Dilemma - What Would You Do?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by JimLewis, Nov 30, 2009.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,864

    So here's the situation: A customer called and canceled service last December. So someone in our office took the call, stopped Quickbooks from generating her invoice monthly, turned her into a "inactive" customer, and told her thanks for her business. Then the usual process is we call the crew who maintains that yard and let that crew know to pull that page out of their book and not go by the property anymore. Somehow, someone dropped the ball during this part of the process. Either the office forgot to call that crew or that crew forgot to remove the page. Regardless, we've been stopping by the house providing regular weekly service ever since - for free. And nobody ever called to let us know.

    This doesn't happen very often. But when you're not a solo op. anymore, have a couple hundred accounts and several crews, this does happen occasionally. Almost always, the customer eventually calls after a few weeks and says, "Hey. I don't know what's up but we canceled service a month ago and your crew is still coming each week." We thank them for letting us know and then we're sure to cancel it. Very rarely does it go on for a whole year like this.

    So we just caught this mistake today. And now we're at a dilemma. The thing is, someone should have called and let us know. If you cancel with a company that is regularly providing you with a good or service and then somehow continue receiving that good or service (by accident) and aren't paying for it, it's called "theft of services". And the service provider can collect remuneration for those services.

    I feel kinda like a Schmuck to ask for money from this person now. It's our fault we didn't stop the service. But at the same time, ,eventually it becomes their fault (especially after several months) for not letting us know of our mistake and continuing to benefit from it. So I don't know whether we should press the issue or not. If we press, they very likely will refuse to pay and blame us for the whole thing. If we continue to press (e.g. civil action) then we could probably prevail in court but we'd have one pissed off person. And that pissed off person could go all over the place and leave negative comments about our company. Angie's List, BBB, etc. That's the last thing I need is bad reviews of our company. We have a great reputation in the area.

    So I am thinking we should just drop it. But it kinda pisses me off that someone would do that and never let us know. That's pretty messed up on their part.

    What would you do if you were in our position?
  2. Oxmow

    Oxmow LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 466

    I think you should call them first then go from there.
  3. Hanau

    Hanau LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,568

    Me? I'd make an example of whomever was responsible for the screw up in the office.

    If they're a good employee and this is their first or second screw up then I'd suspend them for 2 weeks without pay.

    If this is yet another screw up in a long line of screw ups I'd can em.

    That's just me. I prefer to keep my employee's screw ups in house.

    In my mind taking it to the customer says "Hey, I am so incompetent and inept at running my organization I didn't catch this for a whole year. Please give me money so I feel better about myself".

    Bob dont roll like that.

    Does Jim roll like that?
  4. LouisianaLawnboy

    LouisianaLawnboy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,199

    Call them and maybe pay get half. Or take it out of offending employees paycheck.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  5. grassman177

    grassman177 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,795

    you cant dock the pay of an employee, better whatch that one. i woul ddef find the error and who it was, repremand from there,

    next i would call the customer and inform them of the situation and explain to them the legal matter of the situation of them continueing service(only after talking to a lawyer first).

    then go about yoru business and make sure it does not happen again with rules set as precedent according to how you handle the person who screwed up
  6. LouisianaLawnboy

    LouisianaLawnboy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,199

    That employee wouldn't get any vacation or christmas bonus. They are other ways to do it.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  7. gravedigger5

    gravedigger5 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 505

    How much are we talking? $1000? $2000? More? If your concerned about your reputation, I probably would handle everything in house. If you can prove who did it, reprimand them. Employees make screw ups. Part of owning running a business. But you might try calling the customer and explain what happened on your end and ask why they did not bother to call you. You might be surprised. Maybe something stupid like they were not home or they were at work when the services were being performed and thought that their new lawn guy was doing it when in fact he was showing up the next day and the work was already done, so he sent your customer a bill even though he did not do anything. Stupider things have happened. But I doubt it though. Good luck. Just reminds me I'm glad I went back to solo, but I screw up too. :confused:
  8. procut

    procut LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,852

    Did they give a reason to why they canceled in the first place? Was this a big account or $25.00 mow and go?

    As far as firing anyone, or giving two weeks off no pay I probably wouldn't do that, seems a little harsh for what sounds like as honest mistake. I guess if it were me, I'd probably eat it and move on. I mean, what else can you really do?

    I agree it wasn't very good on the customers part to let this happen.
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,864

    Well, unfortunately there's no way to know who or where the ball got dropped. We let our main office manager go for the winter, last November. Then, for the winter, the office duties (what little there was) were covered by me, my wife, and our landscape designer. Just depending on whose free, it could have been either one of us. And none of us recall receiving the call - over a year ago now.

    Furthermore, there is no proof it was someone in the office that dropped the ball. We very well could have called the crew over the phone or radio and it was them who dropped the ball. Finally, that crew leader left the company and one of his sons now does that route. So no way to punish them anyway.
  10. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    I'd revamp my proceedure for dropping accounts, for starters. Sounds like someone was taking it WAY too casually. Obviously a phone call to the crew and having them rip a page out isn't enough. A little redundancy there couldn't hurt. Usually you want a paper/electronic history of changes like this anyway. For example :

    1. Cancellation call = report to owner generated = memo to route scheduling person = memo to accounting. A phone call to a busy crew who may or may not be "with it" anyway probably isn't good enough for a large company.

    Second, I'd want a report on all cancellations put on my desk so I'd have an idea why they dropped, maybe do a customer contact/exit interview, etc. That might have caught the error right there. But it would be useful to know anyway.

    There also needs to be tracking of work done vs revenue so that this sort of thing doesn't get lost in the cracks as the size of the company gets beyond one person's control. What if your guys are stopping by doing lawns for cash on their own? How would you track this? It's always a good idea to generate a report to match/track revenue to the work done anyway. In this case you would have been given a spreadsheet with "Jones account 2.5 hours labor time on-site for June, vs ZERO revenue. A quick glance down the accounts would have shown this as a red flag pretty early.

    This all is a system issue. And systems are expensive and difficult for small businesses who lack personnel experienced in setting them up.

    As for getting paid, I bet there is some doctrine in the law that would allow suing them, but it would be a hassle and an uphill fight. (they could claim they thought their neighbor did it, etc, and how do you prove you serviced an account where the grass grew back? It becomes he said/she said in court.) Big enough to not miss the money for a long time? You're probably big enough to shrug it off.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page