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"You have too many customers!"

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by mbricker, May 8, 2004.

  1. mbricker

    mbricker LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 505

    Couple of weeks ago, a gentleman got pretty ticked off at me because I told him I just didn't have time to do any shrub trimming for him. I mow his lawn, and he told me I could pick up some easy extra money next time by trimming a bunch of shrubs. He said he figured the work is worth about $15 an hour (!!!!) but he would pay a premium price up to $20 an hour, and I should be delighted to get it as there wouldn't be any expense (guess he meant mower wear and tear, fuel, etc.)

    Well, I tried to just tell him my mowing schedule was too full to allow any time for his shrubs in the next few months, and let it go at that, without any prolonged discussion about it. But then he got mad and told me I obviously have too many customers, since I am too busy to provide the level of service he requires.

    You guys who operate in areas where you can charge a decent price for this type of work need to count your blessings. In the past I have priced MANY landscape maintenance jobs like shrub trimming, basing my price on an expected hourly rate of $20 or $25, and been turned down. That's just the way it is here. Naturally, I no longer bother with any work that has to be bid so cheap to get the job. When I started in '96 I had contempt for all the local lco's who refused to take care of ALL of the customer's lawn maintenance needs. But in this area, the guys who survive are what some of you sarcastically refer to as "mow-and-blow."

    So back to this customer: He finally got me a little hot, and I told him that I would be a fool to trim his shrubs for $20 an hour and let my mowers sit on the trailer, when mowing brings in $40 or 45 an hour. He looked very shocked, and all but straight out called me a liar, and said something like, Get real man, nobody makes that kind of money. Well, I guess he is lacking in basic math skills, because he's home sometimes when I mow his lawn, I get $30 for it, and it takes 42 minutes on average by my log. From opening the truck door and stepping out, to closing the truck door and pulling away. And again, I know some of you guys look down on that level of income for that amount of time, but that's the way it is here.

    And this particular bozo, by the look of his home and cars, does indeed make considerably more than $40 an hour himself, if you broke down his salary by the hour. But he obviously thinks no one in the lawn business really deserves a good living.

    And that's just the way it is in this area.
  2. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,496

    Everything has it's price. Work up an estimate for him, and give it to him. If you have to estimate based on $50/hr. to make it worth your while, then so be it. But don't just walk away and leave money sitting on the table. It'll cost you nothing to give him the estimate.
  3. Trevors Lawn Care

    Trevors Lawn Care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,180

    nothing except time that he could be doing something more productive.

  4. DennisF

    DennisF LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Florida
    Posts: 1,381

    I started a post on this subject a few days ago and I agree with you on the pricing issue. Some customers are just plain mizerly and there is nothing that you can do about it. Many of these types don't think lawn and landscape maintence should cost more than minimum wage levels. I avoid these cheap minded dis-respectful people at all costs.
    My advice is to stick to your guns and tell the guy if he wants shrub trimming he'll have to pay the price or do it himself. Better yet tell him to save himself $20 and do it himself and that you can make $40+ per hour trimming shrubs for your "premium" accounts. Your time is more valuable than what he is willing to pay. If he can't understand that logic he needs to do the work himself and see how much it's worth to him when he does it.
  5. Likestomow

    Likestomow LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 997

    First of all, never discuss how much money you are making per hour, especially with a customer. People can see how fast you work, figure how much they are paying, and do the calculation themselves if they want to go that far, but outright telling him you are making $50 and hour isn't smart.

    I would just give him a bid on doing the bushes on a per bush rate, and it sure would come out to more than $50 an hour anyway. That way he could take it or leave it, just like he can take your mowing service or leave it. My guess is that he will keep you either way.
  6. brentsawyer

    brentsawyer LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 663

    Your selling your time, whether your sitting on a mower or trimming hegges you should make the same. Obviously it costs more to run the mower for an hour compared to hedge trimmers and that should be reflected in the price but in no way shape or form should it be half. BTW, why trim hedges now when they are growing so quickly
  7. two_planks

    two_planks LawnSite Member
    Posts: 206

    I miss out on a lot of hedge work because I bid it so high. To me tree work is tree work regardless of how small it is and my rate for that is $85/ hour for my self and $30/ hour for any helpers (min $100, I won't start up my saws for less). Today I charged $300 dollars to cut 2 broken branches from an elm tree. I was on sight for about 40 minutes and the customer got a little upset when I gave them the bill. I just told them I had given them the price before coming and that they didn't see the time I spent aquiring the permit to work on an elm at this time of year or the time I will spend assuring that the wood is properly disposed of. They still seemed pissed but got a price from me on coming back in october to prune the whole tree.
  8. cantoo

    cantoo LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,910

    I would rather sit on a mower than prune hedges anyday. You guys charge less for hedges?
  9. naturescape

    naturescape LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,694

    Hedge trimming is certainly worth min. $50 per hour if you're making $40/hr. mowing.
  10. MudslinginFX4

    MudslinginFX4 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,170

    I don't charge less per hour for hedges then grass, I charge more! I have to dispose of the stuff and also clean up everything after I get done cutting them. And what is this about not having to pull out the equipment for hedges? I have several hedge trimmers that are well over $400 and all of them require gas and general stuff to keep them running. Oh, and about my grass prices, I never tell the customer an hourly price because they would freak out, most of the time I average $90-100 dollars an hour on grass. If they take the time to figure it out and have the nerve to complain about it, I show them all of my equipment and tell them that each trailer we have full of equipment cost about $10,000 plus normal maintenance, that shuts them up real fast.

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