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How far have you gone to collect?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by outrunjason, Jan 17, 2008.

  1. outrunjason

    outrunjason LawnSite Senior Member
    from dallas
    Posts: 703

    I have done the court thing, I have used old debts also and someone said to me that the best way to get your money is to just call and get your money. Don't let up.

    So, I want to know how far you have gone to collect. I am going to tell you what I did. In 2006 it was a ruff year for me and I had a lot of customers not paying on time. Not sure what it was about that year but it was getting on my nerves. After making court appearances and stuff like that that was taking up my time I said enough of this.

    There was a new customer that I had for about 3 months. On our first visit she paid for then entire month. This included 4 mowings and fertilization. Well 2 months later she hadn't made a payment. She was behind and it was about $200 bucks so I suspended her service. She said oh meet me Wednesday at my house and I will give you a check. I get over there at the time she said and wait around she is a know show. I call her and she said oh I was there but you weren't. She said come by on Thursday at 4:00 and it will be in the mailbox. I come by at 4:00 and it is not there and once again I wait around it still it's not there. Another phone call another day and this continued into the next week.

    The same excuse was given each time. Well you weren't there, I waited for you, I did have anymore checks left, I had to make a deposit. I was sick of it and I was not about to go to court again.

    Now don't flip a lid when you hear this but this is what I did to take care of this matter. After my extra trips over there on her terms wasting my gas and time I decided it was going to be on my terms now.

    I arrived at there house at 5:00 am. They have an enclosed driveway with a gate. So, they have to open the gate to get out. But they were not going to be going anywhere on this date because I blocked the driveway. At about 5:30 the gate opens and a man has his truck running and is ready to pull out.

    He is shocked to see that he can't and says to me who are you. I stepped out of the truck and said my name and who I was with and explained that he owed some money for the lawn service and that I was not leaving until I was given a check. He said I will call the police. What he didn't know at the time is that I had already called ahead and even though it was a civil matter though would come out and let him know they could charge him with theft of service.

    So, I offered him my cell phone and said if you make that call you will be going to jail because by you not paying is theft of service. He said well it's all up to my wife because I do not do the billing and she is in bed. I said thats fine but let her know I am here so she is not surprised. I moved and let him out and he went on his way.

    Ok to wrap this up about 30 min later I get a call from her and she said I can't believe what you did. You have no right to do that and I am so glad that I didn't continue to do service with your company. I said mam your service was discontinued sometime back. I chose not to do business with you because of your non-payment and several attempts to get a check from you and there never was one. She said I never gave you a check because your service was bad. They didn't edge right blah blah blah. She continued to state her case of why she hadn't paid. Anyway she placed the check in the mail box and I cashed it.

    So, all that time she was just running around and wasting my time and she had no intention on paying me. Then she wants to tell me that our service sucks. If that was true they should have canceled a long time ago.

    Anyone else done something like this? Am I the only brave (crazy) guy to do this. I look at it as I did the work, I was owed and I got my money.

  2. IndyChad

    IndyChad LawnSite Member
    from Indiana
    Posts: 216

    In our first year of business we had a customer that did pretty much the samething with all of the excuses and would not pay. This customer lived in a large neighborhood close to my home. Our community has a neighborhood garage sale a couple of times a year. I just so happened to drive past this customers home and she was having a yard sale. I went up and approached her and she paid, because there were a lot of people around. When walking up to her house I had made up my mind that I was getting our money or we would have a lot of junk from her garage sale to bring home. We still have a couple of customers that have not paid from a couple of years ago, (even with a signed contract). The dollar amount is not worth my time, but it is just the principal of the situation that makes me want to pursue it.
  3. SpruceLandscape

    SpruceLandscape LawnSite Senior Member
    from ohio
    Posts: 502

    I am in the middle of attempting to collect a $870 balance on an invoice from May of 07. I'm also trying to collect on (2) $200-250 invoices from leaf cleanups in November. I had a payment plan setup for the May invoice that the customer has defaulted on since October. The others haven't returned phone calls even after late statements (2 each). I'm sending all 3 of them to a collection agency.
  4. outrunjason

    outrunjason LawnSite Senior Member
    from dallas
    Posts: 703


    I had a customer that had a garage sale to but I only saw the sign out on a Monday just two days after the sale. Wish I had the luck of walking up when the sale was going on.


