View Full Version : give estimate, customer starts crying

09-24-2002, 01:49 AM
man o man boys, did i feel bad today. i got a call from an elderly lady(85). she asked for someone to come out and look at her lawn. she lives about 3 min from me. so, i go out and look. bad shape. i tell her she needs it thatched(really just gonna set it real low, most of the lawn needs to come up) and power seeded. i give her price, she looks at me and starts crying! real tears!" can u please find it in your heart to do it cheaper? im all alone here, and im so embarrased by the looks of the lawn, i just cant afford that kind of money. " man, i never had anything like that happen. this lady is more than twice my age. so, what would u have done? what do u guys think i did? any ever have this happen?

09-24-2002, 02:07 AM
Hard to tell. She could just be doing that on purpose to get you to come down on your price, but you don't want to be a jerk to her. I just don't know. I feel bad just reading it :( :cry:

09-24-2002, 02:29 AM
Let her make payments

Ryan Lightning
09-24-2002, 02:49 AM
Originally posted by marley
Let her make payments
and give her a good interest rate.;)

Seriously, I do give elderly a price break sometimes, just depends on whats in the driveway sometimes.

09-24-2002, 03:01 AM
Personally, I would cut her a very good deal. I know what it is to be down and out, but I never have know what it is like to be down and out with little to no way to get out of that situation. I am very tough on those beggars you see on the street corner, but this in my mind is a different thing all together. Here is an old woman that can't cut the grass herself and is probably on a fixed income. If I had to I would do it on my time off. I can't tell you what to do, except encourage you to listen to your heart. The Bible says "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27 I hope you don't take anything I said the wrong way.

Richard Martin
09-24-2002, 05:10 AM
I might give her a break on cutting her grass but as far as giving a break on dethatching and powerseeding, no way. Cutting grass is a neccessity, dethatching and powerseeding is a luxury that can easily be lived without. If she is so embarrased about her lawn why did she let it get so bad?

09-24-2002, 06:12 AM
these elderly folks get all set with what they think is adequate funds. then
most find that what was enough ,aint any longer. u not gonna hurt u self givin her a break,but its just a choice u have to make.
also hate to say it but theres the few
who whine an whine,then u see them
pick up a car u couldnt afford to drive.
kinda hard to tell ,but i can usually
figure them after a while.
the ones playin me ,find out it was a mistake. they pay top rate.got one lady that sends wd thru her friends ,to tell mr marks to please come over,i need some work done. probably not gonna happen.
love my older folks ,but a liar still just a liar..

Tony Harrell
09-24-2002, 06:32 AM
You can uaually tell if they're really poor by the condition of the house, car they drive etc... There are exceptions of course. I have 2 of them myself. Sure their yards need the full treatment but, they'll be happy to just get it cut. Even though I charge a discounted rate, I always do my best and try to do anything extra within reason to make their yards look good. This has come up in other threads before and the overall concensus was; we're in business to make a buck but it won't break us to help some grannies out now and then. I only charge them $25 each to mow and paid my helper $10 per yard to do the work.

09-24-2002, 06:32 AM
It's your call...but keep this in mind:

Once you commit to taking on this "charity case" at a reduced rate she will be burning up the phone lines to her other 'fixed income' friends...word travels fast among the elderly once a 'great deal' has been found. Been there...done that.

Maybe I've gotten hard over the years....but I would avoid this one. "Once bitten-twice shy" as they say....

People who can no longer afford to keep their property maintained should consider assisted living options...and not try to make you their provider or assist them in a situation that they already cannot afford.

One lady once told me the same thing: " can u please find it in your heart to do it cheaper? im all alone here, i just cant afford that kind of money." I felt bad for her and cut her a hell of a deal. Boy, was she happy. And boy, was she ever insistant on having me cut her lawn once a month too. Every time I arrived at her place she would fly out the door and tell me to come back "next week"...and do the same thing the next week, and the next week... until the lawn was over a foot tall. The last time I was there her care-giver came out to tell me that she wanted me to wait another week and I told her that she would have to get someone else...as I was not going to spend a half a day mowing a hayfield, and abusing my equipment, for half the price as I mow the rest of her neighbors. Then the care-giver said..."I don't know why Mrs. XXX does this. Every time she finds a dependable lawnguy this happens...and there is no reason for it...because she's LOADED with money!"

