What do you do in this situation? *PITA*

Discussion in 'Christmas Trees & Seasonal' started by Surferbum21, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. Surferbum21

    Surferbum21 LawnSite Senior Member
    from SW OKC
    Messages: 392

    Have a long term customer. Kind of a pain in the ass but lots of work and pays good. I've been doing her Christmas lights for 10 years and every year we breakers flip b/c she refuses to buy LED lights and we strand over 150-200 strands. It's a game to try and get each section to a certain area and end up having to route stuff different ways to keep from blowing. Mind you she only has 2 outlets in the area and have to use 2 from her garage (4000 sq ft house dumb if you ask me).

    So it blew a couple days later but when she calls me to tell me lights are out she says a few lights are out...not a whole damn section. I tell her I'll be out the next day to fix. I got sick asked her if coming by the next day would be fine. She said yes. I go by and they are out of town and I can't get in. They get back in town today (2 days later) to find that all the food she'd prepared for Thanksgiving and wine she had imported from Napa valley is ruined b/c no longer cold. She is too mad to talk to me right now and said she wished i would have came by Thursday like I told her I would even after I asked her if coming by saturday was ok (said yes) and not home when I came by.

    I'm just curious as to if all the other intelligent people would have enough sense in them that if a whole section of lights was off you'd know a breaker had flipped and to go check it. Not to mention knowing that it is in the area of your freezer. Had she told me a whole section was out rather than a few lights out making me think it was a few strands I would have been able to approach this scenario differently. I'm just uber pissed off right now b/c may have to eat $600 invoice and tell her to **** off. I just don't see this as being my fault at all. It more than likely blew from when their house cleaning lady came by and added more energy to that quadrant causing to blow. My wife has blown ours by vacuuming and having too much stuff on and had enough sense to go out and check and flip back even though all lights were still on (it turned out to be same on as our garage freezer and saved our stuff).
  2. BeachysLawn

    BeachysLawn LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA
    Messages: 271

    How much food could she possibly have prepared for Thanksgiving a full week before? And her wine is not ruined, I can guarantee that. Sounds like she is blowing it out of proportion because she is mad.
  3. McG_Landscaping

    McG_Landscaping LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,738

    Why couldnt she just flip the switch on the breaker?
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  4. Darryl G

    Darryl G Inactive
    Messages: 9,500

    I think ultimately it's your fault. You installed lights that draw too heavily and caused her breaker to trip. You knew that the breakers trip every year, so you should have suspected a tripped breaker. Therefore, you were the proximate cause of the "incident." I understand that the information you were given wasn't the greatest, but it seems like it was your fault to me.

    Ask yourself, would her breaker have tripped and caused her food to spoil if you had not installed the lights? If the answer is no, then it was your work that caused the breaker to trip (even if it was from a vacuum), so it's your fault.
  5. GreenI.A.

    GreenI.A. LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,131

    This is why we do an important step when we design holiday lighting. When we determine which outlets we will be using, particularly when they're in a garage or shed, I always shut off that circuit and test the other outlets to determine which ones are also on that circuit. Knowing you designed the lighting to 90% capacity does little good when there is a fridge or garage tools on the circuit.

    I would say a lot of blame rest on your shoulders. When she called you, did she volunteer "a few lights are out", did you ask if it was a few bulbs? a full string? did you ask point blank if it was a section of lights (portion of house, a whole tree). You have been doing this property for 10 years, you should know it like the back of your hand. You have a history of designing the system to the point that you routinely pop the breaker, how was that not your assumption when you got the call?
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  6. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    I would say it is fairly common to blow breakers or gfci's on medium to larger jobs, especially incan. As of this year, we are finally moving towards LED mini lights. But no on c9's. Set a policy in your business that as current mini lights wear out, or new ones installed, they are only LED or you don't do it. Try to take some of the money you make now and troll the internet for LED mini's you can stockpile for next year. I always seem to be broke the first few weeks of the season, so buying them now makes them appear "free" next near. This customer may be lost to you, but if not, you have to draw the line somewhere, and I think all new LED lights coming in in the future is a good start.

    As to the customer specifically, when I bid jobs, if I go over a certain amount of c9's or mini's, I am looking at their power meter to see if they have an available circuit space in that box, or the breaker panel space, and I include $200-250 to pay my electrician to have a double outlet double breaker installed. I tell the customer in the bid it includes it, but I usually don't line item it. If you do, the customer will think they have the option of coming up with a free solution, which is what has happened in your case. I have a 2 gang box with bubble cover, 20 amp plugs installed on the a/c compressor outside box on each hot run. It is marked seasonal lights only, as it cannot be used during off season when the A/C is running. we pay about 150 for the outlet and then another extra $50-$100 or so for a few 100's or 50' cords to get the power over the roof to the good outlet. The A/C option may not work south of here where they run the A/c at night after November 20 or so. Here, on heat pumps you cannot tap in, so we find a bedroom outlet on an outside wall and drill through, even if it is on a top floor. dining room or living room outlets also sometimes work, but staye away from drilling from kitchen, bathroom or garage outlets. those tend to be maxed out by a toaster, hairdryer, or garages fridge.

    And I know what you are thinking...I ain't paying for her outlet. truth is, you already have. probably 3 times over. in the extra time to fix stuff and run crazy cords everywhere and try to reroute and figure out how many amps you can put where ever.

    I was in the same boat with two clients this year, partially my fault. I added fairly extensive landscape lighting to two larger clients and this season they really needed power for large Christmas displays. one was easy, we did an a/c double outlet and took care of it.

    The other was more extensive, a $750 or so upgrade, we had a Heavy duty 40 amp 240v timer installed that runs a new subpanel with 6 20 amp breakers and 6 outlets. roughly 80 amps of capacity on the 120v side. so more and longer cords, yes, but no more seperate timers, and no more extensive instructions to employees that you can only plug in 5 amps, here, 11 amps, there, etc.
    It SAVED almost 6 man hours on the install, and she is thrilled with all of it coming on and off at one time. In future installs, any jobs over 6k will automatically get a version of this system. having one power point and one timer is just too easy.
    Sorry you are in this situation, but the best thing to do is to learn from this and move on, and change how you deal with all future customers. always include the cost of the outlet in medium to larger bids. and don't budge on it.
  7. Duekster

    Duekster LawnSite Fanatic
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 7,961

    I am not in the install business but I can say the contractor put my outside outlets on the same circuit as the Garage on a GFIC. I should have asked for dedicated outside outlets.

    I hate it when my garge fridge trips. Happened to me early when a contractor working next door decided he could use my outlet. Hard lesson.
  8. Surferbum21

    Surferbum21 LawnSite Senior Member
    from SW OKC
    Messages: 392

    well turns out after talking to the husband they had added a deep freezer into the garage unkown to me. I hooked them up exactly like the year before which had no problems breaking now that worked kinks out over the years. I only have 4 outlets to work with b/w outside and garage. I did inform them that they need to start moving to LED as lights go out and that at least 50% of the lights need to be LED by next year.
  9. Surferbum21

    Surferbum21 LawnSite Senior Member
    from SW OKC
    Messages: 392

    I agree the work we did "cause" the breaker to flip (coming to find out they added a deep freezer in garage). But it's hard to be blamed for something when I said I would come by the next day only to show up and they're gone on a 5 day disneyland trip and couldn't do anything until they got back. If they knew the entire area was out and knew they had refridgerators in the same area and didn't flip the breaker back and unplug lights before left sounds like pretty dumb people to me

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