View Full Version : Mad Customer

04-22-2002, 03:39 PM
I have a client in a 1 million dollar home or more that I landscaped and put a sprinkler system in last fall. The client paid for the job. He was concerned about the way we had to put the sod in though.

Story, house was built on a corner lot at the base of a housing devision. 3 large natural springs and everyone elses water drain off to deal with. Now the builder of the home didn't do a rough grade at all. We had to go in and add about 3-4 ft of topsoil. Now, The concrete wasn't in place for weeks and the clients wanted the sod put down now!! So that the soil wouldn't wash away. so we peices in the sod around where the drive and sidewalks were to be placed. Then we couldn't use a grader or bobcat by the driveway, because it would void the warrantee fro 2-3 weeks. So we wheelbarreled the dirt in and sod.

Now he's pissed about the sod not being perfect along his drive and walks also some lumps around that have settled in , because of the natural springs. NOW the ******* wants to go to court because the sod isn't perfict. I let him know that it would work itself out after some time and that we would keep rolling the sod. But he thinks we didn't use the right equiptment,HA. HA, HA
we couldn't because of the new cement.

Now what in the world should I do????????????:blob2: :blob2: :blob2:

04-22-2002, 04:13 PM
Fix the problem with the sod, don't just peice it in repair the job right. You've lost the clients respect already but you can repair some of your problems with future clients by being a bigger man than the homeowner.

04-22-2002, 04:21 PM
Sometimes when working with a customer, it's your job to give them bad news. This may include telling them that though they want it done 'now', it can't be done until you can get equipment in to do grading work, and it won't get done until the slabs are poured. This means some soil might wash away. They may not like to hear that, but it's your job to ensure a quality job. If they don't want to work with you because of that, walk. Otherwise, you'll end up in the spot you're in right now.

If this guy has a million dollar home, you can bet he has a million dollar attorney, whose fees you don't want to have to reimburse should you lose in court. Suck it up and fix it is my advice.

04-22-2002, 04:29 PM
The only bad thing is I've fixed it several times and it keeps settling. And he wont listen to me about it at all. I've already fixed the sod about 3 times and remulched his house and have about $4000 in outstanding bills for him that he wont pay until the sod is perfict. And no matter how long or what we do It'll never be perfict. He shouln't have ever built the house there in the first place, but I'm not going to tell him that.

04-22-2002, 04:50 PM
Having dealt with new concrete before, I would have rather broken a peice of walk, rather than have 3'-4' of dirt settling around his house.

Dealing with water problems, springs and drainage since you where the last person on it, your responsible. You should have handled this before any work was started. Proper grading and or drainage structures should have been installed before you even layed a yard of sod or brought in dirt. Too many people feel that adding dirt to a job is all it takes to correct drainage.

Learning when to walk away from jobs is an important part of being in business. Think of this as on the job training.

04-22-2002, 05:34 PM

I'm going to respond here to the new thread you started on this same topic.

What Paul and I have said is spot-on. You took on this job with the understanding that you knew what had to be done. If you've done all you are willing to do, then sit back and wait. He will likely hire to have it fixed the right way, then sue you for however many thousands that bill is above what he owes you (which sounds like many).

What Paul said is true - recognizing when to walk away from trouble is an invaluable survival tool in biz. I imagine that in a few years you will find that this situation was a turning point for your business.

Paul, I'm wondering if he should consult with an engineering firm to advise on a course of action.

04-22-2002, 05:49 PM
An Engineering firm and a soils expert should have been contacted before any work done. Do you have pictures and drawings of the work you installed? Very important that you have pictures of the work as it as done.

I would contact a soils firm as soon as possible and have them survey the site, then take your findings to a civil engineering firm.

04-22-2002, 06:07 PM
I let him know that I would keep rolling the sod every couple of weeks to let it settle and then spot it dirt in the fall and seed over it so the sink spots a level. Don't know if he will really go for it we'll see.

I'll get the sil guy and civil engineer out to take a look at it and support my endless efforts. For I have bent over backwards too many times to make him happy, this is the last time I go with
"THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT" he pushed it too quick and we had to do some of the work backwards. And I let him know upfront that this isn't the way it's done right. And he wanted to do it his way, not my way.

04-22-2002, 06:12 PM
If he does decide to sue me it's kind of FUNNY, he's also suing the concrete guy's already for their job they did. So I might have a stronger leg to stand on since he's suing them and probably me too.

What do you all think?

04-22-2002, 06:28 PM
If this interests you we have and are still trying to fix the problems, so we are trying the best we can to fix the sod.

Now to get really intersting Landscaping is what I have as a part-time job or I guess full-time also. with 6 employees full-time everyday. Now I also am a Broker and this client is my Boss so here is where the plot thickens!!!!!!!!!!!!

04-22-2002, 06:30 PM
Honestly, that he's suing the concrete guy doesn't really change my opinion, though I do know of people like this. How do you think I learned how to walk away from trouble?

But as far as how solid your case is, should it go to court - based on the information available to me right now, I'd say you're in it deep.

Should the professionals you hire to look at the situation side with you, that's great, but my thought is you should be hiring them to find out what you should do there next, not how they can insulate you from litigation damages.

I'm hearing lots of "he made me do this, he made me do that." If you didn't think it was the right thing to do, or the right time to do it, it was your job to make him see that. If you compromised your installation to meet his timing, the only part that matters is YOU COMPROMISED YOUR INSTALLATION.

