|Traded as||NYSE: ROL|
|Headquarters||Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.|
|Number of locations||More than 400|
Orkin is an Atlanta-based company that provides residential and commercial pest-control services. The company was founded in 1901 and became a wholly owned subsidiary when it was purchased by Rollins Inc. in 1964. Orkin has held research partnerships with universities around the country and with organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dating back to 1990 for pest biology research and pest-related disease studies. It has been ranked on Training Magazine's Top 125 list for its training programs since 2002.
- 1 History
- 2 Treatments and services
- 3 Research partnerships and education
- 4 Training
- 5 Brand
- 6 Partnerships and sponsorships
- 7 Controversies
- 8 Notes
- 9 Works cited
- 10 External links
Otto the Rat Man
Orkin was founded in Lockport, Pennsylvania in 1901 by Otto Orkin, who began selling rat poison door-to-door at age 14. One of six children of a Latvian immigrant family, it was Otto's responsibility from an early age to shoot and poison rats to keep them out of the family's food stores and away from their farm animals. At age 12, Orkin began experimenting with different methods to poison rats in order to discover the most effective ones. When he was 14, Orkin borrowed 50 cents from his parents to buy arsenic in bulk, and he began consulting with apothecaries about the best proportions and mixtures to use. His initial rat poison formulas contained a combination of arsenic and phosphorus paste, mixed with fresh food scraps or red-dyed flour or sugar (so that it would not be mistaken as edible). He began offering his preparations to his neighbors for free, carrying inside what would become his signature black satchel a number of measured amounts of poison in paper bags that bore the word "POISON" along with a drawing of a skull and crossbones. If the customer was satisfied with the effectiveness of Orkin's rat poison and wanted more to use, only then would he charge them for his service. Within six months, Orkin had several regular customers.
Orkin began expanding his business outside his hometown by taking advantage of its proximity to the Lehigh Railway, which ran from New York City to Buffalo. This allowed for easy travel to nearly anywhere in the United States. Orkin chose to travel south. His research had led him to determine that Richmond, Virginia was a city that did not have an established extermination business, and so in 1909, Orkin arrived there, and began to establish not only his poison sales business in the area, but an extermination service business, as well. Orkin found that it was much more practical and economical to perform a single "clean-out" service and then return regularly to ensure the pests could no longer secure a foothold in a building than it was to perform a full "clean-out" service once or twice a year. It was also during this time that Orkin sought to elevate the perception of his occupation by launching a public relations campaign that touted extermination services as necessary to good sanitation. Though Orkin had maintained an unofficial office in a Richmond boarding house since 1909, Orkin's business remained "officially" headquartered at a post office address in Easton, Pennsylvania until 1912, when he established an official office in downtown Richmond. It was from here that Orkin received his first government contract in 1925 with the Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate the rat infestation of the Wilson Dam in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. On the way to Muscle Shoals, Orkin stopped in Atlanta, Georgia, a city that had no real exterminator business presence at the time. He was thus inspired to move his headquarters to the city.
Orkin Exterminating Company
"Orkin The Rat Man" became the Orkin Exterminating Company when it moved its headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia in January 1926 (though it would maintain the brand of "Orkin The Rat Man" in Virginia until 1956). The office opened at the 609 Candler building on January 2 with Otto Orkin as president and his nephew, Theodore Oser, as vice president of sales. By April of that year, Orkin serviced over 24 major clients in the city of Atlanta, which he listed proudly in advertisements he took out in the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce's publication, City Builder. In August 1926, the now-familiar red and white Orkin diamond logo began appearing on advertisements and official company letterheads to replace The Rat Man.
The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression had little effect on Orkin's business. The company's offices moved to a larger space at 82 Courtland Street in 1929, and by 1930, Orkin had 13 branches in eight southern states. The branch offices were mostly run by relatives who had worked for him in the original Atlanta and Richmond offices. To start a new branch office, Otto would invest $5,000 ($70,588 today), from which a salary of $50 per week ($706 today) was paid to the branch partner (and to Otto while he helped set up the branch), premises were secured, staff was hired, and purchases of a service truck, tools, supplies, and advertising were made. The balance of the funds was typically enough to keep the branch solvent while it built a customer base to become self-sufficient, but occasionally funds ran low and the branch could not afford to pay Otto his salary. In these cases, he accepted an "IOU," and collected the interest on this and his initial investment once the office began to make money and applied the money to the investment in another branch.
