Employee caught in a trap - Any way to salvage this?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Mar 3, 2007.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,116

    About a year ago, I recruited secret shoppers. Basically, we give them 4 free chemical applications each year and they are our secret shoppers. As secret shoppers, we verify that our guys did in fact deliver door hangers in their neighborhood AND they are supposed to approach our workers and ask for a price quote and report the findings back to us.

    Well, one of the secret shoppers called late this week. Our shrub-man was asked for a price to install bed edging stones around their beds when he was there to do the chemical treatment. He directed the secret shopper to call the office for pricing, which is exactly what he's supposed to do.

    The secret shopper then went above and beyond the call of duty and asked our guy if he'd care to do it on the side and leave the office out of the loop. Our worker gave the secret shopper his telephone number, which we did verify, and the secret shopper had his cell number. So, the secret shopper was waiting for this employee to call back with price and time to do the work but he never called. The conversation took place on the 9th and was reported on the 28th.

    At least, that is what the secret shopper is saying. I intend to drive by the secret shopper's home later today to see if he's had the work done.

    Here are the problems:

    First, I'm lazy and I don't want to re-train a new worker. It's a real PITA.

    Secondly, even if I take on the task of replacing him, the new guy WILL generate complaints and cost me clients. There is a lot to know. Chain saws. Chippers. Articulating hedge trimmers. Mrs Jones complains if you top the crepe myrtles, etc. Dallisgrass treatments. Nutsedge treatments.

    Third, this worker has passed several other secret shopper tests prior to this one.

    Lastly, and this is the big one, his predecessor was generating a complaint on every 3rd shrub trimming job and it was hell. I was discounting work, losing clients...he was butchering shrubs all over town. This worker has generated a whopping 2 complaints in 15 months in the position. Clients love his work.

    Last year, he earned around $44K. This year, if he's smart, $65K is not out of the question.

    So, that being said, is there any way to make it work with this employee? I don't want to replace him. But, at the same time, if I keep him, I have to let him know he was busted, ohterwise, the problem probably gets worse and the sidelining is likely to spread to other crews.

    If I let him know I know, it will spread to the other crews that this worker was able to sideline, get caught, and keep his job.

    What is the advice of the lawn site community? Bear in mind, it is real easy to say "fire the SOB" when you aren't the one who has the task of hiring and re-training a new guy and dealing with all the complaints that stem from having a new person on the job.

    Then again, with the pay involved, I shouldn't be forced to deal with this situation. Period.


    DFW Area Landscaper

    CLARK LAWN LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,526

    do you have a written policy against side work?
  3. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,116

    Yes. We tell them verbally and in writing that we have zero tolerance for a failed secret shopper test. They know that if they're approached for a price, they are to give them our card and tell the to call the office.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  4. Allens LawnCare

    Allens LawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 926

    Last I knew...Zero Tolerance ment Zero Tolerance...it might be a PITA but get rid of him. If your other employees catch wind of his side jobs.....you'll be in a deeper whole, they'll follow suit. Make an example of him.....hand him his last check and make sure everyone knows why. In todays market a job is something you have to earn!!!
  5. SpikeGT

    SpikeGT LawnSite Member
    from NW OH
    Messages: 74

    If you say zero tolerance you need to stand by it.
  6. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,116

    I am more inclined to place him on probation for a few months with a reduced commission. All my workers are on straight commission. A serious commission reduction would cost him thousands over the busiest four months of the year.

    If I do that, my guys would learn that a.) I really do have secret shoppers b.) it isn't worth it to F* around with sidelining c.) I'd be able to keep my worker and not train a new guy and d.) I'd actually make more money by reducing his commission.

    Terrible idea?

    DFW Area Landscaper
  7. terrapro

    terrapro LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,234

    damn thats a tuff one. you can tell him and make sure he and the rest of the crew know hes walking on eggshells. this also may be the perfect time to fire your worst crewmember, make an example of him and make sure the good guy knows youre serious about messin with the biz
  8. Allens LawnCare

    Allens LawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 926

    you know him better than we do....Butt it may cost YOU more in the long run...Probation may cause him to slack off on jobs..generate more complaints and the loss of more customers
  9. jcantrell

    jcantrell LawnSite Member
    Messages: 72

    I think a lower commission would just provoke him to take on more side jobs.
  10. StBalor

    StBalor LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 798

    Probation period sounds good, especially if the guy has been with you awhile. If it was a new guy, he would be gone. Do not know what kind of punishment you could apply though. Day off with no pay? 2 days with no pay?
    i have no idea on the punishment, unless you have him do the work no one else likes to do. Just take him to the side and let him know he was caught, and let him know he is on probation.
    In the same breathe though, this guy may get cocky as well as other employees if the guy only gets probation. They may start thinking you need them more than you need them.

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