Customer not paying because NOT satisfied...

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by topsites, Jun 16, 2005.

  1. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    I got a real effan problem with a non-payment issue that has haunted me before. The basic show-down is You've done a LOT of work (at least couple hundred dollars worth, but 400-600 is more like it) and after is all said and done, the customer starts nit-picking (there are many different scenarios, but use this one for kicks).
    They start nit-picking, this isn't right, that isn't right, and so on. Basically, you quickly realize it will easily take you TWICE the labor to fix everything they just found wrong (really, you gotta do everything over again) and there is no way you can do that. Even IF you do everything over again, watch out because maybe they're still not happy and it's all a scam... So now, you do everything ALL over, and they're STILL not satisfied (no, I've never gone that far).
    Now you've done the work pretty much the way you always do it, and most folk don't complain but this one does. Push comes to shove, blablabla, until finally the customer says to you:
    Well, *I* am not paying until I am satisfied!

    Now the last time someone did that to me, I hand-delivered a notification of a materialman's lien and I got paid but not until AFTER I got threatened with encarceration due to racketeering (except the amount in THAT case was too small, but 200 or more is large enough).
    I mean, dangit I get so tired of risking Life+20 just to collect my money. Then again I guess sometimes you have to and risking it sure shuts them up, but still... scares me bad everytime.

    Please don't tell me we gotta let them get away with this because it can catch on as the scam of the century - Hey, just complain, nitpick the heck out of the job and no matter how good it is, make sure you're NOT satisfied and gee, customer don't have to pay.
    So, has this ever happened to you and if so, what did you do?

  2. Mo Green

    Mo Green LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,487

    I usually ask the customer what they expect to see when I'm done with the job. Then they have no way to nit pick.

    My dad always told us "if you do it right the first time, you won't have to do it again".
  3. sildoc

    sildoc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,925

    Been there 2x. Went to court on one. Won of course.
    Question what are you talking about???? Mowing ??? Landscaping????
    #1 question is to make sure that you have other maintenance or landscape guys that agree with you that it is a good job. You will win every time.

    Also This is the #1 reason that I bought a digital camera. Before and after with your truck or mower in the background is a magnificant way to shut a customer up.
  4. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Lots of stuff...
    grass-cuts, yds of mulch, brush-clearing, etc, etc...

    Not that they haven't paid for anything, so far they've paid 145 bucks but kept adding things on in fast succession so balance due is 575, hence my nervousness... That and he told me a week ago he sent 90 more bucks in the mail but I never saw that.
    Course there isn't much I can do, the balance all came to in less than 12 days so they really haven't had much time to pay... I just get a bad feeling and I hate to say it but I'm usually right when I get this way.

    AND they haven't done the 'I'm not satisfied' but I see it coming and thought I'd get a head start for this one. It IS my own fault for leaving myself open like that, but at the same rate that gives them NO right to just take advantage of it, either.

    I did leave a bill with the statement: Prompt payment ensures continued service.
  5. sildoc

    sildoc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,925

    You must be new. You are jumping the gun. give them 2 weeks from time it was finished. If you gave a due upon finished then at least a week to get payment to you. Not all people are bad and not truthfull. Being in business is like a second you.
    What I mean by a second you is that there is you, who does the work and sweat doing it and plays all emotional when you forked out a couple hundred in materials.
    And then there is the buisness. Still you but by running a business there is extended credit where the customer has time to transfer funds or receive their paycheck to pay you, That and the USPS takes a while to pick up and get monies to you. That and not every one jumps on thier bills once they come in. They do them in clumps due dates not important but sit down and write checks on a specific day or once a week.

    Don't get nervous yet it will ruin you with other customers. Relax your money will come. Either by their own free will or by you.
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    No argument there, could've spent more time on it, but how much time can you spend when they want absolute perfection? Yes, they're going to pull out a ruler and MEASURE blades of grass (well, what if ??!)
    Problems can arise if you and the customer have different pictures in mind, despite specific clarification between you two.
    On that note, if that happens then it wouldn't be a scam per se, but you're still fairly SOL despite the fact you did it exactly the way you thought it was supposed to be. Now you got a balance of several hundred dollars (not to be rude but the higher the balance, the clearer this point becomes)...
    And IF you got half upfront, it's still a pisser.

    Far as doing it right, my point is if the customer decides to not pay (not paying is the idea, the rest is just game) by nit-picking, regardless of how good a job you do there is ALWAYS errors can be found (please trust me on this one). Yeah, I mean I've had customers tell me that some blades of grass were not the same HEIGHT as others after a grass-cut (no joke). Thing is, grass doesn't ALL grow perfectly vertical so yeah, hey, look, this one's 1/4 inch longer, see???!! That one will send you for a loop.
    And in one particular case, the argument was that the crabgrass was longer than the rest (well the crap lays FLAT on the ground...)... Now on that one, I was able to educate the customer and things worked out.
    But in this case they do NOT want to pay and I feel it is a scam all along, they know what they're doing. In a real bad case, they might tell you to do something a certain way and then later say they never told you that (ever hear of criss-cross aeration? I got took with that one before, too...).

    I will quit smoking because of this, I can't deal with the lack of vision any longer, I think I could've seen this one had it not been the nicotine clouding things up.
  7. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    No I'm not new, I've been ripped off before ... more than a few times.

    But thanks for the encouraging words, that helps a lot, I'm off to let the rest answer, too.
  8. Kate Butler

    Kate Butler LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 640

    I have a field in my customer database called "level of perfection". I specifically ask the client, at the very beginning, how important 'perfect' is to them. On a scale of 1-10, that # (their answer) is entered into the database and we base our work on that expectation.. If their requirements are too low (my discretionary call), they get a better look than they think they want. Always they are pleased with the result.
  9. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Messages: 4,899

    Put it in writing! Contract, with a change of work order for everything thats done. That proves thats it was authorized work. As been mentioned, photos! Camara phones are great for this, before and after pics will do the job. If they still refuse to pay then turn them into collections or take them to court. Now you have the proof you need to win. BTW- contract should state that if they are late with payment or don't pay what YOUR options are, and they are responsable to pay for YOUR options.
  10. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Ok definitely a go on the photos, from now on the Webcam goes everywhere I go. Yes, it works away from the PC and takes pics OR video just like a digicam just not as fancy.

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