This evening I had one of those, ‘I’ve HAD it,’ moments with ‘the world is my ashtray’ people, and I wanted to share it with everyone.
A bit of background. My husband and I live on the edge of a small village of about 120 people. North, West and mostly South of us there is planting fields for several miles. Unfortunately, the village is divided by a railroad, because it grew up around several coal mines in the area, now long closed.
This is an active line, meaning several freight trains come through here daily, and a couple of times a month rail workers come through on their special trucks and such. Earlier this year they removed a relatively unknown and small crossing to the west of us that took locals over to an old garbage dump that serves as a gun plinking area and ATV trails. Since the crossing removal, traffic was virtually eliminated, as the service road to our house leads to that crossing a few hundred feet farther.
They have decided to reopen that crossing and did some work on it today, and here’s where it leads into my letter to these workers: (I tried very hard not to be profane. Please tell me I didn’t go overboard. I was so angry. I briefly considered sending a more heat filled letter to their headquarters, but I think I’ll wait and see what happens in this case.) 0911-14
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IMHO, I don’t think the OP was over the line at all. In fact, I encourage the OP to send it and, if possible, include some pictures. If management sees that it’s more than the stray cup, they’ll likely get on it.
Really? — Although it is, of course, rude and wrong to litter and discard trash, does the writer really think this kind of note will have any result? Do you believe that these workers have time/inclination to read this detailed explanation/justification of your pique? Also, it seems as though this is a temporary construction site, and the problem will not be ongoing. I don’t catch from the writer’s note exactly how this “letter” was delivered to the workers (posted somewhere?) – but I can’t help but wonder whether this type of missive would be either totally ignored or laughed at – or at worst: the cause for even MORE trash…
Agreed. This letter sounds like a prime candidate for posting on Passive-Aggressive Notes.
I think this was seriously over the top and ridiculously passive aggressive. I’d definitely read and scoff at passive aggressive notes if it was posted there.
Agree so much.
This letter is totally out of line. I get the annoyance with people throwing trash out but c’mon – speak to the workers or a foreman about it. Passing passive aggressive notes is so childish and accomplishes nothing. I would guess that there is twice as much trash the next time because of this note.
Firm but polite, and well thought out. Nicely done
I agree. Firm and polite and to the point.
To me this letter sounds a little bit too snarky, and you come off sounding a bit crazy, especially for a first communication to try and correct the problem. Let me say that I completely understand the frustration of having trash on your property. I currently live in a rent house that is right next to a local swimming pool, so trash gets thrown over the fence and into my yard. There’s not much of a solution for me, but to just grit my teeth and pick it up. I have spoken to the swimming pool management, but there’s only so much they can do.
I think that a letter attached to a box of trash bags that said something more along the lines of
Dear Union Pacific Guys,
Thank you for picking up your supplies each day after you finish up. We appreciate your hard work in our community. We would like to ask that you help us out by also picking up your personal trash (cigarette cartons, napkins, etc.). The wind tends to blow it onto our property, and we like to keep it as clean as possible for our community.
Thanks for your help in this manner! We really appreciate it!
B & R
Kill them with kindness and then talk to management higher up if it continues to be a problem. No need to start out in a negative manner.
Considering that it’s going to be a short-term project and the trash will not be permanent, I think OP’s letter was over the top. Yours would have been the perfect letter to send! I completely agree, kill them with kindness!
NWalker’s is a great first letter! Polite, clear, and not at all overwrought.
Why would you write a letter in the first place?
Just politely ask them to stop. They probably didn’t even realize that anyone would notice or care that they were throwing garbage. Approaching it nicely would probably have a very positive reaction. Leaving random notes has a much lower success rate.
The only problem with this is that it’s too long, and no one will read it for that reason. Reduce the message to a line or two that gets your message across, e.g., “Help us keep our village clean. Please dispose of your trash in the proper containers.” And make sure there is a container that’s convenient. If this doesn’t help, then write to the railroad office.
I feel your pain. I was sitting on my front porch and watched a county road worker litter at the end of my driveway. OF ALL PEOPLE. I picked it up and called the county garage and made a heated report to the supervisor, who offered to make him come and pick it up. I didn’t see the need to waste taxpayer gas, so I said it wasn’t necessary. I was assured by an acquaintance later that the litterbug was firmly corrected.
