Bad bid on major PITA....should I stay or should I go?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by JeffW0011, May 6, 2007.

  1. JeffW0011

    JeffW0011 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 179

    I made a bidding mistake earlier this year. The guy told me he wanted a basic weekly maintenance. I offer my routine maintenance clients the choice between basic service and premium service. While I always deliver quality work, premium customers get the extras like bagging the grass when needed, double and triple cuts if needed, picking up trash and other little extras. As premium implies, they also pay a premium for these services.

    I gave the guy a bad quote, I was having an off day and was in a slump getting new clients. I had failed to land 4 or 5 estimates I had put out that week and I made the mistake of second guessing my prices, and as a result gave this guy a stupid deal. I instantly realized what I had did, but I felt it would be good business to honor my agreement this year. (On a side note, as soon as I signed him people started calling and accepting my "real" prices...memo to self...never second guess price or let would be customers influence pricing structure)

    However, the guy has turned out to be a major pain in the ass. I made the additional mistake of further hooking him up by giving him premium service his first cut, ie bagging the grass, picking up all the trash the riff raff had thrown in his yard over the winter etc. Now he expects premium service for a price that was a steal at basic. I have tried explaing to him the difference and that I hooked him up the first week as a favor, and because it was a slow week and I always try to give a new customer an extra special job the first time. His grass grows like wildfire and he refuses to pay for premium service and he also does not want me coming more than once per week for basic service. He lives in a crappy neighborhood by my standards, and there are security issues as well. This guy is getting more for less than any other customer I have and he still bitches every week. It really is not fair to my customers paying more for less and never complaining, they should be getting a little extra time if anyone. He is the only complaint I have had to date this season and he has complained 3 of the 5 times I have cut it. I have had impartial people drive by and try to identify the best looking property on this street and 3 out of 3 have IDed his, not knowing the address, and on days that several of the yards had been mowed. I am really ready to break agreement with him. I know I am going to end up cutting him all year, putting up with his crap for what boils down to about $10/hour profit for what he expects, and at the end of the year some illegal Mexican on his street (packed to the gills with them) is going to end up jacking something off my trailer, thus negating any profit I made from him all year. WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
     
  2. Woody82986

    Woody82986 LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,128

    If I should happen to underestimate a lawn, then I identify the mistake and notify the client that I made a mistake. This should happen as soon as you realize you have made a mistake because it only gets harder to rectify as time goes on. I talk to the client and explain that I made a mistake and offer solutions to the problem. At that point they can either accept the fact that I made a mistake and agree to retain my services at a correct price, or they can choose to take their lawn elsewhere.
    If the mistake I made amounts to something $5 or less per service, then I normally just let it go until the next season rolls around and then I bump up the price to make it fit in line with m pricing structure. If I missed the estiamte by only a few dollars it doesn't make sense to me to lose the client when I can just bump up the estimate to what it should be the next season and retain the client.
     
  3. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    Just keep mowing him and give him once a week service the basic you offer no extras no matter what he expects. Ignore his bitching, do your mow and go.
    If he is dissatisfied he will drop you and then you will be happy. But to break an agreement because you made two mistakes with him is not right. You underbid him and you lead him to believe that that first service was what he was going to get for his $$ every time by doing extras the first time.
    Why do you try to do a real good job the first time and not the rest unless they are paying extra for it? That right there can cause problems. You give them the same service every time including the first time. Premium or basic.
    The other customers do not know fair and no fair to them, forget that.
     
  4. txgrassguy

    txgrassguy LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,083

    Pretty much what Sheshovel has said.
    You made an error, unfortunately this does happen, yet I wouldn't provide any additional services beyond what you estimated.
    You do have in your service contract a clause that indicates additional services are available out side the scope of the original agreement don't you?
    Ignore the customer complaining, as long as you are doing what you first agreed too than you shouldn't have an insurmountable issues if this crapper stops paying and you have to go to court.
     
