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Serious customer dilemma...

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by topsites, May 1, 2007.

  1. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    I'm posting this here because I'm at a loss for answer like a noob...

    Later last fall (mid-oct or so, before leaves fell) I was asked to prune a crepe myrtle. The customer always wants this thing selectively trimmed but it was way overgrown by the house and I took them way back (way back, about a foot above ground). And, they did not survive.

    Proper pruning methods aside, I just read up on this article after article, about the only thing where we disagree is once we get into arboristic methods, and if the customer were to pay me as an arborist that might be ok... Otherwise, selective pruning is for the birds and those who have no problem paying for it, because it takes a lot longer and I don't selectively prune with no dang hedge trimmers.

    First, I'm out the $100 fee for doing it and it was a whole trailer load hauled to boot, as the customer never paid because we agreed that was the best way. Now, come late spring, the customer is asking what am I going to do about replacing it?

    Please don't tell me the quick answer because I would've shot that one off already, I'm not in the mood to lose another customer yet at the same rate I am at a crossroads where I must make a choice of that or else, I can not afford to replace the plants (2) on top of free pruning.

    I am wondering if there's a way to resolve this dilemma without further confrontation or do I just have to say 'I am sorry but there was no charge for the pruning and beyond that I can not go.' , they've been with me since day 1 and unfortunately still expect a lot for nothing, I've tried to explain things have changed but that is always such a waste of time. I guess it might boil down to doing the math and seeing which would be cheaper but I am certain the loss of the customer would be, still I don't feel like losing another one hence again why I ask.
  2. fiveoboy01

    fiveoboy01 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,988

    See if she'd let you pay for replacement minus your labor.

    Don't know how far that would get you though. It's apparent that they're dead because you did something wrong, therefore, you should likely eat the cost of the pruning and replacement.
  3. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Well ok, if you take your car to Maaco to get it painted and they totally foul it up, they'll likely take care of it at no charge (and even then to a point) but assume they so totally fouled it up.
    Assume also, when you take your car to Maaco, that you are ready to spend around $3000 for the paint job.

    But what if you take your car someplace else, because you're only willing to spend 1000, what then?

    You get what you pay for is my attitude.
    It was, however, the absolute last time I ever did something for nothing.
  4. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    So, let me get this straight. After discussing how she wanted her shrubs pruned,
    Not selectively but correctly would be the word to use for what she wanted done. You went ahead and whacked them down to nothing and killed them.
    Then you had to load all the stuff she did not want you to prune off in the first place and haul it off. She did not want to pay for that and also she did not want to pay for replacement shrubs that you killed by cutting them back too far (not pruning) her shrubs and has asked you to replace them.
    If this is correct then of course you should reach deep into your pockets and buy her new shrubs and plant them for her free as well.
    I don't see where she has asked you anything but for you to be fair with her.
    If you are willing to loose a good client over replacement and planting of two shrubs that she would otherwise still have by now if not for your actions, then
    go for it. But you are at fault here and should make it right by her.
  5. caslong

    caslong LawnSite Member
    from Tn
    Posts: 77

    Just from my knowledge of Crape Myrtles, I would have to say, you need to replace the them.

    Here is Why.
    1. You whacked them off to the ground. The customer just wanted light pruning.

    2. You did it at the completely at the wrong time of year. It should have been done in late, late winter or early spring. By taking that much off, it probably cause the plant not to go dormant. The winter freezes probably killed it.

    3. At the most, you should have left at least 3 1/2 to 4 feet above the ground.

    All due respect, but it looks like you had no idea what you were doing. You will lose more money if the clients decides to bad mouth you around town,
  6. Vikings

    Vikings LawnSite Bronze Member
    from canada
    Posts: 1,667

    You gotta replace it and keep the customer and the next time they ask for pruning just laugh it off and say, 'whoa! remember what happened last time'

    The only problem I can see (besides not knowing how much these things cost) is if you have aggravated them to the point you will lose the customer whether you replace them or not. In that case well I'm not sure what I would do.

    What do they cost? If young ones are cheap, throw in some flowers to to really spruce it up and maybe they will give you some money.

    For sure, if someone chopped down my tree I would expect them to own up and replace. If I had to ask them over and over and get a bad attitude from them, I would dump them regardless.
  7. RHill

    RHill LawnSite Member
    Posts: 95

    I would replace the two shrubs. If she has been a good customer from the beginning, I think your solution would be easy. That will help you gain goodwill. If you simply drop her as a customer and leave with hard feelings she will probably bad mouth you to everyone she knows. I think keeping her happy will pay off in the long.
  8. PerfectEarth

    PerfectEarth LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,734

    This Guy has it dead on. Prune a crape myrtle to a nub in fall??? :nono:
    You owe her a nice one. It's only about 90$ for a nice Nanchez or something...
  9. chris638

    chris638 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 149

    I agree. If you couldn't do a job right, then why would you take it in the first place. You are 100% in the wrong. Don't say that you get what you pay for, especially when you are talking about yourself. You are basically downgrading your own work. In one way I don't mind what you have done, because I am getting at least one new customer a day with stories just like this. You are a professional. Start acting like one by either A.) Take responsiblity for your action and replace the plant or B.) Don't take jobs that are over your head.
  10. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Ok, fair enough, I understand.

    It ain't about this and that and the other, it's about cheapness.
    Nothing was discussed concerning selective pruning, it's always ohhhh only take off about uhmmmm (hem-haw-see-saw gimme gimme money NOnonono not that much) nonsense, the dang things had been let go in this fashion for 5 years, only take off a few inches, you know.

    Maybe you're right, maybe I should've let them completely engulf the power line, and the heck with the big sticks getting all bent up against the house, too.

    As for knowing how to do it, fine, but then hire an arborist who knows this stuff because once I get studied up they best be prepared to pay upwards of a grand to have it done properly, you know, doctor's rates. That's for knowing the specifics about each of the species because each is different, and there are enough species to fill page after page with it, that or hire another idiot and expect to get complete FULL service for 2-5 times less than what a true specialist would charge, right?

    But I'll buy her the plants, carry the account through the season and sayonara.
    Done learned my lesson, don't touch nothing.

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