1. Missed the live Ask the Expert event?
    Catch up on the conversation about fertilization strategies for success with the experts at Koch Turf & Ornamental in the Fertilizer Application forum.

    Dismiss Notice

What would you have done?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by landscaper22, Mar 27, 2008.

  1. landscaper22

    landscaper22 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 849

    I was thinking about this incident today (while mowing) that happened late last summer. I thought I would post the situation. The more I thank about this, the angrier I get. I will try to make it as short as possible...
    An ex-employee had worked for me part time for about a year or longer. He was in his teens and overall was a decent employee. He was a pastor's son, home schooled, and was able to help me out even during the school year (well it started out that way anyway). One day he asked me if he could borrow my old lawn mower to cut the softball field at the church because they needed to use the field for some church wide event that Sunday. This mower was not my nice Z, but rather a Crapsman 42" that I used for a couple of accounts that I would not put my Z in because of rocks and junk (they were still profitable none the less).
    Well, against my better judgment I said he could borrow it. Well, the day he was using it, he calls me....And to make a long story short, it turns out when he had checked the oil, he didn't tighten the dip stick down. So guess what, oil was everywhere, and eventually the engine locked up. I feel like anyone with any common sense would have noticed the problem before the thing locked up, but that is a different story. He and his father said that they would replace it for me. The boy was really upset, and I told him not to worry himself sick about it. I told them I would check into the matter, as I would not be buying a new crapsman. But I would try to find a used one. So the boy continues to work for me for a few more weeks. During that time I found a good used crapsman, almost like the one I had, and only paid $300. Now, being the nice guy that I am, I never actually asked him to pay me the money back. He never voluntered it again. I told him I had bought another mower, and left it at that. So anyway, after pulling a couple of other crazy stunts, and suddenly deciding he was going out of town every other week, I really started getting mad at the boy and he only worked for me a couple of months after the mower incident.
    Now before I ask you what you would have done in this situation their are a few facts you really need to know that may just influence your decision....

    1) There was (and still is) a member of the church that is a LCO and gets paid good money to cut this property.
    2) It has been said that people in the church are dissapointed in his work and I would probably get the contract when he quit (which he was supposed to be leaving the country...so I thought it was a sure thing.) I didn't want to rock that boat too much.
    3) The boy was cutting the field in the first place because the LCO was not doing his job. The church hates to say anything to the guy bacsue he is sooooo involved in the church and they don't want to run him off.
    4) Later I found out the other LCO actually paid the boy some money since it was the LCO's responsibility in the first place. I think it was only like between $20-30.
    5) The mower he used was not new but I had just put like $150 in repairs a couple of months before this happened. So, it was in great running condition.

    In summary, this kid borrows my mower to cut his church property that someone else gets paid to cut. He ruins my mower doing the work that this sorry LCO was supposed to do and ends up getting paid a little for the work. I hate to rock the boat too much becasue I feel I have a 90% chance of getting this account that would be near $1000 per month. Well the other LCO is still here and still servicing the property. Looks like I am S.O.L. any way you look at it.....I get a little angrier every time I think about this.....What would you have done?

    GSPHUNTER LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 311

    First thing I thought when I read your post was that you are letting yourself get too wrapped up in other things than your biz. What I mean is, business is business. Don't worry about "rocking the boat" with the curch. Go find another property to mow if you don't want to "rock the boat." If you want to church go and place a bid on it. Try to cut out personal relationships with your biz and keep things goal oriented and business related.

    Good luck with figuring things out.
  3. daveintoledo

    daveintoledo LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,587

    but my first thought was if your hiring a kid, your not a legal business, your not paying workers comp, or matching his soc sec , and probably paying him under the table..... Karma....most states you have to be at leats 17 to legally operate machinery....

    do the right things and the right things will happen to you....
  4. landscaper22

    landscaper22 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 849

    He was getting paid legally. He was 16 when I hired him. No WC, but that was not required. But taxes were taken out and unemployment was paid.

    And Yeah I don't want you to think that possibly getting the contract was the only deciding factor. I probably would have done the same thing even if that was not the case...But sure it was in the back of my mind.
  5. landscaper22

    landscaper22 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 849

    And actually I think he could operate the mower at 16...I don't know. But when I first hired him it was mainly for extra work like sod, straw, etc....Then as he learned I put him on the string trimmers and bloweers, etc
  6. daveintoledo

    daveintoledo LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,587

    i think i would have taken the cost out of his pay, (if that is legal, would have to check)

    and not always as binding as some contracts, i would have them sign a no compete clause also....

    i also stay away from churches.....they have the most money, but want to pay the least, if at all.....
  7. mattfromNY

    mattfromNY LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Central NY
    Messages: 1,582

    I would have reprimanded him for making money behind your back, using YOUR equipment. Short of that, I wouldn't break a friendship or relationship with the church over $300. It sounds like that $300 is already burning an ulcer in your guts, you're still frettin it. let it go man. Learn from it and move on. Just dont let it happen again.
  8. landscaper22

    landscaper22 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 849

    I wish I had handled things a little different. I don't think it would be legal to deduct from his pay check. Don't know for sure though.
    He didn't cut the property expecting to get paid, so I don't think a no compete clause would have done any good. He cut it because the LCO was slack. I think the LCO just paid him a little as an after thought becasue it made him look bad that someone else was cutting the place.
    I feel like the boy should have at least given me the money he got paid for cutting the place. That would have been a good gesture. No, $30 or so would not do anything for me, but maybe it would have been enough to teach him to pay better attention in the future.
    Because I am nice, I would have never expected him to pay me the full amount. But he should have made some effort. But, I have learned a lesson too.

    I hate that I have not totally let it go. But, that's just me....It's not a big thing. It is just one of those cases where you make a decision to allow someone to do something even though your gut tells you not to do it. And it turns out just like your gut tells you it will. I forgive, but I don't forget. It runs in the family. :laugh: Just thought I would get some input from some others. on the matter.
  9. Howard Roark

    Howard Roark LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 805

    You should have called the Father when you found the other mower and told him the cost and to arrange payment. And yes, earlier good advice was to keep emotions out of business.

    Hope it all works out.
  10. DuallyVette

    DuallyVette LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,953

    (1) If an employee wanted to borrow a mower to mow his church, My 1st question would be "who usually mows it", " why didn't they do it"?, "who ask you to do it". I may or MAY NOT ALLOW IT.

    (2) Your employee was probably taught to check the oil before using a mower. Who taught him? He could just as easily left the plug loose while mowing your property as any other. If he had the "accident" on your time and property, it would be your loss. I accept the losses because I was stupid enough to think that they were smart enough and capable enough to perform the task. My fault !!

    (3) Any time I hear an employee hollar " OUCH !! or "DAMMMM" I'm delighted if its less than $500 in damage.

    I hope this helps you let go. It was your fault. He's a minor. His dad would be responsible (legally) if it was WILLFULL damage. Your lucky that you lost a $300 mower. and not more.

Share This Page