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Belligerent potential customer

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by XterraJohn, Jul 25, 2008.

  1. XterraJohn

    XterraJohn LawnSite Member
    Messages: 178

    Someone called me yesterday and said that they needed their lawn cut first thing tomorrow morning. No problem. I set up a time and go out to meet the customer and estimate the yard.

    As I'm looking at the property I notice that there are a lot of obstructions and I will most likely have to use the small mower and do a lot of extra trimming. I tell him that for a yard like this he's looking at $40 per cut. He says something like, "Well, I normally pay $35." Me: "Yeah, so it sounds like I'm in the ballpark. If this yard were flat and wide open it would be $35, but since it's not, it's $40." I write down the estimate and tell him it's good for 30 days and to feel free to shop around.

    We go around front and he says he wants me to quote him on pulling the weeds out of his flower bed. I tell him the small bed packed to the brim with weeds will be $45 and the larger bed with only a few weeds will be $30. His response: "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!" He tells me not worry about the flower beds and just do the lawn for now. I give him the estimate to sign, but he wanted to read it all first. No problem, that's what it's there for. I tell him to hang onto it and read it overnight, but that I needed it signed and returned to me before I start work. I ask him what time he wants it cut tomorrow, since he specifically asked for "first thing" and he said 8:00 AM.

    Fast forward to the next day.

    I show up at 8:00 AM and the quote is not signed and sitting on the table where he said it would be. I ring his doorbell and he answers with the quote in hand. He tells me that he saw in the quote that my price does not include bagging, and for the first time, he wants the back yard bagged. I explained that this would be an additional cost and he says, "Well yeah, but just like $5, right?" I told him actually it would be $15, thinking that even this sounded way too low since the backyard is probably 3 times bigger than the front. He goes on to tell me that the standard rate for bagging is $5 and asked if I realized that I was on the high-side of the industry as far as pricing goes. "Yes sir, I know." Are you actually going to charge a potential customer $15 just to bag the back yard? "Yes sir, that's my price." He replies that that is exorbitant. I remind him that the quote is good for 30 days and that I encourage him to shop around.

    He asked how long I had been in business and I told him 2 years. He thought for a second and then grudgingly said, "OKAY! I'll PAY you $15 to bag the back yard once," but he acted like it was just the worst thing in the world that that is what I was charging.

    At this point, I had had enough and basically told him that we should just forget the whole thing. As I was saying this he said tore the estimate in half, wadded it up, handed it to me, said, "good day" and slammed the door.

    I simply don't know what to make of this. I'm fine if he thinks my prices are way too high and doesn't think anyone should ever pay me to cut their grass, but WHY would he still want me to go ahead and work for him if he disagreed that much with my pricing? What am I missing here?
  2. mississippiturf

    mississippiturf LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 674

    He agreed to your price. It was up to you at that point in time to close the deal or walk away. You chose to walk away. No big deal. Its your business, you are the boss. You can set your prices as you see fit. You didn't miss anything.

    Dealing with the public can be quite challenging, but you certainly have the right to pick and choose your customers.

    You sent a message that you don't really want to deal with someone with a motive to undercut or gripe about your prices.
  3. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Well ...
    I don't know man, there's just the reason I flat out don't bag :p
    But other than that...

    I get them kind some days, too...
    Starts out demanding or asking for several things just like this and that, specifically speaking.
    I figure don't play around which I don't normally do anyhow so I give them a good price but no matter what I say they then want a better deal than quoted... So here is this customer started out perfectly straight making me think there would be no fooling around so now they got me where they wanted, which is in a corner without an easy way out...
    I'm really just now beginning to think, right about then it's time to leave...?
    But you never know, I think too one would hate to lose a potentially good customer, maybe they've been had once or twice and were just testing thou now I am thinking I should have just went 5 higher to begin with and then gave in to him after much fake back and forth but it's JUST not how I do things... Besides, why the game playing, why if you start out straight why the back handery.

    Then seems to know as much or more about the business than I do, makes sure I know this.
    Yeah, and...?
    At this point it's like what can you do?


    You know...
    There are folks out there who know a lot about the agricultural aspect and some really do know as much or more than I do and they are educated about the whole thing and for the most part are a real pleasure to deal with.
    Unfortunately it almost seems they are the exception to the rule.

    I'd say, with almost 7 years in, considering you're in your 2nd year...
    Take this any which way you like, but I'd say you did fine.
    In ways better than I would have handled it.