If you aren't going to do anymore for this customer, brace yourself for an expensive lesson.

By the way, what contractual (on paper) agreements are there between the two of you?

04-22-2002, 06:45 PM
It took me quite a few years to learn to refuse to work on sites that aren't ready. Just because the customer says its ready, it isn't ready until I say its ready. Sometimes we have upset clients because we won't start a project when they want us to, but how much money did I lose starting jobs that weren't ready.

General contractors are especially bad for pushing to do work before it is ready. They get behind on their own portions of the work, so they push the subs to do more sooner so that it looks like things are getting done.

You're better off walking away then starting a project that is going to cost you in the long run.

I actually got kicked off a quick lube two years ago, because I wouldn't come back to work on the next phase of the project, because the grading wasn;t finished. I could have worked on part of the site, but it would have been too expensive to mobilize twice for the small size of the job. One of the owners was an attorney and he even threatened to sue me for turning them over to a collection agency when they wouldn't pay for phase I.

If you stand for quality work and know your costs and the long run need to turn a profit, you have to have standards and live by them.

Doug Austreim
Austreim Landscaping

I've also found that it is sometimes better not to work for close friends, relatives, and associates.

04-22-2002, 06:56 PM
It was a cash job so there was no contract.

Do you really think he can sue me if I keep working on the sod to try to fix it the best I can?

04-22-2002, 07:06 PM
Oh oh!

04-22-2002, 07:11 PM
Hmmm, well I'm not sure how things might go.

On the upside, there is no guarantee he can hold you to, no proof he can provide substantiating anything. As a matter of principle you should continue to try to remedy the situation. As far as 'best you can', that will involve engineer evaluations and, it sounds like, lots more money.

On the down side, if the judge wants to report you to the state or the IRS, you're cooked. However, I have no idea how likely a judge would be to do that.

04-22-2002, 07:17 PM
Oh oh!

04-22-2002, 08:39 PM
No rough grade?

Up here you need to have your rough grade inspected before any other work starts?

Not there???

04-22-2002, 09:44 PM
it sounds to me like you should have compacted that topsoil before installing the sod...

04-22-2002, 10:21 PM
Quote "drain tile was put in, reatinging walls, cuverts, ditches and what everelse we could do to stop the water. the springs natuarlly just seep and you can't do any thing about them, we've done all we can. No one can do anything, I've already tried it. The settling of the sod is do to adding in soo much black dirt, and it's never going to work right, they live on a step hill and we deverted water the right way and the best.

If you can identifiy where the water is coming from you can stop it or control it, I've also seen drain tile installed that would never work!

No one has ever shown me a water problem that can't be fixed, but I also work in and around water alot. I think you don't have enough experience doing this kind of work and knowing how to identifiy water problems before you begin the job.

General Grounds
04-22-2002, 11:04 PM
:blob3: praire, if you knew that the customer was doing the job against your recommendation, you should have put it in writing explaining the stiuation and that you advised the customer of potential problems. though it took me the first time to learn when ever i get a customer how seems to have all the answers and wants the job done a certain way other than i laid out i put it writng. tony

04-22-2002, 11:55 PM
The method of payment should have no bearing on whether you write a contract. You are agreeing to do certain work for a certain price. Setting forth what you are and are not providing for a $$ figure is crucial. Without that, the customer can continue to say that you 'owe' him whatever he dreams up next. Regarding the actual problem, I can't imagine putting in that amount of topsoil without proper compaction with each lift. And I certainly wouldn't put in all black dirt. (Truth be known, we don't have natural black dirt here) Call the soils engineer and be prepared to do some major work.

04-23-2002, 09:27 AM
Thanks for ther imput. I did compact the top soil with a large cat tractor, and do have the water problems all solved before we even started..

Leason learned never to start working on a house w'out a rough grade done prior. The builder is a joke.

To let you all know that have posted a reply we worked everything out yesterday and he is going to work w/ us on the sod.

Prairie Landscape

04-23-2002, 10:12 AM
What a lesson on how not to do somethig.

I think you have heard most of the ideas on what to do or should have done etc.

My key points would be:

Always CYA (cover your A..)
Never do work for a friend or Boss.
Document every change or any directions in writing; Especially out of sequence work.
Water goes where water wants. You can't stop it, but you can divert or direct it somewhere else.
Ask your Ciient/Boss what he wants in "WRITING".
If you can afford it, Make an offer to correct problem in "WRITING. "Make a good faith effort to fix problem.
If this goes to court the judge is only going to respect documentation.
He will recognize a "GOOD FAITH EFFORT"on your part..
Alot of builders work like this guy,Using back charges/ compliants to get more out of you.

04-23-2002, 10:59 AM
I live in a town where I probably know 1/2 the people by name. How can I NOT work for a friend? This is ridiculous. Communication is the priority and everyone needs to be on the same page. Be grown ups and don't just move to the other side of the playground. I'm glad you've worked this out. You had a very tough situation. "that which does not kill us only makes us stronger"

04-26-2002, 03:57 PM
cash job? no contract? do u really believe in your heart u r right? if u do, then screw him! now its a he said, u said thing. if u want nothing more to do with him, tell him to leave u alone, if he keeps calling, file a harassment complaint with the police. if u did what u said, and he knew complications could arise, then u have fulfilled your moral obligation. as far as your legal obligation, "your honor, this man has been stalking me, i have never seen him before in my life" .