Impossible landscape customer....opinions?

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by jeffh1988, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. jeffh1988

    jeffh1988 LawnSite Member
    from MS
    Messages: 112

    It's a long story but here it is as short as I can make it. I am looking for opinions on my next move. This spring we finished a several month install for a LA's personal home. He built home to retire to and it's on a nice golf course where we do tons of work. Anyway the install went great he was very pleased, however his neighbors yard was lacking especially after the large install next door. As a neighborly favor the LA did a landscape design for her upon her request and gave me a referral to do tHe install. The lady wanted a quote and before giving the quote gave me a background of how sick her husband is and all her life problems. (first sign to run for the hills) so I quote the entire plan and include reworking a very poorly installed irrigation system and replacing all of her weed filled lawn with new sod. The total was 60k plus, I went to meet with her and thought she was going to fall out. Keep in mind this is a high end golf course community so this in my opinion is reasonable and given her husband was a doctor for a long time and she stil works I didn't think I was out of line. Anyway she asks me to work on price and work with LA to see what we could eliminate to cut price, blah blah blah. I asked if she had a number in her head as a budget and she said 20k. ( second sign to run for the hills). So I work on quote and with reduction of plant material quantity and size, not sodding whole yard, eliminating a retaining wall etc I get the price below 30k and resubmit with reasoning that she would not be pleased with end result if any more cuts were made. So a week passed and her neighbor calls to inform me she has bid the job out to several other companies from out of town. (third sign to head for hills, I know when will I learn) after she received all bids, which were all based on the same drawing, she asked her neighbor to help her look through them. She had one she wanted to use that was 13k but included no sod at all, no irrigation adjustments and repair for new beds and cut plant material by 50% and only used 1 gal. Material. Her neighbor told me that all the bids were different like she had told each one something different and it was like comparing apples to oranges, but he puts in a good word for me and offers to work with me to get down to her budget. He approaches me with his ideas ( he is a great customer that is why I have stayed with this) and wants me to ultimately do the work because he knows our work will compliment his home. So we work together to get to 20k and submit it and we met. During meeting everything went great until I pulled out the contract and she starts backing out of the deal immediately. (I should have run way before this) I leave all paperwork with her and told her to let me know. The next day I receive a text she says she is going to bid the whole project again. I now have hours and hours of time put into this, I am pissed. The next day I receive a message that she has decided to move forward with my plan. I am apprehensive but move forward and project goes smoothly. She is very pleased with result as is the LA neighbor. A month later I get a message wanting to meet so I go by and she has concerns with a few plants. I adjust irrigation and everything is fine. Another month in she contacts me I meet with her and she is mad 3 plants have died two were run over by her and 13 hydrangeas had a fungus. I understand her problems and replace dead and run over plats under warranty and treat hydrangeas. Then a week later she is mad about weeds starting to come up. This is part of general maintenance not my problem. A week later someone has gone through her irrigation that she didn't want to rework and she took notes on all the problems and claims I should have addressed them. In the hopes of keeping peace I did some minor adjustments and repair. In the meantime she complains about me to her neighbor, he reassures her the hard is fine and I have done nothing in correct. Next she calls complaining of holes in her yard. I show up to find she has marked any possible depression in her yard with masking tape, yes MASKING TAPE, 90% of these are in areas we did not work in due to budget constraints but in her opinion I should have fixed this. So I grit my teeth and fix all the depressions we are in a small area and this neighbor hood is my bread and butter. Now she has contacted golf course superintendent which I know, and tries to get him to tell her I did something wrong. He backs me up and she is still mad. So during this time several azaleas got a little over watered with rain and running irrigation and started to turn yellow. So you guessed it that's her next complaint and she says hydrangeas don't look better. So once again I try to make her happy and I feed the azaleas and give them a little iron to green them up and replace the hydrangeas. Two weeks later I check in and the azaleas are looking better. Her neighbor informs me last week that he saw her walking around her yard with another landscaper and she was taking notes. I have gone above and beyond to keep this woman happy and she keeps dogging me and my reputation to anyone who will listen. Several customers have asked me about it. She says I am nonrespondent. I am so pissed but trying to still work with her to save face in a small town. I have not billed her for anything since original install and only thing she needs right now is a remulch. I have co sidered doing that for free to take one more shot at making her happy. My long time customers have told me she is dogging me just so I would know I won't lose customers, I am just scared of losing potential customers. Where would you go from here? Put down the mulch?

    This will never happen again I will run way before I get to this point!

    Sorry for the long post but thanks for opinions.
  2. Moose's Mowing

    Moose's Mowing LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 452

    are you in the business of working for free? I can understand not wanting to lose other people, but you can't make everyone happy all of the time. I'd collect my $ and never answer he phone calls again. People this crazy are known to be crazy for a reason so any bad publicity will more than likely be cancelled out by her own reputation. She probably doesn't have many friends to begin with, and the ones she does have... I bet you wouldn't want to work for anyway.
  3. jeffh1988

    jeffh1988 LawnSite Member
    from MS
    Messages: 112

    You are correct and I have hit my limit of charity I think. The only thing that is in the near future there will be two new houses being built next to her that are potential big customers. I guess that is why I am going the extra mile that way if she says something I can say I did everything possible. If it was a large city I would have already put hern the road!
  4. KrayzKajun

    KrayzKajun LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,737

    sit down with her and put her in her place in as a business owner. remind her it is her final decision to do things to her property not ours.
  5. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    Nothing you ever do will make her refer you. A loser is a loser. You can't reform her whole life of being a loser with a little mulch. Take whatever she has to dish out on the chin and take the high road when people ask.
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  6. trooper8870

    trooper8870 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 241

    I would explain to her that your contracted services that were agreed upon by both parties have been achieved. Any other services above and beyond these agreed upon terms would be billed to her. I would then have a lawyer send her a letter advising her to stop her slanderous remarks to other people regarding you and your company. In that letter I would also have him to explain to her about possible litigation if she does not stop her verbal assault on you and the civil suit that would be brought against her for defamation of character and the big one, mental anguish as well as the pain and suffering you have endured from her hurtful remarks towards you and your company. If she doesn't back off then, I would go forward with suit. Hopefully she would be smart enough to shut that trap!!
  7. nepatsfan

    nepatsfan LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,142

    that's a tough situation and not as cut and dry as just stopping work for her. I like the idea of the sitdown and the letter from the lawyer.
  8. herler

    herler LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,139

    Sounds to me like you've learned your lesson.

    I am however having a really hard time seeing how you can't do much for 20 thousand...

    Classic tactic, crazy story makes someone fall out of their chair who is so dismayed (s)he blurts it all out for you.
    Did you start landscaping three weeks ago?
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2012
  9. TX Easymoney

    TX Easymoney LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,109

    I would NOT put down any mulch and stop going to her to fix anything other than warrantied items--
    i'd also send her a certified letter documenting all the items she removed from the original contract to get the budget down below a certain price and also list the items which you have done to date per the contract and for free to appease her--
    I'd make it as clear as possible that in the future only warrantied items would be covered under your original agreement-All other items would be billed at your regular rates--
    you want her to NOT call you any longer for freebies-as long as you give, she will take and complain!
  10. MR-G

    MR-G LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 479

    cut your losses with her....she is never going to be happy, never going to refer you, never going to stop complaining.....she is a PITA !!!! you already have a happy client right next door....he/she will help you land the possible new homes when they are ready...i would let her go....a letter about her slanderous comments to others may help stop the nonsense...if not, then contact your attorney and persue damages.....good luck, keep us posted to any progress.

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