    Have you had any luck using the collection agencies? I used olddebts but didn't get my money. Also who do you use?
  5. DiyDave

    DiyDave LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,695

    I have posted on this before, I have been in business for 20 years, and when I get the slightest inkling that they are dodging bills, I suspend service. I had one guy, a supposed world renowned best selling author, who owed me $400.00 for the last month of the previous season. He called in the spring to get me to mow his foot tall grass( I hadn't renewed him because of the debt). I said sure, as long as you have a check in your hand for last fall's balance, when I pull up to mow. I mowed my way to the front door, rang the bell, picked up the check, mowed my way back to the truck, through the center of the lawn(a little lower than normal, if you get my drift!), hit the bank on the way home, cashed his check, never came back. It took him a week to figure out that I wasn't coming back-ever! I found out later that I was the only person in town that he didn't owe money to, when he skipped out!:walking::walking:
  6. SpruceLandscape

    SpruceLandscape LawnSite Senior Member
    from ohio
    Posts: 502

    This is the first time I'm actually using them so I will have to let you know how it turns out. Most of the time I send the original invoice, then collection letters. First letter is a formal collectin notice, the second is a harsh collection notice that identifies my intent to send them to an agency within the next 7 days if they do not contact me to pay their account in full. So far this practice has worked up until these three A-holes...
  7. Greg Huffman

    Greg Huffman LawnSite Member
    Posts: 12

    I used to be in the paving business. We did a job for a new lawyers office. We were in the owners office discussing late payers one day and he insisted that the lawyers would pay. It then hit him that they had delayed him past the point that he could file a mechanics lien. He called the lawyers up and was basically told that he waited to late and they would pay when they got around to it. That was on a Tuesday I think. The next few days the owner of my company was fit to be tied.

    Friday came and he told all truck drivers that they had mandatory overtime that weekend and had to be in Sat. night at 11:00. I was a salesman but came anyway to watch. When we got there he had the loader from the plant on a lowboy and two of the Bobcats, and all of our dumptrucks. We left the yard and went to lawyers office. We got there and hired dumptrucks were waiting. About two hours later 2 inches of asphalt and 6 inches of rock were removed and there was an 8 inch deep hole the shape of a parking lot.

    Monday morning at 8:00 am the phone rings. It was the lawyers. The owner of the company went to his office to talk to them and me and few others followed. The owner put the lawyers on speaker phone and they were yelling about suing him and stuff. The owner told them 1) he couldn't lien them and was out his labor costs and profit. 2) that being said, until he was paid he still owned the asphalt and rock. 3) he picked his materials up from the jobsite at a mutually convienant time that wouldn't interrupt normal business. 4) they could consider their parking lot repossed!

    He hung up on the lawyers and didn't hear from them again. Obviously he never got the money either. Some things money can't buy though.
  8. SpruceLandscape

    SpruceLandscape LawnSite Senior Member
    from ohio
    Posts: 502

    follow up.
    In a very wierd twist... One of the guys who owes me for fall cleanups called today in response to a message I left on his answering service. My wife explained to him that we were still awaiting his payment, and according to her, he sounded genuinely surprised.
    After speaking with her she called me and explained that (and she was skeptical) he along with the rest of his neighborhood have been experiencing problems with a new mail carrier that started in their area in December. Sounds like a pretty lame excuse, but with one exception... The other guy that owes me for fall cleanups from the same billing cycle also lives in this guys neighborhood, but 3 streets over. I'm 99.9% sure that they do not know each other. It also is kind of peculiar that both of them paid in full and on time for the previous invoices. So... after talking to my wife, he decided he would put a stop payment on the check and issue a new one. Several minutes later he called back to confirm that he HAD indeed written and mailed the check out on time, but that he didn't want to put a stop payment on it because it was going to cost an extra $25. So, my wife assured him that when the check came, we would call him to verify the check number and shred the other check should it finally arrive some day.
    Now, ordinarily I would not have been so easily convinced that this is the reason for nonpayment, but I have on many occasions recieved other peoples' checks and bills in my P.O. box (which is located in the same city as these customers) and therefore have very little faith in the post office employees that work in our city. I am going to visit the other customer in that neighborhood in person on Saturday and try to find out if this is the same situation, which would make sense.
    However, I do still have one deadbeat for sure that still owes $870 from May, and judging by the "for sale" sign in her front yard, I'm assuming it wasn't a mail carrier issue.
  9. I went to pick up a check from the county today that was lost in the mail, I guess I wasn't the only one to not get one either. The batch of checks went on a certain day and a lot didn't make it. That is one of my plans this year not to use the post office any more than I have to. The mail around here is terrible and to top it all off some **** threw a rock through my mail box tonite, new box been up a week. little bastards.
  10. mag360

    mag360 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,446

    Get that lien put into effect and she can't sell the house.

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