    Probably the one thing I might point out because of how I do things now, after having been ran through that same type of grinder too:
    1. That estimate not signed by 8am the next morning?
    > Time to turn around and leave, yes sir right then and there, no knocking and no saying another word.
    >> On a sidenote, control the anger if that comes around, no tire spinning or engine revving or anything else ...
    Which, that's as much for my own benefit :p

    Well anyhow, cheers!
  4. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Just for comparisons I had a similar deal earlier this year...
    Customer wanted service starting in September, due to the contract running until end of August, fine so be it.

    Basically same thing here, wanted a super deal and everything in writing too ...
    I really should've seen it coming, stupid me I gave the price in writing...
    Still kinda miffed about that, not really angry but...
    That can be used against me now, flap that piece of paper in someone else's face.
    But that I can put aside...

    Another part was, wanted a price on leaf cleanup.
    Quoted that, customer claims all the rest of the guys before always included it for the price of the mowing, this customer had no shortage of trees in that yard... No, it was a LOT of trees and it looked like one FUN leaf job coming.
    But, why ask for a quote then?
    Yeah, and, how much did the guys before quote on the mowing?
    hmmm ....

    Now this didn't dawn on me until later, but it's good:
    Start out in September then clean up the leaves for free?
    What, after all of 3-4 mows and HOPE they're still my customer next year too?
    For all I know this customer takes care of the yard his/her self until September... ;)
    Wouldn't be the first time this one had been pulled on me.
    But, maybe not.
    And see how I don't clean up leaves for free :p

    The part that struck the deal down, thou...
    The customer wanted references...
    With 7 years in I don't care too much for this anymore because I'm not the puny little lawn boy just starting out either, but I'm still willing to play this game because I've gotten more than one really good customer out of it before.

    It was Saturday, we agreed I would call with the references Monday.
    But I had the customer's references within hours, called to pass the information.
    Customer claimed to be tied up at the time, could customer call me back?
    Customer never did call back...
    That was that.

    It's like a ball game...
    When the customer said they'd call me back, the ball was left in the customer's court.
    When the customer failed to follow through, in my book they dropped the ball.
    And maybe it was my fault, should I have waited until Monday?
    Doesn't matter, I'm not calling them again.

    Hope that helps, maybe.
  5. mowerman111

    mowerman111 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    You should have gone over your pricing with him right then and there. You have to lay out all the facts verbally along with it in writing. You told him it would be 40.00 to cut he's not thinking about if thats bagged or not. Also you should have called him first before driving over there to see if he still wanted you to mow or not. Oh well these are the things that make you be a smart business man. After twenty five years in the business I am still learning.
  6. PLS-Tx

    PLS-Tx LawnSite Silver Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 2,383

    Sorry you had this problem, I guess I will never understand some folks.

    Btw, how can you spend that much time with someone, I try to quote over the phone, pull up and go to work. Not trying to be stupid, if you can do it more power to you, I wish I could slow down sometimes. Guess I be carfull what I wish for. I can remember a time when I was not as busy as I am now.

    I guess I better go to bed, I'm starting to ramble.

    Oh, don't let this guy bother you, if you stay at it you will deal with much worse.
  7. XterraJohn

    XterraJohn LawnSite Member
    Messages: 178

    All combined, I probably spent about 30-40 minutes on this "customer" or so. That's probably more than I should have, but I feel really uncomfortable just quoting over the phone. I like to actually get in the yard and look for those little things that I can't see on google maps, and also try to get a feel for the customer. I have too many great customers to get tied up working for someone that's going to make my life miserable. I had enough of that working in a corporate job... :laugh:
  8. Keith

    Keith LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,979

    IMHO, your only mistake was wasting too much time on him. There are some people you just can't work for, and subconsciously you knew this was one of them.
  9. IMAGE

    IMAGE LawnSite Bronze Member
    from midwest
    Messages: 1,134

    I am slowing learning to discriminate over the phone, heck even over voicemail

    "if you can do it right away tomarrow call me back?" said like they will find someone else if you can't... -- Nope sorry I can't. Even if I could.

    "the last guy...." Yep well call him back.

    "I am calling around pricing, I will call you back if...." yeah dont bother, I am not the cheapest.

    Even those that have argued a little bit over pricing at first, like wanting to know the in's and out's of the pricing, but decided to "go with me" (like it was my priviledge), have usually turned out to be PITA's. Not always, but usually.

    The one's that make the best customers are those that appreciate your work. Either because they know how hard it is, or because they just appreciate thier extra free time - - they are glad your there. Those are the customers you want. The ones with nothing else to do but bicker and argue--- move on and don't sweat it.
  10. LushGreenLawn

    LushGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,120

    In any line of your your going to get people who are odd. Give yourself another year, and this stuff will not even bother you. You'll forget about it 5 minutes after you leave the property.

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