Where do these people get their nerve?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by lawnguy3211, Jun 8, 2006.

  1. lawnguy3211

    lawnguy3211 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    Just when I thought I had lived/heard/read everything....Be prepared, you'll shake your head at the end of this one...

    Got a call from a potential new customer wanting an estimate for some flowerbed work. Typical "I am about to put my house on the market. Can you perform a miracle?" type. I listen patiently as she proceeds to tell me she whats some hedges trimmed, 7 other hedges removed (dug out completely) and color added in their place. She asks for Begonias, but does request that they be mixed. In addition to the plants, she wants two topiaries planted in front of her front pillars. Fine..."Oh, and could you also put some BLACK edging around both beds?" To which I reply, I can, but it will not be metal - Our supplier only carries metal in brown and green...black would be plastic. "That won't work. It won't match my house...No, definitely black." At this point you are thinking, "Where's the drama?" We all SEEM to be on the same page. Hedges removed. Remaining ones trimmed. Begonias and topiaries planted. Edging install. Few hours, including all the before (I agreed to make all purchases) and after driving (debris disposal). Easy day, right? Read on to be a witness to the day I met world's craziest customer...

    I put together an estimate of 600.00 flat for all materials and labor (tax included of course), which I then email to her. She calls within a few minutes stating that she was unable to open the ENTIRE attachment, but was able to see the bottom line and she would like to have it done as quickly as possible...I tell her I really would like for her to see the estimate in its entirety, so I will resend. She calls back after I resend and says she wants on the schedule...Leading me to believe that she got the estimate and fully understands what is so plainly written...She's lucky, I had promised my wife I would help move furniture one afternoon, so I bank on the fact that she will forgive me and schedule this nut...On Saturday I agreed to "come out Wednesday afternoon and take care of everything" To which she replies, "that's fine. I will be gone until 5:30, but afterwards I will meet you to CHECK YOUR WORK" That should have been a red flag, but no, I still agree to do her work....Fast forward to today (now at this point it was yesterday) but any way...Fast forward to Wednesday....I show up, dig out the hedges, trim, and start to plant...The trees go in pretty fast, but as the begonias go in I start finding all sots of buried stuff...Control boxes, concrete, large rocks, big chucks of hard clay...Stuff I definitely didn't charge to remove and frankly didn't like digging through, but I made the best of it and planted in as many places I could- all while keeping some conformity to the bed. The begonias were fresh and had only a few buds, making the bed look pretty empty for the time being - but a few weeks out they would fill out and really look nice...And out of the kindness of my heart I dumped some mulch that I had on the trailer to really make everything look nice...not full at the moment, but nice....By the time I finish it's around 4:15pm and she's not home until 5:30 - since I live close by I decide to leave and return to get paid...In the meantime, she calls the office at 4:30 asking if I am done and complaining that the job looked "half-finished" and that I left a mess on her driveway that needed to be picked up...To which my office manager replies, "He is scheduled to meet you at 5:30 and having not seen the work I would feel more comfortable having you discuss the situation with him in person." So at 5:30 I pull up and she immediately starts in..."She can't believe that 600.00 got her this? She wanted the bed FULLLLLLL of color....Like you see in front of businesses....She got other estimates for 200.00 labor & materials and those guys told her her bed would be FULL....She wanted metal edging...She is completely unsatisfied with the work...Will you please remove everything and plant over - only this time bigger plants, maybe some orchids (ORCHIDS? I'm thinking) I just want this house to have so much curb appeal. It goes on the market on Saturday" Oh, And by the way..."since I am not have with the work I authorized, can you do all of this for free? Plants included?" It is at this point where I must have had a look on my face that said I was in no mood to hear this crap from her - especially after spending an afternoon in a shadeless yard when the temp was 100 today...So she proceeds to tell me that she is unhappy and wants to talk about my charges, which I am open to doing. This crazy loon then picks apart the ENTIRE job and has the nerve to ARGUE prices that she had emailed to her days earlier. She tells me I charged inflated prices for materials. I charged inflated prices for labor and all the estimates she got were "way cheaper" to which I respond "You should have used those companies Ma'm" This goes on for two and a half hours because she refuses to pay if I don't redo the job for free. At one point my business partner tried talking to her and she went crazy then too saying she would report us to the BBB...She will tell everyone she knows about this...She is a respiratory therapist and her husband in an executive and she will not stand for this...Like I care what they do for a living????? So any way, she finally writes the check but tells me "I'll write this now, but you'll see" To which I respond, "If this check doesn't clear, I will slap a lien on your home for unpaid services. Then see how quickly you are able to sell!" Then see goes whacko...Telling me I accused her of being a dirtball, etc, etc, etc,

    I then get in my truck, check in hand (by now the bank is closed) and drive off while she and my business partner stand in the front yard and continue to discuss the situation. When I got back to the office I emailed her, pointing out what I tried to say in our face-to-face...You authorized the work...The flowers I charged you for were planted...Everything on the estimate was delivered and performed...BLAH, BLAH, BLAH....However, being a good business owner I would like come to terms (I would also not like stop payment on the check) Is there anything we can do, short or redoing at our expense to remedy the situation? I even offer to plant her new flowers at a dEEEEEp discount if she pays for materials. She emails me back and basically tells me I am stupid and incompetent and my work is sub par....She will hire someone else to perform the work.

