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Playing dirty (not me though)

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by violatorjf, May 8, 2007.

  1. violatorjf

    violatorjf LawnSite Member
    Messages: 55

    Okay, I need to vent a little frustration, but please do read if you have the time.

    I live in a mobile home park and put up an advertisement down by our mailboxes in late March (snow was still on the ground) stating the following:

    "Call local resident John Fetzer for weekly lawn care - $15 a visit."

    I also had some business cards attached to it for people to take. I put 20 cards up and to this date 14 have been taken. I've been called by 3 people with business so far. Now TODAY, my girlfriend calls me and asks if I took my advertisement down. I said no, why? She said well your original one is gone and there is a new one up titled "John's Lawn Care". (previously I gave my services no name, just offered them to the residents) She said this new sign says he can do regular mowing & trimming plus mulch and flowerbed maintenance. She actually saw the guy posting his ad while she was getting the mail today, however at the exact time she was there she said mine was still up. However, I am lead to believe that he simply waited for no one to be around and then removed my ad. So as you can imagine, I am angry and frustrated, but I want to play smart, not dirty like this idiot.

    My plan of action is to first take this guy's number and give him a call. I will pose as a resident who is interested in his services. The catch is, I'll tell him that I grabbed a card about a month ago and never called, but now there is a new ad up with a different phone number, but the guy's name is still John. I'll try to ask him if maybe he changed his cell phone and had to put up a new sign. If he says yes, then I would obviously be able to call his bluff since the first sign was mine. Really though, even if I can prove he took mine down (which to me I don't even need proof, I'm convinced this guy did it) then what would I even do?

    I think before I call him I will contact the manager. The manager called me on Sunday and asked if I could mow a lot because it was getting too long. I took him up on the offer for $30 (it was wayyyy overgrown). So apparently the manager grabbed my phone number himself, maybe for back-up. I'll ask him if they took my sign down for any reason. When they say no, I'll say oh ok, well my sign is no longer up there and now a new sign is up, with my same first name, but different phone number. He probably can't do anything but I might as well mention it to him.

    I think then I'll place another ad up there, but leave this guy's one up too. I was thinking of making some kind of note stating "Good sir, please do not remove my advertisement again, we each have the right to post here and I will not rip yours down, so please leave mine alone."

    Well, I guess that's it. I don't give a crap if his ad is up there, I just don't want him stealing MY business. It's not my fault he waited until early May to post his and mine was up over a month earlier. :mad:

    P.S. - $15 a visit is NOT lowballing when I can mow, trim and clean-up in less than a half an hour. Not to mention, LCO's don't even offer their services within the park.
  2. trent515

    trent515 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 54

    That kind of stuff happens. Yea, it sucks, especially IF the other guy took down your signs. But I think the real issue is that, when you put a price in your ad like that, it opens the door for someone to say, "well, if he does it for $15, I will advertise in the same place for $12 and get more customers." That's just the nature of the advertising game. Unless you have some altruistic reason for wanting to cut so cheap, I would highly consider raising your rates. I know that your overhead is really low, and that's good, but by the time you get done, if you do two lawns an hour, you can't be netting more than $20, and thats hard work if you are pushing a mower the whole time. I would rather have half the lawns for $30 a piece than twice the work for the same amount of money (actually less after expenses). Plus, if there is no other real competition in the park, that can only help you, as you don't have to compete price-wise with other companies. I know quite a few of us (including myself) started off pricing a little too low, but in the end it only ends up biting you in the butt.
  3. violatorjf

    violatorjf LawnSite Member
    Messages: 55

    Well there is other competition in the park, it's just not posted how mine was. I've seen one guy cutting several different yards throughout a Saturday. Also when I was cutting one of my yards, a guy had just finished trimming several houses down, loaded up his mower & trimmer into his Ranger and left. I believe there are many many properties within the park that are currently being serviced, so really the $15 approach was in an effort to get ANY customers. I thought maybe some of these other people were charging $25 or $30, so maybe I could grab a few this year and then raise the price next year.

