Deadbeat Commercial Customer


LawnSite Member
Northern Indiana
This forum is awesome,just reading the various post has turned me into a budding professional. This is my third year plowing and I have a client who owns 4 fast food franchises in the Fort Wayne area. The first service call I gave this guy was on Dec. 8,2000.There have been 4 more plowable events since then.They owe me about 1000 dollars. I have yet to see a dime.I have been paid by all the rest of my commercial accounts(14 in all), even the bills routed through corporate headquarters I have, all except this guy. I have a signed contract with this d#!%&*head, too.Here's the best part, I'm out plowing one of the 4 stores last night and a truck pulls up near mine with Good Guy Landscaping(fictional name)on the side.Fella introduces himself, "Hi,my name is Good Guy,FYI im in court with this guy for non-payment of landscaping services, so be careful,okay? Take it easy." Guy drives off,I'm reduced to tears and seriously considering seeing how much snow a 9'2" Boss Vee can replace!(I did'nt okay,dont beat me up,I'm a pro.I finished the job.)(But I fantasised about it!)Any help as to my course of action would be greatly apprecia


LawnSite Senior Member
Heya man,
I am in indy to let me tell you something from my past year DO NOT PLOW FOR HARDEE"S.
email me sometime let ya in on a secret.
The 0 in heresr0me0 are zero's

SlimJim Z71

LawnSite Senior Member
First course of action = Phone call.

Ask him if he recieved the bill. If he says yes, ask him if there are any problems with it. If he spings up a problem, talk to him about it. If he says he's having a hard time coming up with the cash (not so good sales), make a payment plan of some sort, but let him know that you can't continue plowing for him if he's not given you any money.

Second course of action = Call an attourney.

Get them to call the stiff and light a fire under him. If that doesn't work. STOP PLOWING IMMEDIATELY and take it into the court room.

Good luck.



LawnSite Bronze Member
I agree with SlimJim, that you ought to call, and call soon. I don't know what you're like, but I have a habit of always assuming the worst. This has gotten me into trouble a few times (I called a customer about an overdue bill, was a bit huffy, and found out the guy's father had died and he was out of town tending to the funeral and estate arrangements). Remember this - be diligent and vigilant about bill collection and be firm if needed, but wait as long as you can before you get mean. Once you start that rock down it's hill, you can never push it back up again.

I haven't seen your contract language to know what you've given yourself latitude to do, but even if it isn't in your contract, I'd stop plowing until he pays. And if you have to, wait until an hour before his stores open after a huge storm, and tell him you can't do anymore work for him until he pays.

I'm betting from what you've said here that he won't. But if by chance he does, afterward I'd insist on payment in advance. I'm finding that there are people out there in residential and commercial work that seem to make a habit on choosing the small companies for their work, knowing that their contract language (if they even have one) won't hold up, or that even it if does, the contractor most likely won't sue the customer.

Don't be prey to these kinds of people.

John Allin

LawnSite Bronze Member
Erie, PA
At least give him the standard 30 days. Even an attorney will tell you that.

But.... at 32 days, do call. Cordial call just inquiring. They'll put you off. Wait a couple days, call again.

Shut 'em off. Snowplowers... even your 'competitors'... are a tight bunch. "Good Guy Landscaping" was trying to help you. If he was lying, you'll get paid after the first phone call - or the check will arrive today. But chances are, that if he took the time to stop and chat with you, he's telling the truth.

We do that here. Even with guys we don't get along with. We all stop and chat about who's payin, and who's playin.

No matter how much business this guy gives you, and no matter how much money he's "spending" with you - if he's not going to pay you, he's not worth having. Learn that now before you get stung for several grand. If he's good, he'll be able to argue that you a)didn't snow up, b)didn't do a proper job, c)didn't do it the way you were instructed, or d)plowed too often and was gouging him. Unless you are VERY organized and anal retentive about record keeping/contracts/billing/time sheets/etc. you'll have a difficult time proving your case.

Any of us can find customers that don't want to pay if we are looking for something to do during a snow storm.

And walking away from a big customer is VERY difficult to do. However, it IS was sets "business's" apart from plow jockeys.

Be a Business.... you'll end up with more money.

Good luck.

This is a tough spot to be in, especially in the middle of winter when replacing that customer is going to be difficult, at best.


LawnSite Senior Member
South West PA
I had one last season. Owned a real estate franchise.

He was past due on two months plowings. This was in Feb?

First mode of action= Phone call. I called several times and was told that he was "out of the office".

Secind mode of action= Embarras him into paying. I stopped by the office during a busy time, and went in asking for the fellow. Again, he was "out of the office". I asked the secertary if there was a problem, as I had not yet been paid for the snow plowing, and was just wondering if there was a problem? The look on the faces of everyone in the office was priceless.

Third mode of action= Stern letter sent certified mail. I got my money after this letter. I threatened shutoff of service if the invoices were not paid in full in a timely manner.

I got my past due money, but not what was currently due. He still had a week or two to pay the current invoice.

That was the last invoice of the season. It took until September to get my money, but I finally did.

He was not renewed this season.

I think that I will stop at the office if I see the new guy there, and just tell him to be "on his toes".

john r

LawnSite Member
Forked River, NJ
HI, Im new to this site and just going through some posts. I've been stiffed before w/and wo written contracts. A verbal agreement is a contract(just a little harder to prove your case). Let them know you will take them to small claims court for your suit to get your 1000.(give them a DEADLINE FOR PAYMENT). Send your bill certified mail and indicate your interst charges and your intention to sue them for your money. Also keep billing them ON A REGULAR BASIS with your 18% or is it 20% per month. hehehehe! What usually will happen is they will settle out of court, not pay you the accrued interest, BUT, get paid your 1000 bucks. This has worked for me!! Also go to court in the winter. If you are a seasonal worker like me you have more time in the winter. Hope this helps.