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Bad Call from Good Customer.....

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by pblc, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. pblc

    pblc LawnSite Member
    from South
    Messages: 232

    So today I get a call from a good customer inquiring about their latest bill. Long story short they thought it was too much - of course!

    We charged $40/man/hr for leaf removal (for all our other accts we charge $50) - we utilize a leaf loader and truck, ztr mower, and backpack blowers. Took 38 man hours to complete the project.

    Reason they're questioning is because they have a large nursery take care of all their shrubs and mulching and new installs, etc. The nursery charges $25-30/man/hr. I'm sure they can afford to do this because they make the majority of their money selling plants. Now I know how the rest of yall feel when bidding against the big companies who have ridiculously low margin and make up for it with volume.

    Just a rant I guess....... but what do the majority of yall charge per labor hour for leaf removal with bigger clients? We get killed on the per cut price ($22.50/manhr) so the only reason we keep this client is the leaf removal - maybe not any longer...
  2. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    Charge per job (based on your estimation of hours) and they wont have information to compare to other people who charge by the hour.
  3. BrunoT

    BrunoT LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 741

    $60/hour here and I that is my give-it-away price. I make somewhat more mowing and mowing is easier. But this is a solo op, not employees.

    I'd be wary of doing $1500 worth of work on a "per hour" basis without a very good working relationship with an established customer. If they didn't know your "per hour" rate at all going in, then that is a pretty wacky relationship you guys have. Probably worth discussing before you start that it's going to take roughly xxxx hours.

    This is another example of how leaf loading/hauling off is a very expensive service to provide, and (In my opinion) most customers don't see it as a great value relative to what you can mow the property for.

    My advice would be to charge what you need to get for the mowing, rather than trying to "make it up" with other services. As you've found out, they will cherry pick companies to get it done as cheaply as possible. Eventually they want everyone doing their particular thing "cheap".

  4. ELS LLC

    ELS LLC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 43

    We price the big leaf jobs not at hourly but per job. The clients usually are impressed at how efficient the crew gets the job done. It's hard for an elderly lady to rationalize paying $40.00 per man hour, which is low, when she was earning 10 cents an hour back in the Depression! Bump your hourly figures up, dump fees, and give her a set price. Then year after year the price will be pretty close. With two guys and a leaf loader and all the right equiptment you need to be billing more than $80 hour. On top of that you are giving the mowing away and she still complains. Explain nicely that you are a business and it costs alot to have a crew out. If that fails bump her mowing price way up to where it should be and if she complains cancel her. You cannot MAKE money with cheap people. Good luck!
  5. pblc

    pblc LawnSite Member
    from South
    Messages: 232

    Total leaf removal last year was $2250 on that property and $2950 for this year. Leaves must be removed because property has lots of money invested in sod - much more than the maintenance costs required for it. We got this job because we could remove the leaves in a timely manner - they had to replace a large portion of the sod because the last outfit let me sit on the turf and it damaged it to where the homeowner thought it needed replacing. So leaf removal is a necessity at this location. And this client is a "do the job and send me the bill" or has been before this. I believe what happened is two large leaf removal jobs were included in one bill because the leaves fell late this year. Weekly mowing is $90.
  6. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,943

    I sure hope no customer is good at math for the "per job" charges. It would be disaster if they were able to divide the total cost of the job by the number of hours to learn the hourly rate. Yikes! As long as these folks don't learn the high math, we are good to go for the "per job" charges.
  7. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,448

    Just ask them what amount they want to pay. At least you might save the account.
  8. DA Quality Lawn & YS

    DA Quality Lawn & YS LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,277

    Maybe gently ask the customer why they want to shortchange you, and what they feel would be a better rate?

    I am very glad I do not get fully into the cleanup biz. A lot of work and the margins are poorer.
  9. Richard Martin

    Richard Martin LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,699

    This is the problem right here. If you were to raise my bill for the same service by $700 from year to year I would have something to say too. You're lucky they didn't fire you.

    Say it costs $2250 for a dealer to service your mower. And then the next time it was $2950 to do the same service. Wouldn't you question why? What if the dealer said that there was more oil in your mower this time and it cost more to dispose of it. Wouldn't you want to see some proof? Or maybe he got a new mechanic and he works half as fast as his old mechanic. Would you want to have to pay more money because someone is working slower?

    I can understand that you won't have the same amount of leaves from year to year but that is a 17.5 hour difference at $40 an hour. That's a lot of variable.
  10. ALC-GregH

    ALC-GregH LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Messages: 7,051

    What Richard said. I'd flip out if you told me it will cost $700 more this year for the same service you did last year.

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