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View Full Version : "Free-Loaders" - Tips for avoiding them


mdvaden
11-27-2007, 08:01 PM
For some reason "free loaders" came to mind to day while driving home. If anyone has tips to share about how to steer clear of getting sucked-dry by free-loaders, please share to your heart's content.

One form I encounter is people trying to get free information under the cloak of an estimate. Now yesterday -and it was not an estimate, but just putting out brochures - a lady whose friend took limbs of her tree, asked me "which limbs would you take off?"

I told her that I figure out a lot of that once I'm into the tree: to dodge giving free advice. (basically still the truth though).

Another kind, and it's not really their fault, are garden clubs and some master gardener groups regarding seminars.

If they can return referrals worth it's weight in advertising savings, that's different. These days, if I do a free lecture, some kind of benefit is expected: either clear mention in a newsletter or something similar.

At least the master gardeners already have a system where people pay back their training by volunteering time. So they should adapt easily to a trade-off of one thing free in exchange for a later pay-back.

loom-gen
11-28-2007, 09:33 PM
Free loaders. where? I need one for my tractor. Also need a three pt finish mower. No really. If I give advice, it usually includes an affordable quote for the job and a pitch telling them why they shouldn't do it themselves. I almost always get the job.

txgrassguy
11-28-2007, 11:55 PM
In the course of a sales pitch I will offer specific information.
Since the majority of my work is large residential and commercial installs/maintenance, a certain amount of information is necessary to close the deal.
However, those that bug me for specific written details or plans as a result of a request of estimate are informed a non refundable deposit is required to receive the info if my company is not awarded the contract. If awarded, a negotiated amount is applied to the estimate cost.

Kortas
11-29-2007, 12:39 AM
txgrassguy: How do they respond to that? I would think many would just take their business elsewhere. I guess it's a pretty good idea though as I also figure people asking are just that "freeloaders".

Do they ever pay it?

txgrassguy
11-29-2007, 10:26 AM
Kortas, when I am questioned on this policy I simply reply that the customer(s) have to pay for an Architect, Engineer, Interior Design for those professions to issue a set of written specifications. Since I too am a professional, a Turfgrass Agronomist, heavily licensed and insured, if these customer(s) want a written specification/layout, they have to pay for my time as well.
What I have found out is those prospective clients whom are serious about the work and themselves, they pay. No questions asked as they realize that quality costs and I too as a professional have cost overhead.
Those customer(s) that complain in an attempt to diminish my profession I do not want as clients.
What takes a bit of patience is to develop the client base in the particular market climate one has targeted their business to provide service.
Initially, when I started my own company seven years ago I did get "taken" by repeated requests to issue written plans/specifications which the prospective customer then used to price shop. I finally got, not only smart enough but secure enough in my business practices, to the point where I could firmly implement this policy.
What has since happened is the price shoppers/"free loaders" have learned to stay away, and my existing client base has spoken well about my company and services to others like them.
The result is a good word of mouth advertising that has generated some interesting and profitable jobs for my company.

topsites
11-29-2007, 12:11 PM
Simple, don't let them run you, or your business.

In time you develop a system, it seems to be a little bit further down the road.

Kortas
11-29-2007, 01:17 PM
It all makes perfectly good sense. I don't do install now but will be soon.

When I do, I'll put it right on my proposal that this fee is extra and list the terms for what is given back if the job is earned by me. That way the conversation doesn't have to come up, they'll already have it and understand if it does.

S.I.
11-29-2007, 01:35 PM
I get these people all the time. "Can you give me an estimate for a sprinkler? Can I have a detailed layout of what you are going to do? Oh, uh, nevermind now that I see how it will be laid out, I will do it myself."

That only happened once, now if they want detailed info they pay for it.
A $75 charge for my design of their system and an estimated cost of materials (use list prices for this of course), will usually put them in the palm of my hand. ($75 fee is credited when I do the installation) This however does not stop people from trying to get a free design plan.

mdvaden
11-29-2007, 01:56 PM
There is one aspect that I wouldn't call free-loading, but maybe a "drain"

Example:

This lady who live 8 miles out in the country, calls 3 companies for estimate on pruning work that's worth no more than $200 if it was in town.

So the drive out and talking for each estimator should tally $150 worth of time burned-up by all companies combined.

So far, I only know one solution, and it's worked - and maybe because I'm small and do my own work...

But I promise that I'll do the work: most experienced person in the company, and I bid to what I think will be about $20 under the other estimates or near matching.