I hope so … but I’m not always confident that those “firm corrections” actually take place.
I was run off the highway and very nearly crunched into a guard rail by one of those construction company trucks with a “How’s my driving?” and a phone number on the back. I made a note of the truck’s ID number and the company, and sent a brief letter to the company, saying that I was forced onto the shoulder by a driver who entered my lane unsafely.
After two weeks, I got back a letter dripping with faux concern, and concluding by informing me that they would soon be working on a bridge project near my home, and that I should come watch them work, as he was “sure you will be quick to report any driver behavior that does not meet your expectations.”
Last time I did that.
Wow – I’d have lost my mind if I got that snarky response back from the construction company!! Why put those “How’s my driving” signs on these vehicles if you’re going to treat people with contempt for using them to report unsafe driving?? I think I’d try to find another avenue to someone higher up in this company, and send them copies of both letters. The reply you got was incredibly rude and unprofessional!!!
That’s infuriating. But in my case, I’m nearly certain it did happen, since the guy who told me about it was someone I volunteered with and he told me how mad the guy was. At me. Confirmed when the same two guys were sent out to check a failing culvert in front of our house, which was reported by the school bus driver. They told her AND my husband that it was a private culvert . Under a county road. Right. I just called the superintendent’s secretary and explained using words like “north” and explained”south” while she looked at a map. 3 days later, it was replaced. 🙂
That’s infuriating. But in my case, I’m nearly certain it did happen, since the guy who told me about it was someone I volunteered with and he told me how mad the guy was. At me. Confirmed when the same two guys were sent out to check a failing culvert in front of our house, which was reported by the school bus driver. They told her AND my husband that it was a private culvert . Under a county road. Right. I just called the superintendent’s secretary and explained using words like “north” and “south” while she looked at a map. 3 days later, it was replaced. 🙂
Where was this piece of paper to be posted? Somewhere where it falls on the ground and becomes another piece of litter?
I got the impression that she was sending it in to the higher ups…but if she’s posting it, there is potential for it to become litter itself.
Unfortunately, I can tell you from experience dealing with people like this that there is nothing that will get them to change. Not appeals to reason, not appeals to sympathy – nothing. I have never met a litterer whose entitlement is not intractable and impossible to change.
I’m sorry you have to deal with this.
Not necessarily. Even if the workers themselves don’t care about litter, most companies want to maintain good relationships with the public, and a complaint to a manager might be enough to ensure the area is left clean.
I wouldn’t have started with a letter. I’d have gone and spoken to them and asked them to ensure all their rubbish was taken away at the end of each day, and if that didn’t work, followed it up with a letter or phone call to the office.
You are more hopeful than I. I have been in environments where we were frequently reminded of standing orders not to litter, punishable by (insert punishment here) and the grounds would STILL be littered with a perpetually fresh supply of cigarette butts.
I need some help understanding exactly what the point of this post is. I’ve reread it at least 4 times and am just confused. Obviously, littering is wrong, but the overreaction to what appears to be 3 pieces of debris comes off as just bizarre. There’s no mention made that the Railroad Workers habitually litter in this area on a regular basis, it just happened on this one day. Why would someone become SO emotional about some trash? If it was habitual and egregious, sure, take a picture of the problem and let the company know…but the reaction to this is just so over the top. I dislike litter as much as the next person, but not enough to play litter detective. Garbage happens, sometimes completely on accident. For instance, as a dog owner, I stash plastic bags in my car in case I need them for poop pickup. I have been in a situation where a poop bag wasn’t properly secured and ended up flying out the window when I was driving 70mph. Yes, I felt bad that I unintentionally littered, but it’s not like I could have pulled over safely to pick it up. Now I know that it’s a possibility for wind to sweep through and cause havoc, I’m more conscientious about light items, but I’m not losing sleep about that one time a bag flew out of my car. For the amount of emotional energy and time the OP dedicated to this non-event, she could have easily picked up the three pieces of litter to pay it forward and went on her way.
