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I feel bad about a customer's situation ...

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by topsites, May 13, 2006.

  1. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    I should've seen it coming and done something, but I didn't because I was working and you get busy and ...

    What happened is, while I'm working, a band of semi-legit tree guys is making their rounds house to house, soliciting for work. They get this customer of mine to agree to do some tree work on 3 trees in front of the house, $575. So the customer walks up to me and tells me they're cutting down the trees for this money, and is it ok...?

    I am thinking those are big trees, at least one of them was worth over a thousand by itself, there is no chipper, no bucket truck, where's the mess going? Turns out they're just cutting out the dead branches, blablabla, ok I get on with life.

    But if they spent an hour (two at the most) there, cut out maybe a dozen dead branches and clean up, for 575... The more I think about it, the more it reeks but now it's too late (other than I have some business cards, the numbers come up unlisted), and then it was my customer who agreed to let them do it, not to say I shouldn't care but I get this 'it's not my problem' attitude about it all, too...

    I am thinking of course to just let it be, let it go ... But it might come up again, and was wondering, what do you guys do when you see the scrubs (sorry, have no other words for it) coming up the road soliciting? Do you call the police, or what? They appeared to have a license, I am half sure they were covered in at least the minimal ways, it's not that... The part that bugs me is they prey on folks and their fears, make them think they're doing a LOT of work and give what appears to be a ridiculous low price, then end up doing a lot less than what they made it sound like, it's really borderline scam if it isn't outright that.

    Anyone else ever run into this, it seems to come around here a lot lately, especially in the spring...
    Door-to-door Lco salesmen, for lack of better words, they're no better than any of the other door-to-door kind.
    What do you do, is it not our problem?
    And if you call 5-0, then what?

    Then again, it really is up to the customer and each individual they approach to tell this kind to take a hike...
    But in my case, I have two who appear incapable of doing this, weird...
  2. Splicer

    Splicer LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 992

    I just had a neighbor of a customer contract me to trim (remove dead limbs) a few trees in his backyard with my bucket. Primarily I am to cut out a mess of vines that grew into the trees over the years. Will take no more than 2 hours and all debris will be moved to the guys burn pile and thats it. I quoted $470. Ground too soft to drive the bucket on yet so I have this project to do yet. Am I doing wrong???
  3. firefightergw

    firefightergw LawnSite Gold Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 3,340

    Sounds like your customer got a pretty good deal. I can tell you that tree work is expensive for good reason. Have you ever done it? I have but I stopped doing it when I became legitimate and got insured. If those guys are insured (You said they were legit) then their insurance is sky high for doing tree work. That is why I don't do it anymore. Someone once told me that a fair price is what someone is willing to pay.

    You said yourself that you were thinking a thousand dollars. Well, they only charged about half that and only removed dead branches. Sounds to me that they charged what was only appropriate to do half the job. Enjoy your day!
  4. Hoss_27

    Hoss_27 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 13

    I sometimes wonder what peoples fascination with calling the police for just about anything and everything is. Call the "5-0." They'll come out. Then they will promptly tell you it is a civil matter and there is nothing they can do. Then they will be on their way and your "problem" of someone else, with a rig that might not be as slick as yours, trying to make a buck will continue.
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    No argument, even if the price was too much, which I think it was a little on the high side but really that's none of my business.
    Once the customer says yes, there is nothing I or anyone else can do, if someone comes along and charges a million dollars to prune one silly branch with a set of lopers, so long the customer agrees, it's really their own fault.

    But that doesn't negate the fact that these traveling Lco's are charlatans, fast, smooth talkers who, as far as I'm concerned, swindle the money... Soliciting door-to-door to me is not legitimate advertising, and neither is using high-pressure sales tactics, even if it's part of the game, it's not what I call clean business.

    It is, however, as you said, a civil matter once the customer agrees, which that's the part that's crazy... I can tell the customer really doesn't want the work done, these people don't know how to say NO and you have to understand a simple 'no thanks' doesn't work here, you have to say it with everything you got and maybe even hurt their feelings, then they'll leave, and if they don't, then you got something the police can do something about.

