A policy that should not be overlooked in professional pet sitting
Confidentiality in professional circles is important to good business. It doesn't matter if you work in a huge corporation or run a solo pet sitting business. When confidence is expected, it should happen.
When clients give you the key to their homes to pet sit for their sweet furry, feathery or scaley babies, there is a silent expectation that you will keep their names, locations, and "particulars" to yourself. I'm of the mind to say that it shouldn't be a silent expectation but something that a pet sitter brings out in initial discussions with a potential client.
Keeping client confidentiality = integrity in business.
When meeting new clients at a Meet and Greet, I would let them know that I would not give out their names, addresses, etc....out to anyone. It is one thing to share about a pet sitting situation or a story about a funny pet or even a concern about a client on an anonymous basis in order to teach or share wisdom or get advice from another sitter, but (ex: case in point - a blog like this) it is another to say something like "Do you know Mrs. So and So forgot her passport and so she asked me to go into her secret hiding place and next-day mail it to her so she could continue her trip? Do you want to know where she hides it - it is in the most unusual place!"
The following stories are true and happened years ago - the clients and pets have sinced passed away. Although I'll tell you the stories, I will still not tell you names or places. These stories share important points for you, my pet-loving readers.
One time I was walking a dog in a quiet area during the off-season. Our solitude was punctuated by a VW bug pulling over and three fairly large women getting out of it. They walked right over to me quickly, which unnerved me. Initially, I figured they wanted directions but instead, they walked right up to the dog and asked me "Is this ___________(insert name of celebrity) dog?" I went to pick up the small dog to hold her close to me. Red flags popped up in my mind of this little dog being kidnapped on the spot. Just as I held her in my arms one of the ladies reached to check the dog's tags. I pulled back and refused her advances, thinking she was going to snatch the dog from me. "Is this his (insert celebrity name again) dog?" the lady said again. I firmly said no and told them I had no idea if even this celebrity lived in the area. They asked me more questions and they thought I was lying to them (I was not.) and they believed it was indeed this particular celebrity's dog. I calmly ended the conversation, wished them a good day, told them I needed to go, and started walking away. After I saw their car leave, I put the dog down and we continued our walk. Once I got back to my client's house I mentioned the incident and the owner told me that this particular celebrity indeed had a dog like her's and occasionally came to this area to visit.
Another time I was walking a dog and an older woman asked me if the dog belonged to a certain lady in her social circle. I knew if I said "yes" then this lady would tell my client I said "yes" and then I'd catch it for breaking confidentiality. So I politely said I was sorry but it was my policy not to share clients' names. She was quite angry with me and said she was going to "tell on me" to her friend for my supposed "attitude" towards her. By the time I returned to my client's home with the dog, the friend had already called her and told her that a rude pet sitter wouldn't tell her that it was her friend's dog. I started to apologize because I was just keeping my policy of confidentiality, but my client broke out into laughter and praised me up and down for how I handled the situation. She explained that this particular lady was always trying to bud into her business and not only did I do the right thing (which I knew I did anyway) but I helped her "get the goat" of her friend.
There have been other times where clients' neighbors knew I was pet sitting for their neighbor and would ask me things like "where did they go on vacation?" or "can I pop in the house with you for just a minute to pick up a book I loaned them?" (no way), or would try and ask for other information like the specific times I was to come (not their business), etc...
I am getting a bit long-winded here but wanted to share a few examples with you. It is not that a sitter wants to be rude, but when you say you keep confidence. Keep it.
It is one thing to share stories with clients about other pets and pet sitting situations to teach or explain a reason why you do or don't do something in your business or to show how you successfully handled a situation, but it is not okay to say their names or locations or other particulars that would give their identity away. For instance, I would share how other clients might handle a litter box problem with another client to share the advice but never would disclose their names, locations, etc..
Some clients may give you special permission to talk to a neighbor about a particular situation and that is okay, but put it in writing in the Meet and Greet notes or in an e-mail confirming that you've understood it is okay to do so. But still, no need for them to enter the home unless they are an emergency plumber or something and you stay in the house with them while they do repairs.
I would add to this blog post that it is never okay to let anyone into the house while you are pet sitting - this means not bringing a friend along with you on your pet sitting rounds, or a child, or husband. If you are a family business and share pet sitting responsibilities this must be spelled out to the client ahead of time to make sure he/she is okay with it. The aforementioned plumbers are different situations as long as clients have been notified and permission is granted either at the time of the problem or in writing before the trip.
A good business reputation can become a bad one if confidentiality is broken. Lots of pet sitting clients are gained by word of mouth from other clients. So the last thing you want to do is break confidentiality. Once trust is lost, it is usually lost forever.
Hope this helps. If you have any questions, just let me know.