View Full Version : Customer Help, Please?

10-15-2002, 10:34 AM
Hey all, I have a problem I have a customer for 2 years. He was one of my first big yards. Problem being he has always paid late. Not on contract but our policy is clearly stated that we charge a late fee. I am now in the position of growth. September was the last straw, we bill on the 21st of each month and our invoice states a due date of the 1st. Late fee after the 5th. Cancellation and collection after the 15th. Ok my wife doesnít tell me she made a bank run on Saturday the 12th with this dead beats check and on Monday when I get home she asks if I serviced this guy's account my answer is no. I want to dump him but in a tactful way. Any ideas??????? Iím willing to forgo the payment he owes for one cut in October, This will free up more time for a contract that produces more income in one month than this guy will produce in late fees in a year. I did a search to no avail.

Thanks everyone in advanceÖ

10-15-2002, 10:41 AM
I see that you call this man a dead beat. Does he always pay you? How late is he normaly? Is it possible that he pays his bills on like the 15 of each month? This would make him late by your schedule every month.

As far as I'm concerned, as long as they pay, and pay without my having to chase it, I really don't care how long it takes them. It doesn't make any diff to me if I get my check in 2 weeks or 4, as long as I get it.

Are you strapped for cash every month so that you need his payment? Cash flow is important after all....

10-15-2002, 10:51 AM
No Iím not cash strapped. Yes I have to call every month and go to his home in the evening. He will tell me a check is in the mail on a Monday. I look at the post mark and itís the Friday after the Monday he said he mailed it. Just a real PITA! Iím really looking for a tactful way out as my time is money. Buy the way, when we interview a new customer we offer a billing schedule to suite their needs. Usually this works out for the majority of the customers. We are always working to put customer service first.

Green Pastures
10-15-2002, 10:53 AM
I think you need to sit down with him and explain your billing procedures, again. Maybe he does pay all bills on the 15th. I had a few customers like this and after just simply talking with them and explaining things, it got cleared up. Communication is the key.


scott's turf
10-15-2002, 11:00 AM
Good advise here. Tell him your policy again and then impose a late fee if it is not paid in time. 95% of the time they will pay thfee and not have a problem with it. I impose a 5% or $5.00 which ever is higher. This fee is a slight deterant and help pay for postage. Remember we are not in the business of lending money.

Premo Services
10-15-2002, 11:14 AM
Dump The deadbeet!!!!!!!!

I had a customer for 6 years, and he always paid late, sometimes 2 months late. I know that is my falt, but it was a good moneymaker. He never paid late fees. This year I put him on a contract and for a few months he paid like within a week of when the invoices were sent out. Then he went into the same old routine, paying when he wanted to, and not abiding by the contract and paying late fees. He did not pay for 2 months and I wrote a letter stating that I was cancelling service until he paid all open invoices and late fees. That is when the stuff hit fan.
He got pissed at me for doing that and started to question my cutting practices and my integretity.:angry: He waited for 2 weeks longer and left a message that the check was paid, sorry for the inconveniences, and would I come back to cut again?
Yea right I am on the way as we speak. I dropped him like a sack of rotten potatoes. He was running my business, dictating when he would decide to pay me. I am soo happy that I don't have the POS anymore.
On a side note, his lawn has not been cut for a month and a half now.:eek: Mabey he thinks I will be there to cut it. I did write a letter to him telling him that he voided the contract and would not be back anymore.

10-15-2002, 01:43 PM
I always give the customer the benefit of the doubt. What I mean is that I would talk with them and explain the current billing arrangement and ask if you need to readjust it or if they would like to pay one month in advance. Explain to them that you have financial obligations you need to meet and payment is due from them by a prearranged date. If the customer blows you off or doesn't change their ways tell them you will no longer be able to service their account. Hopefully the customer will appreciate your honesty and conform to a more timely payment method.


10-15-2002, 01:52 PM
personnaly i pay bills at the end of the month. if they cant work with that .
we both just have to find someone else.
of course i establish that from the beginning . some banks etc wont budge on due dates ,so i dont do buisiness withum.

Fantasy Lawns
10-15-2002, 02:25 PM
When you send invoices on the 21st due by the 1st ... is that fore the present month or for the next month ??

For us .... our Oct invoices go out by the 1st n are due by the 20th ....for the month of Oct .....

Any payments not recieved by the next invoices which go out (usuall the 1st of each month) recieve a "past due" invoice as well as the next new one ....

