Irrational customers...

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by Red Shed Landscaping, Apr 24, 2013.

  1. Red Shed Landscaping

    Red Shed Landscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 183

    When you have a client who asks you to do something crazy, off the wall, do you tell them you won't do it and walk away from the job? I have tried to tell her why it is not the best way to go about it and even called the guy doing the remodeling in the house to reason with her and she won't listen to him either.

    The situation is water is getting in the basement through the egress windows. We were only to dig out the bottom of the window wells to the form-a-drain full of sand and put in a vertical tile and fill it back with clean rock. We also caulked the cracks in the concrete window wells.

    I mentioned the other reason water was getting in because the ground slopes to the house. So now she wants to put in 10-12" of pea rock around the house about 4' out to "help with the water" and the to have the top of the rock lower than where the dirt is now.

    I said usually we build up with soil around the foundation to slope the ground away and put fabric and layer of rock on top. She quickly responds, "Don't do that to my house". Then said to just lower the yard to make it slope away, requiring much more work than needed.

    I also told her if you put that much rock in you won't be able to plant anything later and says sure that's fine.

    She says she will pay whatever it costs but her way would cost thousands more than if we were to do it the right way.

    Would you guys just tell her no you won't do it or just do it and have her sign something that I am not liable for more water damage? Has anyone been in a situation like this?
  2. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    Her money is green. You did your best to educate her. Price out both ways. I would just have her sign off, take pics, and move along.
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  3. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,580

    I just had a motor completely rebuilt on my kid's dirt bike by a nationally well known engine builder. During the process of communicating with the engine builder he told me a few different times "my name is on this motor, I'm building this thing to exceed specs, I can't risk doing anything that would give me a bad reputation". And that's exactly what I wanted to hear, that's why I had him working on this motor, I had 110% confidence in this guy from the first 2 minutes of conversation when I initially contacted him back in March.

    I operate my business the same way. I tell people "my trucks are in front of your house, if we don't follow proper protocol, you're going to be upset with us and your neighbors will hear about it and never call us to do anything for them. We can't risk doing anything that would come back on us."

    Redshed - I'm not sure about the "fabric and rock on top". We been working with grading and drainage issues for over 20 years and never have we used "rock" as a remedy, with the exception of dry stream beds. "Rock" is tacky and is what is used to line the bottom of fish tanks and railroad beds. If I were this lady I would have told you "don't do that to my house" as well.

    In business you can't please everyone. And as Kenny Rogers says "you gotta know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run....."

    Last week we started some work for a longtime repeat client. He calls me up complaining. I tried to explain everything to him and he still wasn't happy. So I politely said to him "it doesn't look like we can do what you want, you're not going to be happy, so we'll just stop and I won't bill you anything for what we've done thusfar". He got very quiet for a brief period. And he chatted some more and he said he'd call me back. Yesterday he called me back and more or less apologized for his actions, he explained that his father was ill and just passed away. But when a contractor tells a client that they can't make them happy - it makes the client stop in their tracks and think about things.

  4. promower

    promower LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,233

    Exact reason why the quote "the customer is always right" is false much of the time. What can you do though, pass on the job if its just to unreasonable. Never fun doing a job when you know its so ridiculous and stupid, but like what was said before you tried to educate her.
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  5. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,580

    In the retail world "the customer is always right" may certainly apply.

    But in the contracting world "The Contract Is Always Right". Notice I said "contract", not *contractor*. This means that you give 200% and perform the work as specified in the contract, or exceed the contract's specifications. This means that both the contractor and the client are following the terms and conditions in the contract. That is, presuming the contractor is competent and knows what he/she is doing. If the contractor doesn't know what they're doing - then this would not apply.

    Redshed - you do have a detailed contract with this person, don't you? spelling out exactly what you're doing. If not - then there is 70% of your problem.

  6. Red Shed Landscaping

    Red Shed Landscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 183

    First of the fabric and rock is not the fix to the water problem. Sloping and grading around the house is what I told her would fix it but she wanted rock like the all the neighbors but wanted 10-12" deep of rock and kept telling her you only put a couple inches on top of fabric after making it drain away from the house.

    I would say 95% of house that have landscaping all have river rock or some type of rock around the house in our area. I really don't care for it but that's what everyone wants. I try and talk them into mulch that looks much softer.

    I have always had the mindset that my name is on the work we do and want it perfect so that's why I want to walk away but not sure how to do it since I have never had someone this ridiculous.

    I don't have a contract and haven't talked to this lady before today. I was working through the builder. I do all of his landscaping work. He tells me want he wants done, I do it, bill him and he pays. It has worked out very well the past 5 years but they all have been new homes. This time they are remodeling a home this lady had just bought. He told me the windows wells were filling up and leaking so needed to put in rock for drainage. This way they could finish the basement. He mentioned that she might want to do some landscaping later but I wasn't expecting her to want to do all of it now.

    You may think I am crazy like this lady but I have only done 3 contracts in the 10 years in business. I haven't had any people not pay since I do what I say I'm going to do and have it written in the proposal what steps I will take to do the project and the what materials are included. If something isn't to their liking i will fix it. That way I keep the positive word of mouth advertising going.
  7. Red Shed Landscaping

    Red Shed Landscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 183

    Also the "Don't do that to my house" was refering to building up dirt around her foundation. She is freaking out about covering up her concrete foundation. Most people I have dealt with want to put more dirt around the house and tell me to get it high as possible so you don't see the foundation so I was in a bit of confusement when she said that.
  8. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,996

    I would not count on that to protect you in court if she experiences a problem
  9. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,580

    Somehow, every time these types of threads pop up on industry forums I detect that the contractor is working without a contract. And every time I get such a hunch I address whether or not a contract exists. And every time the thread creator comes back and says "nope, I call me myself a contractor, but we're doing this job with nothing in writing". And when I say every time I mean EVERY TIME.

    And its funny. The thread creator will come on here so frustrated. Complaining and complaining and whining about his/her customer. And at the end of the night - it's the contractor who's in the wrong.

    I understand the part about doing the work through the builder. In that case I would say "we work for the builder, we're doing as instructed". Yet, on the other hand, the builder is probably trusting your judgement and wants you to just get the job done.

    Also REDSHED - contracts are NOT for the purpose of getting people to "pay". Most people WANT to pay and have FULL INTENTIONS of paying. Contracts are a guide. They spell out exactly what to expect. For all parties. The spell out who is who. And what is what. It clears up misunderstandings. And establish "meeting of the minds". That's a term that all ***CONTRACTORS*** need to be familiar with, they need to know it, they need to live it.

    Very very important.

    Most contractor / client disputes are not about paying. They are about the customer being satisified with the werk. And when a client isn't happy - they hold back on paying.

    Otherwise, you're asking for trouble. And you're bringing it on yourself.
  10. whiffyspark

    whiffyspark LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,385

    How do you go about having your contract signed? I have a meeting with a client and then go home so I can sit down and work everything out. I email them the proposal and we go from there.

    Do you fax your contracts ?
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