Orkin expanded its methods and its service offerings throughout the 1930s to include fumigation and termite removal. Otto was late to adopt either of these, as he had concerns about the safety of the chemicals involved. Beginning in 1937, Otto sought to centralize his business. Prior to this, each branch operated mostly autonomously, adhering to most of the same standards and systems, but this independence caused some confusion among consumers, many of whom believed each Orkin branch was an independently owned franchise. This consolidation helped every Orkin branch be recognized as part of a single company and centralized all national billing through the Atlanta office. These changes spurred further state-by-state growth, moving outward from the core of southern states the company was already in. By 1940, Orkin had 50 branches in 14 states, including branch offices in nearly every major southern city. Gross sales that year were around $1.5 million ($25,250,594 today).
World War II and postwar growth
The United States' entry into World War II in 1941 posed challenges to Orkin in the form of shortages of personnel, chemicals and supplies. In the particular face of personnel shortages, Ted Oser worked with the National Pest Control Association founder, Bill Buettner, to meet with legislators, rationing boards, and other government agencies to convince them to classify pest control as an "essential service" during the war. Such classification would afford Orkin (and other pest control companies) draft deferments and placement on a preference list to receive chemicals and supplies such as gasoline, tires, and food ration points to manufacture rat bait. Pest control became one of only two service industries operating during the war to be declared as "essential"—the other was mortuary service. The war also caused a growth in the number of military contracts that Orkin took on—the company had over 150 military establishments under contract for regular bed bug fumigations and pest control, and many railroads maintained around-the-clock service agreements that had Orkin pest control teams sleeping in shifts on cots in the rail yards. Pest control services for homes and businesses also remained in demand on top of all of the additional wartime service that Orkin was providing. This overall increase in demand strained the company's resources, particularly since the chemicals that were most readily available for pest control were not as effective and required more frequent treatments, which often overextended the already limited number of workers. In order to maximize resources, many branch offices were consolidated, some accounts were serviced less often, and service providers traveled further and more often. Despite wartime shortages, however, Orkin not only survived, but it actually grew. In 1945, the company had record gross sales of $2.098 million ($27,483,412 today) and maintained 82 branches in 14 states.
Following the war, the introduction of new, more powerful chemicals for extermination led to a cultural change in the company as it sought to hire academics and experts in the fields of public health, entomology, chemistry, and sanitation. Among these hires was Herman Fellton, formerly of the U.S. Public Health Service, as Orkin's technical director. Fellton centralized and standardized the purchase, use, and storage of chemicals and supplies in all of Orkin's field offices, and he placed an intense focus on training for branch managers and supervisors, conducting four-day training courses and developing printed instructions for the use and handling of all chemicals. The cultural change also had effects on the literal appearance of the company—the company moved once again into new offices at 590 Courtland Street and the adjacent building at 591 Peachtree. For the first time, the executive offices were separate from the service department, with the former in the Peachtree building, and the latter in the Courtland building. In 1947, Orkin began issuing company-wide uniforms for its service technicians that followed the professional appearance that Otto had long required of his employees and bore the red diamond Orkin logo on the hats, jackets and shirts.
The introduction of new, more effective chemicals for pest control led to the expansion of Orkin's termite and fumigation services, in particular. Following the goals set by Felton, Orkin recognized the necessity of properly handing the chamicals, and the company was instrumental in emphasizing safety practices within the pest control industry, with Oser being named president of the NPCA in 1944 on a safety platform. Oser was also instrumental in forcing the shift in both industry and public attitudes that hiring a pest control service was not something to be ashamed of, but rather something that was a valuable service that protected the health and welfare of people and property.
