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Deadbeat customer; Is it worth it?

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by GREENITUP, Oct 2, 2006.


    GREENITUP LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 270

    Ok - We all know that there will be some people you just can't please...I got my first a few weeks ago. They have been a customer for about a year - they put 0 effort into the lawn themselves - no water, their kid cuts it. Anyway - they had very bad dallasgrass and buttonweed this year - I made a service call 3 weeks after their regular summer app. They canceled a month later and do not want to pay for the summer app. - saying they already paid it and that they see no results from the program. They are slow payers and think their check for a spring app. was to cover the summer app. I have written 2 letters asking for final payment to no avail. They actually commented on seeing results earlier in the year - saying I was treating some of the neighbors lawn and they didn't't need to pay for their neighbors weed control. It's only $53 - but now principal is involved(I don't do contracts). What would you do?

    MOW PRO LAWN SERVICE LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,568

    I have a few of late payers,is it worth not if you quit there will be another i have a few customers that pay at the end of the season.
  3. Tscape

    Tscape LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,370

    Chomp down like a pit bull. People can't just walk away from payment. The world doesn't work that way. I especially detest when people want to stiff the little guy, because it hurts us more. That is literally food on your table. Ask an attorney to send a collection letter threatening property liens and court action.
  4. Rayholio

    Rayholio LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,461

    go get a copy of the procedures for small claims court, and mail it to them with a note pointng out that it's only going to cost you $20 to go to small claims court, and you'll get that back in damages... You will be filing your claim if full payment isn't recieved by a certain date..

    If they don't pay by that date, either you file, or you just forget about it if the time is too much of an investment for you.. but if they're ever gonna act, that's how you'll do it..
  5. MrBarefoot

    MrBarefoot LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 515

    I agree with everything posted so far. Explore small claims, have an official sounding letter threatening collection action if they fail to pay, etc. These things work to some degree to collect from people who don't want to pay.

    I also take a proactive approach and try to prevent bad debts. I do not give a second treatment to a new client until they have paid for the first one. Suspend service on any client who goes more then two treatments past due. If someone is being a slow payer, then apply finance charges to the balance to motivate them to pay (check with a lawyer, finance charge rates and regulations vary from state to state). If you think someone is going to be a problem payer then ask them to prepay or pay at the time of service.

    Be firm, it is my experience that about 2% of my new clients try to scam free stuff. I suspect that is typical across the industry. Don't make it easy for them and don't be afraid of offending them, if I do the work, I expect to get paid.
  6. FINN

    FINN LawnSite Senior Member
    from PA.
    Messages: 280

    So far I have not had to go to small claims court. What I have done is write a letter requesting payment and include another Invioce with a stamped "PAST DUE" on it. I then follow up with a phone call.

    I do use contracts but prefer refer to them as "Service Agreements" and they are labled as such.

    If they consistently pay me late I get my money and stop servicing the account. I am of the opinion if they pay late they don't value the service and therefore I am at risk working for them. It's not worth the risk to me. If they call looking for me then we can have a frank discussion relative to thier pay history and the importance of cash flow and receivables to my small business.

    I believe you have to let customers know you are serious about the work you do, running a sustainable company and getting paid. If your not then they won't treat you accordingly.

    It sounds like on principle alone these folks need and invite to small claims court. Be quick about it.......no fartin around, no coddling , get it done. Good luck
  7. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Ditto all of the above. I hate small claim but I've done it. Just the threat works 90% of the time.

    Here is an idea that might help PREVENT this problem.

    An LCO customer of mine charges every new customer a 1 time deposit up-front & before any services begin. The deposit is equal to 1 application so he is always prepaid for the next service. If the customer fails to pay him in 30 days he suspends their service. If they never pay he has lost nothing but the cost of replacement.

    The worst case scenario is when a current customer cancels & he has to send them a check. He used to make the deposit non-refundable but I think the State requires he refund a current account upon cancellation today.

    People who WILL pay the deposit are much more likely to be long-term clients.

    People who WON'T pay the deposit aren't worth his time (in his opinion).
  8. MrBarefoot

    MrBarefoot LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 515

    This is a great point FINN. A large percent of my clients that turn into non-payers started off as slow payers. By cutting off the slow payers, you deny them a chance to stiff you.

    Please forgive me if I steal this tactic.
  9. Rob Spread & Spray

    Rob Spread & Spray LawnSite Member
    Messages: 205

    All good advice. Go the small claims route and get some contratcs made up for future reference
  10. FINN

    FINN LawnSite Senior Member
    from PA.
    Messages: 280

    Have at it buddy.

    Forgot to mention, it works on slow paying relatives as well. LOL

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