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The 'key' issue here is vendor/customer trust

Q: For more than a year, I have had my home cleaned by Steinmetz House Cleaning. About eight weeks ago, I decided to switch to another cleaning service. I called Sam Steinmetz, the owner, and left him a message to discontinue the cleaning service and return my house key. He had been given a key in order to enter my home to do the cleaning.

I have never received the key. I have called him several times, but only get his answering machine. I also have sent him an e-mail message via his business Web site. I also sent him a note with a self-addressed envelope, but have not gotten any results.

I do not have a current address for him, since I know he has moved. I sent the letter to his last address, in the hope that it would be forwarded. He doesn't return my calls or e-mail. The company must have gotten my message to stop cleaning for me, because they stopped coming.

I never had a problem with him and had even recommended his cleaning service to others. All of a sudden, when I dropped his service, I can't get my key back.

Anything you can do for me to get my key back would be appreciated.

-- Ed Drozen, East Amherst

A: You're right to be concerned about your missing house key, especially since keys can be so easily duplicated.

After sending Steinmetz House Cleaning a detailed e-mail on Dec. 18, and noted your problem, we placed a call to the company and left a message the following morning. The owner, Sam Steinmetz, called us that same morning to say that your problem had been resolved.

We spoke with Steinmetz and he acknowledged that he put your key return on "the backburner" and it got away from him. "This is a pretty new business, and I never did call him. I'd put it on the backburner," Steinmetz said.

Steinmetz questioned whether eight weeks had passed since you requested your key and also said that his mother had died three weeks ago and he was out of town for about two weeks. He said that he never received your e-mail. "I think we cleaned for him for 2 1/2 years, an on-and-off-again type of relationship," he said.

He told us that he mailed a letter of apology, along with your key, which you finally received Dec. 19.

Your complaint points to the importance of trust and how to handle such items as personal keys when consumers and companies are working together. It's something for both parties to be mindful of when doing business to ensure that such considerations are handled properly.

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