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The Right Advice at the Right Price

When undertaking a housekeeping project, chances are you’ll hit some sort of wall in the middle of it – a problem whose solution is a mystery.


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It may be a carpet stain you’re not sure how to treat, a vacuum that suddenly loses suction, whether or not to add bleach to a load of laundry, or any of a thousand other things.

There’s no need for confusion. The solutions are only as far away as your phone, which may be right in your pocket.

Answers at your fingertips


Yes, there’s a fast, easy way to get the information you need, solve the dilemma right away, and maintain the cleaning momentum that’s so critical to avoiding distractions and finishing the job.

Toll-free Telephone Helplines are printed on the labels of almost every cleaning product, especially those that come in bottles and boxes (laundry and dishwashing detergents, spray-on carpet stain treatments, baking soda, white vinegar, dryer sheets, bleach, and so on).

“Lo Bat!”


A peripheral housekeeping issue triggered this topic. It was a brutally-hot night here in Minneapolis, so I was tinkering with my central air thermostat when the words “lo bat” suddenly flashed on the control panel.

No problem. That meant “low battery.” Solution: replace with fresh ones. But after inserting a fresh set of AA’s and toggling the switch off and on to reboot, it still didn’t respond. I called the 800 number printed inside the thermostat’s cover, but they were closed for the night. So my dog, Coco, and I sweated out the night with a fan.

In hot pursuit


I called again in the morning and got Sean, who had a thick offshore accent but proceeded to talk me through the “lo bat” solution.

First mistake: I’d used rechargeable batteries – a no-go according to Sean, but something I never would have guessed.

Then he described another non-intuitive process: insert the fresh batteries in reversed polarity – that is, the “+” end where the casing said “–”, and vice-versa for the other one. Then remove the batteries and reinsert so that the polarities matched up, turn the system off and on again. It worked.

I thanked Sean, asked him where he was located. India. As a customer service snob, my favorite companies – Schwab, Comcast, and Procter & Gamble, to name a few – have stateside helplines, at least during the daytime. But hey, Sean helped me out just fine.

That’s exactly what helplines are for…instant answers. There are also some terrific side-benefits:

  • You talk to a real person within minutes of dialing.
  • The people you reach are very knowledgeable about their product and how to use it.
  • If they happen not to know the answer, they’ll find out quickly, either through a supervisor or a reference manual.
  • They’ll gladly go beyond basic product information; most will happily share extra tips and tricks to help make your task easier.
One of these big-company reps said she worked with 35 others who each fielded 60 to 70 calls in an average day. Besides asking how to use the product - a dishwashing liquid - callers would wonder whether it could also be used to wash cars, walls, windows and floors (yes to all), or to remove carpet stains (not recommended).

Help lines usually operate during U.S. business hours. After hours you can go to the product’s web site, where you’ll often find troubleshooting guidelines and Q&A sections.
The Right Advice at the Right Price:  Created on May 23rd, 2011.  Last Modified on January 21st, 2014


About Tom McNulty, author of CLEAN LIKE A MAN

Tom McNulty, author of CLEAN LIKE A MAN

Tom McNulty is the author of CLEAN LIKE A MAN — Housekeeping for Men (and the Women Who Love Them). It’s filled with dozens of tips, tricks and MANdatory Advice to streamline housecleaning. The book is available on and on Tom's own website,, where you'll find even more manly cleaning advice.