By 1950, Orkin had grown to 141 branches in 20 states, with over 1,000 employees and $6 million ($58,813,278 today) in sales. The company's growth exploded throughout the 1950s and is largely attributed to Orkin's profit-sharing and incentive programs for its employees. Many branch and district managers made several times what Otto himself did each year, and many employees became millionaires through Orkin's profit-sharing. Gross revenues more than doubled to $15.6 million in 1956. The 1950s also brought a new advertising medium—television. The cartoon mascot of "Otto the Orkin Man", an anthropomorphized pesticide spray can, and his accompanying jingle became one of the most recognizable advertisements in the United States. The boom in positive public relations for the company and the public interest in the real Otto Orkin that the television advertisements generated affected everything from branding on the caps worn by service technicians and the trucks (both now bore the "Otto" character as well as the Orkin diamond) to the details of the company headquarters' relocation to 713 West Peachtree Street in 1951. Every expense of the move was publicly reported; the building was modernly appointed, and upon its opening, Orkin staged an open house for the public to tour the offices and enjoy a variety of entertainment and exhibits.
The rise of Otto's sons (Sanford and William) and sons-in-law (Petty Bregman and Perry Kaye) up through the ranks of the company during the 1950s resulted in a number of changes in the company's management structure. Many of Orkin's long-term executives, including Bregman, either quit or were fired by Kaye or one of Otto's sons. Otto struggled with his sons and Kaye over control of the company. The youngest Orkin son, William, was determined that the company not have any executives outside the Orkin family, and by the mid 1950s, Otto himself had become relegated to figurehead status within the company by his sons and sons-in-law.
In the late 1950s, rumors began to circulate that questioned Otto's mental soundness in his old age. Despite the insistence of a number of employees to the press that Otto was still very much of sound mind, the rumors persisted. Further rumors in the press suggested that Kaye and Otto's sons sought to exaggerate Otto's condition in order to expedite their takeover of the company. On May 16, 1960, when Kaye and Otto's sons had Otto institutionalized and declared legally incompetent. This occurred not long after Otto had transferred his controlling stake in the company to his sons and oldest daughter (Kaye's wife). Otto successfully fought to have his competency status restored, aided by his younger daughter, Gloria; her husband, Petty Bregman; and Ted Oser. The Fulton County lunacy commission made its ruling as to Otto's sanity in August 1960. Otto filed a lawsuit against his sons, his daughter Beatrice, and her husband Perry Kaye, accusing them of conspiring to have him declared incompetent so that they could take over the company, but he eventually settled with them out of court. At the end of 1960, Otto and Gloria both sold their remaining shares of the company for $5.35 million ($42,649,550 today) and $750,000 ($5,978,909 today), respectively.
Orkin was troubled by more than leadership changes in the period from 1958 to 1961. Pest resistance to common insecticides, growing regulations over the pest control industry, and a number deaths attributed to pesticides resulted in a drop in annual revenues for Orkin in 1960 for the first time in the company's history. In August 1961, the three Orkin siblings who retained ownership over the company—Sanford, William, and Bernice—sold 360,000 shares, about 15 percent of the interest in the company, to the public at $24 per share ($189 today), "in order to diversify on a personal basis". Orkin's first report to its stockholders noted the company's highest profits ever and announced plans for the construction of a new home office building, to be located at 2170 Piedmont Road. Orkin set revenue and profit records again in 1963 and executives often cited the "potential" of the business. However, a true rumor had begun to circulate—Orkin was for sale. In April 1964, the company was acquired by Rollins Inc. for $62.4 million ($474,494,421 today).
Treatments and services
Pest control is the management of a species defined as a pest because it is perceived to be detrimental to a person's health, the ecology or the economy. Orkin’s uses its A.I.M. (assess, implement, monitor) Solution for pest control, which includes assessing activity, implementing a program based on the activity, and monitoring the program’s effectiveness for the customer. Orkin uses a proactive approach, incorporating treatments with the least impact on the environment, to help prevent pest activity.
|Termites||Wood-destroying insects like termites cause billions of dollars in property damage every year in the U.S. Termites feed on wood products and are found inside and outside the home near gutters, fences, patios, decks, windows, attic vents, etc. Termite activity can be hard to identify because these pests eat wood from the inside out. It can take years before a homeowner sees damage to the home.
Annual inspections by licensed professionals can help track warning signs of termite activity. Orkin provides termite inspections and customizes treatment options based on the home and the customer’s needs.
|Mosquitoes||As temperatures warm up in the spring and summer, pests like mosquitoes become more active, causing people to be cautious while enjoying outdoor activities.
