View Full Version : Pathetic Letter from Customer

Darryl G
06-21-2003, 09:14 PM
I received a letter today from a good customer (5% of gross sales since I started the biz). Theyíre not exactly a regular customer, they call a few times a year to have me mow the lawn and clean the place up. The first time I mowed the lawn, it took 9 hours. The last time (the current bill) only took 2.75 hrs. I bill them hourly.

Hereís how it reads:

Tuesday June 2003

Dear Darryl,

We are in a fix, drowning in debts that are unpayable all at once so that we lost power for four days, no phone service, and no fuel for water. It is slowly being worked out with all the above companies. All but giving them our first born male child. He is living too far away from us and they havenít the time to get him.

Enclosed are 2 post-dated checks. It is the best we can do. We really appreciate your kindness and loyalty and we certainly will pass along your name with stars to whoever buys this old house. We are going away for a week to stay with family up near the Cape. During this period at least one of your checks will clear. If you feel you can take more punishment feel free to give us another cut. The grass needs it. If not we understand why you wonít, you have bills as well. We are awaiting the papers for my auntís car so that we can sell it and catch up a bit. If you know anyone who would like a Caddy it should be on the market in about two weeks.

Very truly,

Laura ******

Anyone need a mowing account?

David Haggerty
06-21-2003, 09:18 PM
At least they're honest about it.


06-21-2003, 09:18 PM
What's pathetic about that?!? At least they have the common courtesy to let you know, instead of just screwing you over like a lot of people would have done. Have you or your family never hit hard times? Jesus, man...count your blessings.

06-21-2003, 09:21 PM
How can you call them pathetic after they obviously took a significant amount of time to put the letter together in the first place.

Darryl G
06-21-2003, 09:31 PM
You guys...

From Websters Dictionary: pathetic - arousing pity, sorrow etc.

If that letter doesn't arouse pity and sorrow, I don't know what does.

They're nice people and I appreciate the letter and that they're making an effort to pay. I may mow the lawn if I have a chance, but it's a long way out for me and I have to leave the trailer behind. I usually do them to fill in gaps in my work load since they don't care when it gets done.

06-21-2003, 09:36 PM
I agree why are you calling them pathetic? It seems to me that they are making an effort to settle up their bill. I admire their honesty it takes a lot to admit what they told you. I wish some of my people were that honest and forthcoming. I would rather have two post dated checks than no check at all.

Darryl G
06-21-2003, 09:42 PM
Geez guys...you run a lawn care business and operate a computer but don't know the meaning of the word pathetic.

Now that's truly pathetic!

Never mind...sorry I mentioned it. I'll tell it to someone who understands english.:angry:

06-21-2003, 10:02 PM
Unless you are willing to type a book on how you are thinking about something it is easy to misinterpret statements on here. It has happened to me too. Don't let it bother you. Sense you explained you meant it in the literally sense I am sure every one understands were you were coming from now. You just picked an usual way of saying it. It is pathetic that that has happened to them. Most people would just say sad or depresing though. My unrequested 2 cents.:)

06-21-2003, 10:11 PM
Im with David on this one, as I would keep them on your client list. We all have probley been in this sort of jam of some copasaty at one time or anouther

06-21-2003, 10:15 PM
You sounded to me to have no sorrow and then asked if anyone wanted an account. That's the way I read it.

06-21-2003, 10:48 PM
I agree with leadarrows when he said that things can be misinterpeted here because it has happened to me too.

Here's the problem. When you look in the thesaurus, you will find two different kinds of synonyms for the word pathetic.
Such as: useless, worthless, miserable, inadequate, petty, etc...

So it's understandable that the word pathetic could be misconstrued.

I like the fact that they mentioned to you that they realize you have bills to pay also. So many people nowadays forget that we have bills to pay too. They sound from their letter that they are decent caring people.
The part I'm not keen on is how they are a long way out there for you. Maybe best to send them a nice letter back wishing them the best but telling them that it is no longer convenient to drive out there that far.

Darryl G
06-21-2003, 10:49 PM
I never called them pathetic. Sorry if you guys misunderstood.

I thought money was getting a little tight for them, because they had their daughter pay their spring clean-up bill. The man has been having health problems lately.

They had me mow because the realtor suggested it (house is for sale). After I did the job (5/31) they told me they could only give me $50 for now and would give me the rest the following week. I told them not to leave themselves short and next week was fine for the whole bill...in fact anything less than 30 days was fine.

