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Customer claims I broke their sprinkler heads..

Discussion in 'Bidding, Estimating and Pricing' started by mowin_n_tokin, Aug 8, 2019.

  1. mowin_n_tokin

    mowin_n_tokin LawnSite Member
    Messages: 45

    I have a customer who's renting a house and I do all business through the house owner and rarely if ever speak with the tenant themselves. I've had them for since May of 2018, probably one of my longest customers (almost 2 years in biz). House owner sends checks automatically sent out every month, always pays always on time, profitable property. All in all a great customer.

    But lately the tenant has been claiming I keep breaking her sprinkler heads. The first time was a couple months ago, tenant said after I mowed the yard one of the sprinklers wasn't working right. The owner contacted me about it, I was sure I didn't cause the damage but gave them the benefit of the doubt as things do happen, told her I'd replace it for her for no charge.

    Now I just got a message with the same deal of a busted sprinkler, except this time I'm confident I didn't cause the damage. On the last visit I noticed the grass (in the same section of the busted sprinkler) was laid/pressed down flat, as if something heavy had been sitting on the grass or been dragged through, right over the area of the sprinkler in question. I even went through and fluffed up the grass before mowing to get a good cut because of this.

    It's late in the evening so I'm waiting till tomorrow to contact the owner about this, but how should I go about this? I don't want to get confrontational of my word vs. the tenants because it's a pretty good client I don't want to lose, but at the same time I don't want the tenant to blame everything on me and have them expect me to do free work.. granted the sprinkler heads are dirt cheap.

    Do I just replace the sprinkler head ($2) or do I tell them I didn't cause the damage and that I'll have to charge to replace it? It's a $40/15 minute yard and I upsell cleanups in fall/spring so I really don't want to lose it but the owner has seemed a little indifferent towards me since a bark mulch job where the price @2.5 inches was way too much for her so I did @ 1" instead. If I should charge to replace it what should I charge? I was thinking along the lines of $15-20ish, it's about a 30 minute round trip alone
  2. Keith4216

    Keith4216 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 102

    I would suck it up and just replace the next time I'm out there. It's a good client so keep them happy. BUT I would explain to them what you told us. If it happens again charge them $50. Lol
    StripeLife, iand, Cam15 and 3 others like this.
  3. FitzRightMowingService

    FitzRightMowingService LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 499

    Take before and after pics the next time you mow!
    mowin_n_tokin likes this.
  4. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 17,639

    Mowers don’t break sprinklers
    If they do it was either already broken (stick wiper seal for example) or installed incorrectly
    Call your sprinkler tech to remedy the problem, service the system and make sure everything retracts and doesn’t leak

    The client is trying to nickel and dime the mis boy because they don’t want to pay $75 to the sprinkler company
  5. Matthews Lawn Care

    Matthews Lawn Care LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,234

    How much is the account worth annually?

    I have several irrigated properties and I’ve never broken a sprinkler head. I have however found or busted an irrigation line when I pulled out a dead jap maple to replant a hibiscus. Cost me like $4 to repair the line. I didn’t charge them anything and they gave me a $40 tip. Sometimes you have to “fall on the sword” for the greater good but you should only do that for quality customers. The customer I did this for texted me a few days ago. The line had to have gotten broke when they planted the jap maple on top of the irrigation line. The water bill was $365 for the month and their property is 5k sq ft.

    So, what I’d do is if she is a quality customer fix it and notify her that the issue is resolved. Put flags where all the heads are, normally along property lines, driveways, etc. before you mow and take pictures. Mow the property and stay about 6” off the flags/heads and take another picture. Then remove the flags and trim the remainder and take another pic. If they come at you again about broken heads you can show them you didn’t run over them and it had to have been someone else. The only issue is, they may look for the next sucker to mow and replace broken heads for free.
  6. Mowing monkey.

    Mowing monkey. LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,121

    You’ve spent more time starting and reading this thread than fixing the problem would take. At the same time as your next scheduled mowing install a new head. I wouldn’t loose a good paying job over a minuscule problem that’s happened twice.
    Cam15, zlandman and mowin_n_tokin like this.
  7. OP

    mowin_n_tokin LawnSite Member
    Messages: 45

    She only sent a pic today that's from the tenant showing a sprinkler spraying glumps of water, with no text or context. I'll call her tomorrow and see what she says.. they haven't actually accused me of breaking it yet but this what they did last time when they did accuse me, especially being the next day after service since I mowed yesterday. If they do accuse me of breaking it I'll explain how it looks like something was dragged through the yard which is probably what caused damage.

    From now on though I'll be turning the sprinkler system on and off before and after every mow from now on to make sure every head is working. I've done many yards with sprinkler systems and never once broke one or caused any issues.. it's only this property, which has had previous irrigation problem in the past such as busted underground pipes causing the yard to soak and other malfunctioning heads (probably a janky install to begin with).

    I really like the client but I don't want to be taken advantage of and walked all over because I once gave them the benefit of the doubt and replaced a head for free.
  8. TX Easymoney

    TX Easymoney LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,340

    Tell her you dont want to get blamed for someones elses damage or blamed for lack of any other explanation---that flattened grass points toward something heavy being dragged etc.

    Typical in this industry is: 'The lawn guy did it' syndrome--

    I spend time to point out heads that were improperly installed (set up above the ground-though WB and others in-the-know on irrigation pointed out that they need to be installed slightly above the ground to keep fine particles out of the wiper seal-which increases the seal life etc/functioning-I know this to be the case, though dont necessarily like it).
    tell her your mower is set at (?)" height and wouldn't be able to damage a proper functioning head (non functioning heads should be replaced anyways), though I'd agree that heads that are clearly visible (most arn't) shouldn't be hit just because you are running through the yard as fast as the mower can go--
    hort101 likes this.

    GRANTSKI LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,121

    Happened to me recently but I definitely hit it. If I wasn’t paying close attention would’ve never known. ...until the next week when there was a fist size hole / erosion where the head was supposed to be. I texted the customer immediately.
    Technically the head malfunctioned - or wouldn’t have ran it over anyway.
    I offered to discount her next invoice but she sent it to me paid in full and said no worries.
    hort101 and Matthews Lawn Care like this.
  10. iand

    iand LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,194

    so you've had the client 18 months, 2 mows per month @$40 per mow = $1440 cost of sprinklers $4.00 this is less than 0.3% of the money earned I think I would just accept it and move on but make sure it doesn't happen again

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