I won't even go into how I was burned in a couple other of these situations...but let's just say it was unbelievable. :(

Consider this:

Would "the tears" work at the grocery store? The car dealership? The electric company? With the I.R.S.? I don't think so.

09-24-2002, 08:42 AM
Is it an expensive house? Does she have a new caddy in the drive? If so, she can afford it. She just chooses not to.

Don't over-inflate your prices. A fair price is deserved by everyone involved. Without being there and judging the entire situation I don't know what I would have done. But the payment plan with signed agreement would have been my first thought.

bubble boy
09-24-2002, 08:59 AM
Originally posted by Richard Martin
I might give her a break on cutting her grass but as far as giving a break on dethatching and powerseeding, no way. Cutting grass is a neccessity, dethatching and powerseeding is a luxury that can easily be lived without. If she is so embarrased about her lawn why did she let it get so bad?

my thoughts exactly. she wants something done that frankly she doesn't need. if money was that tight she should not be concerned about getting this work done.

i don't usually discount seniors. and the senior customers i have don't ask. some of my best margins are made on seniors who aren't rich, just good budget keepers. and they GLADLY pay, and pay on time.

i've had a few cry on me, never felt bad when its over money, or wanting something for nothing. i guess i'm a bit cold hearted,and i know: what goes around comes around, maybe that senior will be me one day. i'm just trying to be honest.

09-24-2002, 09:36 AM
I'm glad it wasn't me that she asked. I'm a sucker for that stuff, particularly from elderly women. I have a couple of elderly clients that live in a subdivision behind mine. It's the same subdivision that my Mother-in-law lives in. It is a very nice community. Although, I know that these people watch their money carefully, I know they can afford it. If you feel like doing it, I would follow Marley's suggestion, let her make payments, say for 3 months.

09-24-2002, 09:50 AM
i have found that working with the elderly can be about as fun as a trip to the dentist. some are very nice and sincere and make me feel like their grandson, others are just trying to juice every nickel they can out of senior discounts.

i'd use the advice here, cut it at a little cheaper rate but charge full for the thatch removal and seeding. let her make payments on that that will meet her budget guidelines and she still has a great looking yard.

09-24-2002, 10:12 AM
I'm soory, but this is a weakness of mine. I would be sucked right into it. The two people I love most in this world are old people and children. Call me a sucker, I don't care, because it would STILL make me feel good, and this is an act that this lady will always have, remember, and take to the grave with her. And yes, it will come back on you.:angel:

09-24-2002, 10:30 AM
well, im a "sucker" too. i have no sympathy for someone who wont do what i do to make a living. i have run my business as well as work at my job at night for many years now. but, i feel very sorry for people who cant help themselves, somehow i thought of my grandmother , and yes i lowered my price, alot. this one time i knew a guy who was dying of cancer, did work for him 4 free. this lady may have a million bucks, if she does, shes hiding it well. place looks like crap. im glad to have the oportunity to help her. hopefully im rackin up some brownie points with the man upstairs, lord knows, im gonna need them

09-24-2002, 11:04 AM
Originally posted by bobbygedd
hopefully im rackin up some brownie points with the man upstairs, lord knows, im gonna need them

Well, from what I know of you, I don't know how bad you're going to "need" them, but I DO know that you're exactly right!;)

Green Pastures
09-24-2002, 11:26 AM
Originally posted by Darb
The Bible says "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27


I too am a Christian first, AND a businessman second. I have seen this several times and generally it swings both ways. Some of these elderly ladies are LOADED and just trying to be penny pinchers, and some are truly desperate.

The Bible also says in Matthew 10:16 "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves." Why did she let her yard get so bad in the first place? Where are the people from her church? Where is her family? I'm not trying to be callous, I really have a soft spot in my heart for widows and single mom's (I was raised by a single mom) but, I have been used by widows and single mom's just the same. There are people out there who know about our weaknesses, and prey on them.

