I decided to do something nice for myself and hire housecleaners once a month. The first time they came, they did a great job and even left behind a vase full of flowers. The second time, their job was slightly less thorough but still acceptable. The third time, they didn't seem to clean the counters at all and didn't do any of the three things I specifically requested in an email prior to the cleaning. On top of that, each time they've been scheduled, they've called, texted, emailed or all three to try to reschedule at the last minute. After this last time, I complained and told the manager that they weren't doing a thorough job. She responded by offering us 30 minutes of free cleaning to make up for it. Then she sent me another follow-up email that said that the crew needs us to pay for more time in order to do a thorough job and also that we need to "declutter" better before they come over. I'm fed up and no longer want to keep paying this company. My question is, should I take the free 30 minutes of cleaning before I fire them?
What a disappointment! You shouldn't have to manage so closely the people who you're paying to simplify your life. It's a pretty chutzpahdik suggestion that you need to pay them more for them to do their job correctly, especially since they were able to get everything done the first time you hired them. (Sometimes Yiddish provides the only possible word worthy of the task.)
If you hired them only once, they did a poor job cleaning, you complained and they offered you free services, you would of course be justified in accepting the offer. The only ambiguity here seems to be in the fact that you had hired them for a recurring job. Well, that, and you're planning to fire them. But again, the free cleaning is tied to the past job, not the future ones. I'm sure they're hoping that this freebie will satisfy you and will allow them to keep you as a customer, but they're not asking you to agree to those terms. It may be the subtext, but that's their problem, not yours.
As for the decluttering, I'm sure it would make their job a lot easier if you picked everything up first, though I suspect that if you had sufficient time to pick everything up, you wouldn't require their services quite so much. In an ideal world, I suspect we'd all prefer our houses to be clutter-free. Alas, if we lived in an ideal world, our houses would straighten and clean themselves overnight, and then you wouldn't have this problem in the first place.
Unfortunately, in this world, messes happen, clutter accumulates and, sometimes, cleaners are unreliable. If you think they'll do anything that could help you in those 30 minutes, feel free to accept the gift. Consider staying home, if possible, to direct them as specifically as possible so that at least the hassle is worthwhile. Maybe they'll surprise you and do a great job and you'll want to keep them on. However, I suspect that the hassle of scheduling this 30 minute cleaning with a company that has such scheduling difficulties and doesn't do a good job anyway will just burden you with another annoyance. In that case, tell them thanks but no thanks, and ask around to get a recommendation of someone who will get the job done for you.