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Customer changes scope - mid project

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by m2haskin, Jul 17, 2014.

  1. m2haskin

    m2haskin LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    Hey guys,

    This is happening to me more and more, and I'm trying not to get taken advantage of everytime I do a job.

    So I have a customer where we went over typical price for a paver walkway...things that figure into the cost. Removing the concrete pathway, and installing a new paver walkway.

    I said specifically, keeping it in the same spot decreases excavation and cost. Also, the more corners and turns, the higher the price.

    So we agreed that there would be two turns, one right off the stoop, and another right at the end.

    Wouldn't you know it, while I'm there, she tells me that she wants the whole walkway (60 foot run) to zig zag back and forth down to the driveway, and wants it pulled away from the house a few more feet than the original drive.

    I didn't want to get into the conversation about what we discussed and how my estimate didn't incorporate these changes....so I just did whatever to please her.

    Now, we're building a retaining wall on both sides of the driveway around the culvert to clean it up a little, and again the customer is requesting that more time cutting should be spent. The block was picked by them, and they're not fond of the way the back of the block will look from the driveway side, and want me to cut block and fill in the back with cut block. Mind you, they're also replacing the drive when I'm done.

    How do I tactfully go about telling them that wasn't included in the estimate?

    Seems in order to prevent next time, I have to get even more specific with my estimate. I'm not trying to be crazy specific in my estimates, but that's going to be the way it's gotta be I suppose.
  2. TTS

    TTS LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 615

    They're called change orders, never seen a construction project completed without them and they get billed accordingly. No big deal but if you're doing them for free you're doing it wrong.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  3. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    Do a drawing showing what exactly they are getting for their money. If its not on the picture it costs extra. As for standing up for yourself and saying something, only you can make that change
  4. wbw

    wbw LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,996

    100% your fault. When the changes are first mentioned you should have said, "That's fine, let me work up a new price for you." It is now too late to save yourself on the sidewalk but if you haven't done the extra wall work you can still go to them and tell them " I already ate xx$ on the sidewalk and if you want the wall changes it will be xx$ additional" and have them sign off on it. Be fair about the extra and don't try to make up for your mistake on the walk. You have to eat that.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  5. easy-lift guy

    easy-lift guy LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,372

    Agreed. Remember do not ever allow the customer to take advantage of you and your business again.
    easy-lift guy
  6. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,014

    Ok… so basically, everything needs to go in writing in the first place.

    No verbals, no napkin estimates.

    Typed up and signed… you can find examples of contracts on line.

    then incorporate into the wording that any changes and deviations will not take place without a written and signed change order.

    this way you don't have to argue with anyone… they start talking, you eagerly start writing.

    then ask them to sign it.

    If they look at the price and say no…great, you keep doing what you originally contracted to do.

    That's why we're called contractors… and not napkin drawers, or verbal agreement guys.

    Get everything in writing.

    It's really hard to do this when you're the owner… much easier when you can blame it not he phantom invisible owner guy… sorry m'am, this is the policy.

    Always best to make the wife the "owner"

    Sorry m'am… my wife, she's the boss and a REAL tyrant to boot!
    Had to borrow money from her father, just to starry this business, thats why she's in charge.

    Just say things like that whether they are true or not.

    Get it in writing and get it signed.

    as to why customers are doing this more and more… I think it's everyone in general, Places like Angies list are a breeding ground of misinformation about how to do business with a contractor and "what is right" when doing this kind of thing…
    too many people reading balderdash.

    But…change orders aren't a bad thing.

    I just closed a patio job today, that went a week over original time frame due to three back to back change orders…that were nice upsells that made the job better and were the easiest thing to get tent o sign I've ever witnessed.

    changing their mind isn't bad… if it's documented.
  7. m2haskin

    m2haskin LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    Thanks for the info guys...guess I am a dummy and still have a lot to learn.

    I never wanted to be one of those contractors you hear about....he took advantage of me....he didn't do as agreed to....etc...

    So sometimes I end up biting the bullet. I see where I can spend more time upfront detailing it all and saving myself the headaches down the line.

    Thanks again,

  8. oqueoque

    oqueoque LawnSite Gold Member
    Male, from Jersey
    Messages: 3,186

    Precisely. "That's why we're called contractors." I used to work with an old guy in the 70's, he used to say this.
  9. Charles

    Charles Moderator Staff Member
    Messages: 8,645

    I agree with the other comments. The first change they made should have required an addendum to the contract showing the extra charge. Once you let anything slide then they think you will bend even more. You go to Micky Dees and order a burger and then drive to the window and say--make that 10 burgers. They don't say--ok, we will throw in the other 9 burgers for free:laugh: Is your labor worth less than their 50 cent burger?
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2014
  10. McFarland_Lawn_Care

    McFarland_Lawn_Care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,443

    For any projects like this you need a written contract and explanation. As soon as the budget will allow, I would purchase a program where you can show her a good picture of what the completed project will look like. This will reduce change orders somewhat - a picture's worth so much more. The other guys above have great advice, just realize people are going to change their minds all the time, that's just part of it - but you need to keep making money so stick to your guns and explain it will be more for this or that. Sometimes if a customer is not 100% sure of 2 or 3 things, I'll give them a price for all three difference scenarios and they can decide. Just some ideas....good luck!

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