  5. JeffW0011

    JeffW0011 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 179

    I did make a mistake when I underbid him indeed. I don't know if doing extra for him was a mistake other than the fact that "he" came to expect it. I was upfront with him about what basic service is. By basic, I know way am implying it is not high quality service, because by any reasonable standard it is. For one thing I had to cleanup his yard to make it cuttable. It very clearly states in the Service Agreement that the yard needs to be free of debris and trash and he whines if I run over a grocery receipt or something that blew into his yard, not realizing or caring that I got off my mower a dozen times to pick other stuff up. My service agreement also states that either party can terminate service at any time for any reason. But I guess your right...apparantly it does not pay to do a customer a favor because some of them will expect that to be the standard.
     
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    I have a similar problem, so I can relate, in short it's just a pita to me and I feel like I'm just their little lawn boy, you can see this thread for fyi:
    http://www.lawnsite.com/showthread.php?t=185712

    But I do honor my agreement to a point, that is, until the straw breaks the camel's back. I went out and cut that customer's grass yesterday and it was way tall, I went over it 3 times and still there were clippings (more than a few but no clumps) and I had to force myself to load the Z in the trailer at that point because I was fixing to take it out on their turf, is how frustrating I find this. What could I do, I so wanted to charge them $60 or more, but no, I decided instead to do a half-azz job, clippings got left in place, I could've done better but I didn't, maybe I should've, maybe I should've never started, but what can you do? 3/4 acre lot, $45
    I will say thou, I was in rare shape for the string trimming, that went super, the blow-down about had me crying again thou. But cut it I did, because it's my fault for being STUPID, so I do it as a lesson to myself, it tends to stick better thou it sure hurts :cry:

    Thou I also made a choice, and that is at this point it's just one more straw is all it takes, an NSF check or a late payment, catch me on a day with a complaint or anything at all and I'm gone. I'm putting their lawn on a 9-day schedule and it's just to that point, come on out and tell me it doesn't need it and I'm loaded and gone for good, yours maybe like that, maybe not, in my case it started last year (well really before but I didn't see it at first lol) so idk...

    I had one years ago was like that, too, got a better deal than he should've and then it was always had to let his grass grow way tall before I cut it... I let this ride but oh it made me so mad somedays...
    Then one day I was about halfway through, the mower's just choking on the stuff and I'm feeling the love when a front caster came off. Sounds crazy but the little pin must've fell out, and I didn't react fast enough so my blades took a chunk out of the tire, I knew at that point the Wb was down for at least the day.
    That was it, that was the straw, I loaded up and never went back.

    Don't know if it works now that I told you, but that's how I usually do it, until I absolutely can't take it anymore, like yourself I swallow it and eat crud to finish out the season, but there is one thing I'd like to say:
    IF you get to a point where you're about to get REALLY mad, and you think of using the machine to 'show' your customer just how mad you are, please realize it's way cheaper for you to simply load up, leave the job unfinished and be gone: Never use machines to take out the anger.

    Anyhow, peace out, it'll be alrite.
     
  7. Patatoe1

    Patatoe1 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 111

    Well why don't you keep giving him the basic service with no extras thrown in. If he doesn't like it he will drop you.

    Or if he doesn't hopefully you aren't taking that big of a loss each time you service his lawn. If you are I Would bring it up and see if you can redo your pricing, if not drop him.
     
  8. PatriotLandscape

    PatriotLandscape LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MA
    Posts: 1,209

    this is a very different situation he didn't screw up his clients landscape and then tell him to screw.

    Topsites you need to take more care in your customers and don;t get into contracts that don't work for you and on top of that take on work you don;t know how to do.
     
  9. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    Patriot don't bother, it is in one ear and out the other with Topsites, that is if it penetrates at all.
     
  10. PatriotLandscape

    PatriotLandscape LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MA
    Posts: 1,209

    Uggh it is just crazy the sh!t he spouts off on sometimes.
     

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