Just like everything there is balance in the world. Our Heavenly Father wants us to help the widows, orphans and poor in the world, BUT He also doesn't want us to be made fools of and be taken for a ride. Yet at the same time I think God is big enough where if I you do something for somebody with good intentions to help them, and that person is dishonest, and trying to get something for nothing, God can bless you regardless. It's all a matter of where your heart is. I'd hate to be on the other end of the deal though :eek:

I would suggest this, pray and ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-6). Look at the house, better yet what kind of neighborhood is she in?, look in the garage/driveway, the general financial situation should be obvious. Make you determination to do the job and at what price from your observations mixed with wisdom. I'm sure you will do what's right in the end.


09-24-2002, 03:04 PM
I usually give a discunt to those on a fixxed income. But only for necesarry work, i.e. mowing leaves etc. But for thatching or seeding not a chance. Old folk seem to think that when they were our age and they would get paid $10 to mow a 2 acre property uphill both ways that that's what they should pay. Stick to your guns brother.He who dies with the most toys is still dead.

09-24-2002, 05:42 PM
Scott of Green Pastures,

I agree 100% with what you said... like the verse I quoted it said "widows in distress", not just any widows.

And as for churches helping out... this is one reason the government is so big (IMHO). Many churches have failed in their calling and purpose, and have let the government do its work. I have been let down several times by individuals in the church. After all they are not perfect and we all make mistakes. Overall though, the churches I have gone to have helped me much much much more than let me down.

There is a lot of good ideas on this board. I know the original poster must be pretty happy with all the recommendations.

09-24-2002, 07:39 PM
Ive given alot of elderly folks discounts before...for me they are a great source of referals...I think if I can pick-up 25 extra accounts for a 10-15% dicount im still making money...I have been burned before, one older lady ask for a cheaper price because she was on a fixed income...so I gave it..later on that year I saw the jag in her shop.....the next year her price went up...I lost the account, but who cares dint want to work for someone like that anyways...ussually older ladies that I give a price break to are really grateful...give me cookies and vegtables out of the garden...it makes me feel good and thats pay enough sometimes.

09-24-2002, 09:45 PM
Discount rate is good - but look into the surroundings- car/house... It also depends on the ladys personality you will find out after you do the job once wether she is pleased just that you show up or if she is on you like a hawk. 1 customer will bring out coffee and cookies if there is any extra work to be done - ALWAYS calls me "dear" when talking- something that just makes me smile when I think about it. I also cut my grandmothers lawn over 2 acres she is legally blind and would be cutting her grass if she could see it. I do the lawn just to see her but she insists on paying she wants to pay $50 but since I fill out the check and she cant see to well what see thinks is a 50 is really $5, she's happy because I take the check and I don't care about the money at all.

09-24-2002, 10:12 PM
I would say that if she wants lawn maintenance to make it look good then she can afford but just doesn't want to. If she just wants it kept mowed and doesn't care how it looks, she can just get some scrub to do it for cheap.

Sean Adams
09-24-2002, 10:16 PM
Man Oh Man....this is a tough one...for some. There are two sides to this, as there is every story or situation.

In one respect you want to be the "good guy" and in the other respect you want to be the "business owner".

I think everyone has been through something similar. I agree with just about everyone that posted before me. Part of the fun of owning your own business is learning people - how to read them, how to please them, and even learn to see if they are full of baloney.

Yes, it's true, the IRS, or the local dentist may not even consider giving this woman a break. But it's your business. Will doing this favor for this woman help you as a person or hinder you? Will it help your business or hurt it?

What is more important to you? The fact is, if you have the time and it isn't going to break your bank, maybe doing this favor just once would be a good deed you can look back on with pride.

If you are swamped with work and short on man power and don't have the time, maybe explaining that it just isn't possible is the best route to take.

Ultimately you decide. Doing it or not doing it is not going to make you a better or worse person. You know what is best for you. Best of luck with your decision.

09-24-2002, 10:36 PM
Sean......Well said.

Bobby, This would be a tough one for me. I can't really offer any more advice over what has already been posted. Good luck. I'm sure you'll make the right decision.

