View Full Version : Warning signs

Tony Harrell
08-05-2002, 05:49 AM
OK, OK, OK, so I wasn't listening. Did a new account saturday and she turned out to be a pita, and I'm not going back. I should have paid more attention to the warning signs. (1)Her daughter called me and said she had some boys using a rider and she wasn't satisfied. (2)I looked it over and it didn't look that bad except for the stair steppng on a small slope. (3)The daughter's husband got on the phone and said she hasn't found anyone that could cut it like her deceased husband. (4)Saturday morning the son in law said she had it cut that week and then SHE raked for 4 hours. (5)The woman comes out and relates the rake and blisters story. (6)She constantly was interupting us with questions like "What about this/that?. (7)The rope broke on my trim mower and we had to go get my other one, she was very worried we weren't coming back, asked me at least 3 times if we were coming back. Mowed, edged(not done before), trimmed and blew it off. It looked awesome but she apparently wanted a bagged yard. There were some clippings in the back yard(not bad) that were dispersed with the blower because her yard was high when we got there. She took an attitude and I told her to keep her money. Then she apologized and begged me to come back. I walked to my truck to leave and she ran to get her checkbook. My cousin/helper doesn't understand my point of view and went to get the check(he was going to get paid regardless). She came over to the truck and was very apologetic and asked again about 3-5 times if I was coming back. The only way I could get out of there was to take the check and agree to come back. Her check is in the mail on it's way back to her with a note that says "One of the advantages to being a small business owner is the right to refuse service to anyone". btw-Her yard was a mixture of bermuda and fescue. And I got another call sunday that I saw some of the warning signs. I let her know up front what is what before I look at it this afternoon.

Richard Martin
08-05-2002, 06:25 AM
I actually go along with your cousin/helper. Not every customer is able to convey their expectations or even knows what they are. We, as the service providers, are in a position of power. The customer usually only knows that they want their grass cut. We have to tell the customer how we are going to do it. You can outline your policies by

a) having the customer sign a contract

b) giving the customer a statement of policies (my prefered method)

c) working out the details as you go along (your prefered method in this case).

You should keep the check, after-all you did do the work didn't you? You should also go back on the next scheduled day. If problems persisit then I would consider passing her along to someone else.

08-05-2002, 06:27 AM
This is exactly why I steer away from Residenials. People always watching over your shoulder (peeking out the windows) all trying to tell you how to do your job better.
With Commercial accounts I have not seen this problem. I think its because the people undstand that your a busines owner also, and you know more than them (thats why your doing the job-right).

Tony I have mixed thoughts about you sending the check back. If I were in your shoes I believe I would have kept the check, and several days after cashing it I would have sent a letter stating exactly what you wrote on the check.
You worked hard, and you deserve being paid for that service (regardless if you return or not)!

Good Luck

scott's turf
08-05-2002, 07:33 AM
I would have kept the check too. You are not trying to get more work from her so why send the check back. Are you worried she will say bad things about your business? You worked hard for that money. It is hard enough getting money from people, don't send it back when you have it.

08-05-2002, 07:33 AM
Tony, I'm with you man.

The last thing I ever want from a business transaction is the feeling that the customer is in some way not getting their money's worth or has a lingering distaste for me or my work.

Once these feelings are brought to the surface (coupled with the aforementioned warning signs) the taste that's left in the mouth is not a pleasant one.

Did you take the easy way out? Maybe, but guess what, now you're the one in charge of the relationship and that feeling of control and satisfaction coupled with a valuable lesson learned is a priceless combination.


08-05-2002, 08:00 AM
tony u are dealin w a person in a problemed mental state. i do it all the time,but im not sure id recommend it
to a regular lco. unless they cheat me ill try to do it ,and i said try.
the elderly and disabled are really the target of my buisiness. no brownies needed,
its just what i set out to do. i could suggest somethings to try with her ,but
id recommend just letting poor son in law do it, as my guess its gonna be his job, as time goes by. i dont envy him..

