what would you do?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by hoyboy, May 4, 2006.

  1. hoyboy

    hoyboy LawnSite Senior Member
    from Chicago
    Messages: 346

    Ok, here's a real situation. We have a fairly decent revenue residential customer that does about about $3000 a year in maintenance and another $3000 or so in flowers/misc. improvements. We did a $15,000 install for them 4 years ago.

    They are happy for the most part, but are quick to criticize for small things. We've had a few minor issues over the last couple years, but nothing large enough to make them cancel.

    Now the big one. I was reviewing their account yesterday and discovered that last years summer annuals did not get billed...$1300. Ugh. This will probably put them over the top and could very well cause them to cancel, though I do think they would pay. ASSUMING that I am right and that they would cancel, would you make them pay it, or just eat it and keep a pretty good customer.
  2. TurfProSTL

    TurfProSTL LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 693

    Can you afford to just 'eat' $1300?

    I would give them a call and tell them that a company audit turned up the billing error. Warn them the bill is coming, then mail it.....
  3. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    This is how I do things, but you do whatever but anyway:

    IF I forgot to bill someone and I never missed the money but later one day I happen to see it, so long the account has paid way more than 90 percent of the total minus the money (so on 1,300 the account would have to gross close to 13k so far), then I plain do not care. I mean, I've had folks who come back six months later talk about they forgot to pay me and I'm like HUH? Not always, but with most of my honest always pay on time folks it is like that.

    In addition, once I 'close' my books for the year (last year's books are closed), all payments whether paid or missed or double-paid or whatever is completely erased and we ALL start fresh - Nothing ever comes of it as far as I'm concerned, it is forgiven and forgotten except of course if someone has left me high and dry then that customer is no longer mine but that's different. This also keeps me from going back over last year's stuff, the books are closed because it is something I don't want to know about anymore.

    That's just me, I'd wipe that 1,300 so fast, especially for a high-stakes player :laugh:
    And yes, my high stakes guys have 'tudes, too... Unnerving some days, but wow they pay so good.
    Maybe raise their prices just a little if you can, that would help, would it not?
  4. 1MajorTom

    1MajorTom Former Moderator
    Messages: 6,073

    If you can prove to them that indeed they were not billed, why would they cancel then over that? Would they walk into Walmart and expect to get $1300 worth of merchandise for free?
    Yes I would make them pay it.
  5. rodfather

    rodfather LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,501

    I would just nicely explain to them the oversight.
  6. MarcSmith

    MarcSmith LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,157

    Here is a chance to get some good brownie points. prove that you made the mistake and forgot to bill them, on your next invoice put on their invoice Fall annuals with Zero charge .....It may change their 'tude on nitpicking somewhat...Id say if you had done it with the last 30-60 days you could go back and charge em, but we are going on 6 months at this point and IMO well beyond the "reasonable" time frame

    This is not anything like going into walmart and taking 1300 worth of stuff out the door without paying. It all about the retailer mischarging. I would guarantee that if any of us went into a restaurant and bought a meal and youw ere overcharged 5-10 bucks, you'd let the server know...but if for some reason you got a freebie drink here or there, you keep your mouth shut....

    In all actuality you are probably out about 200 or so annuals, some fert, pine fines and several hours of labor... so maybe around $500 bucks....

    I would however file that under customer goodwill and make a point to make a deduction for it on this fiscal years taxes since you did not take the discount last year........
  7. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,373

    I'd call them, or better yet, are you on the jobsite??

    This would be much better in person to do, say, the next time you service the property.

    I'd try to catch them, say something like "Mr. so-n-so, I've got an issue I'd like to discuss with you."

    Then, have all the copies of invoices from last year, and, if at all possible, the year before, along with a yearly invoice statement with year-to-date totals for each year.

    If last year's total is considerably less ($1300 +/-) then show him the difference, and explain that the annuals didn't get charged. As long as the service was basically the same from year to year, it should show up, as long as the rates were basically the same.

    Then while you're doing this, watch him, try to get a feel on how he's taking it. If he comes right off and says "oh, no problem, put it on the next bill" then do it.

    If he's fidgeting about it, at least see if he'll cover your expenses for the materials, tell him that you're willing to eat the cost of your labor.

    If he's really looking upset about it before you mention anything, tell him that you just wanted to point out that this did not get billed last year, so at the end of this year, if for some reason they're going over the property maintenance bills and it was a fair amount higher than last year, that they didn't get charged for it, but since it's been over 6 months, that you didn't feel it was worth charging for now, that you were willing to eat the entire bill, since it was a company fault.

    Now, these last 3 lines, it's pretty much a toss up which way you go, and which one you take is going to be an instantaneous decision that you can't look back on.

    As you said, they're a decent account, and if they're used to paying that much from year to year, then a $1300 bill, as long as you show them that you're not trying to double bill them 6 months later, shouldn't be a problem.

    It's not like you're adding on to your invoices this year an extra $1300, you're just trying to collect from last year yet.

    Which ever direction you take, I'd still make sure I brought it to the customer's attention.

    One last thing too, can you let us know how it turns out??

    So many of these posts on here, it'd be nice to know what went down and how it turned out. Everyone has an opinion, but we hardly ever see results of actions.
  8. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Messages: 4,899

    Its not the customers fault that they were not billed last summer, were talking almost a yr. If I was in there shoes and you did that I would not expect to pay for your mistake and then have to come up with the money to do it again this summer. I guess it would depend on how I felt our relationship was going, if it was solid I might say something, if I had the impression that things were not all that rosy I would bill them and take a chance that they cancel. What is the law about having to pay a late bill? If we recieve a bill for a service that was performed more than a yr before its not recoverable.

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