I need opinions with a non-payment issue...

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by topsites, May 7, 2006.

  1. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,652

    I guess in a way I'm about to answer my own question but would still like to hear what others have to say.
    Here's the deal:

    New customer hired me to do some work, it was a 3-part deal: Spread some gypsum (clay buster), a minor leaf cleanup and a grass cut, all for $145. The break-down was gypsum $70, leaf cleanup $40, and grass cut $35.

    Ok so I did the gypsum part and left a bill for 70, then went back a week later and took care of the leaves and left a second bill for 110. Then I waited because I had this feeling, hard to describe but lets just say I never got any money from the first two bills and I waited and waited some more... The original start date (when I first did some work) was right on or about april 10 ...

    Because I just wasn't sure if I'd ever get paid, I didn't want to throw more good work after bad, but by saturday 6 may I got the attitude of I didn't care anymore so I went out there to go ahead and cut the grass and lo and behold, it was freshly cut by another commercial mower (yeah I can tell by the tracks it was either a Wb or a Z but anyhow)...

    So granted, I probably should've took care of the whole thing in short order but at the same rate I was nervous because I wasn't sure I'd get paid. Also I did tell the customer it would take 30 days for the gypsum to take effect and that before I cut the grass, I wanted to make sure the gypsum had done its job of getting into the soil. Meanwhile, I never got a phonecall but then again I never called the customer, either. I did, that saturday two days ago leave a third bill for 110 with the note 'prompt payment avoids late fee.'

    Now, if I don't get paid:
    Should I just let this one go, seeing how my delaying things and stuff...?
    Or, should I pursue it with a late fee and later a collection agency?

    In this case it's only half a matter of money, the amount is not large enough for me to be totally worried about it if you guys feel this one was my fault but yes it is large enough to make me mad if this were a case where the customer had meant to rip me off... I'm just not sure what to think, and was hoping for some opinions.

    I mean, the customer can argue that since the entire deal wasn't completed she was waiting for everything to be done before she paid (this wasn't clarified) but at the same rate I've been ripped off before (and on that same street lol). It's almost a coin-flip situation but I hate to be flippant about 100-some dollars, don't have a problem accepting the answer one way or another just am not sure what to do.

    What would you do?
  2. PMG

    PMG LawnSite Member
    Messages: 22

    Well....I have a couple of questions:

    1) Did you have a contract with this person?
    2) Was this a one time deal or a seasonal mowing?
    3) If it was a one time deal, Did you get 1/2 down?

    We have all been burned before, I could type story upon story. I guess the best thing is to learn by our mistakes.

    In an order to correct this we began to carry blank contracts to fill out right at the site and have the customer sign them, until they were signed and a payment made (usually half down on one time deals) no work was started. We then upgraded to carrying laptops in our vehicles and printers, this would allow us to create and print a contract for our customers (much more professional) right at the site. Not only did this stop the payment skipping, but it allowed us to get the work! Where others were saying "I will get you a quote in the mail" we gave them one there on the site. I would say it increased our sales by 45% and was a great investment.

    Now on to what I would do.... I would send them another bill, if they have reached the over due point, include the late fee. I would also include a letter that states you were hired to perform a service, one you expect to be paid for. In the event that payment is not received, late fees will continue to accumulate for 90 days, at this point, it will be sent to collection. Be sure to let them know that once it is gone to collection, it is out of your hands and their lack of payment will report to all 3 major credit organizations effecting their credit score for up to 7 years. I would also give them the option of settling before it gets this far and to have them call your office to make payment arrangements. This may work from the standpoint of at least covering your costs by negotiating what is owed and allowing you to get out with out losing a great deal of money.

    When it is a matter of principle and not so much the money, I don't let anyone take advantage of our firm. To many people talk and if this person gets away with services and not paying for them, be sure they will tell others. This may or may not effect your company, but I would take a stand and at least cover your costs.

    Hope that helps.
  3. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,652

    1) To me verbal is good as gold, in writing may work better for some but if you agree verbally then you are signing a contract under God (see the commandment where it says 'thou shalt not use the lord's name in vain') this actually has nothing to do with saying god for no reason, it has everything to do with contracts, as verbal agreements are always agreed upon in His presence and you can't say God wasn't watching.
    2) I can not remember for sure, but would say seasonal.
    3) No.

    Yes, that does help because that's the thing that bites me is anybody can come around and claim 'he said / she said' and then pull this or that out their tail and whatever other crazy stunt and it never ends... Granted I should've gone out there sooner to cut the grass but I hadn't gotten any money from either of the first two bills and I did tell the lady it takes 30 days for gypsum to react with clay and that likely I would not cut the grass until it did.

    Personally, I think about the only time the written contract may do me in is after collection, should they decide to dispute the validity of the claim with a credit reporting agency, I may at this time find it difficult to uphold my end of the bargain. At the same rate an agreement is an agreement and I hold folks to what they say because when I say I will do something then I hold myself to that as well. I am a man of my word and unfortunately for some I expect this out of my customers as well, if this is too much to ask for then they need to call a contract-based company but do not think that because I am verbal that this means there is nothing I can do.

    Which is about the only other thing is the fact some folks out there think nothing of messing around the lawn guy just because they all think there is nothing we can do, and for no other reason than that is why a lot of times I do pursue issues such as this.
  4. Frontier-Lawn

    Frontier-Lawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,956

    this is why i bill one month forward. no money by the 31st no cut on the 1st. i only let a few slide do to there online bill payment from there bank. but thats because they direct deposit it.

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