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Customer disputes huge payment at end of job?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Ramairfreak98ss, Oct 9, 2006.

  1. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,210

    VERY long story here, but made short, i have a customer i started work for on 9-19, completed 10-4. He was happy and thrilled with what he was getting until 10-3-06 when some friend of his from up north at another landscape company told him I was ripping him off, badly! Yet the customer had added onto this job the entire time. I went from a garden design from just the back of his house around a large walkway and patio to the entire side and front of his house and work on his poor lawn including grading in the back of his 1.5 acre lot.

    Now the bill went from 6k~, when he already added almost 4k in work the day the job started. Ive emailed him updated invoices/quotes for this job within 2 days of the change each time. The total at the end came to 21k after 7% sales tax. He gave me a $2,500 deposit before the start "for a 6k job". Then another $5,000 7 days into it, because ive already spent nearly 6k for supplies etc.

    Im finished the job and was at his house 2 days ago Pressure washing every sidewalk, curbs, long asphault driveway and even the roadway where the mulch and topsoil was during the job. Hes started to complain about everything at the very end after talking to his friend that claims this entire job is no more than 10-12k in work, labor and supplies. I have nearly 10k in labor for 198 man hours not including the last two partial days i or my helper was at the site and almost 10k in supplies and over 187 plants, trees, shrubs, grasses etc.

    He now has a bill of $21,xxx after 7% sales tax and is stating since his friend said its only 10-12k in work, hes willing to give me 15k total for everything and thats it. After paying my employees, gas and operating expenses for nearly two weeks of work and then all supplies, there isnt much left for myself from a billed 21k job :nono: :dizzy: Ive tried to accomodate his every complaint at the very end, only to recieve another email with 10 more. I even offered him a $1,440.00 discount with this job that I would give him a 2007 lawn contract paid in full for April-October next year. His cuts are $45.00 each plus tax and thats comming down from $55.00 for a 1.5 acre property. He basically said stick it today with that discount and he will stay with his current company next year, which he has been bitching about since i first met with him :confused: Theyre also a small company, no bigger than myself but very unprofessional, in many aspects. Im finally registered all commercial, and commercially insured with 2,000,000 liablility and seems im off to a great start with the additional company professionalism. :cry:

    What have you done in a similar situation? I know some of your companies may work on MUCH larger jobs than this or it could be a $1,500 job. Id like to hear your opinions. Ive spent the last 3 hours breaking down the entire 6 page bill for this customer finally to identify EVERY item hes purchased for this landscape job and every Labor related thing performed on his property accounting for the total hours.
  2. stumper1620

    stumper1620 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,889

    You say you E-mailed him updated estimates. Did he send back acknowledgements? not a good position if there is no proof he accepted the increases.
  3. NickN

    NickN LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Alabama
    Posts: 1,010

    This is why everyone needs to use "Work Change Orders".When a customer requests a change,write it on the WCO and have them sign it before ANY new work begins.If they won't sign off,don't do the work.
  4. Budget

    Budget LawnSite Senior Member
    from Pa.
    Posts: 368

    About 15 years ago a friend of mine owns a paving Co. and did a job for a mall. He only collected 20 % of the amount due to cover labor and material. and they stiffed him for the rest and spent the next 2 years trying to get it.

    Good luck and hope you get it all.
  5. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    Just that simple. :clapping: :clapping:

    Emails are fast and easy. Change of work order is written and signed documentation.
    If the customer is not home to sign the COW order then how can he accept over an email ? When he's telling what the change is you should be standing besides him with the CWO and when your done talking just hand it to him and ask him to sign and date a copy.
  6. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,210

    Understood, this is the first time though that the job has blow up to this amount though from such a small quoted price. He did give me another $5,000 after getting to 16k figuring close to 45% deposit mid way through.
  7. godzilla

    godzilla LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 401

    So long as he authorized the work I'd say tell him he has until a certain date and then he will be hearing from your lawyer.
  8. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    $225 an hr. for an attorney? There was a better way to handle it and its been explained.
  9. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,210

    That sounds great, unfortuneately I dont have every price on hand. Many times i need to even check with the nurseries to ensure they have the product that the customer is requesting for installation. I had to re-adjust labor amounts for tree installs, literally we went from 5 yards of mulch to 30 yards. My nursery was also giving me a slight discount for a bulk purchase up front which affected the price a little. I even returned 6 trees for 9 new ones because the customer decided he did not like them :confused: I will post a few pictures in the comming days before and after. I will at least start the written CWOs even though there is no price adjustment at the job site yet. At least that would assume acknowledgement that they did request this work in the future.
  10. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    COW orders work in conjunction with a contract. If customer is unavailable to sign work order at time of change he authorized contractor to perform work at his normal cost per hr __________plus material cost. A COW will be signed as soon as possable with the agreed on above terms being the minumum charge for any /all additional work.

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