09-24-2002, 11:00 PM
Luckily I have never been in this situation but I did have a friend a few years ago that had an elderly neighbor that "couldn't afford" the handyman type of work he was doing for her. Helpless old lady didn't have any family, so he did a lot of work for her around the house, mowing, plumbing, painting etc. Well after the lady passed on he found out that she was in fact quite wealthy and was somewhat miffed by the whole deal, until the executor of her estate contacted him to tell him that she had left him her entire estate. Life seems to have a mysterious way of paying you back good for good and bad for bad.

09-25-2002, 12:03 AM
Well shoot Bobby ... ya surprised me ... WTG !

How about getting her lawn to look the best on the street and put up a small sign for advertising?

I'm not saying don't do anything for free , but if you are torn between the business owner and good samaritan this might work.

09-25-2002, 12:04 AM
This one is simple.

IF you rest good tonight, wake in the mornning and it's off your mind then great! If not then maybe you are like me Runner and I and are a sucker. I have done a few jobs for free, zero not a penny. It took very little of my time, the money was more than made up in other jobs, I felt better about it and nothing was lost on my end but a few minutes and a few pounds of seed & fertilizer.

No behind the scenes networking....no one planning on me doing everyone for free and I ended up with a very good customer the last time who I have serviced for 3 years now, I also do her daughters home also (at regular price).

Your call...if I thought she was sincere I would be doing it.

09-25-2002, 12:55 AM
Tough call, I generally avoid these nowdays, I used to gladly do "free" work for elderly ladies until it got to the point that they started telling all thier other elderly lady friends that I was doing free work and it got out of hand when people get angry at you because you did it for free or cheaper for so and so.... I still do volenteer work, but mostly for our local parks and recreation depts. they really need it, the county is cash strapped and parks are having trouble being kept up. My Grandfather was a sucessful business man that owned a plumbing business, He used to always tell me that Seniors don't deserve discounts no more than the rest of us and that they should be charged accordingly.... His phylosophy was that a customer has the right to look for the best price for the service they want, you as a business have the right to charge what you feel is a fair price for your services. If your elderly customer wants a best price or discounted price they should get a handful of bids and choose the cheapest one. It's not cruel to think that, I've been tricked plenty of times by elderly people that used to pull the fixed income routine, but found that they could afford a new caddilac and pay cash for it or that they could put plenty of money in thier home for improvements like hiring a paint contractor.

Tim Canavan
09-25-2002, 01:13 AM
Did you tell her that this is how you put food on your table and pay your bills, not that this is just a hobby and you'd pay her to do it? People are amazing sometimes. She knew how bad her lawn was getting and yet still waited and waited until a sucker comes along. Besides trying to make you feel bad, she wasted your time. Unbelivable!
Then again, as long as there wasn't a mercedes in the driveway, I might have done it too. Depending on the circumstances. :cool:

What's with the bible study? Isn't this Lawnsite?

09-25-2002, 01:42 AM
well, in case no one could tell, its just not my nature to be nice to people. BUT, i will be at grannys house, bright and early in the am, working for minimum wage and a cookie. must be gettin soft in my old age. hey, it could turn out good. when i was there initially giving the estimate, she couldnt hear me banging on the door, and a nieghbor came out and told me to be patient and bang harder, granny is hard of hearing. so i chat with the nieghbor a bit, and she asks for a card. my only fear, when i get done with the lawn, granny starts pointing at the bushes that need trimming, and the gutters that need cleaning..... i do like the idea of the sign in front of the house though, could work out.

09-25-2002, 09:20 AM
Well, I have a bright red wrapper around my head and it says all day Sucker on it. lol
I had a lady do this to me. She has an older car but a nice house. I just thought the house was a product of her and her ex husband ya know?
She says she only has a little money and needs to keep the yard up on a little bit of money. Ok she beat me out of $10 per cut. Not a lot so ok.
Then I find out she takes at least 10 trips per year to Las Vegas, Reno Atlantic city anywhere she can gamble.
Boy was I a sucker.
I still do her yard but the extras like the shrubs and all she pays full price.

09-25-2002, 10:45 AM

I think the man up stairs would even strike you down for getting burned by this one. LOL If she can't afford it, then the lawn just goes looking brown. Maybe she should call her family members to help her out. I hope you didn't get stuck with a yearly cutting contract for peanuts.

