Revisited Website Review: Exterminators.com

I am taking my summer vacation this week. (Not really — I’ll explain more next week). Please enjoy this “best-of” series from my Website Reviews over the next five days.

They call it “pest control,” as if managing vermin populations was somehow within man’s power. If only their influence were restrained, we could reason with and civilize the insects and rodents. Maybe if we just allow the roaches to have a legislature, they can become a more responsible segment of our society. Let’s have a town-hall meeting for the ants. How about allowing referendum initiatives to be introduced by silverfish?

I used to work in my company’s quality control department, so I know a little about “control” in this context. As a manager of inspections, I had to make sure we kept our quality under control, so that not too much of it got out there and spoiled the customers. We needed to use it up in small pieces at a time, so we didn’t run out. To control was to restrict, to limit, to preserve.

Pest control companies aren’t really interested in containing or manipulating pests. They’re in business to wipe them out, killing them in the worst possible way, with chemical weapons of mass destruction. These exterminators arrive at a home or business with singular intent. No bug or rat (nor possibly even infant or cat) will remain standing when their ethnic cleansing is through. At best, the victims will be lying on their backs, legs flailing against the sky, white bootie paws twitching spastically.

Maybe if they had proper representation, they could at least lobby for a more merciful way to die. I’m imagining row after tiny row of cross-shaped gurneys, where invertebrates are administered lethal injections only after all judicial appeals have been exhausted.

As you can tell, I don’t know much about the pest control business. I aimed to learn more in research for this week’s Website Review, at a domain called thebiggreenk.com, internet home of Killingsworth Pest Control. (Killingsworth.com was already taken by an online murder-for-hire operation).

The home page displays basic introductory information, including a picture and audio clip from owners Mike and Debbie. They both smile broadly into the camera, Mike’s arm around Debbie’s shoulders, looking much friendlier than any of the Hitler photos I recall from history, except maybe that one where he’s playing with his dog.

The copy talks about how loathsomely infected your home probably is, how their customer service is second to none, how they train their employees “not only in the science of pest control but also on the science of people.” Sort of like Josef Mengele and his heinous medical experiments on living subjects, I’m guessing. They’re also expanding into lawn care service (Mike and Debbie, not the Nazis).

The first pull-down subject addresses the core of Killingsworth’s business, termite control. We learn that over half a million American homes will suffer major damage from wood-eating pests this year alone, and that repairs will cost $1.5 billion. The K-Men will come to your home and do a ”FREE INSPECTION,” which will doubtless uncover frightening issues requiring immediate payments to the all-knowing exterminator. They realize you’re not going to know enough about the bowels of your home’s foundation to offer any resistance — they could tell you that Danny Bonaduce was living down there, partying up a storm with his termite friends, and you’d have to believe them. Fortunately, annual contracts costing only $30 a month are available

Problems with other types of pests are described in a separate section. Here we see the laundry list of creatures who could be gnawing away on your family at this very moment: millipedes, clovermites, earwigs, springtails, fleas, bed bugs. In the South, these can be active not only in the spring and summer months but also during warm days in the winter, so you might want to consider one of Killingsworth’s year-round packages. Be especially careful to watch for these beasts in obvious places like the kitchen, where they feast on your crumbs, but also in your bathroom, where plentiful moisture and odors can trigger spontaneous generation, creating creepy-crawlies that could emerge from your toilet at inopportune times.

There’s a section on mold remediation, another subject you didn’t even know existed that merits sleepless nights of anxiety once you think about it. They want to “make sure your crawlspace is as healthy as the rest of your house” using expensive installations like the E-Z Breathe Ventilation System, their new Dry-Ice Blasting technology and their “Premier Crawlspace program that offers a guaranty against future fungal growth.” I wonder if I can get a contract on my toenails.

Included under “Lawn Care” are a couple of package offers on mosquito control or, as they cutely label it, “mosKuito” control. (This recurring “K” motif reminds one of a certain organization of hate that also patrolled the South for many years). Another $30 a month gets you a nine-month deal to have your shrubs fogged and larvacide applied to standing water and gutters, so that unborn mosquitoes are also eliminated. Baby Killers!

The company has a special section on its web page devoted to mascot “Mr. K,” a Jack Russell terrier mix who has been trained to detect the scent of termites and bed bugs. Mr. K spent over 400 hours at the Florida Canine Academy which trains dogs to sniff out bombs, drugs, money and weapons as well as termites and mold. He is the founding president of the Canine Accelerant Detection Association as well as the International Termite Detector Dog Association. No, wait, that’s his trainer, Bill. Bill has appeared on several televised segments on Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel, and travels on promotional tours to community events around the country, putting on demonstrations for children and sniffing their crotches. No, wait, that’s Mr. K. (I think the fumes are starting to get to me).

A pulldown called the “Learning Center” helps educate consumers on how to identify common pests they may encounter in the middle of a dark, dark night as they stumble about their filth-encrusted homes. We find out about the three types of cockroaches – their size, shape and identifying markings, their ability to fly (yes) and presence of antennae (yes), and how many kinds of bacteria, parasitic worms and human pathogens they’re capable of spreading (33, six and seven, respectively). There are also portraits of flies, beetles, moths and pillbugs with brief profiles of each. We learn that the powderpost beetle “enjoys flying” among its hobbies, and that the merchant grain beetle “likes to attack cereal, cake mixes and macaroni.” There are some supposedly reassuring facts as well, including a debunking of the myth that earwigs will “crawl into sleeping people’s ears and eat their brains at night.” For some reason, knowing that doesn’t put me at any particular ease.

Finally, I’ll cite some of the customer testimonials under the “Why Choose Killingsworth” section. Lois writes “I had a problem under my house with mice nests all under the insulation which they had pushed it all to where it was hanging down, a lot was pushed out on the ground.” Killingsworth workers were able to decipher what she was talking about and fix the problem. Vince praises the two specialists who came to his home: “I learned a great deal about insects and other varmints … (technician) Matt was in motion the entire time spraying.” Sounds like Matt may have been experiencing some side-effects from the chemicals. Darlene notes that her inspector, Phil, took time out during his visit to carry a water jug to her goats and, on perhaps the most peculiar rating scale ever, gives Phil “on a scale of one to six, he’s an 8!” She liked him at least until her goats started drinking the water.

All things considered, thebiggreenk.com is a very informative and helpful website, quick to respond and containing very few bugs (not surprisingly). I learned much about the pitfalls of home ownership and maintenance, and how my biggest investment could be gradually eaten away by unseen forces whose existence I was barely even aware of. But thanks to the Internet, I’ve learned more about how exterminators prey on our ignorance, and will soon be studying how I can get a contract to keep them away from my house.

Let me look again at that Killingsworth.com site.

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