To date, it's worked. If it fails, I can pass, or charge estimate time. But this must be a tricky one for some folks. Good thing its not the ordinary situation.

bohiaa
11-30-2007, 10:44 AM
It was always anazing to me, That when we pull up t odo a clean up, the neabors come out and start doing little odds and ends too.

once I cought this lady trimming her tree and putting the limbs on my trailer. she even went as far as trying to put her Kitchen trash on it. When I seen this I stoped her and ask her what she was doing. she stated that I will be going to the dump anyway.
I informed her that I have to pay to dump. she said it's not that much to dump....
after I told her how much my truck cost and trailer and help. I then gave her a price of 25.00 to take that trash off.

She couldn't belive me..

as I her.

topsites
11-30-2007, 11:03 AM
I would have to guess the best way is to have rules in place, at least that does it for me, and pre-screening too.
You can't avoid them all, but the bulk of it saves a headache.

So it takes time, what helps for those way out jobs is in my case I have clearly defined service area limits.
So once it's outside the borders I can't do it, because it is out of the area.
Because it doesn't make sense, when I can't get paid for the extra travel, even if it's a big job there's but so much profit...

As for those trying to get free ideas, telling them a load of bs isn't the worst idea, it's not the best but I usually play it off some kind of way, the thing is they're not spending any money.

For installs I do agree, have a design fee, that's the best solution.
You draw it up and all but the only thing you give them is the price.
Then if they want to know more there's a fee, creditable towards the final bill.
That should immediately separate those who are serious from the rest.

btw don't feel bad, I fell for a few and got to feel the love of irritation afterwards too :laugh:

once I cought this lady trimming her tree and putting the limbs on my trailer.

I am only glad nobody has ever tried that with me, not taking credit for it, just glad.

topsites
11-30-2007, 11:15 AM
One of my all-time favorites thou is the customer who within a year or so starts to pay more for the usual service, without me asking or anything. At first it seems like a free fall bonus, but then sometime later the tactic becomes obvious :laugh:
Translation: They need something done, for free (dirt cheap, whatever).
And now you feel obligated.

So, never take extra money, if it's $35 and they pay $40 have to let them know it's $35 and please pay the exact amount because I don't carry change. Of course there's the "its for you" or whatever, but have to say the fee is $35 and I can not take gifts.

Other notes: In my case it usually involves HAULING, need I say junk?

B_gerrits
11-30-2007, 01:58 PM
once I cought this lady trimming her tree and putting the limbs on my trailer. she even went as far as trying to put her Kitchen trash on it. When I seen this I stoped her and ask her what she was doing. she stated that I will be going to the dump anyway.
I informed her that I have to pay to dump. she said it's not that much to dump....
after I told her how much my truck cost and trailer and help. I then gave her a price of 25.00 to take that trash off.

She couldn't belive me..

as I her.

Wow that one really takes the cake. Did she pay you? I charge a min of 20 to take just one thing. The freeloader thing has bitten me several times. On one hand the cust wants to know the details of what is to be done which I don't blame them. On the other hand I get people that say they want me to do the work but are really just looking for advice on how to do the work. I even had one guy that wanted estimates on redoing his front yard. I threw out several differn't ideas he then asked if I could draw out the designs with specs and detailed info on where I was going to get the material from and their prices of course as part of a free estimate.

Stillwater
11-30-2007, 03:11 PM
For some reason "free loaders" came to mind to day while driving home. If anyone has tips to share about how to steer clear of getting sucked-dry by free-loaders, please share to your heart's content.

One form I encounter is people trying to get free information under the cloak of an estimate. Now yesterday -and it was not an estimate, but just putting out brochures - a lady whose friend took limbs of her tree, asked me "which limbs would you take off?"

I told her that I figure out a lot of that once I'm into the tree: to dodge giving free advice. (basically still the truth though).

Another kind, and it's not really their fault, are garden clubs and some master gardener groups regarding seminars.

If they can return referrals worth it's weight in advertising savings, that's different. These days, if I do a free lecture, some kind of benefit is expected: either clear mention in a newsletter or something similar.

At least the master gardeners already have a system where people pay back their training by volunteering time. So they should adapt easily to a trade-off of one thing free in exchange for a later pay-back.


Freeloading? Sucking you dry? to be sucked dry you need to have very little to Begin with if that is how you want to look at it go for it. You sound like a upstanding cornerstone of your community. But be mindful of reasonable friendly people who will consider your carefully measured and hollow response as being rude or curt. They have friends and their friends have friends I am sure you will be the one they call when they are able to untie their purse strings. But seriously who will they call? the guy who had no time with a meaningless curt answer or will they call the friendly guy that took a moment for a meaningful exchange of pleasantries.

