Who pays for screw ups?????

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by happy, Sep 13, 2007.

  1. happy

    happy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 193

    I have one full-time Employee #1 (in charge of mowing) and a few weeks ago, when he was mowing, he sucked up a flexible 1 1/2 inch discharge sump-pump hose. Since he had been mowing on that property for weeks, I expected him to pay for the replacement hose and fix it himself.

    Employee #2 (landscape maintenance guy), not officially full-time, but practically, anyhow, a month or so ago, he cut a cable line when he was trimming some bushes (the line was behind the bushes up against the house) he went ahead and fixed it before he even told me. He said that it was his mistake and he went back to the house on his time and paid for the materials.

    My question to everyone is: who pays for screw ups?? Since they are my employees, is it my responsibility? Do I pay for the materials and their labor time to fix the mistake? Or, are they responsible? Is it only full-time employees that are responsible that know the properties well? Should I expect the same from part-time employees?

    Today, I had another part-time employee that only works every now and then run over a sprinkler. Since he is part-time and doesn't know the property, is it all me or what?

    If anyone has any insight into these questions, let me know. Any first-hand experience would help.
  2. privatelawn

    privatelawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 301

    You pay for them, its illegal to charge them for it, maybe eventually they end up paying for it because the less money you make the less raises they may get
  3. Liquidfast

    Liquidfast LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ontario
    Posts: 739

    Sprinkler head? A properly installed sprinkler head should not even be an issue. I would take that one up with the homeowner/business owner. Some idiot tried that crap with me and I had to get heavy handed. Its all good now.
  4. ha305

    ha305 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 68

    Make up for it in your next estimate
  5. delphied

    delphied LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,067

    You pay for it and you shouldnt slight the employee for it. If it happens alot, thats a when you need to take action. If someone works as a stocker in a store, Do they pay for a dropped jar? Or a waitress drops a dish. Its part of the job. Sometimes it happens.
  6. dwc

    dwc LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 626

    Ditto on that! Makes me so mad that all of the sudden their 35 year old, improperly installed, connected directly to pvc pipe sprinkler head becomes the lawn mowing boy's fault.
    People put in these systems and expect them to run trouble free for decades with NO maintenace and it just doesn't happen. They are a mechanical system just like everything else around their place.

    As far as repairing things that an employee damages, I have always taken care of it in the past, don't make them pay for it. Had an employee bust off a pvc water spigot 2 times this year! Didn't cost all that much to repair but it costs a TON when you figure in the time spent on it. I would have made him repair it and he offered to help but I just couldn't trust him to do it right so I took care of it.
    It just doesn't seem fair to make an employee pay for a repair out of his $8-10 per hour when the business is making way more than that. Just a cost of doing business. Happens to everyone.
  7. Mr. Vern

    Mr. Vern LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 632

    The bottom line is it's your responsibility! You have to look at it this way; you are in the business of taking risks - if things go well you make a lot more money than an employee can. If things go really bad - you lose everything. Employees on the other hand have very little risk and therefore much less potential for big wins.
    The difference between the 2 employees you described is that the one is a typical employee, and the other is a rare find that has a deep level of integrity and commitment - the type you want to keep if at all possible.

    The key to dealing with employee damage is to understand the root cause of it. If it is due to a lack of training or skill, then adress it, if it is due to an attitude then get rid of them as quickly as possible - even if you like them.

    Sometimes a person is worth working with but just doesn't understand how much mistakes cost. We have a gal in our materials yard office who kept messing up delivery instructions. After the third messed up delivery in 2 months, I decided to break her of the habit so instead of sending out a truck with the Bobcat, I had her take a wheelbarrow to the site and move the 5 yards of mulch to the proper location. Well, after 5 hours she called in for the 4th time to say it was too much to do by herself, I softened up and sent the truck and Bobcat. The driver came back and was laughing because the poor gal had been wheeling that mulch down the street, around the corner and up a hill for a total of about 1/8 mile each load. It was a bummer because I had to pay her salary to do that, but we still laugh about it and she to this day has not screwed up another order - she even laughs because she knows it worked. Sometimes you have to help them understand the impact of their mistakes.
  8. DuraCutter

    DuraCutter LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 806

    Seriously, if you have to ask it makes me wonder how much business knowledge you've picked up. It's illegal, immoral and plain wrong to have employees pay for any damages. If they do it more than once, log it, write it down etc... and lay them off!!!

    Make more profit, rearrange your business model so that employee mistakes are simply a cost of doing business and everything is good... :rolleyes:

  9. LawnMowerMan2003

    LawnMowerMan2003 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 768

    I worked for another lawn service for a few months when I didn't have a truck and one reason I quit was because I agree that the employee should not have to take the risk when he is only being paid $7.50 (and I thought I was worth more than he seemed to be willing to pay me). His employees didn't tie down a Scag walk-behind so it slid to the back of the trailer and bent the handles. This caused it to be dangerous to use because it was hard to stop; and I almost ran it into a pool! I suppose he would have tried to blame me for that and expected me to replace it, since he felt that it was teaching his employees a lesson to make them use an unsafe mower because they broke it! I just would have been like the employee that he said scalped a whole lawn with a ZTR and caused 6,000 worth of damage (even though that guy deserved to be fired) and quit when he tried to take it out of my check :)
  10. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    What I might do is revise the current new employee training program, maybe it needs to be longer, maybe more intensive, maybe not enough things are being covered (such as accident prevention), not sure exactly because you'd know what to do better than I.

    Now when a particular employee continues to have mishaps perhaps it is time to send him or her back through said training program.
    Of course this eats labor so either way it costs you, but better upfront at a fixed cost than later in random and unpredictable ways.

    Other notes: This should go without saying, but I can assure you NO employee ever wants to go through training twice :)

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