Very difficult customer...please help

Discussion in 'Christmas Trees & Seasonal' started by britelights, Dec 15, 2009.

  1. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    I think a good rule of thumb on installs is insist/bid in a new outlet/circuit installed on any c-9 job over $1500 and any other job over $2000, and then a double outlet on jobs over $3500. c-9's pull 7 watts, 250 of them is 1700 watts plus, and is around 1600 bucks for me. Those kind of watts need a dedicated circuit. we pay a local electrician 150-170 bucks for a double outlet double 20 amp load on an A/C line. If I think this customer is a landscape light potential, and they have 2 A/C units, I do 2 double outlets for around $250. when you have GFCI issues, many times you can move around plugs to a different GFCI and it won't pop.

    links pull about .2-.3 amps each, so 36 on a house is over 10 amp load. I sell them for 60, so when you hit $2000 you are getting close to the max load on an unknown circuit.

    mini's can add up amps quick. I have used 5000 to tightwrap ONE TREE. that is about 12-15 amps. That maxes a circuit, and I only charge about 1250 for that many. once you hit 2000 mini's, and anything up top, you need an outlet.
     
  2. OP
    OP
    britelights

    britelights LawnSite Member
    Messages: 91

    This evening I check the mail and find what I had been afraid of...notice from my bank that the check this customer gave me will be returned unpaid. This was the check she gave us for the 2nd half of her package on Mon. 12/14.

    I need some advice - where do I go from here? Her total contract was $5,900. She paid 1/2, $2,900, at the time of acceptance -- that check has cleared -- that was back around Nov. 20th. She gave us the final payment, another check of $2,900 on Monday. We received notice today that check will be returned to us. Not sure what the stamp will be -- but I can pretty much guarantee the reason is 'Stop Payment Issued.' Now...in TX -- a stop payment is almost like an NSF check unless merchandise was provided. Merchandise AND services were provided -- so not sure if I can still get it treated as an NSF or not. With an NSF, you can send a certified letter and if they don't pay within 10 days a warrant will be issued for her arrest. If it gets treated like payment for merchandise -- she has the option of returning the merchandise OR payment.

    Now...she signed a Contract. At this point --- do we :

    1) Go take down everything and keep it as ours? And she paid $3,000 for our headaches and product rental? OR

    2) Send her the letter that treats it as an NSF check OR

    3) Send her the letter that treats it as payment for merchandise .... OR lastly...

    4) Wash our hands -- let her worry about getting the product off the house.

    I'm torn -- there's a part of me that wants to go and take everything down and I'll easily be able to resell it. There's another part of me that wants to leave it all up there --- send her the letter that treats it as an NSF and fight.

    I don't want to act hastily -- so I'm posting it out here for advice. Also --- another point on this --- yesterday we had removed the net lights and minis (as she had previously discussed with Carlos) -- and I had e-mailed her a letter stating we would refund her for the minis, net lights, and storage. The letter said she would get a refund of $993.08 on 12/29 --- giving her check 10 business days to clear. I obviously know now why she didn't respond to that letter. So...another way of looking at this is --- I'm only leaving $1,900 on the table if I don't pursue payment of the check. And if I "repo" the lights I can resell them next year and probably come out ahead on this whole disaster.
     
  3. FLAhaulboy

    FLAhaulboy LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 852

    "With an NSF, you can send a certified letter and if they don't pay within 10 days a warrant will be issued for her arrest."


    Go for it! I had a rich woman once fire me by way of the "maid-Mrs X doesn't need your services anymore" comment. That was 22 years ago and it still pisses me off when I think about it!

    If your not at fault here, then go after her because she has probably done it to others & if she really runs a $50 million company, sue in small claims court on "her time" which I doubt she has time for!
     
  4. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    some tough legal ground here. I think a lawyer would tell you not to go on her property and take the lights down without her permission. She can legally get the cops after you for tresspassing and theft. yeah, I know, she did not pay 100% for the stuff, but remember, possession is 9/10 of the law...

    and she can argue in court any number of things that are not true. your word against hers, etc. you may not win this in court, contract or no contract, if she can convince the judge you failed in performance. so, knowing you have nothing to lose...

    she currently has the upper hand, as she has the product on her property and she has now not paid you in full. she won't answer her phone or voice mail and you are trying to work through her maid.

    After meeting you today, I think you might enjoy this next suggestion.

    she runs a "$50 million" corporation ? I'm pretty sure that means she has an office, and within shouting distance of her door are folks that work for her. maybe you could get lucky and she has clients in her waiting room or in her office. I think you should pay her a 2000 buck visit. This is where you barge into her office without an appointment and you are angry, loud, and demanding she pay you cash for a bounced check. show photo's as evidence you did a good job. ask out loud does she bounce checks on a regular basis, like payroll checks. does she rip off her clients like you got ripped off. I would bring it to screaming levels and I would bring carlos with you. if she threatens security, offer to call the police and show them your contract and tell them you are here because of a bounced check. mention the word felony, maybe even something technical like "arrest warrant" "class d felony"

    I don't know if this will work, but it would be fun. but I know what does not- laying down, hiring lawyers, phone calls, being nice and letting her win. you did a good job and you deserve to be paid. mean wealthy people should not get to push people around. I do know that I have gone to clients business several times when I have not gotten paid by visting thier home and leaving message after message. one visit to office, gotten paid.

    but be aware, some wealthy folks just never pay and look for a reason not too.

    good luck.
     