More than just a nuisance, mosquitoes can transmit potentially harmful diseases like malaria and West Nile Virus. Mosquitoes breed in standing water and often rest in shrubbery and grass around homes. Mosquito populations can increase after heavy rainfall. However, mosquitoes only need a few inches of water to reproduce. Mild winters and warmer temperatures during the spring can also cause mosquitoes to become more active and to reproduce earlier than usual, resulting in possibly one or two extra pest generations in a year. Orkin’s mosquito service helps reduce conditions that exist around the home and allow mosquitoes to survive and thrive.
|Bed Bugs||Bed bug activity is on the rise due to increased international travel and resistance to pesticides. These pests are flat, brown and similar in shape to an apple seed and have been found in hotels, offices, malls and other public places where they can feed on humans. Bed bugs can travel quickly, and they are known to “hitchhike” on items like suitcases, purses and backpacks. Orkin uses several techniques to help identify and control bed bugs, one of which includes bed bug DNA testing. An Orkin specialist swabs areas where bed bugs typically crawl and sends it to a testing lab to determine any presence of bed bugs.|
|Stink Bugs||Stink bug populations have increased across the U.S. since the first sighting in the Mid-Atlantic region. Stink bugs are agricultural pests that feed on and damage crops and plants, causing significant problems for farmers and homeowners. In the fall, they look for a warm place, such as inside homes, to stay during the winter. Stink bugs produce a foul smell when disturbed, so contacting a professional, instead of squishing them, is advised.|
|Other services||Orkin also provides inspection and control services for several pests, including: ants, cockroaches, spiders, rodents, ticks, fleas, and wasps.|
Research partnerships and education
Orkin has had research partnerships and entomology endowments with universities since 1990 to study pest behavior and biology. The research aids the company in finding new prevention and treatment methods. These universities include Auburn University, University of California Riverside, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, Purdue University, University of Tennessee, and Texas A&M University.
Additionally, Orkin sponsors and conducts a number of educational programs and initiatives centered around teaching pest identification, entomology, and science basics primarily to K-6 students. The company has also sponsored a permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian to encourage a better understanding of insects and arthropods among the general public.
O. Orkin Insect Zoo
On September 9, 1993, the O. Orkin Insect Zoo (OOIZ) opened at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. This permanent exhibit, made possible through a contribution from Orkin Pest Control, was created to encourage interactive learning and a better understanding about insects from all over the world as well as those found in the average backyard.
The opening of the zoo marked the first time the Smithsonian enlisted a sponsor for a permanent exhibit in any of their museums. The Smithsonian's popular insect zoo, which annually draws more than one million visitors, is the museum's only exhibit where living creatures can be seen in their natural environments. The insect zoo, located on the second floor of the museum, focuses not only on strange and beautiful insects, but also on the relationships insects have with plants, other animals and humans.
The exhibit features over 300 live insects and arthropods, including giant cockroaches, tarantulas, tailless whip scorpions and walking sticks. Each of the insects in the zoo live in their own natural habitats, which have been painstakingly reproduced under the direction of entomologists and museum professionals. Included in the habitat displays are mangrove swamps, a living bee tree, a desert diorama and a tropical rain forest.
In addition, there are plenty of hands-on activities that encourage the OOIZ visitor—adult or child—to get better acquainted with insects and arthropods of all shapes and sizes. Of particular interest in the OOIZ is the "Our House, Their House" display which shows insects living in and around a giant 3-D home. By pushing buttons in front of the house, visitors illuminate the harborage areas for common household insects such as fleas, roaches, carpenter ants and silverfish.
Junior Pest Investigators
Orkin’s Junior Pest Investigators’ program offers free science lesson plans for teachers. These lessons, for students in grades K-6, focus on common pest identification and environmentally friendly ways to help control pests.  The lesson plans are based on the National Science Education Standards and provide resources for assessment such as grading rubrics and quizzes.
Orkin Man school presentations
The Orkin Man School Presentation program, started in the 1950s, is a learning initiative that allows Orkin employees to educate students in their communities on the roles that insects play in the world and how they affect the environment.
