Surcharge On First Cut?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by MOturkey, Oct 24, 2007.

  1. MOturkey

    MOturkey LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,757

    I have a question. I'm listed in the local Yellow Pages, and have picked up quite a bit of new business this year because of it. One problem, however, has arisen, that I'm not sure how to eliminate.

    I will do "one time" cuts, or cleanup cuts on overgrown property, as time permits. I generally charge by the hour, especially on the overgrowns, but will usually give the person some kind of ballpark figure up front so they will know kind of what to expect. I've also had a few of these turn into regular customers, and I generally give them a break, if not on the original cutting, then on the subsequent ones. In other words, I will tend to charge a full-time customer less than one who only wants temporary work done. I suspect most of you adhere to the same principal, as it only makes sense that if you drop what you are doing for a one-time-only job, you should receive greater compensation.

    Here is where the rub comes in. I've had about 3 or 4 residential customers call needing their property mowed. These were behind on mowing, but not necessarily what I would term overgrown. All ask for a price, and say they are looking for regular service, at least for the rest of the season. I go look at the property, giving them a bid based on weekly service. I go mow, collect my money, and then when I tell them I will check weekly to see if it needs mowed, I get one of these "well, I'll just call when it needs mowed" and I never hear from them again.

    One old lady had the audacity to tell me I was too high after I mowed the duplex she had just moved into. I gave her a $5 cut from my normal $30 minimum, and explained to her that if I had something else nearby, which I didn't, or mowed the other end of the duplex, which I don't, then I could do better on the price, but just to drive up, unload, and do only hers, I had to have at least $25.

    Well, she called back in about 3 weeks, telling my wife she was sorry, and that she had someone else mow and they had made a total mess of things, and would we plleeease come back? I did, cleaning up the mess as best as I could. The guy didn't even mow the back.

    She hands me the check, and I say something about coming by the next Friday and checking, although I figure it will be two weeks until it needs mowed again (during our dry period). She tells me she will just call when it needs it. Never heard from her again. I realize now she played us, and had no intention of calling us back, if she could find someone a couple of dollars cheaper, which I'm sure she eventually did.

    I was wondering if any of you have tried something like a "first cut surcharge"? I'm thinking maybe I could give a price for the cutting, then tack on a $5 or even $10 service fee, explaining that if they go with my service, I'll deduct the one time fee from the second, or even later, mowing. I'm thinking if they decline, it is a sure sign they have no intention of having me mow on a regular basis.

    Larger jobs are somewhat different. I've taken in a couple of grand this year mowing larger, overgrown properties, but it is hardly worth the effort for a $30 yard, knowing it just a one time deal.

    Any suggestions? Thanks. Neill
  2. cpel2004

    cpel2004 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,416

    Dont apologize for your price, it is what it is. If customers had their way they wouldn't pay use anything. Your price is your price. I'm sure that yellow page isnt cheap.
  3. weeble67

    weeble67 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 286

    I think everyone here has had a scam ran on them like that which you've described. In my area I don't know that I could pull off adding a surcharge to my customers. In your area you may be able to. You need to do what you think is best. Personally I don't see anything wrong with doing it. I'd just work on how I'm going to sell it prior to rolling it out. That way it's as though it is second nature. Confidence is the key.
  4. Team-Green L&L

    Team-Green L&L LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,776

    We have a strict policy that "Grass in length excess of 5" is billed at 150%". Never had a complaint and only 2 people even mentioned it. I just told them when we mow twice you pay more. What can they say?

    MOW PRO LAWN SERVICE LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,566

    Well $5 is not nothing, how much fuel does it buy.
  6. Siesta Key Lawn Service

    Siesta Key Lawn Service LawnSite Member
    Posts: 35

    I too have been burned before by the same scenario. I now ask any new customer if this will be a regular mowing.It is rare when they lie about it. Usually any one time job comes at a premium price to the customer,provided I have time to do it.
  7. GLLawns

    GLLawns LawnSite Member
    Posts: 132

    I had this mother and son that lived next to each other that would call me when they needed me. They would call and say the grass was a little high and could I get to it. I'd say sure, cause I have a dozen people on their street so I'm already there. Well after putting up with grass from 8-36 inches in both their yards, I started quadrupling their surecharge for each yard. They finally stopped calling me and seem to be keeping up with their own yard now. I now have a policy that if it's not weekly service don't bother me again. Some people look at me with a duh look when I tell them this at time of estimate but too bad, it's not worth burning belts, and stressing my engines.
  8. Herrick

    Herrick LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 506

    I'm not a huge fan of contracts (although I do use one for over half my accounts), but I think it could help with problems like this... contract price is $XX, no contract, add $10 (or more!).
  9. barnard

    barnard LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 618

    Just a suggestion. Drop the" I'll come by and check method". Set them up on a regular schedule.Explain that you waste money time and fuel driving by to "look at it" and not cutting it. Go with a set weekly or10 day or bi-weekly. what ever works for you and them. If they won't agree,you don't want them.
  10. GreenT

    GreenT LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 43,014

    What he said...

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