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How I lost $2500 on a $600 job


LawnSite Senior Member
We have had a good bit of rain here in north Texas the last few weeks, including 3” of snow on Feb 14th and yesterday I was using an old Husky rider to tow railroad ties from my trailer to build a retaining wall in a client’s back yard. Well. the Husky bogged down in a particularly wet area and I couldn’t get it to move. The wheels just kept spinning in the clay and kept going deeper and deeper. I’m working solo so I brought my Suburban around back to tow the Husky out with a long chain and got the Suburban stuck.

But wait, there’s more…

I call a buddy to help out and tell him to pull through the neighbor’s driveway to prevent him from getting stuck in the client’s back yard and he bogs down, in the neighbor’s yard, just short of reaching high ground down leaving two 20’ ruts across their side yard. We winched his truck back out and he pulls into the clients back yard leaving two really nice ruts in the soft clay. His truck is two wheel drive and won't budge the Suburban.

Call in the professionals...

I call a wrecker company to pull my Suburban and lawn tractor out but after getting the 'burb' unstuck they buried the wrecker up to its axles, front and rear in the wet clay. They tried to pull the wrecker out backward by winching backward on the Suburban and now it’s stuck again. Tempers are starting to flare and I’m watching any possibility of profit from this job disappear by the minute.

And the hits just keep on coming…

The wrecker crew calls the office and they send another wrecker to pull the wrecker #1, my Suburban and the lawn tractor out. The wrecker #2 driver decides not to chance getting off solid ground (first good decision made by anybody all day). Because the angle from his truck to the first wrecker, wrecker #2 has to pull the wrecker #1 at a 90° angle from the direction it was facing. This caused the front tire on the wrecker #1 to be dragged across the lawn sideways digging a really nice 8”-12” furrow about eight feet long into the turf. The more they pulled the deeper the front tire of wrecker #1 dug until I thought they were going to turn wrecker #1 on it’s side. I don’t know how much pressure was being applied but decided to give them plenty of room just in case something came apart.

And just when you think it can’t get any worse…

WHAM-the cable snaps! There are now three vehicles stuck in mud and all possibility of any profit from this job is now ancient history, in addition to a lost a half-day of work. The rain is now steadily coming down and expected to last until at least tomorrow night. Wrecker #2 driver leaves and returns in a short while with another wrecker that left no doubt in anyone’s mind that we were going to get ALL the vehicles unstuck. This truck looks like a tank retriever: diesel engine, twin chrome exhaust stacks, 10 wheels, sleeper, 10”x16” towing boom, etc. The tow cable looked like it came from a suspension bridge and there is no doubt in my mind that you could tow a fully loaded 53’ tractor-trailer with this bad boy. He hooks up to wrecker #2, which is hooked to my Suburban, which is hooked to the lawn tractor and we all come out looking like a really muddy tram at Disney World.

The epilogue…

I look back over the damage to lawns and there are ruts everywhere that lead to some really nasty gouges and some downright deep holes filled with water. Turf is torn up everywhere in the client’s back yard and the neighbor’s side yard has two twenty foot 6” ruts. Both homeowners are looking a little concerned (as they should be) and I finally tell them that I’ll repair all the damage and finish the retaining wall but that it might take until the end of the week. I assured them that it would be better than new when I’m finished.

Total cost: $75 towing, half day of lost work just getting vehicles unstuck and probably another $2500+ to repair the lawns.

On the bright side: Most of my lawns are Bermuda grass and it's still dormant, so I'll have time to repair the damage and maybe I’ll get a few other homes in the neighborhood, when I’m finished, because I have a feeling this story is some how probably going to leak out…

Ryan Lightning

LawnSite Senior Member
Sorry to hear about your bad day.
Why would it cost you $2500 to fix the lawns if you do it your self?


LawnSite Silver Member
Morgantown, WV
Ouch! I'm with Ryan on this one..why 2500.00 if you are doing it yourself? Sounds like a few tons of soil and some sod should do the trick.


LawnSite Senior Member
This wasn't a Monday was it? I feel for ya man!! I really do.....

I would have called my buddy too, but I woulda jumped in the truck an said "Take me to the package store". Drank a few Beams, an went back when it dried up a bit....


LawnSite Senior Member
Originally posted by Ryan Lightning
Sorry to hear about your bad day.
Why would it cost you $2500 to fix the lawns if you do it your self?
The $2500 figure was just shooting from the hip but the clients backyard alone is about 18-20k square feet and last I looked at it it was looking pretty bad & I'm going to have to rent a landscape tractor just to start leveling it again.

I don't drink much any more but have shook Jim Beam's hand more than a few in the past and I definately heard him calling to me.:D


LawnSite Bronze Member
Look at it this way... you got one great bargain at only $75 for the two.:D

Clark Landscaping

LawnSite Member
new hampshiere
Sorry to hear about your experince.

I have finally learned not to bury the tractor trying to get on the fields too early in the spring but I still have my local tower on speed dial on the phone. Every year at least once, what's really discouraging is trying so hard to avoid. Oh well I get a good customer discount now.