Further a letter is given which request payment before the next normal service day (if not possible give a call and leave payment at doorway) that we may "suspend service" untill paid in full

I do not post late fees ....I'm not a bank or creditor ....I provide a service .... if payment is late ....I suspend or cancel service .... usaully 1-2 suspended visits (does not reduce my monthly payment so I suposed one could look at this as a "late fee" .... they pay the full month even with a skiped day) ...fixes the situation or I just cancel the account .... send a lien notice for amount due to work which was completed

10-15-2002, 02:45 PM
dont cut it, dont say anything, when its gone 2 or 3 weeks, call and say u r very sorry, but u have been ill, u will get to him as soon as u can. then, let the grass get 3 feet high, and call and say u quit! screw him, i bet hed go nuts if his boss didnt give him his check for 2 months. there is nothing like workin at someones house when u r not getting paid enough, or on time. screw him. u have to call to get paid? go to his house at night, during your free time? no way,

10-15-2002, 02:55 PM
Tuesday, October 15, 2002

MR. ****:

After a review of your payment history we will no longer service your lawn care needs.

Thank you for your payment of $**.**on 10/15/02.

This brings your account up to date.

If you would like to go on a pay as we cut schedule please let us know.

Thank You.

Marc WÖ

I was just looking for the write way to word the letter.
The way I worded the first post should have had more to the point in it Sorry. Anyway I sent the above with a copy of our legal disclaimer.

scott's turf
10-15-2002, 03:22 PM
Originally posted by Fantasy Lawns

I do not post late fees ....I'm not a bank or creditor ....I provide a service .... if payment is late ....I suspend or cancel service .... usaully 1-2 suspended visits (does not reduce my monthly payment so I suposed one could look at this as a "late fee" .... they pay the full month even with a skiped day) ...fixes the situation or I just cancel the account .... send a lien notice for amount due to work which was completed

Every service that I have charges me a late fee. Phone, cable, gas, etc... There are some people in the world that are just late payers. If I get my money without a call and they pay the late fee I am happy. Your letter is to the point. You did the right thing by waiting untill you got paid in full before sending otherwise it may have been much more difficult.
That is one thing that I hate about payment after service. The customer has us by the balls and we have to be extremely nice to them when we don't want to just because they owe us money. Luckily I typically only get screwed out of $50 per year. I think of my late fee money (usually a few hundred) as insurance for those people that screw you over.

10-15-2002, 03:35 PM
I'll tell you what, with 20 years in this business, I can tell you that is NOT the way to do it. You send ME a letter like that, and I'll be DARNed if I'm going to do business with you in the future, evn if it IS on a pay per cut basis. This is not good business practice at all. If you are billing monthly, then give adequate time for payment. One week is not adequate time. That's like you're expecting everyone to drop everything in their mail to go write you a check and send it out. Come on! You send it out on the 21st, they recieve it on the 23rd. Then, you say it's due on the 1st, which means they need to send it on the 29th or 30th for you to get it by then. THEN, you want to charge them a late fee for 5 more days! Not only is that uncool, but I don't even think that's legal. Get with the program, allow atleast 15 days for receipt of payment, and you get paid once a month all the same. Now, of you want to go with some sort of overdue rate 15 days after THAT, making it 30 days, and you can even hold back your work then, then that's up to you. The other stuff though, that's just to pushy and demanding. Not good business practices. It reminds me of the kid that knocks on the door when he's done mowing the lawn. If this customer is a paying customer, and the money on the job is decent, (if it's not, then it's a whole seperate issue of rate) then I would change MY practices to a more suitable format for everyone. I bet he doesn't have any other bills that tell him it better be paid in a week. For that matter, do you? I know I don't.;)

10-15-2002, 04:16 PM
We make sure all customers receive their invoice by the 21st of the month which means we mail them on the 15th. First of all I would not charge late fees on customers that pay occasionally late, just on the habitual late payers, the ones you have to chase down each month. Iím sure a credit card company will waive late fees if your bill is not paid by the due date. Yes I agree a longer time frame is in order. As I stated before, we make billing arrangements with the customer. This guy has never paid on time not from day one. Look you have a guy do an oil change does he give you TERMS I think not. Now if you had a fleet you would get TERMS.

10-15-2002, 06:39 PM
I'm with you Runner...I don't pay my bills that fast even when I have the money in my account and I have nothing else better to do at the monent.

And at this time of the year, I have plenty of other things to do which includes making money by working as much as I can.

Fall is here and Winter isn't too far behind.

