Some People Just Don't Get It

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by Crash, Feb 16, 2010.

  1. Crash

    Crash LawnSite Member
    Posts: 192

    So I'll try to explain this as quickly as I can. I'm looking for input on what you guys would've charged, and what you would've done.

    Picture a 2 lane residential road with an island at the entrance and an island at the exit. The islands are 50' by 20' with 4 huge white pines in each island. The islands had bigger Michigan boulders in them which had become covered with pine needles due to poor maintenance in the past. The customer was the association of large upscale homes on the street. We have done work for them before so when I asked if they wanted an estimate they said no it wasn't necessary just get it done. I said ok.

    They wanted the overgrown pines trimmed up about 5ft. so cars could see when exiting. They also wanted the boulders which were anywhere from 6 - 10" pulled up, pine needles taken away, Dewitt weed barrier put down and boulders put back. Moving boulders this size isn't as easy as grabbing a steel rake and raking them out, we had to use the skid and drag them off into the street, clean all the crap off them, put fabric down and then put them back. Putting boulders this size back down isn't easy either, they're to big to rake out, so alot of the time we had guys just placing them in by hand. Then their is also traffic to worry about, so we had to do it in small sections so we didn't have the road blocked all the time. By the end of it I think we brought in about 15 more ton of rock because once we took all the junk and pine needles out, their just wasn't enough rock to bring it up to the curb. So, all said and done with a few guys there for a around 4 days, the bill came to around $7500.00. I even gave them a little break because we do alot of work in that subdivision. Well, I got a call after invoicing them from the head honcho of the organization saying the bill was way too high and he couldn't pay it. He sounded so dumbfounded that it was that high, even though I saw him at least 3 times throughout the job and explained to him exactly what was goin on. All said and done I dropped it another $1700.00 on top of the $500.00 I already dropped it. BULLSHIT!

    What would you guys have done? Stick to your guns or drop the price to keep them coming back? How much would you have charged for this job? I know it's hard to estimate without seeing it but I'm just curious if I'm way out of line.

    Thanks
     
  2. coolluv

    coolluv LawnSite Gold Member
    from Atlanta
    Posts: 3,515


    No one can really answer your question without more information and then it would be based on their business. Anyway you made a big mistake by not getting a proposal signed. Whether it was time and materials or a set price.

    The title of this thread should be "Some people never Learn".

    Dave...
     
  3. Raymond S.

    Raymond S. LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 977

    If you had a "few" guys, is that 3? 3 guys, 8hrs. / day for 4 days is 96 hrs...x $35/hr = $3360 labor. How much did you have in materials? I doubt you had $4k in materials. Sounds high to me, but I wasn't there so JMO.
     
  4. dKoester

    dKoester LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,232

    You always give an estimate. That is where you went wrong. I'm sure you realize this now. Hope you work this out some how man.
     
  5. hackitdown

    hackitdown LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,487

    I would have given him a price in writing. Itemized, with options to spend more or less. Then I would have asked for a deposit of at least 30% down when we showed up to start.

    The problem is that people don't understand the language we speak, the terminology, and they assume the work goes faster and is easier than it is. Or they have much different expectations than we understand.

    I had a similar experience last year. I gave a customer a price in the thousands to rebuild an old stone wall that had collapsed. She freaked out. After reviewing the proposal, and explaining the amount of work involved, she calmed down. Ultimately, I scaled down the job, and she scaled up her budget, and it all worked out.
     
  6. Crash

    Crash LawnSite Member
    Posts: 192

    All you guys have very valid points and this is something I'm going to have to learn I guess. Our business has been in this town for so long and we've never, ever, had any kind of proposal signed for anything except snow removal. Usually we just give them an estimate, talk about different scenarios and they give us the go ahead. Our area is more on the upper class side and everybody knows everybody, so I guess we've been taking that for granted for too long. With these economic times in Michigan, I will never make this mistake again. Everybody, regardless how well I may think I know them, will have to sign a proposal from now on.

    Thanks Guys
     
  7. CkLandscapingOrlando

    CkLandscapingOrlando LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 652

    It would'nt be 35hr on that skid. That would be 75-100 I would think. Then dump fees labor and materials. You would need to be more specific to really figure out what I might charge. How much was in materials? How many guy's on the ground? How many hours on the skid?

    What I would not have done was drop the price. Now they will do this every time you work for them unless it's on paper. But if you can drop almost 2g's and still make money, you were probly high
     
  8. Raymond S.

    Raymond S. LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 977

    I didn't catch the part about using the skid.
     
  9. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 8,823

    A chiseler does something like that only once. Never twice. I always provide an estimate/proposal that must be signed by the person who authorizes payment. Renege on that signed proposal and that person does not get a single sprinkler head, gram of fertilizer or blade of grass cut ever again. I also make it known that said person does not honor agreements and is a poor credit risk. Not worth it for me to chase after money, but I make sure that the chiseler rapidly runs out of people to chisel.
     
  10. LushGreenLawn

    LushGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,123

    Honestly, this is a unique situation that only you can answer. Its easy to say "you should have had a proposal signed" but there are some customers that people are comfortable with, and will work on time and material.

    I would have went over the invoice with him in detail. If the invoice was not detailed, maybe thats the problem. For my customers who are on time and materials, my invoices show all the material costs, as well as a breakdown of the number of hours and the cost for each item. For example, an invoice for snow removal at an apartment complex would show how many hours for a Truck w/ a snowplow, a skidsteer, a man and a snowblower, man with a shovel, ect, with the hourly rate next to each. Theres no way for anyone to argue with that type of invoice.
     

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