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Covid-19: Business Ethics During a Pandemic


Is professional detailing essential during these times?  Context is key!


IDA Press Release 03-24-2020

I appreciate the positive intention of the International Detailing Association.  I believe the content here is accurate in the justification for making detailing an essential business.  But I believed the argument is dangerously flawed with respect to context.  This is due to the lack of oversight with respect to business practices in this industry.

I ask myself how many open businesses with sanitation services, have all staff members trained AND EQUIPPED for bio-hazard?  Do we as an industry have the appropriate checks and balances in place to make sure we are being ethical in our offerings?

As I start my day, I watch an employee for a lawn service mowing my neighbors’ lawn.  Although this is probably not essential to my neighbor’s well being, I see someone making a living and not coming into contact with large crowds.  So what is really meant when representatives of the detailing community argue ‘essential’?  It means working or providing a service ‘to make a living’ (livelihood), in exchange for some value.  That sum of value exchange may be reasonably worth the risk for the primary parties involved.

In the spirit of what the government is deeming essential for the greater good, I do not believe the majority of us (detailers) are in that category.  If I was desperate to survive and could legally operate, I would.

Our efforts to validate ourselves as an essential business is actually harming us.  Many businesses have taken this opportunity to make grandiose claims about their virus killing sanitation services.

Many of those claims involve the advertisement for using steam to kill viruses.

Steamers: The Most Versatile Tool in Your Arsenal

Two Issues with Steam

  1. Steam cleaning looks impressive in the video advertisements, but it is very likely not killing the coronavirus.  In order for it to be effective enough for that to be a possibility, interior parts of the car would be significantly damaged.  Think about how much damage you would do putting a steam cleaner up close in one location for several minutes.  Many customers and some detailers do not realize one of the real benefits of steam is to make the chemical cleaner you are using more potent.  It simply is not realistic to expect someone to concentrate steam over sensitive areas of your car for the required proximity and length of time in order to kill the coronavirus.

    Ian Martinez in his article, Steam Cleaning: Does It Kill Bacteria And Viruses, goes into greater depth the benefits and issues of using steam during these times.

  2. Although my second issue with using steam is only my opinion, I believe this to be a reasonable possibility.  Myself and other professionals in the industry believe that it is very possible you could not only be releasing the virus in the air, but also suspending it in an aerosol from the vapor which would allow the virus to spread to other people much more easily.  I am also concerned about the welfare of detailers who may not be wearing adequate gear while performing this activity.  If I was cleaning an interior in the wake of Covid-19, for this reason, a steam cleaner would not be used.

As responsible business owners, I do not want us to hide behind plausible deniability.  I believe through adversity there is the opportunity for the industry to grow in credibility and shrink as well.

Renny Doyle offered his opinion on the ‘essential’ title with respect to detailing.  I believe this perspective (below) is important to share.

Some businesses are definitely taking all of the necessary steps to properly detail a vehicle and also taking all of the necessary safety precautions (adequate stock and proper use of PPE). I do wonder how realistic is it that people would on a regular basis pay for this level of detailing and go for at least several hours to properly have this done (likely minimum 5+ hours actual detailing) for piece of mind.

Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
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