08-05-2002, 09:49 AM
That's one of the dangers of picking up a new account where the 'man of the house' just passed away.

Consider this:

Momma saw daddy out there, mowing for 5 hours a day...2 days a week....tinkering with every blade of grass. So there is NO WAY that YOU could possible be doing a better job than the 'dear ol' hubby'.

From a newly widowed womans perspective WE will never do as good a job as 'dear ol' pappa'.

I had one newly widowed lady who just cried, and cried, the first time I mowed her lawn. She was used to seeing pappa out there instead of me. Fortunately, between my sympathetic gestures towards her and her daughters re-assurances, things worked out. The lawn looks great...she even says so herself. Of course it helps that her other 'little ol' lady' friends compliment her on her pretty grass and on how dependable her 'lawn boy' is. A 42 year old lawn boy...I'm kinda flattered...in this particular case, anyway. :)

She didn't complain to me about the work performed...and her neighbors told her that she had hired the right guy...but she was missing her husband doing the lawn.

Maybe we can compete with the other LCO's in our area, but 'dear ol' departed dad'? Not a chance!

Most of the time it is not the quality of our work that is the real problem. Peek just below the surface and you may find that grief, bitterness, sadness, illness, financial worries, or a combo of these things are the REAL issue.

One of my first clients was a widowed Altzheimer's sufferer....man, that was a case study every time I serviced that lawn. I cried for her sometimes.

08-05-2002, 10:32 AM
i can't completely agree with the residentials always telling us how to do our job. i had (keyword) a few who liked to do that and now they are history. everyone else says their lawns look great and to keep up the good work. i've always heard that commercials are a bigger pain that resid. maybe it's the social climate here.

08-05-2002, 11:18 AM
Like it or not, the lawn maintenance business is a service industry. And in any aspect of the service industry, dealing with different people is a given. If you can't deal with different personalities, go back to the factory where you can just cuss the boss and the machine. Your life will have fewer headaches!

A new client should always be a challenge - am I capable of pleasing them long term? You're not just there to make a buck on this one cut. A couple of my clients are 20 year customers, and I just started 23 years ago. Doing as they asked, and modifying over time, is a much better approach.

To judge if the potential customer fits your expectations is the opposite of what this economic relationship should be. You are trying to meet (I try to exceed) his or her expectations. Yes, I have quit working for clients in the past, but it was after several years of them not appreciating my work. It takes a while to learn if someone is really just a complainer.

You are going to work on someone's home, and people are generally concerned about their own property. So what if they follow you around the first time? They have probably experienced poor service in the past. People have been amazed when I zip over areas they have pointed out that others always scalp.

For those of you with the macho independant chip on your shoulder, I hope you have a large cash reserve when the economy takes a dump. Then you will learn the hard way what service is supposed to be.

Tony Harrell
08-05-2002, 12:02 PM
I know very well about the service industry. However, if a pair of shoes don't fit I don't buy them and hope they'll fit in a couple of years. I tell all of my clients up front "If you're not happy with my work, you don't owe me a thing". I go the extra mile the first time on every account to make it as nice as possible and to feed my self esteem. It's simply a matter of fit, nothing personal.

scott's turf
08-05-2002, 12:13 PM
Tony that sounds great in theory but what happens if you do a $1000 mulch job. If they don't like it they don't have to pay you? Where do you draw the line? If you know that you did a good job and they are trying to screw you do you just say, "well since you aren't satisfied you don't have to pay me."