It would have been nice if they told me they couldn't pay me in full before I drove 25 minutes and busted my butt for 3 hours on a knee high jungle (last mow was last Sept...they didn't let me do it with the spring clean-up) at the end of a Friday, but I didn't complain.

I have been more than fair to these people, no one else will mow the lawn because they let it go so far in between cuts. Anyway, it's too far away for me to put it on my regular schedule, and they said they can't afford it anyway. Every time I cut it, I tell them that now would be a good time to find someone local to cut it...while it looks good.

I even dropped my rate from the normal $50/hr to $45/hr after realizing how much $$ I've taken in from them (Quickbooks is great for that kind of stuff). I never would have guessed that they make up 5% of my gross income since I'm there so infrequently....but it's lots of hours at a time. Spring/fall C/U (done in spring) took me three days!!

So you see, I'm not a cold thoughtless person...but I do have my limits and I really don't like post-dated checks, because I put them aside and then forget about them.

Jason Pallas
06-21-2003, 11:47 PM
Hey quit complaining - at least they're up front with you and they haven't run up a huge bill and now refuse to pay it or worse yet dodge your phone calls. I can deal with an honest broke client a lot better than a deadbeat that shrugs their responsibility and tries to slither out of a bill. Thank god they've been up front with you instead of leading you on and wasting your time/money.
P.S There were a lot of warning signs that this wasn't gonna be such a great account from the begining. If they really constitute 5% of your gross, you should maybe start to rethink the type of clients you're accepting.

Lawn DOG
06-21-2003, 11:58 PM
All as I can say is "Sucks to be them". Yes, it is pathetic and yet imagine how hard it is to be in thier shoes and still have the dignity to write you that letter.

Hard choice to make.
We all like to help people but like she said we have bills to.

06-22-2003, 12:23 AM
After that last post, I really know what you "really" meant by "Pathetic Letter from Customer". Thanks for clearing it up.

06-22-2003, 02:19 AM
yea, it sucks, but at least they wrote a letter of explanation. when people dont pay me, i have to hunt them down, they wont answer the door or phone. good luck

Envy Lawn Service
06-22-2003, 02:53 AM
That's how I define it. It had to be a bit painful to write too ya know? The exception to this would be if these folks are what I call "poor mouthers". You know the type, talk that way all the time, no shame at all and act like they are soooo broke when they really aren't.

I say it's painful to read because I have seen this situation so much locally. I've lost some good customers due to economic reasons and that sucks nomatter how you turn it or which way you look at it.

Darryl I feel for ya. I know all to well what it's like. I've seen folks form all walks of life suffering economicaly, both with my brokerage firm and the lawn service. People are not investing, robbing savings, robbing 401K's, annuities and other retirement funds, taking cash out of life insurance, borrowing against life insurance, selling policies and long term holdings to settlement companies, cancelling health insurance, disabilty insurance, life insurance, mortgage insurace, lawn services because they can no longer afford it.

People have to do what they have to do to make ends meet and it's sad. I was so in the dumps at the brokerage, having to deal with sobb stories so frequintly. I couldn't enjoy it anymore. I set the auto pilot with the help of some trustworthy associates and left it behind for a while. I've been doing the lawn service full time since March 1st.

Darryl G
06-22-2003, 03:07 AM
Here's a photo of the house from the realtor listing. It's listed at $575,000. Includes the main 2,600 foot residence and 2 others in need of serious work. The lot is 400 x 600 feet.

Envy - Congrats on going full time. You can add me to the robbing annuities club. If it weren't for that, I'd be sunk right now and be writing letters like my customer's. I've had a negative cash flow for 3 years now... but that didn't stop me from buying a $7,000 mower on Friday.:D

Darryl G
06-22-2003, 03:11 AM
oops...forgot about the photo but now can't get it to post....nevermind the pic.

Envy Lawn Service
06-22-2003, 03:11 AM
Oh, and be glad you didn't get the letter I had forwarded to me from the firm today....

Dear Sir,

At the time you signed your brokerage agreement to represent our company and have assess to our products and services, you also signed a Promissory Note covering any indebtedness for unearned advances, special advances, fes, charge backs, dues, interest or any other charges to your brokerage account. This note is NOW due. The last earnings statement shows a balance of $-751.08, which is presently owing.