    But in all honestly, the one yard I maintain literally takes me about 10 minutes of mowing time, probably less than 10 for trimming, and then a few to blow off the driveway & walkways. I can swing $15 for about 20 minutes of work no problem.
  4. trent515

    trent515 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 54

    Well, I understand why you are "wal-marting" the other guys that cut in the park, in hopes of getting a customer base and raising prices. But when you go to raise prices next year, unless you do real quality work and the customers aren't price shoppers (which they will be if they switch to someone cheaper), they will find someone else to do it cheap. Lesson: do good work, charge a fair price, and you will have plenty of work. There are better selling points than price, such as being a local guy, so some of them likely know you, doing QUALITY work (meaning a good quality cut and a nice trim job), etc etc. If you are getting $15 in 20 minutes, how long does it take you to get there and back, probably at least 5 minutes each way, so thats $15 in half an hour. Then take out the expense of your mower and trimmer setup (I'm guessing a little less than $500 total), which, I'll be generous and say lasts two years, thats a $250 'expense' the first year, or a very rough $2 per cut. Add in your consumables like GAS ($3 per yard--I don't know what a mower and trimmer like that will use, but just a ballpark, including what it costs you to go GET it), trimmer line, maintenance, advertising, blade sharpening, etc. and you are making $7-10 for half an hour of hard manual labor.
    why don't you talk around with the others in the area, get a general idea of what they are paying, if they are happy, etc. and build a relationship with them. That's the best way I can ever get customers, and those are the ones that stay WITH me.
  5. violatorjf

    violatorjf LawnSite Member
    Messages: 55

    I agree with you and understand what you're saying.

    I don't really look at the mower & trimmer as an expense, although maybe I should. The reason I don't is because my old mower died out, and my electric string trimmer I had just wouldn't spit the darn line out - I had to stop every 5min to pull it out. So really I was planning on getting new equipment and just maintaning my own place. Then a neighbor suggested that I should use my equipment to see if anyone in the park would want their yard maintained. I thought it was a good idea as I enjoy the work for the most part, so I placed an ad. In my eyes, I wasn't using the profits to pay for my equipment since I already have it paid for. To me it was kind of like a bonus, just some cash to supplement my full-time job but at the same time get my name out to some of the people in the park.

    It does take about 5 minutes getting there, unloading, then another 5 packing up and leaving, so your $15 / half hour is probably correct. I guess it's difficult to price yourself high when you feel people just won't be interested. A couple years back there was a sign up saying the person would mow any sized lot for $10. I have no idea if this was a good or bad job, if it included trimming, etc...but I think that had an effect on my pricing. I wanted to pick a price that I could charge everyone, hoping that the smaller lots would equal out the "bigger" ones. And I thought that more people would be attracted if they saw a price up front rather than "call for pricing".

    You live and you learn. I have to agree with your philosophy of pricing high though - so what if no one is interested, I might as well make my work worth my time. :)
  6. Grits

    Grits LawnSite Silver Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 2,994

    Yes it is.....
  7. 1cooltreeguy

    1cooltreeguy LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 630

    I agree with grits - it is lowballing. $15 a mow, tim, blow - Man - no way.
  8. WJW Lawn

    WJW Lawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,330

    Ummm Ummmm Joe Dirt? Is that you? :dizzy:
  9. lifetree

    lifetree LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,369

    I agree, $ 15 sounds low ... also, don't take his ad down, just put yours up in the same general area.
  10. greensway

    greensway LawnSite Member
    from ohio
    Messages: 31

    Not to beat a dead horse,,,,, but $15 will not fill a 5 gallon can of gas today!

    " I don't really look at the mower & trimmer as an expense, although maybe I should. The reason I don't is because my old mower died out, and my electric string trimmer I had just wouldn't spit the darn line out - I had to stop every 5min to pull it out. So really I was planning on getting new equipment and just maintaning my own place. "

    Maybe a fresh look at what you are trying to accomplish may be in order here.

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