B_gerrits
11-30-2007, 04:03 PM
Freeloading? Sucking you dry? to be sucked dry you need to have very little to Begin with if that is how you want to look at it go for it. You sound like a upstanding cornerstone of your community. But be mindful of reasonable friendly people who will consider your carefully measured and hollow response as being rude or curt. They have friends and their friends have friends I am sure you will be the one they call when they are able to untie their purse strings. But seriously who will they call? the guy who had no time with a meaningless curt answer or will they call the friendly guy that took a moment for a meaningful exchange of pleasantries.

This is the other side of this issue, I totally want to be friendly and sometimes people just ask questions to determine your competancy. But I have had DIYers looking for how to do the job themselves and I can't afford to be giving free lessons. So how do you handle the situation?

mdvaden
11-30-2007, 11:40 PM
This is the other side of this issue, I totally want to be friendly and sometimes people just ask questions to determine your competancy. But I have had DIYers looking for how to do the job themselves and I can't afford to be giving free lessons. So how do you handle the situation?

Also, the post previous to this quote, may not know that I picked "suck" you dry for a reason. It's a figure, but there's something to figures.

In this case, a verb "suck". It's not the same a courteous people seeking courteous help neccessarily.

There is the element that intentionally seek bids, merely to harvest ideas.

One thing with bids, to be polite, when people ask "what will you do to this tree", I respond with very few details sometimes. I tell them that the tree will be "correctively" pruned for structure and to remove weaknesses according to professional arborist standards.

Sounds great that way.

Stillwater
12-01-2007, 01:04 AM
Also, the post previous to this quote, may not know that I picked "suck" you dry for a reason. It's a figure, but there's something to figures.

In this case, a verb "suck". It's not the same a courteous people seeking courteous help neccessarily.

There is the element that intentionally seek bids, merely to harvest ideas.

One thing with bids, to be polite, when people ask "what will you do to this tree", I respond with very few details sometimes. I tell them that the tree will be "correctively" pruned for structure and to remove weaknesses according to professional arborist standards.

Sounds great that way.


I like that, that is a perfect way to respond to a question like that

Stillwater
12-01-2007, 01:17 AM
It was always anazing to me, That when we pull up t odo a clean up, the neabors come out and start doing little odds and ends too.

once I cought this lady trimming her tree and putting the limbs on my trailer. she even went as far as trying to put her Kitchen trash on it. When I seen this I stoped her and ask her what she was doing. she stated that I will be going to the dump anyway.
I informed her that I have to pay to dump. she said it's not that much to dump....
after I told her how much my truck cost and trailer and help. I then gave her a price of 25.00 to take that trash off.

She couldn't belive me..

as I her.


This same exact thing happened to me, I saw the neighbor of my customer putting branches in my truck. I called over are you trying to get a free dump run?!! she smiled and asked if it was ok. I said don't worry about it with a smile. Some other landscape company worked for her, but 3 weeks later they were fired and I was hired. I am glad I handled it the way I did because it is a large account.

mdvaden
12-01-2007, 03:49 AM
This same exact thing happened to me, I saw the neighbor of my customer putting branches in my truck. I called over are you trying to get a free dump run?!! she smiled and asked if it was ok. I said don't worry about it with a smile. Some other landscape company worked for her, but 3 weeks later they were fired and I was hired. I am glad I handled it the way I did because it is a large account.

It would be interesting if History Channel ever did a show to present where in the various nations, that it's culturally acceptable, or required, to take things for free.

For example, in the old testament of the scripture, there is a law that field owners were not allowed to harvest / glean from the edges of the fields. The edges were to be left for travelers.

If that happened today, my brother and sister in law could come into Jacksonville, park and walk into one of Harry and David's orchards and grab a quick snack before travelling on.

Or, we never ask for a drink of water in a commerical business building. There is no sign. It's assumed that the water is free for the taking.

B_gerrits
12-01-2007, 12:59 PM
This same exact thing happened to me, I saw the neighbor of my customer putting branches in my truck. I called over are you trying to get a free dump run?!! she smiled and asked if it was ok. I said don't worry about it with a smile. Some other landscape company worked for her, but 3 weeks later they were fired and I was hired. I am glad I handled it the way I did because it is a large account.

I guess this one would depend if you had enough room for your custs load
and the extra loaded. One thing about the above, the persons above lady was throwing trash on his trailor. Here the dump charges a lot more for trash than they do for yard debris also trash and yard debris are disposed in two separate areas. The other thing that would bother me about this is people putting stuff on your trailer without asking. I kinda think that is both rude and presumptuous. The other problem I had were people asking if I could just take a couple of things(not enough for a dump run) for free I used to do it and store it until I had enough to justify a dump run but then I had to pay for the dump run and that got old quick so now I will charge for just one thing.