In accordance with the Promissory Note, please remit a Cashiers Check for $751.08 within the next 10 days.

Joe Blow, CEO

When things are bad, they can always be worse. This letter beat the charge back notice and the earnings statement to the mailbox. It's always nice to be surprised and told you owe money before you are even aware that you were losing a client account. Nothing like expecting to get paid and finding out you have to pay them.

06-22-2003, 05:48 AM
Though it is an unfortunate situation for the letter writer, business is business. You need to cut these people off. Getting their grass cut by a Lawn care service is a luxary. I do a good amount of charity work(my chuch,and other nonprofit organizations,elderly). I choose what charity work I will do. I f we were performing life giving service I think we would be obligated to help more. High grass has never killed anyone. I have found in many cases when you try to give people a price break they dont appreciate it ....so just charge them your normal rate. I know I sound synical but that is what I learned at the "school of hard knocks"-Harry

06-22-2003, 01:05 PM
Yea, that letter is not pathetic. Want to hear one from a pathetic client ....

Oh thats right, they never wrote one ..... now THATS pathetic!

Darryl G
06-23-2003, 09:39 PM
Well, I mowed their lawn today. I was done with everything else I had planned for the day by 3:00 so ran out there. The grass was pretty long. I'm sure they'll be delighted when they return. Until they see my bill anyway! Here's a slice through the lawn done with my new lazer.

Darryl G
07-21-2003, 12:14 PM
Another quick update. This customer called again for a mow, which I did Saturday. They are back on their feet financially (got a tax refund).

They wanted to pay me for the last cut and the current one, but were going out, so they gave me a blank check to fill in (I bill hourly on this one). That's not something I would ever do! I guess they trust me.

07-21-2003, 12:28 PM
I beleive you really have a good customer there. So what if they are going through a tough time, we all have them. It is much better to have honest customers than to have a customer keep giving you lame excuses and you end up with no money in the end.

A1 Grass
07-21-2003, 02:12 PM

You are absolutely correct. Pathetic is the appropriate word. I know exactly what you mean by "look up the definition, guys".

maple city
07-21-2003, 04:43 PM
I can easily put myself in the place of this customer. When my husband was off of work for 8 1/2 months becuase of a serious injury, we got behind. We didn't dodge the people we owed money to, and it did work out in the end.

I think of my most faithful customers, the ones I've done for years, and made a lot of money from. If I received that letter from them, I would probably still mow them to help them out. They stuck by me and my company. I am a sucker, I know, but I like to think that every good turn we do for others will come back to us someday.

I really have a lot of respect for the way your customer handled a bad situation. darryl , I think you handled the situation well, by continuing to mow. This will help them sell the house and I really believe you will be paid in full for all the work you've done for them.

07-21-2003, 04:46 PM
Anyone at anytime could be in those shoes. Illness, accident. job loss, happens all the time. What you did was add to your "good will" account". I find that the old saying "what goes around, comes around" is very true. They will remember what you did and maybe tell their friends. One of those friends may be your next big customer. Everyone can use a favor now and then, and not everything in this world revolves around money. Anyone who has the guts to write you a letter like that deserves a break. You did the right thing.

07-21-2003, 08:42 PM
I have had those circumstances a few times. If they are up front and honest with me, fine. We scale back the service till they are flush again.

I have been there. Quick insite to my world.

In 89 or 90 I was in a car accident. Running 2 - 5 man crews for maintenance, 3 men for extras and 4 part timers. I was out of work from late April till November. I lost 10% of my customers the first damn week in the hospital. Most of them had the nerve to call in the hospital to cancel.

As the season went on, kept losing customers. Nothing I could do about. Got hooked on ------- for the second time. This time it was not recreational. It was total dependency. In 3 years I blew up my nose half a million dollars. In 2 years from the accident I lost half my business.

Still had vendors that needed to be paid and machines replaced or repaired, as well as all the other business and living expenses.

I visited my vendors personaly and explained to them truthfully my situation. They knew the problem I had, they didn't know I would be able to quit the addiction.

I had no choices left. It was either continue what I was doing, file banckrupcy and find new vendors. Or be loyal to them as they were to me.

As it turned out. I quit the addiction. Met the vedors face to face and explained to them that I was in need to rebuild my business. They never turned their back. They gave me what ever I needed, no interest or strings attached. In fact they lowered their prices for me and extended me a huge amount of credit, all while I still owed them money.

