Warning signs

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Tony Harrell, Aug 5, 2002.

  1. Tony Harrell

    Tony Harrell LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 739

    OK, OK, OK, so I wasn't listening. Did a new account saturday and she turned out to be a pita, and I'm not going back. I should have paid more attention to the warning signs. (1)Her daughter called me and said she had some boys using a rider and she wasn't satisfied. (2)I looked it over and it didn't look that bad except for the stair steppng on a small slope. (3)The daughter's husband got on the phone and said she hasn't found anyone that could cut it like her deceased husband. (4)Saturday morning the son in law said she had it cut that week and then SHE raked for 4 hours. (5)The woman comes out and relates the rake and blisters story. (6)She constantly was interupting us with questions like "What about this/that?. (7)The rope broke on my trim mower and we had to go get my other one, she was very worried we weren't coming back, asked me at least 3 times if we were coming back. Mowed, edged(not done before), trimmed and blew it off. It looked awesome but she apparently wanted a bagged yard. There were some clippings in the back yard(not bad) that were dispersed with the blower because her yard was high when we got there. She took an attitude and I told her to keep her money. Then she apologized and begged me to come back. I walked to my truck to leave and she ran to get her checkbook. My cousin/helper doesn't understand my point of view and went to get the check(he was going to get paid regardless). She came over to the truck and was very apologetic and asked again about 3-5 times if I was coming back. The only way I could get out of there was to take the check and agree to come back. Her check is in the mail on it's way back to her with a note that says "One of the advantages to being a small business owner is the right to refuse service to anyone". btw-Her yard was a mixture of bermuda and fescue. And I got another call sunday that I saw some of the warning signs. I let her know up front what is what before I look at it this afternoon.
  2. Richard Martin

    Richard Martin LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 14,700

    I actually go along with your cousin/helper. Not every customer is able to convey their expectations or even knows what they are. We, as the service providers, are in a position of power. The customer usually only knows that they want their grass cut. We have to tell the customer how we are going to do it. You can outline your policies by

    a) having the customer sign a contract

    b) giving the customer a statement of policies (my prefered method)

    c) working out the details as you go along (your prefered method in this case).

    You should keep the check, after-all you did do the work didn't you? You should also go back on the next scheduled day. If problems persisit then I would consider passing her along to someone else.
  3. Jimbo

    Jimbo LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,093

    This is exactly why I steer away from Residenials. People always watching over your shoulder (peeking out the windows) all trying to tell you how to do your job better.
    With Commercial accounts I have not seen this problem. I think its because the people undstand that your a busines owner also, and you know more than them (thats why your doing the job-right).

    Tony I have mixed thoughts about you sending the check back. If I were in your shoes I believe I would have kept the check, and several days after cashing it I would have sent a letter stating exactly what you wrote on the check.
    You worked hard, and you deserve being paid for that service (regardless if you return or not)!

    Good Luck
  4. scott's turf

    scott's turf LawnSite Senior Member
    from NH
    Posts: 949

    I would have kept the check too. You are not trying to get more work from her so why send the check back. Are you worried she will say bad things about your business? You worked hard for that money. It is hard enough getting money from people, don't send it back when you have it.
  5. RMDoyon

    RMDoyon LawnSite Member
    Posts: 230

    Tony, I'm with you man.

    The last thing I ever want from a business transaction is the feeling that the customer is in some way not getting their money's worth or has a lingering distaste for me or my work.

    Once these feelings are brought to the surface (coupled with the aforementioned warning signs) the taste that's left in the mouth is not a pleasant one.

    Did you take the easy way out? Maybe, but guess what, now you're the one in charge of the relationship and that feeling of control and satisfaction coupled with a valuable lesson learned is a priceless combination.

  6. awm

    awm LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,354

    tony u are dealin w a person in a problemed mental state. i do it all the time,but im not sure id recommend it
    to a regular lco. unless they cheat me ill try to do it ,and i said try.
    the elderly and disabled are really the target of my buisiness. no brownies needed,
    its just what i set out to do. i could suggest somethings to try with her ,but
    id recommend just letting poor son in law do it, as my guess its gonna be his job, as time goes by. i dont envy him..
  7. SLS

    SLS LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Mars
    Posts: 1,540

    That's one of the dangers of picking up a new account where the 'man of the house' just passed away.

    Consider this:

    Momma saw daddy out there, mowing for 5 hours a day...2 days a week....tinkering with every blade of grass. So there is NO WAY that YOU could possible be doing a better job than the 'dear ol' hubby'.

    From a newly widowed womans perspective WE will never do as good a job as 'dear ol' pappa'.

    I had one newly widowed lady who just cried, and cried, the first time I mowed her lawn. She was used to seeing pappa out there instead of me. Fortunately, between my sympathetic gestures towards her and her daughters re-assurances, things worked out. The lawn looks great...she even says so herself. Of course it helps that her other 'little ol' lady' friends compliment her on her pretty grass and on how dependable her 'lawn boy' is. A 42 year old lawn boy...I'm kinda flattered...in this particular case, anyway. :)

    She didn't complain to me about the work performed...and her neighbors told her that she had hired the right guy...but she was missing her husband doing the lawn.

    Maybe we can compete with the other LCO's in our area, but 'dear ol' departed dad'? Not a chance!

    Most of the time it is not the quality of our work that is the real problem. Peek just below the surface and you may find that grief, bitterness, sadness, illness, financial worries, or a combo of these things are the REAL issue.

    One of my first clients was a widowed Altzheimer's sufferer....man, that was a case study every time I serviced that lawn. I cried for her sometimes.
  8. MikeLT1Z28

    MikeLT1Z28 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,732

    i can't completely agree with the residentials always telling us how to do our job. i had (keyword) a few who liked to do that and now they are history. everyone else says their lawns look great and to keep up the good work. i've always heard that commercials are a bigger pain that resid. maybe it's the social climate here.
  9. GroundKprs

    GroundKprs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,969

    Like it or not, the lawn maintenance business is a service industry. And in any aspect of the service industry, dealing with different people is a given. If you can't deal with different personalities, go back to the factory where you can just cuss the boss and the machine. Your life will have fewer headaches!

    A new client should always be a challenge - am I capable of pleasing them long term? You're not just there to make a buck on this one cut. A couple of my clients are 20 year customers, and I just started 23 years ago. Doing as they asked, and modifying over time, is a much better approach.

    To judge if the potential customer fits your expectations is the opposite of what this economic relationship should be. You are trying to meet (I try to exceed) his or her expectations. Yes, I have quit working for clients in the past, but it was after several years of them not appreciating my work. It takes a while to learn if someone is really just a complainer.

    You are going to work on someone's home, and people are generally concerned about their own property. So what if they follow you around the first time? They have probably experienced poor service in the past. People have been amazed when I zip over areas they have pointed out that others always scalp.

    For those of you with the macho independant chip on your shoulder, I hope you have a large cash reserve when the economy takes a dump. Then you will learn the hard way what service is supposed to be.
  10. Tony Harrell

    Tony Harrell LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 739

    I know very well about the service industry. However, if a pair of shoes don't fit I don't buy them and hope they'll fit in a couple of years. I tell all of my clients up front "If you're not happy with my work, you don't owe me a thing". I go the extra mile the first time on every account to make it as nice as possible and to feed my self esteem. It's simply a matter of fit, nothing personal.

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