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Sprinkler damage and firing a good customer

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Whitey4, Jun 13, 2009.

  1. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    Last year...new account. VERY old sprinkler system, 15 to 20 year old heads, and not installed to code, the lines are less than 2"s under the turf. Last year I cut through two lines going into the beds while using my stick edger. These lines were not even 2 inches deep. I told Tom if he got them repaired (just those two lines) I'd split the cost ( I am not licensed as a plumber, and I only go legit.... no unlicensed work).

    Fast forward to this year.... Tom had a stroke. I really like this guy... borderline friendship relationship. So he is out of commission, enter his wife, who had also always been very nice. Prompt payers.

    She gets a irrigation guy to come in. He charges 30 bucks per broken head. He gives her a bill of $240, and she tells me she thinks it's only fair that I pay half. I'm very unhappy, but I know it has to be hard with all the medical and rehab bills for Tom, so I reluctantly agree, while letting her know I think it's a crock.

    The next words out of her mouth? "How come the next door neighbor's bill is ONE dollar a month less?" I just gave this wanker $120 that I did not have to, and she is going to complain about 25 cents a week?

    I told her to go back into the house, and I was steamed. I mowed, but that was all, and knocked on the door. I told her "You owe nothing to me for May ($120) and nothing for June. It wasn't the $120, it was the $1. Find another landscaper." She got quite nasty. Did her best to make me look like the bad guy with my other accounts on the block (which I circumvented very well, explaining what really happened)

    My new contracts will spell out that sprinkler head damage is NOT my responsibility. 20 year old heads get brittle and crack just by being stepped on.

    How do you folks handle such issues? My concern was that the old Belgian block borders were starting to fall apart... was that the next thing she would blame on me and want me to pay for?

    I figured fighting this in court would have cost me more than the $160 or so it cost me....
  2. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,456

    We repair the stuff even if we think we shouldn't. Found out over the years it just isn't worth fighting with customers.
  3. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    Normally, I would agree, but $120 in costs I did not cause? And the belgian block thing? I ran....
  4. Just wondering....why didn't you replace the heads??? a head is a couple bucks and we double it for the install part. $30/head is rediculous. Also, I don't know why you gave her 2 months for free?? I would have cooled down and discussed when some time passed. I tell my customers, if i brake a head, i replace it at no cost to the customer. it is easy to run over one or damage one, it's just part of the business. now, if your dealing with a 15-20 yr old system and heads, prob a different story.

    I'm not coming off as im putting you down, just might have handled the situation a little differently. I def. understand why you were steamed though.
  5. Keith

    Keith LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,979

    I thought you cut through two lines? Did the irrigation contractor fix that, or just replace malfunctioning heads?
  6. whoopassonthebluegrass

    whoopassonthebluegrass LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,305

    Look at where he lives. His hands are tied.
  7. ^In NY, you have to be a licensed plumber to change sprinkler heads???if so, that is a crock.
  8. whoopassonthebluegrass

    whoopassonthebluegrass LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,305

    Yes it is. Welcome to NY.
  9. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    I am 100% legal. I can't touch an irrigation system without a plumber's license, although 90% of the guys here do it anyway.

    Aside from that, she got this guy to come in without asking me about it first, got his bill and demanded half. I had talked about this with her husband, and only agreed to share the cost of the cut lines which were not installed to code in the first place. She had the whole system fixed and thought I should pay half.

    Let me ask this... if a head gets broken, why? I use a 300 pound Quick, and that weight is spread over four wheels. I never make turns over a sprinkler head. If a head cracks, even if it was because a mower went over it, that is either:

    1. An old head that would have boken if a 200 pound man stepped on it (like stepping out of a car where two of the broken heads were at the curb)

    2. A head that malfunctioned and didn't go down or was otherwise faulty.

    I repeat... I agreed to eat the 120.... then she bitched abour 25 cents a week in the next sentence. THAT is what set me off. I have 4 other customers on this street.... let them get the message. I'm a nice guy, too nice, too many freebies, but don't take advantage thinking I'm some weakling. I'm the highest quality LCO in this tiwn, and still a bit uinder the average pricing in year two. Let this ***** pay more for less. And again.... her belgian block is starting to fall apart. The next "bill" might be for that, unless I put my foot down.
  10. W.L.M.

    W.L.M. LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 525

    Haha, I live on the NY pa border and have heard so many horror stories about the regulations in NY especially the big apple. Absolutely rediculous up there, I can't imagine trying to run a business there.

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