Rollins University is a strategic training program that increases its employees’ pest management knowledge and provides Orkin specialists with the skills to better serve their customers. New technicians participate in eight weeks of field and virtual training. Training Magazine has recognized Orkin’s training program on its Top 125 list several times since 2002. The magazine honors programs based on various categories, including company investment, the depth of the training program and how it ties back to overall business objectives.
Located in Atlanta, the 28,000-square-foot (2,600 m2) training facility provides a state-of-the-art setting to engage employees through interactive distance learning and hands-on and web-based training programs. The facility includes simulated customer environments, including a house and mock grocery store. The facility also has a commercial kitchen, hospital room, hotel room and warehouse.
The Orkin Man
The Orkin Man icon originated from the “Otto the Orkin Man” advertisement, a spray-can cartoon man, in the 1950s. Since then, the Orkin Man has been depicted as the pest control expert (Big Number One campaign), technologically savvy (Exterminator Robot campaign) and scientifically trained to control pests (Pest Control Down to a Science campaign).
The most recognized Orkin uniform consists of a white collared shirt with the Orkin logo and red epaulets and pressed khaki (or gray) pants. The uniform varies depending on an employee’s job function for safety purposes. Commercial technicians have an additional pocket to store a handheld device used to record service data for on-the-job use.
Orkin’s advertising focuses on what the more than 100-year-old pest control company can do for homeowners. The company’s Big Bug advertising campaign features giant pests that attempt to enter homes through deceptive practices; however, the Orkin Man arrives to thwart their plot and offers homeowners his knowledge and expertise to help control pest invaders. The advertising campaign’s commercials include:
- “Blind Date” – A woman awaiting the man of her dreams discovers that the guy she’s corresponded with online is a termite wanting to go home with her.
- “Vacation” – A family discovers two rodents jamming on guitars in the living room when they return home from their getaway.
- “Delivery” – While a man prepares his morning coffee, an ant rings his doorbell and tries to deliver a couch.
- “Hot Tub” – A couple enjoying quiet time in a hot tub is interrupted by a cockroach that wants to join them.
- “Pizza Delivery” – A woman answers the door and finds a cockroach attempting to deliver pizza that she never ordered.
- “Broken Down” – A couple getting ready for work receives a visit from a termite asking to use their phone because the termite’s car broke down.
In March 2013, Orkin introduced its “Pest Control Down to a Science” advertising campaign. The new spots focus on the Orkin Man, who uses the tagline, “To catch a pest, you’ve got to think like a pest.” The advertising campaign’s commercials include:
- “Termite” – To investigate the source of a termite colony, the Orkin Man shimmies through a crawlspace.
- “Cockroach” – To treat for cockroaches inside an air vent, the Orkin Man climbs the walls.
- “Ant” – The Orkin Man suspends himself from a tree to catch ants marching across a branch.
In 1965, Orkin acquired the Midwest-based Arwell Pest Control. Arwell's jingle, "Call Arwell! Call Arwell!" was adopted as "Call Orkin".
The Orkin Truck
Orkin’s fleet consists principally of white Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado trucks. Outfitted with Orkin’s red diamond logo, each truck has a global positioning system (GPS) to help improve routing efficiency so field specialists can increase their time with customers and decrease driving time. Ford ended production of the Ranger in St. Paul, Minnesota on Dec. 16, 2011. Orkin received the last truck off the production line for its service rotation.
Rollins announced in September 2012 that the Toyota Tacoma will replace Orkin’s fleet of Ford Rangers. Orkin will lease the Tacomas and sell the Rangers as those leases expire. The company plans to replace all Ford Rangers by 2015.
Orkin has more than 400 owned and operated branch offices and 58 franchises in the U.S. The company also has international franchises and subsidiaries located in Canada, Europe, Central America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Asia, the Mediterranean, Africa and Mexico.
Orkin’s employees have received industry recognition for their service. In 2012, Rick Gaudreault of Collinsville, Ill. was chosen as the “Termite Technician of the Year” by Pest Control Technology magazine. In 2011, Jim Bailey of Columbus, Ohio was honored by Pest Control Technology magazine as the 2010 Commercial Technician of the Year. In 2010, Randy Miller of Greenville, S.C. was chosen by the magazine as the 2009 Residential Technician of the Year.
