Gates & Dogs

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Apr 28, 2005.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

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

    I have told my crew, the most important thing we do on a customer's property is close the gate. We can spend three hours manicuring the lawn, but if we leave the gate open, we will be fired.

    Well, the worst nightmare finally happened today. A long time customer called this evening crying hysterically. My crew didn't get the gate closed all the way. They cut the lawn at noon. The dogs were in the back yard all day. She fed them around 4:00. She left and came back home at 9:00. Both dogs were gone. It appears that the gate was closed such that the friction from the latch was keeping it closed, but the first gust of wind blew it open because it wasn't latched properly.

    Two full blooded blood hounds. Beautiful dogs. One is back home and the other was slaughtered on a busy street by traffic.

    How do you send the message home to the crew leader that it is unacceptable to leave a gate open? I've gotten complaints about gates being left open with this crew before, but none so far this season. I understand both sides...if you are too incompetent to close a gate, look elsewhere for a job...then again, the crew members are human and accidents will happen.

    As a manager, what do you do? My thought is to drive all three of them back over to the property, show them the gate and ask them where the other dog is. I wish I had a picture of the dead dog so I could show it to them. Maybe then they would understand why this is so important.

    And I'm not saying I'm any better. I once got a complaint from a customer when I was doing the labor where I accidentally drove off with the gate wide open. Only happened once that I know of, and there was no dog, but it happens from time to time. Mow enough lawns and sooner or later this is bound to happen, isn't it?

    DFW Area Landscaper
  2. LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 576

    Man oh man, you got a new problem everyday don't ya.
  3. pagefault

    pagefault LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 492

    When I was producing software/hardware solutions, we had a QC sheet that was checked for every system. It might not be a bad idea to have a simple checklist: gates latched, trailer locked, mower tied down, trimmers loaded and latched, trailer lights functional, whatever. It could be as long or short as you want. You might list all of the things that can go wrong and then narrow the list to "dealbreakers" or things that would cause major problems if they went wrong. Then, have one guy run through the list, verify everything and sign the sheet.

    I know it adds time, but you just have to prioritize. We were a thousand or more systems per month and a 10 minute QC sheet and packing list amounted to hundreds of hours "lost" but it was a hell of a lot better than letting a bunch of systems go out the door with a problem that could have been prevented and then trying to coordinate a fix in the field when the systems were all over the country and sometimes all over the world.

    How much time are you willing to add to the typical job, to make sure that a mower doesn't bounce off the trailer on the highway? Or to make sure that another dog doesn't get out? I have dogs and cats and it is horrible to think of that happening (and it has happened to me), but I have also seen people get into accidents trying to avoid animals, so it could have been worse.

    I would probably come up with a top ten worst things that could happen list and then put together a short checklist to try to prevent those things from happening. If someone's name is on the list, they will check a lot more carefully. It also makes you look a little better when things do go wrong.
  4. HighGrass

    HighGrass LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Z5 MA
    Posts: 1,237

    You know what needs to be done. If you told them as you old us, the guy that's responsible needs to get pinged. Either a suspension with probation, or out the door.

    I hate being responsilbe for someone else's dogs. Are you absolutely sure your guy left the gate open?
  5. Jason Rose

    Jason Rose LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,858

    man, that's terrible... that's another plus to being solo or just having a helper or 2. This way IIIIIII can make sure that stuff like that is done right. I have a lawn that the owner has dogs, they are their kids. the gates are PAD LOCKED at all times except for the day I mow. I take great pride in the fact that I ALWAYS make sure they are re-locked and secured as I'm on my way out. had a helper for a few weeks and he thought it was smart of him to do it. I double checked them, sure enough, not done right at all.
  6. cleancutccl

    cleancutccl LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 698

    The crew leader usually has to take responsibility for the mistakes of the whole crew, but In this case I would a) take the entire crew to the customers house and make them apologize, then send a care package b) make the responsible party buy a new dog or c) tell the responsible party to hit the road.
  7. DFW Area Landscaper

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

    Perhaps Justmowit has already been down this path. With 2,000+ lawns, they have probably encountered every problem under the sun at least once.

    From their website:

    If you lock your gate, it must have a combination lock for us to service your property. We offer free combo locks installed on our first trip. Our crews are very careful about locking and closing gates, but we do not guarantee that a pet will not escape from the yard, therefore, you accept our service with this provision.

    I just wonder how they cover their butts on this issue. Their customers aren't signing anything. It's all verbal. If someone's dog escapes and gets killed, they're not going to remember the conversation ever took place. Even if they do, many americans would lie about it. I would expect a law suit over this 9 times out of 10 with the average american.

    It doesn't look like I'll be sued on this one. The customer is a lady who does in home day care for my son. We've been using her service for years. I think I can smooth this over with free lawn care for the rest of the season.

    I have read on lawn site that once you have a claim like this, the insurance company will drop you. Is this really true? You can only be insured until you need it, and then you're on your own?

    DFW Area Landscaper
  8. packerbacker

    packerbacker LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,433

    Start docking pay or put someone else in charge.
  9. MMLawn

    MMLawn LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,569

    YEP, just like last year too though..nothing has changed.
  10. Tn Lawn Man

    Tn Lawn Man LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 479

    When it comes to employee discipline the best policy is to have a policy.

    Employees want to know what to expect when things go wrong.

    Secondly, discipline should have a graduated scale.

    i.e. First offense - verbal warning
    Second Offense - sent home early
    Third - Suspension
    Fourth - Termination

    Something along those lines.

    Furthermore, there needs to be a reset period. If so many days pass without any discipline problems they go back to the first offense rather than continuing on to their third or fourth offense. Since this is seasonal work maybe every four months their discipline is reset. Your decision.

    Also, there needs to be certain offenses that warrant termination for their first offense like theft, dishonesty, etc... And, the employees need to know that.

    If you make things up as you go along employees will never get with the program and you will always have more problems than if you took the time and set a policy.

    Once a policy has been written, make every employee sign it and give them a copy and you keep a copy.

    As for an incident like the dog, this is very difficult. Society today values animals more than humans, so you have to have a fairly steap discipline policy for something like this or you will see yourself in court and on the news.

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