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Does It Pay To Do Extra Work?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Military Lawns, Jun 13, 2008.

  1. Military Lawns

    Military Lawns LawnSite Senior Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 323

    I had a customer who always wanted her yard cut on Friday because she entertained on the weekend, every weekend. Not the highest paying customer but always paid in advance and only took 40 minutes tops.

    Situation from last year:
    Here in Florida it rains during June and July everyday at the same time. This will throw even the best schedule off. As such, I was unable to cut her grass on Friday because all week long the thunderstorms were torrential and the ground was extremely soft. I called her and told her this and she agreed that if I made her lawn the first one on Saturday, that all would be well. She lived right around the corner from me, though she did not know this so, this little threat was taken lightly.

    True to my word, I headed out and made her the very first stop. Did an extra good job by double cutting, picking up trash and giving the flower beds a hit with the old Trench Blade. I was really proud of the job because everything was looking really good. In fact, I did some landscaping the week before and the plants held up well in spite of all the rain. Even hand trimmed some of the Gardenias, Hibiscus and Topiaries.

    Finished the job and put all my equipment away. Went right around the corner to the next customer. Before I could exit my vehicle, she called me verbatim, " You have been paid for all of your services, Do Not Come Back!". The phone goes dead! I called her back and she screams at me that it stopped raining (late) on Friday and I should have serviced her lawn as agreed (verbally, but an agreement nonetheless). I did not argue because her mind was made up and I make it a habit to always take the high road. I asked her if the lawn looked good, she said it was great and hung up the phone.

    Fast forward to May, 2008. I go to a IHOP in Orlando (She lived in Deltona, Fl, about 45 minutes north of Orlando). This waitress comes up and ask me me what I would like for breakfast. She does not recognize me but it was the rude customer who terminated my services because I could not control the weather. I ordered my breakfast and left her a tip for $7.00 and my bill was only $8.00. I also left a note advising her who I was and that in spite of her behavior, I am not like her and trust that she will treat her next LCO with more respect providing that they perform accordingly.

    The moral of this story is that I could have left her nothing, ran her ragged and then complained about service. Fortunately, I am a Christian and have strong beliefs in reaping what you sow. Make no mistake about it, being human I was sorely tempted to mistreat this woman because up until then, I had a 100% retention rate because I pride myself on the work that I do period.

    Since then, I do not double cut unless the customer ask and agree to an additional fee and I do not do favors (trash, bed edging, etc). The thing is, if my customers noticed this extra work, they have not said nothing to me (albeit a few). The remaining could give a you know what, therefore I conclude that unless asked, I do not do it. Since my 100% retention rate is out the window, I am not ashamed to say that I have lost a few PITAS (good riddance!). That have actually improved the time I spend at other customers because I am not being held up.

    Time is money and I will talk to all of my customers anytime they want. However, what I will no longer tolerate is constant critisim, shadowing and profanity (disrespect). These three things will get a customer dropped like a hot potato no if ands or buts. All will not agree with this but that one customer actually taught me how to run my business leaner by dropping or working with customers who want the impossible. It is possible...just know your limits.

    PS: My former customer lived in a $600,000 house. She has since moved...

  2. lawns Etc

    lawns Etc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,277

    I believe there is nothing more that you could have done.Maybe she was falling on hard times as a IHOP waitress cannot afford her former home. I always reply when asked to do extras and they question charges for it " order a pizza from Dominos and ask for more cheese or extra sides you expect to be charged right?" they usually understand
  3. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    This is a lesson we can all learn from, it is something I have been working on for more than a few years, it is also something that still tests me, and something I do not always handle with the best degree of success.
    But, nobody is perfect.

    Nice one thou.
  4. screensnot

    screensnot LawnSite Member
    from MI
    Messages: 86

    Everyone wants their lawn cut on Friday. :dizzy:

    You can talk a lot of those people into Thursday by explaining that Friday cuts sometimes get delayed until Saturday because of weather.