I’m sorry but I must ask — how does a poop bag fly out of the window at any speed? Am trying to envision any circumstance in which it could become airborne in a typical passenger car or truck …
I have had this happen before, in Australia most of the shops give out light plastic bags and we try and re use them so they are not a waste. We usually put kids snacks in them for long trips. A few times we have had the windows open, my sons have put down the bag beside them after their snacks and the wind whips it up like a balloon and if we dont catch it it ends up sucked out the window. Believe me it can happen.
I think (I *hope*) ChiGrrl is talking about an empty bag…
I think Chigrrl meant an empty plastic bag that was to be used for poop, not one that had already been filled.
I’m assuming they are referring to empty poop bags and if the window is open and air blowing around the car, one can get loose and fly out. The ones I use are very lightweight. So I could see it happening.
The windows were open, the bag was loose and got caught by the wind coming through the truck. I think ChiGrrl’s bag was empty, so it didn’t have the needed weight to hold it down.
Ha. Yes, it was empty, but I do find it funny that people would think I’d drive around with used poop bags in my car. We are coming dangerously close to the poop bag debate territory which has historically entertaining. When the people who think it’s ok to throw their poop bags in other people’s bins and the people who think it’s NOT ok to use someone else’s bin start debating, things get heated. For the record, I think it’s just fine to throw your poop bag in someone’s garbage in most instances.
No! It is not OK! I can’t stand it when people throw their poop bags in my garbage bin on garbage day, after the trash has been picked up (which is when it happens, because the trash is picked up from the curb at around 9am on a weekday, and so the empty bin sits by the curb until I drag it back when I get home from work). So I have to keep their bag of poop for a week, and it will either get squished (and leak poop all over my garbage bin) by my kitchen trash bags that I put in after, or I have to reach in and grab the poop bag and put it in my larger trash bag. Either way, it’s completely gross, and I shouldn’t have to deal with your dog’s poop! Please carry your poop bag home and put it in your own trash.
Are you trying to start a debate? :P. I won’t add my own “for the record” opinion in order to not further the debate but I will say that what you do or do not think is irrelevant. It’s great that you think it’s “fine” but since it’s not your garbage bin, you do not get an opinion unless it’s something you’ve pre-cleared with the owner of said bin. Otherwise you’re rudely presuming upon someone else’s kindness and for whatever reason, it may not be a service they want to offer.
Oh, I get it now! LOL!
I don’t think your letter is rude, OP, but if this is the first time you’ve addressed the company and/or workers on this issue then it was not a very good opener. I really understand your anger and frustration but it is always best to start with a friendly “hey, can we talk about a problem?” than with a smack upside the head. People can be stupid and selfish and annoying without actually being bad people; they may just need a heads-up (yes, I know the problem’s obvious and only an idiot could be ignorant of it) for them to be compliant. This has been my experience with stupid workers; asking politely has often brought about the desired changes while stomping in, angry, has often resulted in a stubborn refusal to be helpful.
You could, if you wanted to invest the time and money, package up their garbage and send it off to the company with an explanation of the timeline and location and how you know, for sure, that it’s the workers who are responsible. The secretary/manager would not be thrilled to receive the litter in their office and that could spur some training for the workers.
” This has been my experience with stupid workers; asking politely has often brought about the desired changes while stomping in, angry, has often resulted in a stubborn refusal to be helpful.”
This. All you accomplish when you are rude is to embarrass yourself… For example, I was a manager at a fast food restaurant for several years. At the start of my shift one day, a woman came in screaming that we missed one of her burgers (it was a very large order), she wanted it fixed, and now we had to give her something for free. I quickly looked around, and gave her the absolute cheapest thing I could get her to get her out of my face (a bottle of pop). An hour or two later, a woman came in and told me “I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m missing an order of onion rings. Could I please get them replaced?” As our apology, she got her rings, two apple pies, and her rings refunded… The moral? You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! 🙂
That’s a really long, passive aggressive letter for 2 items that may have blown out of the back of a pick-up truck.
If you noticed an increase of garbage, why not go down and introduce yourself to a supervisor and explain the situation?
That’s a good point. We don’t know that they littered intentionally.
If you leave trash in the back of your pickup and it blows out, you are a litterer, and deserve contempt.
Yes, it’s still littering, but being unintentional and possibly unnoticed by the litterer only makes the letter writer appear even more over the top. Without any real proof that the littering was done by the workers or that it was done with intent, the letter writer comes off as extreme and the letter likely goes ignored.