  5. hotrod1965

    hotrod1965 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 587

    That sounds like a lot of fun!


     
  6. seolatlanta

    seolatlanta LawnSite Member
    Messages: 176

    You need to do nothing here except contact your lawyer if you want to pursue this. Now you need to make sure you have EVERYTHING in order as far as your company. I am talking about insurance , workers comp, business license everything because if you pursue it you are going to invite scrutiny if she fights it.

    Also decide whether the lawyer bills are going to cost more than what is owed and if emotionally and spiritually you want to drag this out. You definitely cannot go on her property and take anything.

    The main thing you have in your corner is the stopped payment. The lawyer will want to know why she wrote the last check if she was so unhappy. The law attached to that could force her to pay and for her to jump through hoops to get her money back!
     
  7. OP
    OP
    britelights

    britelights LawnSite Member
    Messages: 91

    As much fun as David's suggestion sounded --- we didn't go to her office in person. She owns a company that is the largest subcontractor for NASA -- and I've never been to her office -- but I'm pretty sure there's security.

    At any rate -- she sent me an e-mail last night asking that I take down her lights and refund the deposit she paid. Hmmm...3 weeks of beautiful lights she signed a Contract for...and she wants me to just come take them down and refund all her money. She went on to say they haven't worked correctly since day one, blah blah blah. I'm glad we didn't go take them down last week like I wanted. We haven't stepped foot on her property. She chose to e-mail last night because apparently the garland on one side of the stairway and the display aren't working. Those two things are both run together -- and my hunch is the lawn guys cut the cord or somebody unplugged something.


    I replied and nicely laid out everything that's happened since the date of her install. And corrected her statement about the lights not working correctly. I also informed her that she has not adhered to the terms of our Agreement. And I'm sorry that those two items aren't working (I did tell her it was probably a cut cord or something unplugged) -- but unfortunately we can't service the lights until she pays her remaining balance of $xxxx. I didn't even address her request to take them all down and refund her deposit.

    As of this morning -- no response. We'll see where this goes. I think we have alot in our favor...signed Proposal (I'm SO glad I have that --- make sure you ALWAYS get that), pictures of the display, our detailed account with dates of what's happened, and the fact she did indeed give me a check for the balance.
     
  8. addictedtolandscaping

    addictedtolandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    from NY
    Messages: 569

    You should be in good shape. Years ago I had a woman take me to court to regain her deposit, I had a signed contract, pictures of supplies brought in, list of dates that we could not complete the work due to her not rendering the area accessible as agreed. The judge immediately found in our favor.

    THis is where I dropped the ball this year, I was dealing with handshakes and verbals, boy did I screw up. Fortunately it has only been the one customer but I have taken almost 1000 beating on it. Next step, I take it all down as he offered in an email (I keep all communication) and walk away kicking myself continuously for a while.
     
  9. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    It sounds as though you will end up settling this out of court. If she is as busy as you say, she will probably talk to a lawyer and he will advise her to pay you . she may not want to, but she will probably not want to take off work and go to court.

    In court, you will not be paid for some of what is owed you if you do not do the takedown and store it. and yes, in court, even though you have pictures and a signed contract, performance of work plays a big part of the verdict. while the GFCI thing is totally not your fault, you've got to prove that in court or it will play into what the judge thinks is fair. if he puts himself in the homeowners shoes and thinks he is paying 3-4 grand for an "effect" of lighting, then you need to be able to prove you delivered that effect to the best of your ability.

    try to think of it this way- you will say the lights worked fine, she will say they did not. you may need to get her neighbors help in saying the lights were on at least 15 out of 20 days, of something. surely someone around her saw the lights and will at least give you a statement. If you can get 2 neighbors to say they saw the lights and liked them- write their names down and her lawyer will advise her to settle before trial. If you plan on doing this, it is actually better for you to go and check her lights and maybe do a quick fix and knock on a neighbors door while you are there and ask them what they think of the display. If you wait until february to try to find neighbor folks to help you, that ain't gonna happen.
     
  10. OP
    OP
    britelights

    britelights LawnSite Member
    Messages: 91

    I'm willing to walk away from the balance due...originally $2,900 --- revised to about $1,900 once we deducted the minis, net lights, and storage. Plus --- if I don't takedown the lights -- that's another $700 originally billed to her. So I'm really walking away from $1,200. I do not want to do business with this lady next year at all --- if she paid me today and apologized, etc. I wouldn't renew her next year. She was trying to get away without paying from the day of install.

    So the way I look at it --- if she takes me to court (which I seriously doubt) she will only be trying to recoup her deposit. I think any attorney out there would tell her there's no way that's going to happen. For argument's sake...if a judge sympathizes with her and decides we didn't perform and need to return her deposit -- what's the worst that can happen? We return her deposit and she has to return all of our product. I'd love to have the product back -- I'll resell it in a heartbeat. In the process....what did she have to do? Hire someone to come and take her lights down.

    This is just the way I look at it. I walk away --- she's madder than a hornet because we didn't do exactly as she demanded --- AND she now has to deal with hiring someone to take them down, and she has to store them. If I fix the lights, do the takedown and store --- the ball is in my court to pursue the balance due. I will have to take her to court -- no option. If I walk away now -- the ball is in her court -- she will have to devote the time and energy to pursue in court.
     

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