Did I avoid a deabeat customer?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Mar 5, 2004.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    As some of you know, I re-wrote my contracts over the winter. Complete overhaul.

    The T&C's are a lot more onirous this year for a deadbeat.

    Anyway, I met with a propect tonight and she says she doesn't have a credit card. She cut them all up. "Good for you" I say. So I explain that I'll need her to pay for the last month's worth of estimated service up front. I ask her for a check for $130.00. She writes the check, signs the contract and we're all good. Now she says, I've called my next door neighbor and she wants a price too.

    So I go next door, introduce myself, measure the property and price out all 17 of my standard products. She agrees to the price, but by this time she's already spoken with the lady next door and she knows the credit card on file is an option. She indicates that she has a credit card, but sounds as if she's really disgusted by the whole idea of placing a credit card on file. (Red Flag Number One!) She says I'll pay in advance. She gets her check book out and I have a check for $140.00 made out to my company in my hand. I hand her the service agreement and ask her to initial here and here and sign and date here. She starts reading. Now, I'm thinking to myself "That's fine. She's going to realize that my terms are reasonable and there won't be any problems as long as she pays the bill on time."

    She goes "Uh. I think I'm going to think about this for a while." I say "Ok. That's fine. Is there some particular term in there that really bothers you?" She says, "Well, I like to mow the lawn sometimes too and I see that you charge me even if I skip a cut." I explain that I have certain costs and only so much capacity on my schedule. It's hard enough as it is to make a living for a 52 week year with 32 weeks of work. It's next to impossible if people are skipping cuts. You can understand that, right?" She agrees it makes sense but refuses to sign the contract anyway.

    Anyway, here are the terms and conditions that she thought were too unfair. I've gotten ink on these T&C's from four other customers so far without a problem. First time it's been a problem for me so far.

    Skipping and Damage Waiver
    If customer elects to skip a scheduled mowing due to any reason, customer will be billed for 100% of that day’s scheduled mowing service. Should Contractor be unable to access any portion of the landscape, Contractor will skip maintenance on that portion of the landscape and no discounts will be granted for work not completed. Contractor will not be held responsible for damage to improperly retracting sprinkler heads, plastic landscape lighting installed in lawn area, un-buried wiring or coaxial cable or line trimmer wear on wooden fence posts.

    Payments and Service Termination
    Customer agrees to pay applicable sales & use taxes on all landscaping work. Contractor will invoice customer for service once per month. Customer agrees to pay each invoice within 23 days of the billing date. A late fee of $29.00 will be added to customer’s account each time that payment is not made by the due date. A finance charge of 2% per month will also be added to all past due balances. Service will be suspended if payment becomes more than 15 days past due and a restart fee equal to the normal mowing amount will be charged if service is re-instated. Customer will pay any additional collection costs incurred by Contractor. If account is unreasonably past due, but not turned over to an independent collection service or attorney, a fee of $75 will be charged to send each certified mailing and a fee of $450 will be charged if the matter goes to small claims court...these fees are in addition to actual costs. Customer agrees to pay $25 for each check that is returned NSF. Either party may cancel this agreement at any time without cause by providing _________ days written notice of intent to cancel.

    Honestly, I think I've just avoided a problem or late paying customer. Afer all, I only require 10 days advance written notice of intent to cancel. It's not like she was getting ready to sign up for an entire year with no turning back. Who really knows for sure? But my gut tells me I just avoided dealing with a slow paying deadbeat or a fraudster.

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper
     
  2. LHlandscaping

    LHlandscaping LawnSite Member
    from PA/ SW
    Posts: 100

    DFW,
    I like your no B.S. style in dealing with people. I wish I could sub-contract you out to do my billing for me here. I thought I was the only mean one. I hope everything works out for you. As for me I doubt half my customers even ever had credit cards. So I have to rely on good will and good old fashioned collection agencies for the next couple years.
     
  3. J&R

    J&R LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 835

    One thing i would ask you. If it rains for 7 days and you can't cut do you charge her.
     