I’ve noticed that while face-to-face communication only sometimes work, the posted note rarely does. This will likely get ignored, or worse.
Good idea. The letter is far too long and the LW’s tone is not going to get sympathy. What’s the goal here? Being right, or getting the trash picked up?
Agreed. The letter was major overkill. I wonder what the response was.
One napkin and one cigarette carton is not a hill I would personally choose to die on as far as keeping the road in front of my house looking clean, given that the effort and discomfort of picking up two/three pieces of litter is minimal compared to allowing myself to get furious enough to write the above letter. Particularly since you yourself acknowledge in your letter that they are making the effort to be tidy and also since it seems that the work being done nearby is just a temporary situation.
You are well within your rights to write a letter, but I think you are overreacting. A lot. When people are working outdoors, in my opinion it is unreasonable to expect that not one single piece of litter will ever be found nearby, every day. I think you need to just appreciate the fact that they seem to be making the effort to be clean, and that even with the best intentions people aren’t always as neat as a pin.
I see this letter is from last year. I would like an update from the OP where she posted it, how it was received and if a letter to the home office was necessary.
Having to pick up another person’s trash is annoying. I get that as I live on a corner lot going into a subdivision and people are always throwing trash out as they pull in or out. Every week we have to pick up at least a half bag (13 gallon) of trash out of our yard and ditches. A letter to the HOA would not do anything as we can’t “prove” who threw it out ( I asked). If 3 pieces of trash are all you’ve had to pick up, once, I envy you.
Evil me would love to be able to see the person throwing it out or figure out who the trash belonged to and return it with a note that says “You lost something as you pulled in”.
I wouldn’t bother with this letter. Litterers aren’t going to just stop because of your letter. However, a letter to their superiors might get something to happen. If it doesn’t, it was a lost cause to begin with.
Send it straight to the people in charge. I think posting this will only cause more trash to be thrown out in your area. It’s also assuming a lot to believe that “the world is their ashtray people” even read signs, or if they did, believe that the signs apply to *them*. These people don’t care, and they don’t care if it bothers you, which is why I recommend going right over their heads to management.
This seems like a really lengthy snarky post for three pieces of trash, which could have been accidental.
I know that there have been occasions where no matter how hard I work to keep the inside of my car clean and trash free, sometimes stuff falls without me noticing, and then I happen to have it follow me out of the car, whether it gets stuck to my shoe, or the wind blows it, or any other reason this has happened.
What if the guy who dropped the cigarette box had every intention of taking it with him and threw it in his truck but then at the end of the day when he went to throw the rest of his stuff in the truck, something nudged the box and it fell out without him realizing?
You also say that traffic was “virtually eliminated” not that it WAS eliminated, so there’s a chance a car went by that you didn’t see, and they were the ones who threw the trash, so you could be blaming these workers for nothing.
So I agree with the other posters saying you should politely talk to them in person first and then if it continues to be an issue, involving more than what seems like three pieces of trash at a time, then you can write a letter and send it to the higher ups.
I went hiking a couple weekends ago, the first day was wonderful, not another person in sight even though it’s a decently popular location.
The next day I went back because I was more equip for the journey that time. As I got to exploring more, I found a nasty amount of trash that I hadn’t seen the other day at all. It was so disheartening to say the least. Some people are filthy and know no shame or respect for nature/public/shared property like that.
So my point is I hate trash being everywhere as well. However I think the letter is above and beyond, this is the kind of thing that makes people want to do the bad-behavior more, since they know it causes something so over the top. This kind of disrespectful individual is not easily shamed from my experience, so I’d be more worried about the retaliation trash, bleh.
My husband is a foreman for a railroad construction crew. In the back of his work truck, among all the tools, is a box of plastic garbage bags for his guys to toss their garbage in over the course of the day. Most crews do the same thing because it is embarrassing to be contacted by management over something as preventable as littering. However, occasionally the wind blows up, or the last guy who threw something away didn’t close the bag well enough, and something flies out. Honestly, this sounds like what happened to OP. A paper towel, a cigarette carton, and a piece of plastic that got caught up by the wind hardly sounds like something worth getting stressed out enough over to write an admonishing letter.
Railroad workers work very hard, and it is sometimes a thankless job. Nobody is perfect, and to get so upset over a couple pieces of trash doesn’t make anybody’s lives better.