Employees have also gone above and beyond to help others. In 2008, Darrell Johnson, an Orkin employee in Atlanta, Georgia, chased down a robber who snatched a woman’s purse outside Emory Crawford Long Hospital. Darrell returned the purse to its owner and was honored at a luncheon hosted by the hospital. In 2011, Jeffrey Dancy of Phenix City, Alabama, saved a local family when he noticed that their house was on fire while driving his morning work route. He then called 911 and knocked on the family’s door until they were awakened.
Partnerships and sponsorships
Nothing But Nets
Orkin created the “Fight The Bite” campaign in 2008 to help raise money for the purchase and distribution of bed nets in Africa, where 90 percent of malaria-related deaths occur among children. From 2008 to 2011, Orkin donated one mosquito net to Nothing But Nets a campaign started by the United Nations Foundation, with the purchase of every mosquito service. Nothing But Nets provides insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent deaths by malaria in Africa. Orkin’s "Fight The Bite" campaign, which also includes donations, raised more than $820,000 in four years.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Orkin has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on public education initiatives involving pest-related health risks since 2004. The CDC shares their scientific knowledge on pest-related diseases with Orkin employees during bi-annual training sessions. In April and September 2010, Orkin hosted CDC-led training seminars to discuss triatomine bugs (insects that transmit Chagas disease) and insect resistance to pesticides. Orkin’s April 2011 training session featured CDC behavioral specialist Dr. Emily Zielinski-Gutierrez, who discussed emerging mosquito-borne and tick-borne diseases in the U.S. and provided prevention measures for technicians to share with homeowners. During the October 2011 seminar, an expert shared rabies transmission facts and prevention tips. The seminars are broadcast via satellite to Orkin branches throughout the country. Field representatives from Orkin’s 400 locations view the live broadcasts or access them later through a video-on-demand feature.
National Pest Management Association
Orkin serves as the presenting sponsor of the National Pest Management Association’s Women of Excellence Award. The international honor recognizes one woman each year who displays outstanding leadership skills and significantly contributes to advancing the pest management industry.
The winners of the NPMA Women of Excellence Award are as follows:
- 2009 – Emily Thomas Kendrick, president and chief operating officer of Arrow Exterminators.
- 2010 – Karie Keown, former director of strategic accounts operations for Rentokil North American Pest Control.
- 2011 – Jennifer Leggett, president of Lindsey Pest Services
- 2012 – Judy Black, vice president of technical services for Steritech
Orkin is an official corporate sponsor of the Houston Zoo, supporting annual programs and community outreach initiatives. Orkin also sponsored the Houston Zoo’s Earth Day celebration in April 2012.  Orkin partnered with the Houston Zoo to sponsor the DINOSAURS! exhibit, which opened May 4, 2012. Orkin sponsored “Pollinator Palooza” at the Houston Zoo in June 2012 to highlight the role of Earth’s pollinators.
Orkin has been the subject of many lawsuits around the country over recent years for alleged faulty service and slipshod practices. Notably, Orkin was investigated in Florida for racketeering in 2004 for its termite contracting practices, with one source citing over 15,000 consumer complaints in the state in a four-year period. This investigation comes on top of multiple lawsuits around that state alleging fraud and poor performance, and similarly around the nation. 
Recent revelations by a former high-level Orkin risk manager may serve to bolster those claims levelled against the company. In 2001, NY Attorney General Spitzer instituted measures to reform Orkin advertising and arbitration for its termite services.
Other noteworthy lawsuits against Orkin in recent years can be found at these links, illustrating problems common around the country. Often these cases have gone beyond mere allegations of fraud, deception and poor service to accusations of injury and even death from chemical misuse.
"Another House Destroyed – Another Family Ruined"
"Health and Home at Risk?"
Other interesting case histories are linked here, including examples of the numerous class action suits endured by Orkin over the recent past.
"Orkin Man is Super Con"
"Class Action Granted in Orkin Case"
"Orkin to reapply termite treatment to Missouri homes under terms of record consumer settlement with Nixon"
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