    I am fairly up front and honest about the fact that I do have a few customers that get a bit of preferential treatment when the weather shortens my days. I also tell them that I try to be fair with my time for rest of my customers, but sooner or later some of them are going to feel inconvenienced. I let them know that really only 2 things get you on the preferential list - premium price and/or long standing customers. They will either accept it, and maybe respect your honesty, or they will try their luck with another company.
  5. Tom-N-Texas

    Tom-N-Texas LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 370

    hearing stories like this is disheartning. Some people are just so irrational. You have to wonder how they function in life.
  6. Groh's Mows

    Groh's Mows LawnSite Member
    Messages: 155

    Good for you taking the high road. If this former customer went from living in a $600,000 house to waiting tables at IHOP, I don't think there is a lot you could have done to her that life did not do to her already. I know some will say waitresses can make a good living, but there is a big difference between the evening trade at a fine resturant and the morning shift at the local hash house. I think this goes the other way as well. Some on this site say don't even talk to people who can't afford your work. But do you really know that going in? The wealthest man from my home town wore work clothes and drove a 10+ year old chevy truck. He owned half the town. Somebody you snub who is down and out today may not always be in that position. Any of our positions in life can change in a heartbeat...
  7. Ford2000

    Ford2000 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 121

    After being in Bus.for 20 years you learn to let things slide and not worrie so much when things do not go your way or the way you think they should of gone.My wife always says things like,what happened to that Customer or hey why didn't you get that job and it's because your not going to keep every customer or get every job that's the way it goes,that's a part of being in Business OH WELL :):)
  8. shovelracer

    shovelracer LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,008

    Extras can eat you alive if you are not careful. I used to do whatever it took to get each account looking good. Even if they only paid for a simple mow and go. Then I found myself bagging and double cutting every lawn and in the end very few people appreciated it. I have changed my policies since then and the problem accounts have since moved on to the next sucker. The accounts that know they are more work are aware and are willing to pay for it.

    The only problems I have now lately are the 3 customers that self applicate their scotts fert. All have burns and striping, but some sections grow like 12" or more in a week. They all are only willing to pay for a single cut mow and go. So that is exactly what they get. What I dont understand is why someone who couldnt care less about the quality of cut would even bother to use fertilizer.

    Since I have changed policies I have lightened my work load and the properties actually look better. Heres why: Half used to just wait till I would pull that weed, but now they know I wont so they do it right away. The other half know that they arent going to do it so know they pay me for it. So really doing less has made me more. Lastly I only had 1 customer think he was still going to get his regular extras like weedwhacking his small front bed. Well not quite. He would get mowed to where the mulch was supposed to be, even a nice vertical edge like everyone else and thats it. Beautiful lawn with a patch of 2' tall grass in the middle and also a few sickly plants. He felt it only took me a few minutes extra to do it, but wasnt willing to pay so he dropped me. Now he self mows and intentionally makes his riding tractor turns in his neighbors yard. Well he mows at 2" and I mow at 4" so you can see where I have a problem with this.
  9. delphied

    delphied LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,067

    My service is mow, trim, edge, and blow. Anything more is extra including picking up sticks. If there is a piece of paper or something, I pick that up or move something in the way but thats about it. My customers dont want or pay for anything more.
  10. lawnspecialties

    lawnspecialties LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,524

    I believe it was our old friend rodfather who said he drops the least profitable 10% of his customers every year. Being a "want it all" solo LCO, I just didn't quite grasp the concept. Now this year, it's all came to a head since I was just getting run ragged every single day. It got to where the quality of my work was suffering since I was in such a rush to beat the sunset.

    Not only have I dropped an entire route from my schedule, but I've been able to pick up so many small projects (pine straw, mulch, plantings, etc.) that I'm making more revenue in less time.

    If I was still running my routes the "old" way, I would be miserable. Have a great year, DJ. :weightlifter:

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