If you litter, you pick it up, even if your intent was not to litter. I can’t think of anything more rude than forcing someone to pick up your garbage because you are too lazy to do so.
But did they NOTICE that stuff had fallen out??
Not seeing the garbage blow out of the back of the truck does not equate being too lazy to pick it up.
Putting garbage in the back of a pickup truck where there is a high likelihood of it blowing out is littering. Every truck owner in the entire world knows that if they put trash in the bed of their pickup, it is likely that the trash won’t be there when they arrive at their destination. Just because they didn’t witness the trash leave their truck, doesn’t excuse them from littering. The trash doesn’t magically disappear into the ether. It winds up as litter on someone else’s property.
OP, I hate to tell you this, but all that letter–or more accurately, all the weirdly obsessive detail in the letter–is going to get you is a reputation as “those crazy old fogeys with too much time on their hands”, regardless of your actual age or sanity level.
I do understand trying hard not to give way to temper, but as a result you’re way, waaaaaay overthinking what should’ve been a simple, friendly, “Hey, guys, keep the litter off my lawn please and thanks?” If that doesn’t work, THEN you escalate to the full Poirot act, so their supervisors know exactly what to do. The situation as you describe it doesn’t sound like it’s escalated nearly that far as yet.
1. In-person communication is best- kind, specific and polite (to either the workers or the supervisor in office)
2. Use your cell phone to record it if you actually witness an episode. Forward to the appropriate contact.
In extreme cases, notify police, who can issue a ticket for littering. You’re not “there” yet, in my opinion. I’d try talking a few times, first. Omit expressive curlicues like “I know it was you guys” and any expostulating whether verbal or written- it detracts from your message.
Yeah….agreed that a short, to-the-point and non-judgemental note would probably be better than a four paragraph letter that specifically calls out dates and items.
Also, I’m a little confused – is the trash on your property, or is it on a road that leads to your property? If it’s a public space, would you have better luck being taken seriously by going through a middleman? I think if I were in charge of a group of people, I’d be more likely to listen to the mayor/park commissioner/whoever there might be than a single resident, if I were being told there was too much litter.
Oh wow… I’m the OP on this, and I submitted this so long ago, I had read through the first few sentences before I realized that I wrote it! Yes, I do certainly agree with the commenters so far that I sound kind of crazy, and admittedly at the time I was very angry and did not state in my opening remarks that this happens A LOT. All. The. Time. Every time the RR guys are down there working, and even when they’re driving through the village on their trucks that roll along the tracks, they’re throwing out garbage. This being posted now is strangely timely as they’re getting ready to start replacing rail through town, and the garbage is already starting to fly around down there. Again.
What’s worse is they’ll throw out their half eaten lunches, sometimes still in their plastic bags and our dogs find them before I can get to them to get them to leave it. Stuff dogs shouldn’t be eating like grapes, onions, etc.
I *was* going to stick all that stuff (there was more than just what I wrote on that flyer that I left) in an envelope and send it to them, but the hubby talked me out of it. Said we’d wait to see if anything else happened, and it looks like this time will be our moment! They’ve only dumped all the rails down there so far along with their preliminary pieces of litter, but they should be starting again any time.
In that case I would talk to the corporate office. It does sounds like a problem but it’s not going to get solved with posting a note.
Why don’t you just ask the corporate office to station some garbage cans, or something, on the easement or road the railroad controls? Or ask your municipal officials to take care of it.
If you don’t want your dogs eating that kind of thing don’t have them wandering around unleashed. Simple.
While the letter writer has all the best intentions this letter is too long and lecture-y to give to grown adults you’ve never met over a few bits of garbage. I think their reaction will be “tl;dr”.
Short and sweet. “Please remember to gather all your trash! Thank you. ~Residents.”
If the problem continues then I would contact the supervisor by phone.
The dates don’t match up:
OP states that “This evening” she’s had one of those moments. Her complaint is posted here on July 23, 2015.
Her [draft] complaint letter to the railroad – that she wants our comments on – is dated September 11, 2014 – nearly 9 months earlier!
Although I note that Admin appended a time stamp(?) of “0911-14” to the OP, so this may be a rerun or a late submittal on her part.