So I operated a smaller business. Paid them regularly, had them all paid off quick. Our reltionship is stronger now than it has ever been. Anything I need, anything I want. It's there for me, ahead of any of their other customers

07-21-2003, 09:07 PM
Originally posted by darryl gesner
Another quick update. This customer called again for a mow, which I did Saturday. They are back on their feet financially (got a tax refund).

They wanted to pay me for the last cut and the current one, but were going out, so they gave me a blank check to fill in (I bill hourly on this one). That's not something I would ever do! I guess they trust me.

Blank check! I wish that would happen to me. That would be so nice. But actually I would become leary of a check that was blank handed to me.

07-23-2003, 09:14 PM
I have just the opposite take on this situation, though I don't have all the information. But let me stir the puddin' and start with a sarcastic Oh Boo Hoo! Poor Babies.

Let's see...they have a lawn service. I don't. You don't. Yet we're supposed to feel sorry for them? Are they old? If so, are they so old they can't sit on a Murray or snapper riding lawnmower for an hour a week even though they're retired and don't have jobs to go to like we do? The guy who cut my grandmother's lawn was in his 70's before he retired. But if they're too infirm to keep up a lawn and can't afford to pay someone, why are they CHOOSING to live in a house with a yard? Ever hear of a townhome? And what's this mowing it a few times a year? Who's doing it the rest of the time? Do they just let it grow to field height? If so, MY, WHAT CONSIDERATE NEIGHBORS THEY ARE! If not, are you saying that every penny they have goes for food, utilities, and other basics only 100% of the time? What do you think our ancestors did? Were they pityable because they couldn't afford expanded cable TV?

Can't pay you now but will have it in a few weeks? Tell me, what are the odds of someone living for dozens of years but miraculously having JUST ENOUGH money to pay you in a few weeks, but not now? What are the odds of that? AFter spending hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout a lifetime, having JUST ENOUGH to have a home and stuff, but not enough to pay the lawn guy. No, what happened is that they CHOSE to spend money on other things rather than save adequately for their future. I could go pay cash for a Lexus tomorrow, but then I wouldn't be able to retire too well either. People make choices, even though the nanny state we live in today has us believing otherwise.

Apparently they have the funds to travel to visit relatives on the Cape. Or did they gave the gas stations along the way post-dated checks too?

Ask some questions. How old were they when they retired? Were they both disabled then? If not, why did they retire w/o adequate retirement savings? Did the wife work or did she continue to arse-sit even after the kids were gone because things were "fine" then financially? How much of their income went to cigarettes, junk food, vacations, or other luxuries over the years? Or are they claiming that the planned to have exactly enough cash on hand except for lawn service?

While there is a tiny percentage of the truely unfortunate, victims of physical or mental catastrophe, I'm frankly tired of people who want us to feel their pain over their bad life decisions. But if you've been able to buy a house, the assumption has to be that you're probably not a blind mute crippled beggar.

Little "old" ladies who have 500 ft of lawn behind a tiny gate, yet complain about a $20 price, are a month late paying all the time, yet have plenty of energy and funds for planting a zillion bulbs in the yard every year. (obviously harder physically than mowing a lawn), and plenty of cash for their "vacation club" trips, parties, and the other luxuries of life. When hubby was alive they didn't have to work, they were "socialites" and it was beneath them to work like we do, people some of them consider "the dirty people" and beneath their station in life. Now that "the paycheck" has died, they have to watch their budgets. Who needs adequate life insurance when there's art and clothes and shoes to buy?

Then there are the party animals who lived it up when the income was good with trips and cars we chose not to waste money on, and then want our sympathy when the good time bandwagon tips over and they're suddenly short. The money they spent on delivered premium steaks and dry cleaning, Lexus', and home improvements is apparently money we have to wait on now that they're not employed.

Or the hard luck unemployed who wouldn't dare demean themselves to go get a "lowly" part time job making $10/hour, yet they want you to mow their lawn till they can pay you anyway. Or, God forbid, hit Home Depot for a cheap mower and get some excercise doing it themselves. What would the neighbors think!!!!???

