Ticked off at Customer

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Daren, Mar 13, 2001.

  1. Daren

    Daren LawnSite Member
    Posts: 71

    Well i learned a hard lesson about having a contract before starting a job. Bid on a job for and elderly lady. Agreed on moving a flower bed from against the house out to the fence, plow her garden spot, level of the back yard from where septic tank was replaced and haul off debri to the dump. Well as we started the lady's daughter called and said that we were suppose to place another row of timbers in between the fence and the bed, fine we agreed that we would do that and just charge for the extra timbers. We went ahead and replaced every timber from the other bed anyway at our expense. Then We told her we would plant some trees that she purchased at no extra cost. She purchased 20 gallon trees. We still didnt complain. Then we agreed to cut down a small tree at no extra charge. Then as we are hauling off the debri, she comes down and says her daughter said that all the trash on the other side of the house was to go also after we were told no 2 times before. Well I talked to the daughter and said we would do that also and just charge the dump bill. She said she wasnt paying another pennie and that was agrred on before. the daughter was 300 miles away the whole time. I said no problem, I would do that also, but I was going in the whole. Then as we are about to leave the lady comes down and ask us when we are going to move the other flower bed that she specifically told us not to move. I told her that she told us not to move it and she said no I never told you that. My partner was right there and she told him the same thing when we bid on it. Anyway, i have decided not to go back and told her to just pay me for my Materials and i would just take a loss. She said no she wouldnt. Well I only charged her $400.00 to begin with. We spent $135.00 on materials and paid another guy for 8 hours work $80.00. thats down to $185.00. Me and my partner spent 16 hours so far even in the pouring down rain. I just want my money for what I have completed. I leveled off the back yard really nice and plowed the garden. I dont know how to go about getting my money. Can I turned her into a collection agency? What would you guys do? Next time their will be a contract specifying all of this!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anyway sorry so long!

  2. Green Finger

    Green Finger LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 839

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO for the Bad Guys!


    Sounds like a classic case of piecing you apart. Some people are cons. If you don't get a contract they will piece you away. Can you do this, can you do this, can you do that. It starts with little things and all of it is free on your part. They target small companies to try and rip them off.

    Before you do any work. Have them sign a contract and get a deposit.(20%-40%) No deposit, No work. By doing this, aleast you get your cost of materials back.

    I don't care how nice they are or what they say. What kind of car that is in the drive way. SIGN CONTRACT AND DEPOSIT. I got burned real bad, like that.

    Protect yourself, remember you are a businessman.
  3. Charles

    Charles Moderator Staff Member
    Posts: 7,886

    Lessons learned hear when dealing with anyone especially the elderly get things in writing and stick with it. With an oral agreement like you had stick with exactly what you verbally agreed to. What you had is job creep. This is why I charge by the hour on odds and ends jobs like this. I say hey "I will do this extra work but you are paying me by the hour remember and we are up to this much money already. Each time they ask me to do extra stuff I say the same thing. Do not change the original agreement and agree to do extra things for free because then you are breaking the original oral or written agreement and the customer will then continue to break it.
    NOw about getting your money back. Without a written agreement its your word against hers and in a court of law an elderly woman will probably win. File a lien against her property and waite for her to die or sell the house is you best bet.
    You had just gotten yourself in deeper by doing the extra stuff for free. Some of the time it doesnt pay to be a nice guy. This is a business charge for your time and if they balk on one thing leave. Stand over her and say " I want my money now!!! LOL
  4. geogunn

    geogunn LawnSite Gold Member
    from TN
    Posts: 3,010

    this is a bitter lesson when learned the hard way.

    I don't always write a contract for small jobs but I ALWAYS...ALWAYS write the job up in a spiral notebook stating all of the particulars and even including a drawing of the work to be done.

    I always ask the customer to review and sign the book under my signature. then when changes are made I simply pull out the book, review the info and explain that any changes will be extra.

    it works for me on really small jobs like cleanups.

    also, there are certain kinds of people that make a practice of trying to beat you out of your money and this helps keep them honest.

  5. Chopper Lover

    Chopper Lover LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 288

    Sorry you got screwed and not kissed. I have some thoughts on the matter. Some realistic, some extreme, all of them worth thought...

    Since it appears the daughter is in control maybe you can give her a call. It may be well worth the cost of the phone call.

    Or, another option. Since you have already wasted a couple days, what is one more? Have you considered putting everything you can back where you found it? I am thinking you can call the old lady back and tell her you want to correct what is wrong. Of course you won't go into detail about what the definition of wrong is. When she aggrees, you take the trees back out of the ground, move the flower bed back to the house, tamp down the garden you tilled, etc. When all that is done you can leave the job site knowing she still got what she paid for.

    Just a thought with a touch of bitterness.
  6. Greenkeepers

    Greenkeepers LawnSite Senior Member
    from NE Ohio
    Posts: 695

    Always use a contract, but you had a verbal contract with her. Send an invoice for the full amount due and put a lean on the property. The old lady may not die for a while but you will get your money when she does or they sell the house. Write up the price some too to cover your costs..
  7. Fantasy Lawns

    Fantasy Lawns LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,913

    been there with the little old lady & daughter/son deal ....sometimes we just get sucked into these things ...we like to have this right next to total of job =>Total Price of Work: includes material & labor (not to include changes in design or constitutions) $ xxx.00

    hard to get $$ for something not in written (even thou a verbal agreement is a consideration of contract) unless alot of $$ involved .....might be more pain than worth
  8. kutnkru

    kutnkru LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,662

    At this point it comes down to a verbal contract agreement. In certain cases these hold weight and in others they do not. This is something that you should figure up your hours for what you have done to date.

    How much would you have charged her for this job even at a reduced rate -NOT FREE but at a reduced rate??

    Then you need to wiegh how much it will cost you to try to retrieve your funds thru your attorney. And make your decision.

    As a friendly piece of advice, you should stop giving away your labor. I understand the generosity and have replaced timbers and such. I just dont mark-up the materials, and they pay us for our labor, or the job doesnt get done.

    You are a service provider. They wont get freebies from the mechanic, the plumber, the carpenter, so why do they always think its should be that way for us??

    Just my .02
  9. joshua

    joshua LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,226

    sue the old lady, also go to a collection agency, take her to court.
  10. RNH

    RNH LawnSite Member
    Posts: 31

    Know what you mean I gave a verbal bid to the pastor of greek church. I trimmed all the bushes, edged all the flower beds, and started mulching, The pastor came out and said there are leaves blowing back into the flower beds, I refuse to pay you for your service, and then began to walk away before I had a chance to reply. I tried to tell him about his neighbors property, the one with 20 oak trees on it and that unless his nieghbor cleans up his property that the leaves would probably blow back into his flower bed again. The pastor rudly said, if they blow back into my flower beds I won't pay you for your service. Well being nice guy that I am. I unloaded all the debris that we had collected from HIS property into HIS parking lot right infront of the entrance to his church, and then collected all the mulch that we had spread and hauled it away as well. He to this day can't find anyone to mow or landscape for him. The word on him was passed around to fellow landscapers. I know my way was harsh, but after you have been taken once before. Those leasons were learn the hard way.

    Sorry So windy but.

    Go with the Lien, someone in her family will pay sooner or later when she tries to sell...

    Ron Helsel
    RNH Property Service.

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