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Do this for me but I ain't paying!!!!

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by MOW ED, Dec 30, 2006.

  1. MOW ED

    MOW ED LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,028

    Allright this might get a little long but no one is too busy with snow, let alone grass.
    I have (now probably past tense HAD) a customer for 10 years. Small 4K lawn but many planting beds and trees on the lot. The house is a ranch that has many add ons with many feet of gutters. This fall like all of the past falls I was requested to clean the gutters. The pitch isn't steep but the gutters get quite full because of a very mature silver maple that catches the predominant west wind and sheds to this roof.
    The customers are husband and wife. The wife made the initial contact with me 10 years ago and has been pleasant but does ask for many services. The husband is the one who writes the checks every month. They are in their late 60's early 70's. She is an interior designer and I really don't know if he is retired now or what he did but they live comfortably.
    The gutter job is done with the backpack blower and it does a great job but there are many feet of gutters and some valleys on the roof that pool leaves so I do a nice job and it takes about 20 minutes or so to get everything done well when the leaves are thick. Afterwards I will continue with the normal leaf clean on the property and blow the beds out and mulch it up. Bottom line is that I have done this for 10 years for them. Now I know some of you will beat me up for the next thing here but since they are regular customers I will go up there a second time at the end of the season and blow the gutters out again one last time before winter. They don't get charged again for that since they are multiple service customers (spring clane, mow, fert, weed, fall clean). The total charge is $35.00 plus tax for this gutter clean. The fall clean is billed seperately and is a decent sum lets just say its over $200.00 and is within the standards of this area.
    Our final cleans are always done and all equipment is put away before Thanksgiving. The weekend prior to "finals" week we get a call on the machine from the wife stating that she wants the gutters cleaned again. My wife called back and spoke to the husband and told him that we will be there in the next few days and he was ok with that. I did the second cleaning and was done.
    We billed for the fall clean and the hours were just about the same as last year and although I do not show the customer an hourly bill, this property is figured on it. I won't get into my pricing but will say the the fall clean total for this year was almost identical to last years. The gutter clean price is identical to last years at 35 bucks which I know is pitiful because its about 17.50 per trip. Hey I'm learning every year thats why I am writing this.
    So if you are still with me, we get the payment and written in the margin is the words "DIDN'T PAY" and the gutter clean charge is circled. Below he wrote that I am working my way out of what he can afford and he would be willing to "talk" about this. He recalculated the bill and actually did pay for the fall clean and added the correct amount of sales tax.
    At first I was going to just let it go and not respond but then I began to feel quite taken advantage of. I wasn't mad but I had to make a point. I was not able to make phone contact and quite frankly I did not want to. I assembled my data and wrote him a polite letter and gave him all the facts. I wanted him to have a hard copy of what he should know from my end. I also requested that payment be made prior to 12-27-2006 which gave him 10 days more to pay. At that time I did not institute my late fee of 10% as all customers know about my fees.
    December 27th came and went without a check. I waited for the mail on Dec. 28th and then sent a certified letter to him now instituting a late fee asking for payment and also stating that if payment is not recieved by my 45 day limit, we will be in small claims court.
    Wouldn't ya know that the check came on the 29th. He probably signed for my letter as I was getting his payment. There have been no phone calls or contact from him but I am assuming that we are done as business acquaintenances. Honestly I am not saddened by this but really stumped as to why after 10 years a guy starts to go goofy and decide to not pay me.

    I can never say that I had experienced it all or know anywhere near enough about people and I deal with people every day. Yes I probably lost a customer over a 35 dollar bill but what did I do wrong except do what they wanted? One door closes and another one opens. Happy New Year. Now print up those contracts......:cool2:
  2. newz7151

    newz7151 LawnSite Silver Member
    from Tejas
    Posts: 2,419

    With the Christmas holiday, you didn't exactly give him very much time after explaining the bill to get your check to you. I'm sure he cannot control how backed up the post office gets, and you should have waited until at least today (30th) for the mail to catch up.

    Arrogance is the seed that grows stupidity.
  3. Uranus

    Uranus LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Mass
    Posts: 1,624

    Good for you for not backing down. You have to stick to your guns. You probably pissed him off when he got the last letter and threatened court but who is he to tell you to do the job and then say he's not paying for it. I usually dont jump to the next step as fast as you did. I give a due date and wait about 2 weeks before making contact again. Sometimes people get paid every other week for example and dont have the cash on your due date. Nobody ever said business is nice. We all try to be as nice as we can but sometimes we have to be A$$ holes. Good luck with him and I hope it goes well.
  4. 1MajorTom

    1MajorTom Senior Moderator
    Posts: 6,074

    We have about 20 customers that we have left from when we started 8 years ago. I think it becomes almost like a "comfortable factor" with them. They get so confident and comfortable with you that they almost forget and think they are calling the shots. Almost like they feel that you will accept anything they say because you need them. (yes, we all need our customers to a certain extent, but not enough when customers start dictating when and how much they are going to pay).
  5. Uranus

    Uranus LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Mass
    Posts: 1,624

    Jodi----Thank you for losing the Christmas count down thing. T
  6. MOW ED

    MOW ED LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,028

    To NEWZ7151,Hey thanks for the last line in your signature and you certianly have a right to your opinion and if you think I am arrogant so be it.
    His ORIGINAL bill was sent on the 27th of November. It was DUE on the 5th of December. Now stay with me my friend. I got his first check MINUS the gutter payment on the 4th of December.
    I then wrote him and gave him until the 27th to pay. The payment that came yesterday the 29th was POSTMARKED on the 28th. He lives 1.25 miles from me.
    You are right in the statement that he cannot control how backed up the post office gets. No brainer. He can control his fingertips and call to leave a message that payment was made, he had plenty of time to do that. he did not ever call and I know it for a fact because my caller ID has no record of call.
    A little advise for you to take or leave here is that many people will listen to someone with an opposing point of view but if you become personal and start with that BS in your last line, many will discount you as a pompous goof that has little value to an intelligent conversation. So please consider my advice as friendly but smart a$$ comments like that will surely get a smart a$$ reaction. I wish you a happy new year.
  7. AndyTblc

    AndyTblc LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,469

    When you recieve a payment on the border line of regular and late fee. And you get the bill 1 or 2 days after the late fee would be initiated. Do you look at the postage date on the envelope or do you go by the day that you revieved the money?
  8. Uranus

    Uranus LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Mass
    Posts: 1,624

    :laugh: The post office being backed up.:laugh: If I mail out my bills on sunday at the post office I have gotten checks in the mail on tuesday. There is no way that they cant get a letter to someone in the same town with in 3 days max. If its put in the local delivery box then it should be in hand the next day, two days if you missed the afternoon pickup time.

    DUSTYCEDAR LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Posts: 5,137

    i love when people think they can change a bill try that with the phone company and see what they do
  10. 1MajorTom

    1MajorTom Senior Moderator
    Posts: 6,074

    Don't worry, I won't do a valentines day countdown. :eek:

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