Poor babies, each and every one of them. How...PATHETIC

The post-WWII economic expansion in this country is unsurpassed in human history. So if you can't scrape up $50 after a lifetime in the most prosperous country on earth, you are a LEEEWWWWEEESSEERRRRR! Or lazy. Or irresponsible. Take your pick. By the way, Connecticut has some of the the highest housing costs in the country, and higher than average taxes and standard of living.

Now, fire at will.

Expert Lawns
07-23-2003, 09:36 PM
that was my first history lesson here on lawnsite......:D

Darryl G
07-23-2003, 10:35 PM
Bruce - Wow, I don't have time to address everything in your post, which has some valid points, but as I mentioned earlier, their financial problems are health related...he lost his business due to chronic health ailments and they arent' eligible for SS yet.

The house is on the market now that their daughter moved out and stopped paying rent.

They went a tad over 30 days on a due on receipt account...no biggie.

It's money in my pocket that I wouldn't otherwise have...I fit them into my unbooked time. It get at least $100/mow and spring clean-up was around $700.

Who knows, maybe the new owners will have me maintain it properly.

Oh, and the neighbors can't see the lawn due to evergreen screens and it's on a 6 acre lot in the middle of nowhere (but on a main road...just nothing around there).

I'll try to read and reply better later...or maybe not.


07-25-2003, 02:08 AM
Originally posted by darryl gesner
Bruce - Wow, I don't have time to address everything in your post, which has some valid points, but as I mentioned earlier, their financial problems are health related...he lost his business due to chronic health ailments and they arent' eligible for SS yet.

The house is on the market now that their daughter moved out and stopped paying rent.

They went a tad over 30 days on a due on receipt account...no biggie.

It's money in my pocket that I wouldn't otherwise have...I fit them into my unbooked time. It get at least $100/mow and spring clean-up was around $700.

Who knows, maybe the new owners will have me maintain it properly.

Oh, and the neighbors can't see the lawn due to evergreen screens and it's on a 6 acre lot in the middle of nowhere (but on a main road...just nothing around there).

I'll try to read and reply better later...or maybe not.


Fair enough. A dollar earned is a dollar earned. And my tirade to the contrary, I do favors for those I feel deserving w/o charging myself. A guy I know's mother in law just found out she has terminal cancer, so I'm mowing her lawn for free. Why? Because he'll wind up paying her bills, yet it isn't his fault she doesn't have any money saved. But if he wasn't the one stuck with the bills, I'd just let it grow. She's a lifetime liberal who raised her kids to support "programs" for the needy instead of self reliance and personal responsibility. Yet it's him, the responsible guy, who winds up paying her way. So I try to help him out.

But as for losing a business due to health problems., Two words, DISABILITY INSURANCE. We should all have this, actually, since you are statistically far more likely to become disabled during your working life than to die, yet we usually have life insurance and no disability.

One reason I have this admittedly harsh attitude towards hard luck stories is that I've had more than my share of health problems myself and income interruptions in the past, yet I've never once been as much as a day late paying anyone anything I owed. I was careful to prepare for the rainy days AHEAD OF TIME, forgoing trips and luxuries so I could buy boring things like insurance and investments. My point is that modern Americans don't seem to do this anymore. They assume someone else will be there to provide for them. I just think it shows a complete lack of responsibility and regard for those left to pick up their mess.

I have an uncle who chose to retire in his 40's and take it easy, and now he's in his 70's and whines all the time about finances and wants his family to give him stuff. I was even asked to give him my computer since he couldn't afford one. He stole an inheritence from his (still-working) sisters, rationalizing it as "I need it more than you do".

My wife has an uncle who was a wealthy heating and air contractor. He lived it up for years. He also didnt' pay his taxes. One day the IRS got him and assessed millions of dollars that wiped him out. He still owes them money, so rather than pay up he simply quit working, period. He now lives on social security and mooches off family members. Yet her mother, who DOES have a demanding full time job in her 60's, will go over to his house and fix things up and bring him stuff and even mow his damn grass. So I'm aware that many times the sob stories we hear aren't always what they appear to be. Some people are excellent actors, though.

My own brother has 3 small kids, a wife with a very bad hip, and is self employed as an electrician, doing dangerous ladder work every day. Yet he won't buy disability insurance as I suggested. Instead he bought a fancy SUV and told me to go F myself for daring deny him his due by suggesting he get a less pricey car and get the insurance. Yet if he ever falls and is disabled guess who'll wind up paying to raise his kids?

End of sermon.