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Read This If You're Thinking About Working For USM

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by westernmdlawn, Mar 30, 2011.

  1. westernmdlawn

    westernmdlawn LawnSite Member
    Messages: 98

    Beware folks....

    I want to share my experiences in working for USM last year. For those of you not familiar with USM, they are a large maintenance company who wins national or regional contracts for all the big box stores like Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Lowe's, Home Depot, etc. Then they sub the work out to local vendors like us on a store by store basis (usually).

    I only worked for them on 1 Rite Aid Store in my area, and have officially been screwed. They are just now telling me that they can't pay me for invoices from last summer! I have been trying to collect from them all winter, and it is a nightmare.

    The process begins when you become a "qualified vendor" for them, by signing their vendor contract and providing all your compliance information and insurances. Their requirements and contracts are borderline ridiculous to begin with, there is so much red tape to work through with these people. Then once you do get through that headache and get on board to start bidding on jobs for them, they low-ball you until you wind up working for peanuts. Then after you talk yourself into working for their low rates, they take forever to pay you, and will take every opportunity to not pay you if you don't stay right on top of every thing. I think they even put a clause in their Vendor Agreement that if their client doesn't pay them, then they are not obligated to pay you.

    This has been my experience with them, so proceed with caution when considering whether or not to work for them. I know I will never work for them again, I can't afford to.

    Below is a recent email I received from them regarding the payments status of 5 invoices STILL not paid, from last summer. All procedures were followed on our part, but nonetheless... :

    "I understand where you are coming from and I am not disagreeing that you did provide the services required of you. The issue is that certain procedures have to be followed and unfortunately they were not which is why we are in this situation. I would love to pay you for everything you did but I need some type of validation that I could present to Rite Aid confirming that the work was done. We don’t have an IVR call in or a signed work order for invoice 2301 so I don’t have a good solid case to present to them or even my manager.

    What I can do is issue you payment for invoices 2325 and 2326 for a total of $160. You did provide validation that the work was done but I want you to know that we did not bill Rite Aid for these services so we were not paid for them. I received approval from my manager to issue these payments in good faith to you because I understand that you did the work required of you and yes the procedures were difficult to follow. This is the best that I can do and I hope that you can accept these terms so we can move forward. I am sorry to hear that you no longer wish to work with us. We are trying to improve our processes for the lot sweeping if our contract is renewed so we do not experience what we did this past year. I think we are all more experienced with the Rite Aid IVR system so we hope to have a much more successful year.

    Below is a summary on the other 3 invoices that I can either not pay or I show were already paid to you. Please feel free to give me a call and let me know if this is acceptable to you and I will issue you the $160 as soon as I can.

    2301 I will be unable to pay because procedures were not followed and I don’t have any validation to show work was done that week.

    2193 looks like it was paid as invoice 2226A on check 901634 on 3/10/11

    2357 was paid as either invoice 2350 or 2382 on check 860443. There were two payments made for lot sweeping in September, it is possible that we posted the services on the wrong invoice but I see that the September lot services were paid even though this particular invoice number was not paid against. "

    Here's a thought folks...If we get organized and don't work for "Jobbers" like USM or Ferrandino & Son, then they won't be able to continue to exist. This will not likely happen, but do be aware that these companies are taking significant money off of the table which could otherwise be in our pockets. Additionally, they are adding layers of frustration and dumping all the liability on us as well for their operations.
  2. vencops

    vencops LawnSite Bronze Member
    from NC
    Messages: 1,537

    Well, at least this is not legal. That's the good news.

    The bad news is....I see exactly where they're coming from. I have a commercial construction background. And, I can assure you the procedures they're referencing are in place to protect you; the management co. AND the owner (not just the other two parties).

    First of all, I'm betting the work you're attempting to collect for is NOT on your maintenance contract (at least....not on your regular maintenance that you have a contract for). Secondly, what they're probably looking for (in regards to the documentation they're talking about), they're looking for a change order, so they can issue you a work order. This protects YOU (by assuring you have a leg to stand on, when you submit your invoice).

