INfrequently Asked Questions: Pooper scooper says business is 'picking up'
This week's INfrequently Asked Questions column talks to Ron Johnson, who lives near West Chicago. Johnson, with his wife, Sandi, operates Ron John Poo-B-Gone (motto: "I am #1 for your pet's #2"). He says he's the solution to your pet's pollution, with no time to waste, only time FOR waste.
Q: Is this a full-time job?
A: "I do this five days a week, basically sunup to sundown."
Q: That's a lot of time.
A: "Yes it is. Probably 70 hours a week or more, with invoices and billing paperwork."
Q: Who hires you?
A: "I have customers from Barrington south to Plainfield and west out toward Sugar Grove and east to Melrose Park. …
A lot of people have disabilities, a lot of people are two-income families and don't have time to do the pickup themselves, or they just don't want to or can't deal with it."
Q: What's the grossest thing you've found?
A: "There's unusual things. The head of a small dog toy. A lot of times I see glitter. Dogs will eat crayons, and the waste will come out different colors. As far as gross? It's hard to say. What might be gross to one person, I find as normal."
Q: What's the thing you hear most from people?
A: "They'll go, 'How's business?' and my response is, 'Picking up.'"
Q: You seem to appreciate the humor in your job.
A: "To me, dog waste is just brown gold, if you want to call it that. Like black gold. Like oil. To me, the waste is my living. It's the money. And I try to maintain a sense of humor."
Q: How often do you step in poop?
A: "Daily. Especially this time of year with the leaves."
Q: What are the best conditions for poop collection?
A: "The best time of the year is in the spring or fall when it's a nice day and a semi-cool temperature."
Q: What's the worst?
A: "This time of year with the leaves covering the waste, it's absolutely terrible. In the winter, I follow tracks. If I see an area where a dog has circled, I'll kind of dig around in there with the rake and find the pile."
Q: What are the downfalls to your job?
A: "Some people think, 'Well, it's just poop. How hard can that be?' Well, it is hard. Just picking up the buckets that are full and the scooping, the bending, the raking. The walking up and down the hills in people's yards. It's pretty difficult.
"You have to watch out for the tree limbs so you don't poke out your eye. Sometimes I'll step in holes in people's yards that the dogs have dug, and you twist your ankle. There's a lot of different hazards."
Q: How do you charge?
A: "It's by the number and size of dogs, the size of the yard, and the frequency of the pickup. For one small or medium dog in a standard-sized yard, it's $10 if I double bag it and leave it. It's $11 if I take it with me."
Q: How long does the average yard take?
A: "It usually takes about 15 minutes. I go back and forth across the yard one way and then go the other way like a checkerboard pattern to make sure that I don't miss anything."
Q: It's interesting and kind of cool that this is what you do for a living.
A: "A lot of people don't even know that any such business exists. When I first started, I had some family members who said, 'You're never going to be able to make a business out of that.' But, as it turns out, I proved them wrong. And here I am, 13 years later."
INfrequently Asked QuestionsA weekly feature of the Daily Herald that explores the sides of suburbanites' jobs or hobbies that you might have always wondered about. To see more, go to www.dailyherald.com/topics/INfrequently-Asked-Questions/