09-25-2002, 10:51 AM
I had an elderly woman break into tears just late last week when I gave her an estimate for her lawn. Power rake, verticut, seed, fertilzer. I had been on my way to take my wife out for dinner and she was in the car when this lady called for the estimate. We were only six blocks away and had the extra time so I had stopped by. When my wife saw this lady break into tears she immediately "suggested" that I should do the lawn for the cost of materials. Which I knew better than to say "are you nuts!??" and immediately agreed.

Dinner was on her that night. So was desert if you know what I mean...:p

09-26-2002, 10:30 AM
Put me in the Sucker Catergory also. I had this old lady I mowed for who lived in a trailer park. One of the first accounts I got. 15 years ago. Priced it at $10/cut and never went up on her. She died 2 years ago. She was good as gold. In this biz, you'll discover that some customers need us more than we need them. She was always thrilled to see me pull up each week. I still think about her quite often.


09-26-2002, 06:27 PM
I agree with Darb. I'd have helped her out in a heartbeat. If that had happened to me, I'd take it on faith that she was being sincere (aren't tears real enough???) and I'd have just done the job for her for free. I make plenty of $$ off of the rich people to be able to help out the poor or distraught people from time to time.

In Matthew 25, Jesus also says, " to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me." He is saying that we are expected to love and help those in need - even the those who we consider the least in our society. Personally, I don't want to be found guilty of not helping when I should have.

Would "the tears" work at the grocery store? The car dealership? The electric company? With the I.R.S.? I don't think so.
Probably not. And that's exactly why I'd be the one to help her out - because others won't.

Furthermore, those are bad analogies. The grocery store has a very small markup and is selling mostly material goods. It can't necessarily afford to give people much of a break. Whereas something like dethatching is mostly labor, and I can certainly afford to give her some of my labor for a discount or for free.

The car dealership is also a bad analogy. For one, she probably wouldn't be buying a car from a dealership. Secondly, again, this is a material item that they have a lot of $ invested in. Not the same as dethatching, which is mostly labor.

I agree, churches, family, etc. should be helping this lady. But if they are not gonna do it and the opportunity presents itself to me, I will take the responsibility to help her out.

As for the comment that she'll call all of her broke friends and they'll all be hounding you - I have never ever experienced that. I think that comment is callous and just an excuse not to help.

My 2 cents.

09-27-2002, 12:01 AM
For those with a lack of knowledge of history, those 70-80-90 year olds are the people who lived through the depression, won WWII, and set this country's economy on fire in the late 40s thru the 60s. They were frugal, pinched their pennies and invested, & worked their hearts out, so their children could have a better life. If you're under 40, you probably never noticed how these people worked, and helped out the younger generations, too. Their back breaking, non-complaining drive is what made this country what it is. Tom Brokaw is right that this was "The Greatest Generation." Some of these people are fairly well off now, some are not.

I wonder if they would have done what they did if they knew some spoiled runts would complain about everything under the sun today. And especially complain about them, the people who gave these runts the freedom and affluence they have.

For those who complain all the time on this board about the older people, you make me very ill. You owe all these people so much, and all you can do is put a dollar figure on what you can do for them. If they thought that way 50 years ago, you wouldn't be living in such an affluent society today.

Grow up a little and learn from jimlewis's post above.

09-27-2002, 12:09 AM
Jim & Jim....

Both very well said...as I said in my first post it would be a freebee. Thanks for pointing out the things we often overlook...now I would be begging to do the job...lol..

09-27-2002, 12:40 AM
A kind and compassionate act is often its own reward. - William John Bennett:)

But NO negoitation on the cookies,its Double Chocolate Chip or nothing...;)

09-27-2002, 01:11 AM
I fight this fight everyday. My area is 50% elderly, 25% young do-it-yourselfers and 25% middle age folks who pay good (or at least what the job is worth). The elderly here are always looking for a deal; some genuinely need it, while others don't. It will be your ultimate decision on who you feel "needs" a break, and what to give. Some of these elderly folks do need to realize that you also need to make a living and that you have costs involved. This is always a tough decision. I usually become a softy and "give in", but then I sometimes feel taken advantage of too. I envy the guys who work in affluent neighborhoods and never have to deal with this. :(

09-27-2002, 01:51 AM
ok, ok, i did the job. then she asked what to do for the crabgrass. so i told her and said to put it down in march. then she said she needed to write it down so she wont forget, be right back, i need to go in and get some paper and a pencil. but the way she was moving, i was afraid she wouldnt make it back till march, so i said listen, ill swing by and do it for u, at no charge(its less than 900 sq. ft). then she starts crying again. something tells me ill be doin alot of very cheap work over there next spring and summer. o well, ill live, its 2 min from my house, and a real tiny property. didnt know u guys were so religous.....