    Lastly, there are steps you must take to protect yourself, that are likely (I'd bet on it) outlined in your subcontract agreement. Letting invoices go this long is a recipe for disaster. You need to check your agreement for "notice" clauses. Read this part INTENTLY. If you don't follow it, you're screwed. if they tell you that you have to file notice on yellow paper - enclosed in a pink envelope, that's what you have to do. BUT, this also protects YOU (if you follow procedure). You have lien rights, also. BUT, again...there are procedures to follow. And, each state is different (many states require you to file a notice when you sign the subcontract, or you'll relinquish your lien rights, by default (by not filing). If it's worth the hassle, financially (I don't know what's at stake), I'd call an attorney. You may still have lien rights. You take the risk of pissing off the customer. But, that ship may have already sailed. Get ready to answer questions, though, on what I've described, above.


    I'm also not taking sides. If I was, I'd be on yours.
  3. Kickin Your Grass

    Kickin Your Grass LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 479

    I have worked for them before but it was back when they went by U.S. Maintenance. It took them a very long time to pay there invoices. We received a fax one day from them saying for all contractors to seize any further services as the client cancelled service. So every contractor lost the account for what ever reason. It took them 90 days to pay the final balance owed. They called a few months later to bid on another contract but I asked them to remove me from the system because there to difficult to work with.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  4. ncls

    ncls LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 441

    I do landscaping and lot sweeping for them. It has been my experience, that the problems are due to the account managers. I have been lucky enough to have good ones that respond quickly to my payment requests. When I had the Best Buy stores, my account rep was an idiot. I was calling him monthly, looking for my money.

    They do try and beat you up on price, but if you're smart, just don't accept their first offer. They always come back with a second.
  5. ncls

    ncls LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 441

    I was supposed to start landscaping at 2 Walmarts and lot sweeping at three of them on 4/4/11. I get an email one hour ago telling me that they do not have the accounts. This is after I have signed all the paperwork, and jumped through hoops for them.

    Wow. I stick up for them, and they stick it to me......
  6. PTSolutions

    PTSolutions LawnSite Silver Member
    from OH
    Messages: 2,331

    Theres noone to blame but yourselves. As if the hundreds of horror stories about USM, AGMG, Ferrandino & Sons that litter this site and plowsite werent enough to warn you.

    I think the allure that "I'm maintaining a Wal-Mart, or Target" is what keeps sucking you guys in.

    They kill the industry with their price promises to clients and then leave it up to you to bust your azz for their benefit.

    Its up to us as the contractors to fend them off, If we dont work for them, then they wont have any work force.

    This is nothing new, its been happening for years and people are still surprised that they cant get paid, even after jumping through flaming hoops, traversing a lava field and snapping that pic of Sasquatch they want for proof.
  7. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    USM seems like they are the worst of the bunch to work for.

    I do work for Brickman and I will say that has been a good experience for me so far. Their contract was pretty simple, no major red-tape to deal with, and the rep is easy to get a hold of. On top of it, they've even made some concessions on my payments this season do to the record setting snow fall we've had this last winter.

    From what my contract reads for them compared to what I hear about USM contracts, I can't believe how USM has been able to get away with doing what they do to sub-contractors.

    Through second hand info, and not sure of the validity of the statements or if they are true, it sounds like USM is at least loosing all the Wal-Mart accounts for snow, and I wouldn't be surprised if they drop them for summer services too.
  8. AintNoFun

    AintNoFun LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,807

    good post.. but we all know that "commercial work" is the holy grail to landscapers and they will work for free just to get it! people will always jump at the chance to run with the big dogs!
  9. 32vld

    32vld LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,983

    With all of the complaints against USM on plowsite and here why are people still wanting to work for them?

    Second point is when post after post on the dreaded "Lowballeritise Disease " why are people still willing to be a lowballer and work for these management companies?

    Why do the work at wholesale rate for these businesses while they charge their customers retail off your backs?

    Management Companies that use subs are nothing more then a cancer/parasite. Kill off the blood supply (sub contractors) and these cancers will die. Or at least be forced to hire employees and level the playing field.

    Why fight these management companies with both hands tied behind your backs and shackles on you legs with 20 lb ball on each ankle?

    KJWIJNEN LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    I worked for one of these companies for about a year and discovered that they are out for themselves , with no care for the customers or vendors. They have no knowledge of what they are doing. No one has degrees and certifications in landscaping, parking lot maintenance, floor cleaning, etc. The contractors need to stop using these companies so maybe we can make them go away, and also keep any store managers at places where you have done a good job informed of how you are being paid or treated.

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