She actually re ran a letter recently. I wish she would stick to recent letters and not be lazy.
I appreciate the sentiment, OP, but your letter is going a bit too far. Not only is it overly wordy but repeating “we know it’s you, we know it’s you” makes you sound like all you do is spy on these men and monitor their every move. They probably didn’t intentionally throw their trash on the ground just to soil the town. If you noticed the trash, and you noticed the trash bag, and you were perturbed, it would have taken less effort to throw away the couple of pieces of trash than to get all worked up and write this letter, which, possibly, could inspire the workers to start spitefully littering. If you insist on a letter, I agree with NWalker in terms of the letter’s content
It’s well constructed from a grammar standpoint. It’s not over-the-line in terms of tone.
I agree with the others in these comments who say it’s too long to send as-is.
If you want something to be read, especially when it’s a complaint, it’s best to keep it short and to the point. Identify the problem, present a solution or request the desired remedy, cordially thank the person for their time in reading your letter and for the good things they’re doing (because it’s almost never all inconveniences and errors).
I think NWalker’s version is pretty good.
In my experience, a letter like this will just make them litter more to spite you. Instead, find out who is in charge of the crew and complain to them. Don’t detail the amount of litter… just say you’ve been finding a lot more litter since they started work and you don’t appreciate finding trash in your yard.
Not rude, but over done, and still. NWalker’s was a better pass at it. And Denise has a good one too.
If you wanted bad, I spent a lot of my formative year summers out in the sun picking ditches so we could mow them (rake and bale them), and a week later you couldn’t tell we picked up all those beercans, fast food wrappers and old drink cups, not to mention a few that decided to just heave their house trash into the ditch. And this was the 70’s. It’s worse now.
I have two city dumpsters on my property and forever get to pick up everything that doesn’t make the trash or didn’t make it into the truck. I have to look at it, I try to clean it up. And one neighbor that never gets it; you can’t put bricks, tumbleweeds, and yard trash loose onto the dumpsters either. The city yelled at me for who packed the 10 yard dumpster full of tumble weeds… at least I knew who did it and informed them. The dumpster had to be tipped over and emptied by hand… four guys and the city forklift. Not fun. If I only have to pick up a few papertowels and a cigarette carton, that’s not bad. I can see both sides of it but I think the OP is a little over on the letter they wrote.
I think it’s well written, although given the circumstances it’s somewhat of a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
From this Brit’s perspective it’s a bit too… ‘nice’. Personally, I’d have put up a simple sign saying ‘Please respect our residential area by picking up all your litter, thank you’. If that failed, I would simply contact the works supervisor and complain.
I feel like a telephone call would do better than a letter. You know the company, and I’m sure they have a contact number listed on the web. It might get a better response or at least you’ll know their stance right away. “Hi this is OP from XYZ town. Our property is adjacent to the tracks at ABC crossing and during recent work on 7/11/14 we noticed an up tick in litter after your crew left.” You’ll either get a response that they apologize and work sites are to be cleaned up each evening. Or you might get a too bad, so sad response. If its the latter, a letter stating you tried to resolving it in a friendly manner to the higher-ups might get more attention.
Easy there, Javert. 😉 A paper napkin and an empty cigarette pack? You appear to have an extremely low “HAD it” threshold. What was Plan B? Dusting the trash for fingerprints?
Unless you live in Disneyland, a little trash is going to blow through your life. Just pick it up. And learn to pick your battles.
As for your update, don’t let your dogs run loose. There are lots of things they shouldn’t be eating, but you can’t expect the world to police itself on that basis. That’s your job.
I’m sitting here shocked that the OP had to stop themselves from being profane over 3 pieces of trash. I’ve encountered all kinds of mutterings and not been temped to send them an OTT passive aggressive note. Obviously I don’t know the backstory but I wonder if they harbor contempt for the railroad and the being opened near their house hence this letter.
A couple things. First, Union Pacific is the largest railroad in the US. Sending a letter to corporate is likely to have no effect, as there will be a fair amount of bureaucracy for it to filter through, and it will probably end up in a PR office, not in the office of anyone with authority over maintenance and construction. Second, speaking to a foreman in person would likely entail trespassing on UPRR property. That will attract all manner of attention to yourself that you do not want (Homeland security and the like).