09-27-2002, 09:24 AM
Boy, BigJim, you're really fussy on the chocolate. I do the widow down the street for just chocolate. And she has a daughter living in Belgium. I get some REAL chocolate out of that deal! :blob2:

09-30-2002, 11:35 PM
Jim lewis,

My Remark about the elderly lady calling all her friends letting them know that she is getting free services and them calling me is a fact, It has happened to me several times. I live near Bremerton, Washington. there are a lot of elderly folks who like in that town with lawns in serious states of disrepair, I used to do services for free for some of these folks under the condition that the person I was helping not inform others, when you start getting phone calls from people wanting service and then you tell them that you will be out to offer an estimate, you don't expect to hear " well mabel told me about you and you mow her lawn for free, how come I have to pay?" I don't like being put in position of having to explain to someone why I do what I do. Maybe you never had this happen to you but it does happen and to others possible here on this website. Your remark about me not wanting to help...... Did you read into my post about how I offer free services to my local county parks dept instead? They need me more than one person, I'm trying to help hundreds by maintaining a park instead so that many can enjoy the park.

Earlier this year I was mowing baseball fields free of charge for our local VFW post and the pee-wee's, this took me three hours a week in time, I'm providing gounds keeping services for a local park that covers 10 acres and coast line and a lighhouse for the county free of charge, 1 full day of my time at no cost to them. I really don't need to be told I'm callous when I'm not,

I'm done with this website.

10-01-2002, 02:02 AM
Ok. Well I stand corrected then. I just haven't ever experienced that. But if you have, and it became a problem like you said, then I can understand. That would be annoying as heck.

But I still think the majority of the time people make comments like this it's just to avoid helping at all. A lot of people have very selfish attitudes these days. They see an opportunity to help and then just come up come up with excuses why they shouldn't. I get sick of that. It's not how we should be living. If anything, I'd rather err on the side of being too giving than not giving enough.

10-01-2002, 02:45 AM

I too said the same thing about the phone calls. And not to be callous...but because it has happened to me on several occasions as well. And, like yourself, I too was a bit ticked when I read Jim's response about "not wanting to help".

I suppose that just because we do not tell the forum about how we do grab a chainsaw after a storm and help cleanup fallen limbs and trees from the 'old folks' yards here in the neighborhood, or never consider raising the price of an already underpriced job just because it's a sweet, elderly widow on a fixed income, or pitch in on other community clean up projects, and give $$$ to our favorite causes...then it is 'safe' to assume that we are "callous".

Jim Lewis:

It IS annoying as heck when it happens...especially after you've kindly asked them to keep the deal their getting "under their hats"! I do know what you are saying though. We definately are living in some "I, Me, Mine" times. I've just decided to avoid these situations (mostly the 'one-on-ones')...while taking on other, more broad-based, activities. In this way I can still contribute while totally avoiding "getting burned" by the "takers". Yeah, they are out there...young and old alike...I'm sad to say. I guess some people have better skill in spotting them than I did. Maybe I was too much of 'an old softy'.

10-01-2002, 12:35 PM
Sometimes you just have to take a risk and hope the people you are dealing with are honest. I would have been sucked into this immediately! The elderly and children are my soft spot. I am sure this will turn out for the best for you Bobby. The Man upstairs is watching. The best of luck to you!

10-01-2002, 01:38 PM
Originally posted by BigJim
A kind and compassionate act is often its own reward. - William John Bennett:)

But NO negoitation on the cookies,its Double Chocolate Chip or nothing...;)

Double Stuffed Oreo's.....:D