    As for Hoss' statement, I couldn't agree more, when it takes 5-0 an average of 20 minutes to get there, nobody is too afraid of breaking the rules because we all know there is usually plenty of time. As for me, I don't believe in calling the police because it's just so much bs anyhow, but I was looking for suggestions ...
  6. freddyc

    freddyc LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 578

    Have you ever hung out door hangers?? If so, you're going door to door.

    With regard to calling the cops.... why? These guys went to a door, offered a service for a price, and the homeowner is probably happy in the end. The only exception to this being perfectly fine is if they are really applying a high pressure routine with people...especially if they're older people.
  7. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    She is, widowed...

    But I did give this a lot of thought, and ultimately have to conclude that Lco's can't save the world, nor can we save customers from themselves. It's just not our job to provide psychological assistance, or any other assistance. I mean, if they were getting robbed at gunpoint, I might feel an obligation to call 5-0 but in this case...

    I am not sure where this falls legally, thou I believe the tactic is called strong-arming. Literally speaking, you're either twisting their arm or using some other type of technique but it is all a mind game, there is no visible or actual violence, still it is against the law. But you guys are right, it doesn't do any good to call the police if the customer won't complain, I would have to pull answer after answer out of the customer by asking direct questions... Something which, if I were the other Lco, I would vehemently protest against by saying the customer can speak for themselves and I have no right, and so on, and then the police, well they never saw anything, anyhow.
    And I didn't hear it, I just suspect it, strongly... But I know, it's not good enough and again, even with the strongest suspicion I am only willing to stick my nose into another Lco's business but so far... And, customer gave permission, said ok, do it.

    And I mean ... Why would old be more susceptible, don't they have a lifetime of experience taught them not to listen to these folk?
    I know how to tell someone to take a hike...
    One would think our youth would be most susceptible, but I am afraid to find out the answer for I'm not getting any younger.

    I watched one of them (customer) to whom this would happen over time, and the customer would get drunk afterwards... I am thinking, you know, you really need to allow yourself to feel the ANGER because if you drink, it just waters it all down and if you never let yourself get really PISSED OFF, nothing will ever change.

    Unfortunate, sad, but we can't save them, that's the way I got it figured out.
  8. Lawn Masters

    Lawn Masters LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 850

    Those guys in the original post arent professional, licensed and insured? perhaps, but they sound like they're preying on the unknowing homeowners to get a quick buck for beer money.
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    That's exactly what my thing was...
    I just don't know what to do about it, such as when I am at a customer's house and I see this happening...
    Especially TO my customer...

    Far as license and insurance... Costs 35 dollars to get the license, all they need is a license for the county they're doing business in, so run down there and get that. Insurance covers them anywhere, so they can run around the entire USA doing this crap, just spend the $35 at every county they hit...

    I should've got the registration off the truck, but it just doesn't matter. It was a VA licensed 3/4 ton series, and no offense but here again, not every scrub has a 3/4 ton, most have 1/2 tons or less. It wasn't entirely unpro, but certainly fishy... No chipper, just the truck, 3 folks, some saws and climbing gear. Oh, and rakes and brooms for cleaning up.
  10. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,112

    Look Topsites..normaly I would say this is none of your business.But this is and older widow and I have seen this type of preditory job seeking before and I know rexactly what you are speaking of.It is hard to explain in words but you can just feel the rip off in your bones.Most older widows know NOTHING when it comes to what it takes to hire and pay people to maintain their properties because almost exclusivly their husbands handled everything about the outside of the home and the money and the vehicles and thery raised children and took care of the home.I have seen shoddy work for outragious$$ put out.I have seen parts supposidly replaced still there,I have seen roofing jobs where roofs weren't actually put on.Paint painted over peeling old paint witth no prep whatsoever.Simple car repairs turned nightmares.If I am there my customers trust me enough to actually ask me what I think about jobs like that and what to expect to pay for them.They would call or consult with me aand I would probably be the one to recommend a tree compaany for thier work.What you can do if you are sure is warn your older widow about how she can be scammed and tell he she must learn to say no and check these people out before hireing them.There are also Adult Protective Services in your tele book under county services that you can report these guys and what area they are scamming in.THey have a whole special unit here
    that goes after these types that take advantage and use strong arm tactics and do work that dosen't really need to be done .You report them and these guys go after them and watch them and if they are useing adult fraud..they bust them good!

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