Guaranteeing replacement plants

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Ocutter, Apr 13, 2001.

  1. Ocutter

    Ocutter LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 314

    Some customers are asking me to replace some dead shrubs that were installed more than a yr. ago by another co. One has an Alberta spruce. Just one that had spider mites. I told her it would be $180.00 to replace (cost 120) with no warranty. I figured his covered delivery, disposing of the old and planting. Not long at all.

    She asked why I dont guarantee it and I proceeded to tell her that new landscapes are covered by companies to cover costs, installation, and because landscapers dont know if any problems will occur. Since I now know that the only problem in 3 yrs was spider mites I can simply say to water more.

    Do you installers guarantee individual plantings. If so how long, and do you figure the labor per plant or do you have other methods. It just seemed impossible charging 2-3x the plant cost for this.
  2. steveair

    steveair LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,073


    I know I responded to you before in the small scape question, But I will say that your price sounds way low.

    For 180, cost of tree is 120, that means 60 in your pocket.

    Now how much time will you spend. You have already probably spent 1 hr going to the house, looking at the plant and talking to the homeowner. Next, you may have to go back, type up a estimate, and mail it to them. Next, you have to go, pick-up the plant, and deliver it. Next, you have to remove the old one, plant the new one. Next, you have to drag out the old homeowners hose that is in the garage, have them turn the outside faucet on, roll up the hose......Next, you have dispose of the old one, etc., etc., etc.,

    There's a lot of 'Next's' here, if you catch my drift. If you really add up all the time spent driving to and from, gas in your truck, time at the nursery(I've spent 2 hours at a nursery picking up 1 plant), time planting, etc. etc, you will probably find its in the range of 5 hours of your valuable time in total. That means you made 60 in 5 hours, or 12 bucks an hour. Are you happy with $12 an hour? I wouldn't be.

  3. SCL

    SCL LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 543

    To expound upon Steveair's reply, let me first say that $120 wholesale for an alberta seems a bit high unless its a 5'er. Next what does the nursery retail this for? That'ss what you should start at and add your labor and warranty coverage from there. Also, in Steve's post don't confuse making $60 with a $60 profit. That's before gas, vehicle expense and mileage, insurance, profit tou could have been making on a $30 an jour job, etc.. :( I'd look at $180 for the tree, $45 for planting $20 disposal, you get the idea.
  4. greens1

    greens1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 352

    I usually don't touch a job for under 500 bucks. With costs and overhead it just doesn't make sense. I will usually make improvement suggestions that will bring the price up to 1000 but if they don't go for it I simply call them back and let them know that, due to time constraints, we are not able to accept the job at this time.

    One word of caution to Ocutter. If It's spider mites and the Alberta spruce are planted next to, or close to each other, then you will likely have the same problem with all the spruce.

    Mites love Dwarf Alberta Spruce. The other spruce that were planted simply have not built up levels high enough to wipe out the plant, but if you look with a hand lens you will almost certainly see mite eggs or mites on the remaining spruce. Often times they are transported in on the nursery stock. When the stock is transported the plants are usually jamed together with all the limbs touching. Under these circumstances the mites can spread from tree to tree rapidly.

    If mites are indeed present then additional watering will prolong, but not prevent, the death of the tree(s). The usual cycle for mites is to build up levels high enough to weaken, but not kill the plant. Then when conditions are right hot, humid weather with little or no precip. the mites multiply and feed so rapidly that the plant is wiped out in a day or two.

    I frequently get calls from people who say " my tree turned red for a day or two and then just died ". I go over with a hand lens and the , now dead tree, is powerpacked with mite eggs. They simply sucked the tree completely dry.

    I would recomend getting a good CPA to take a look at the remaining spruce and treat the problem, if a problem exists.

    Good Luck and Good Friday,
    Jim L
  5. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    I have to agree about turning the project down.

    Unless you think there's a lot of future work to be had from this customer, replacing a single plant is going to be nothing but headaches for you. You'll have to do many of the same things, taking the same amount of time, that a $3,000 landscape would require (meeting with customer 1-3x, a few phonecalls, go to nursery to pick up plant(s), drive to site, plant, cleanup, collect $, drive back).

    I had a friendly competitor refer a 5 sqft brick paver project to me. I called the customer and told him he'd probably be better off doing it on his own or using some other material, as I'd charge him $100/sqft for that project.

    He promptly turned me down.

    If you decide you want to do it, charge much more than you're charging. Your time is worth more than that. Economies of scale. Your pricing should look like a logarithm. The closer you get to 0 in quantity of work, the faster the unit price should get to infinity. Just like if someone asked you to seed your entire state, the unit price would go really low, due to the economies of scale of that project.
  6. Ocutter

    Ocutter LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 314

    Ok, I did have other work to do at this property. Bed edging, mulching, and plant moving. I will add to other add ons to compensate the Alberta spruce (which is a 5' specimen). So is it safe to say that all of you do the 2.5-3X rule and guarantee you work?

    [Edited by Ocutter on 04-13-2001 at 04:58 AM]
  7. Lanelle

    Lanelle LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,361

    That sounds about right. Also, don't warranty transplants--you have no control over their original condition.

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