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Should I even do the job for this customer, or am I just asking for it??

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by thefed, Apr 17, 2007.

  1. thefed

    thefed LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Posts: 350

    I signed up a job 3 weeks ago to spread 20 yds mulch (no edging or weeding,just dump and go), remove 8 pine trees that died recently, and replant trees in their place. Also seed about 10k square feet of turf that was torn up during construction, dig a ditch, etc...

    The understanding between the cust and myself was: we cant seed til the ground temps are up, likely the beginning of may. The mulch will be spread as soon as its available (this friday)....the cust requested a special dyed mulch that isnt done being processed by the mulch place. Finally, we will tear the trees out using a truck to avoid stumps...per cust's request. I told him i wont put the truck on the lawn without it being dry, or him saying go ahead knowing the grass will get messed up.

    Now, this old man cant talk really well, so im limited to emails and text messaging...which is tough. He texted me last week about 2 other small proects totalling 300 bucks, we went out and looked at them, and added them to the contract. hes a real nice old man, and i feel bad for him because he cant talk or walk...

    Well today, after a barrage of texts, he decides he doesnt need my services. He quoted one of my emails 3 weeks ago saying "I'd like to get started on the mulch sooner than later...maybe in 2 weeks or so"....and also explained that the nursery who delivered the trees wont warranty them if they are out of the ground longer than 2 weeks (which is coming up this friday). He asked if i wanted him to seek someone elses services if we cant fit him in

    I asked him what he wanted done...I could pull the trees tomorrow, and roach his grass, or wait til friday and do it on dry turf. I can do the mulch saturday, which is when its scheduled to be delivered. . (the contract reads "approimately april 15 start date")He said no..dont worry about it, we need to go our separate ways.

    Well, he really pisses me off. WTF is his problem? I asked, but he just repeated "i dont want ur services". I called his daughter, who initially contacted me, to keep her abreast of the situation. I explained to her about the special mulch i ordered and paid for...and that hed be liable for it whether or not we put it down...he signed the contract and that's that.

    So she called me back and said "my dads just really anxious...blahblahblah, but he said its ok if you come friday and get the trees in....please call me back to confirm you can still do it"

    Ummmmm....no. How do I know if this guy will even pay me now that he changed his mind on a whim...because i didnt drop everything and run over there today? It's over $3k in work...so I'd like to do it.....

    What do you think? Maybe make him prepay if he really wants us in there? Or just chalk it up as another crazy guy, and bill him for the mulch cancellation (I had the mulchmaker rush the processing of 20 yds to accomodate this guy)?
  2. JRS Landscaping

    JRS Landscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 817

    id go get a deposit for my materials from him and if he dont want the services notify him that he has to cover the special ordered mulch and trees you ordered
  3. OMG

    OMG LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 275

    I guess I'm an oddball.....but I get 55% up front of total bid on all deals over $250 out of pocket for 1st time customers, $500 for regular customers.

    Company policy, regardless of prior experience.

    I've been stuck enough. I'll never be out of pocket over $200 or so on materials again.

    Some labor maybe, but not materials.
  4. Shades of Green LService

    Shades of Green LService LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,011

    Pre Pay for sure.
  5. NNJLandman

    NNJLandman LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,306

    Get a deposit. How does the nursery know if the plants were planted tuesday or new years day next year...do they keep tabs on all there plants. Do the job, be nice to the guy, all customers get anxious, its hard for them to understand how busy one gets and all the customers one has to answer to. At least your continuing good communication with the guy. Just do it this weekend
  6. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    For one thing you may have made him anxious by asking him what he wants done when. You simply say, ground is too wet, have to order your mulch specially made up, trees cannot be here until this date.
    So Mr. Customer your mulch will be installed by this day, your old ones taken out on that day and your trees will be in on this day.
    Don't give him the decisions to make. You make them period when it comes to what can be done when.
    YOU decide when it is safe to take a truck on his lawn, when you will bring the bark ect.
    This is when I can do it is that ok with you? Get a yes go ahead or a no. Always get a deposit up front for your materials.
    Do the job when the timing is right for you and
    just don't ask him anymore questions about it.
  7. thefed

    thefed LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Posts: 350

    thats what i did. but he kept calling,texting,emailing...and i had to re explain myself over and over. thats why i finally broke down and said...if you want your lawn torn up, we'll pullem tomorrow!

    im going to demand 1/2 down or no go

    out of curiosity, how would a contract hold up if a customer cancels and wont let us work? would he be liable for the full amount? cant see how that would work, as the work isnt completed,thus making the contract irrelevant. i think i need to add a clause about cancellations
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Feeling sorry for the customer isn't helping you make rational choices, you took his order and proceeded to get things going and here he is constantly asking for progress reports and what not. It may not be entirely his fault, perhaps he senses inexperience, but it doesn't give him the right to take control of your boat. And that in a nutshell is the problem, the customer has taken or been given way too much control. I think he was doing you a favor by cancelling, thou I'd like to see what the outcome would've been if you had just said 'ok.'

    I'm not sure if this situation could've been prevented, but it's developed into the nutcase stage, it's probably somewhat a matter of circumstance but I foresee problems and headaches, it might be ok, it might not.

    One thing I've learned to do is, so long the job is progressing, I usually ignore these requests for progress updates, just keep working and don't worry about it. Then again most of these are for my regulars and we trust each other, but either way I'm not Johnny-on-the-spot, just make sure it gets done, their inquiries are but kind reminders 'please finish it soon,' how I deal with it.

    RICHIE K LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 647

    All our jobs require a 50% deposit
  10. xpnd

    xpnd LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 378

    This should have alerted you to the possibility that the client perhaps sufferred a stroke or is so elderly is not always oriented to time and place. I'm certain you had an uneasy feeling the first time you met with him at the job site. Trust your gut. Better to err on the side of safety and not make money than lose money. As harsh and as callous as this sounds, I run away very quickly or demand prepay from this type of customer. I run a business which does not include part time nursing home care. I don't have the time and definitely not the patience to deal with the eccentrics of people that are off center. There are too many potential cleints that don't have this baggage.

    Problem #1. There are two bosses here. Deal only with the primary. The primary is the property owner. If the property owner has a disabilty that requires the assistance from another individual then that individual becomes your primary and all contact goes through him/her. I have done work for disabled clients however a member of the family was designated "primary". Whenever a question would come up from any of the family members, I would direct them as well as the client to the primary. Yes I could have answered their question(s) immediately but I forced them to go through the primary. I won't let anyone stretch me. You can only deal with one person.

    Problem #2 If I special order a product for my own use I need to pay up front. There are no returns and no refunds. If we need to pay in advance, the customer should pay 100% of these cost as a minimum. That way you won't be out money. Yes you should have a very simple statement that says "Special orders require full product payment in advance. There are no returns, allowances or refunds for special order material for any and all reasons, including job cancellation.

    I think you are ready to take one up you know where. This sounds like a never ending job. Depending on how you ask for a deposit, you may find yourself with a lot of mulch you paid for but can't sell.

    Waiting three weeks for dry weather to pull pine trees up with your truck is inexcuseable. First as professionals, there are better alternatives, and indeed safer alternatives for both you and the customer's property than backing your truck into his yard wrapping a chain around the tree and giving it the gas. At the very least you should have had the trees cut down fairly quickly and then went back in with a stump grinder when you mulched the beds so any debris from grinding the stumps could be put in the beds.

    Your charging him over $3000 dollars. Renting a small stump grinder for a day would not have made or broken the profit on this job.

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