Expert Lawns
08-05-2002, 12:15 PM
i also would have kept the check. i would have told her right then and there (while she was appologizing) that the lawn took a lot more time and effort than you estimated and that if she wanted your service still that it would be $5-10 more (since you said it looked great upon completion) if you do good work, you should be paid accordingly

Tony Harrell
08-05-2002, 08:33 PM
That comment about the mulching is a different matter altogether. When it's mowing, about all I've really got invested is time and wear and tear. And I still feel that way. Roger summed up what I couldn't and how I feel about it. Oh, and the other one today? It was a joke. It was up in the foothills about 10 miles of the worst road you can imagine on a very bad slope with those water breaks that farmers put in their land to control erosion. The weeds were so tall and numerous, I thought she was growing cabbage in her front yard. And she didn't want any cutgrass left on her yard!!! I told her that I wasn't going to tell her how much because it would upset her. She kept commenting that she paid the last guy $40 and it took him 4 hours with a commercial walkbehind. I told her that I average $35 on a small lawn in town for 25-30 minutes and I could fit at least 10 of them on her property. What she needs is a bushhog. See, I've had all the practice mowing I can stand. I'm practicing how to pick and choose accounts right now. Just because she needs it mowed is not a good enough reason for me to mow it. I'm retracting my earlier post about still getting accounts. Btw-The woman from saturday just left a message on my machine saying how much she liked my work and how many compliments she's gotten. Yeah right, her anxiety is kicking in because she knows she just ran another one off and there's only so many left. I don't like learning this way, but it sure does stay with me.

08-05-2002, 08:47 PM
Tony Harrel said:

"See, I've had all the practice mowing I can stand. I'm practicing how to pick and choose accounts right now."

That, my friend, is the absolute best thing you can do to boost your 'bottom line'.

I started thinking that way at the begining of last season (thanks to advice given here at Lawnsite!) and along the way have turned down a bunch of skanky lawns...and I mean A BUNCH.

But the payoff is that although I have practically the same number of accounts I had when I instituted this 'policy' (35 res. accounts) I have DOUBLED my gross reciepts.

Now that I have experienced this 'boost' for myself I do not bat an eye at giving what I feel to be a fair price or tell the potential client how I operate, for instance, no bi-weekly cutting...I perform weekly service only until it is not needed because of dry spells, ect. If the potential client does not agree with the price or scheduling, oh well...another will come along in a day or two anyway. "Nice talking to you."

Lose, or dump, a skanky account....and wait out a cherry one to replace it with. Works like a charm. :)

08-05-2002, 09:41 PM
I had 3 like that this year that said they could not wait untill old pops passed on.

Now they can spend some money for the pro's to take care of their lawns, and landscapes. Belive it or not it was said like this 3 times this year.

08-06-2002, 07:09 AM
i believe u godfather . but thats cold ,
dont u think.:( just imagine livin a whole life and all people doing, is waitin for u to vacate the premises.

08-06-2002, 07:46 AM
Hey I have been there to.NEXT TIME Make out contracts,they will save your hardshipes:angry:

Just Cut
08-06-2002, 02:36 PM
I also have learned when to so no, My last one was last Saturday, I went to estimate a lawn were there was only a hill for the front yard, The person that called me came out and stated that he didnt need references because I would give him my cousin billy bobs number who I did not cut for anyway and then proceeded to down the prevoius company that was servicing the lawn by stating that they cut either to short or long, when I asked about how often he felt his lawn needed to be cut he said when ever, He wanted me to offer a contract to him as the last company dumped him because he would not pay them, he also stated that when the last company that showed up he would tell them it did'nt need to be cut and when they would'nt show up he would call them, mainly what he wanted was a drive by weekly to see if it needed to be cut on his terms and scheduling

08-07-2002, 12:54 AM
well , for the ones that want that drive by service, i tell em up front..........i aint got time to go riding around the neighborhood.........either i cut it every week or they call me when it needs cutting......unless it is a bi-weekly deal(i dont like them ones).........but if bi weekly or anything other than every week, i am not responsible for the clippings that are everywhere.....ill cut it twice if its small yard seeing as to how it doent take long at all, but if its big, they gotta pay a lil extra if they want that second cut..........otherwise, let me do it every week unless it is going dormant so that way it stays nice and neat at all times