  4. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Posts: 8,745

    we wouldn't be able to pull that up here. If we didn't mow it or couldn't mow it we couldn't charge them for it. Sure, I would love to do it, but customers would be dropping off so fast
     
  5. gene gls

    gene gls LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,209

    DFW

    I'd put my self out of business with that contract.......

    Gene
     
  6. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    ++++One thing i would ask you. If it rains for 7 days and you can't cut do you charge her+++++

    Nope. "If customer elects to skip a scheduled mowing due to any reason, customer will be billed for 100% of that day's scheduled mowing service." The customer has to initiate the skipped cut, not me. For what it's worth, the worst we'll ever get around here, from May on, is hard rain that keeps us from working a half a day. In the summer, the ground dries up pretty fast and if rains in the morning, we can be cutting that afternoon by 3:00 usually.

    I've gotten ink on that skip policy for close to a year now. That was included on the version 3 contract that I printed up last April. And I've had dozens of customers sign that without batting an eye.

    It wasn't the skip policy that scared her off. I'm convinced she didn't like something in the deadbeat language. Good riddin's. I sure as heck don't want any more deadbeats or fraudsters signing up for my service again. This new contract is very clear: either you pay me on time every month or you get fugged up the azz without the common decency of a reach around. And the advance payment for the final month's billing ensures that. But I really prefer to have the credit card on file.

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper
     
  7. NCSULandscaper

    NCSULandscaper Banned
    Posts: 1,557

    If it was me as the customer, and you didnt show up to do the work, there is no way i would want to pay for services not performed. Even if it did rain.
     
  8. lawnman_scott

    lawnman_scott LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,547

    I would hire the neighborhood kid. And think that the ones that do this for a living are crazy. Credit card? I think not, i have owned this house for 17 years, how long have you been in business? ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh a whole year.... Yeah, i think i would have to think about that one also.
     
  9. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    ++++If it was me as the customer, and you didnt show up to do the work, there is no way i would want to pay for services not performed. Even if it did rain.++++

    Why is everybody interpreting this to mean that I'm still charging them if weather prevents me from mowing?

    Look, I've gotten ink so many times on my skip policy it isn't funny. No reasonable customer has a problem with it. Now I will admit that last year I didn't include the part about not being able to access any portion of the landscape. I added that this year because two of my customers, who have both turned deadbeat on me now, were constantly leaving their gates locked and I couldn't mow the back lawn. I'd mow the front lawn and because the issue wasn't addressed in my contract, I'd feel guilty about charging them full price. So I knocked $5 off each time the gate was locked. But that only promoted the problem. After they saw I was discounting the work, the gates were locked every other week like clock work.

    Maybe because I address the no-access immediately after I address the skip policy, all in the same paragraph, people are mis-interpretting the agreement?

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper
     
  10. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    ++++I'd put my self out of business with that contract++++

    ++++we wouldn't be able to pull that up here++++

    ++++I would hire the neighborhood kid. And think that the ones that do this for a living are crazy. Credit card? I think not, i have owned this house for 17 years, how long have you been in business? ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh a whole year.... Yeah, i think i would have to think about that one also.++++

    Is that cut between your legs ever gonna heal????

    Are you guys serious????

    Is your self confidence really that low????

    Listen, this is nothing compared to the guys that are getting 12 month commitments from residentials. Jim Lewis gets a friggin' bank draft on his customers...and a one year contract.

    I guarantee I'll continue to get ink on this agreement. This is nothing. Heck, I already have four or five signatures on this contract. Got several credit cards on file too. I just started taking those a week ago. Those people didn't seem to be focused on how long they'd owned their homes vs how long I've been in business. Did it ever occur to you that some customers think we are INSANE for not getting an advance payment or credit card before doing work??? Outside of lawn mowing or lawn care, name one product that you can get in our society without some form of payment or deposit if you have bad credit? I'm here to tell you friend, you can't buy anything in this country without either a SS# credit check, a bank draft, a credit card on file or money down. People expect these things from legitimate businesses.

    The business model of doing work and hoping that I get paid is a failed business model for me. In my opinion, the only customer who has a problem with my contract is a customer who doesn't intend to pay.

    End of discussion.

    Now I'm serious guys: If you think you can't dictate terms to your customers, you need to grow a pair.

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper
     

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