our field crews pointed out to me that we missed about 200 of 30,000 pickups that week. That means we are doing the right thing for about 99.3% of our customers on one of the worst weeks of our year. Not much comfort for the customers who did get missed last week – but it put it in perspective for me. Missed pickups are a rare thing. 

Still – why are we missing pickups at all?

Here’s what we found out so far:


Honest, Local Trash Pick-Up:

Reason 1: We Hired Humans 🤦🏻‍♂️

Against my many protestations, it seems that my managers have continued to hire human beings. Despite my initial misgivings, they are pretty good about picking up the trash (averaging a 99.84% success rate) – but they have something else they are much better at: They are good at interacting with other human beings. 

A couple of days ago, we got a call from one of our customers that a Customer Service Rep had me listen in to. On the other end of the line was a little old lady (at least, she sounded like a little old lady.) She called in to tell me that she was running behind on putting her garbage out for her pickup and made it to her garage as our truck drove by. 

The lady was too far behind the truck to get the trash to the curb and said she figured she would have to wait for her next pickup. 

That’s when she saw a flash of neon green, and one of our jumpers, who’d noticed the lady pulling her cart slowly and stopped the truck. He jogged up to her at her garage, grabbed the cart, tipped it into the back of the truck, and put the cart back in her garage. 

While a robot arm might be faster and more efficient, let’s see a robot arm truck do that. 

We’ve learned that it’s how we do the business of picking up trash that makes the difference for our business. After all, it’s not like we’re Apple and the Big Green Company is Android (or whatever other metaphor comes to mind right now). We don’t do anything a whole lot different at the end of the day. So, we need to show people that we care about them to have a chance at beating the Big Green Giant (ho, ho, ho). 

If that means our imperfect human beings at Adams miss 200 cans, but show 200 people how much we care about them, I’ll take that as a business owner. 

two men throwing trash. there is an Adams Sanitation trash cart in the foreground
Our hoomans throwing trash by the cart into the back of the truck. That's something the robots cant do!

Reason 2: We Gave Those Human Beings A Pretty Crappy Training Program (That We Fixed)

About a year-and-a-half ago, we were turning over employees like crazy. At one point, the jumpers (guys and gals on the back of the truck) were starting their job, staying an average of two weeks, and then quitting. 

We could blame COVID. We could blame the mix of stink, humidity, maggots and summer heat. 

Or, we could be smart and blame ourselves. 

Well, that’s what we did. We realized that hiring new people like jumpers and drivers – and then not giving them any sort of formal training really hurt is in three ways in the long run. 

  1. 1. They quit (really) quickly
  2. 2. The drivers didn’t really know how to use our maps or tablets. 
  3. 3. Our jumpers didn’t really know how to tip carts, which led to a whole list of problems. 


When our jumpers and drivers showed at our offices for a job in East Milton, Florida about a year-and-a-half ago, they left on a truck going somewhere to do something. It wasn’t really clear what exactly was required of them. It quickly became a vicious cycle because everyone was quitting so fast that we didn’t have time to train anyone new – we just had to throw them into the fire.

We asked people why they quit, and they gave us several reasons. Namely, they didn’t realize how hard the work was going to be, didn’t know how nasty it could be, and didn’t know how to work their tools and equipment well. Drivers would not be trained well on how to use their mapping devices to find their carts. That would mean they were on the job for 16 hours for some days. While the overtime was great, they wanted to sleep at some point – and they couldn’t sustain the pace. No one could. 

Jumpers were in the same boat. The long, difficult days – especially in the summer meant difficult and tiring conditions – and they didn’t know the little things that could make their jobs easier. Exhaustion would pile up – and they would give up. 

After enough of the hiring merry-go-round, we decided that we, as the management team, needed to make some dramatic changes. We developed a training program that consists of videos that show people how to do their jobs (pretty standard, we know) and implemented a field training program where our senior drivers and jumpers take the newbies out on the road and show them the tricks of the trade. Our retention rate has skyrocketed over the last six months and increased even during the hot summer months.

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Live look at the marketing guy looking for carts after our initial training program.

Reason 3: A Subscription Market Is a Logistical Hell Hole

Don’t get us wrong – we love that people get to choose their trash service. That’s kind of our thing. But with added customization and the ability to pick – comes umpteen ways for us to screw up your trash pick-up. 

With a subscription market, where *gasp* the customer gets to choose whom they do business with, the trash companies lose the logistical ease of just picking up every trash can they see. 

Instead, we need to invest in really expensive, but somehow really old, mapping technology that has not ever once been 100% accurate. We’re still waiting on Elon to solve this problem for us. However, in the absence of a billionaire tech genius, we are making the existing technology work for us. 

Hopefully, though, there will be some exciting technological advances over the next couple of years that we will be able to implement that will radically change your relationship with trash. Hang in there, the future is almost here!