The Mowerdude
10-15-2002, 06:50 PM
One line that I use a lot with customers that pay slow:

"If you're going to be constantly interupting someone's cashflow, I'd prefer that you did it to my competition."

It's short, sweet, to the point, non adversarial and hits the nail right on the head. It also presents you as a business man that is facing facts.

10-15-2002, 06:52 PM
I think what has really happened is he is taking advantage of me. I stated that he was one of the first big houses in this development. I work solo and I have 7 other accounts on the same street. I think he sees it this way. He was the first and gave me access to the neighborhood of which I capitalized on in a positive way. Yes I did give him a fair price just to get my foot in the door. Itís a gated community so access for solicitation was out of the question. After I started working there I was told by several customers on the street to watch out. Apparently there were other LCOís that were stiffed.

I also retrieved the letter from my mail box. I just need a way to word it tactfully. I have been told by other customers that I was going to be dropped for the winter. Winter we cut every 2 weeks. I for one donít like to hear it from other customers but rather from the horseís mouth. It just makes better business sense. Dropping him for payment oversight was a way I thought would make it quick and easy.

I was also told by other residents in the community they would hire me If I were not servicing his account apparently there is some strife within the community, of which I will not get into. I have too much to worry about other than getting involved in this S**T!

I have always put CUSTOMER SERVICE at the top of the list. No two ways about it. Word of mouth advertising has gotten me to where I am today. So to just not show up is wrong PERIOD. I due service the house next door!

Sorry for the long post. But putting the cancellation in tactful words has me between a rock and a hard place.

Thanks for the Help and again sorry for the long posts.


10-15-2002, 06:53 PM
We send out invoices by the 30 or 31 of every month which ever applies and expect payment by the 30 th of the next month that gives them 3 and a half weeks as some people pay bills 2 x a month then if we dont rec payment by that time we sock a $15 dollar late fee on . Thia has worked very well for us and has really taken carte of late payers > we used to have a few but this opened their eyes i guess cause the same customers are paying on time this year :)

10-15-2002, 09:01 PM
I started invoicing on the 1st of the month due on the last day of the month new accounts are getting a 10% charge added(contract)since converting 60% are paid before the 15th, 39% by the 30th.

dr grass
10-15-2002, 09:23 PM
i would dump him. not worth the worries. their are people out there willing to pay on time. they understand that we have just as many and many times more financial obligations than they do. so go find an non-p.i.t.a. customer.


10-15-2002, 09:28 PM
Promo, Now, THIS is a much more reasonable way to go. Many people send it right out on the first week, (as retired folks get their checks on the 3rd) and the others have this grace period to pay it. This is completely fair. Marc, as far as the other members of the community saying they'll have your service as long as you are not servicing him, well, I think some red flags would go up there. If these people's line of thinking is so that- petty, they sound like they could be potential PITR's anyway.

Darryl G
10-15-2002, 10:44 PM
Marc - If you want to dump him, just send a letter stating that due to changes in your business plan, his account no longer fits your business focus.

I don't worry about people who pay a little late, as long as I get my money.

Most of my accounts pay per cut, billed on the last day of the month, due on receipt, and late after 10 days.

I have one customer who I service 3 properties for who always pays on the 25th (15 days late). I've learned to expect it, and don't worry about it, especially since this is my 2nd highest grossing customer.

I have other customers who sometimes pay a few days late, and I assume it's because 10 days really isn't that much time to pay a bill, so I don't worry about them either. I reserve the right to charge a late fee, but never have. It's stated on my invoices so that I can if I want to.

The Mowerdude
10-16-2002, 07:30 AM
Well, there's a lot of good info here, but the fact is with some PITA slow payers, no matter what we do, they're going to pay late. Late charges don't work, begging doesn't work, threatening doesn't work. It's time to decide what this guy is worth. Try everything else first, but in the end, if the customer doesn't change and you can no longer put up with this, it's time to dump him.

One final suggestion before you do decide to drop him. If you're already on the verge of never working for him anymore, it won't matter if you keep him or not, then ask him to pay for numerous cuttings in advance. I've done this with many customers and it was amazing what it did for my cashflow. I took all of the money and put it in the bank. I didn't spend it for anything extra but only for business expenses. I also kept track of everything using CLIP and made sure that I kept to my mowing schedule. It's a ballsy move but at this point, what the heck? Looks like you might lose him anyway.

One other thing. It seems that every time I've lost bad customers, it wasn't long before I replaced them with good customers. And with new customers, it's much easier to not let this kind of stuff get started.