    Am I wrong for thinking she is a f'in idiot or wrong for not doing anything to make the customer happy? I have never had this problem arise before...
    Sorry for the long post, hopefully some of you stayed with it...I think I just needed to vent, so thanks.
  2. emil35

    emil35 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 213

    That's quite a day and I'm sorry to hear about it. I've had my fair share of those, especially since I'm 18, people see me, think I'll be cheap and tell me to do something for them and they'll pay me after. Well no longer do I go by oral agreements. They have to sign the estimate for me to do any work. Otherwise I get the "ABC Mowing" is cheaper, or "XYZ Landscape" is charging this per hour and your only 18...don't even have a college degree. I tell em I know more about business then they probably do, state everything I gotta pay to be in business (insurance, license, fuel, eqiupment costs..u know it all) and that my rate is one of the lower ones anyways, which I'll be increasing soon. But anyways, always get it approved in writing! good job dealin with the situation tho, i would've been pissed!
  3. cessnasovereign

    cessnasovereign LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 292

    I'm gonna write up some type of "work order" or something that will have the exact price of the job (I don't do per hour) and a description of what is to be completed and the payment due by date and then have a signature before any work is completed. I plan to do this for any shady customers and/or ANY job over $100.00 including cutting.
  4. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    I done been through those arguments, which over time I developed methods that cut the arguments short, real short. But that takes time, I had to go through this bs too and I've had a few give yours a run for the money. You will not run into this often, but in my case all it took was a few and after that, things changed. Some things I did, some things they pushed me to do, other changes I think just happened.

    So having learned some things the hard way, here's what I found:
    Never argue with them but get the check and go on. Regardless, you got the check right?
    Why are you still fooling with it? (no offense, I tried this too lol)
    Cash the check and be done, you're done here. Yup, see ya!

    As for making her happy, once I get my check and it clears, that's all it takes with this kind. I wouldn't try to please this hornet of a wasp any more, it is already angry and beyond reconciliation, not your fault and nothing you can do. As for the BBB, they are a business registered as an LLC, my business is registered as an LLC - An LLC is teenie tiny corporation which means most people never use my services, same with them.

    This next bit took even longer to learn but next time you get one like this, double your estimated price then that way it's over before it starts... That is, unless you still consider $600 good money for all you went through.
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Yes so I quoted myself ok... I just wanted to say that I started doing the double-price bit about a year or so ago and it works really good. I talk about doing it a lot but it's because it took me a long time to learn and for a long time I wished someone had told me (ok they did but I did not listen) so that is why I talk about it so much but in reality I might give one of these for every 10 or 20 estimates I give, if that.
    So you know you always figure, if I double the price they will say NO for sure, right? But you see, with crazy folks you never know LOL, sometimes they say YES and I am like ok so it is going to be a pita but the pay is really good, I'm on it! And yes sure it happens, they come out and blast me and I got to listen to the bs but then the money helps a lot. Not only am I able to tolerate it better, but since it is so expensive, it tends to curb their enthusiasm as well.

    And if that sounds crazy, sometimes you will get a crazy loon for a regular customer who always pays a LOT for your services and then life is good. I am not saying rip your customers off, but I am saying that this type of mental aggravation is worth something and if they're ok with the price, then I am ok with the bs. It's to the point, somedays I think with one or the other crazy loon, I am the only Lco willing to deal with it, but again this comes at a price and no it doesn't happen a lot but happen it does.

    Ok you don't always have to double the price, but at least 20-50 percent more or so... So instead of 600... 900? I dunno, 750?
    But it helps to think double the price, as you will likely find yourself coming down anyway.
    Ok I think you get the idea, free money in exchange for extreme bs tolerance, it also helps when you do end up doing something over, they are happy and so are you, at least so we hope.
  6. lawnguy3211

    lawnguy3211 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 4

    Thanks for the advice Topsite! We figured we had a foul proof way of avoiding stuff like this, but there is always that one customer that brings you back down to reality...Makes me want to sell the biz and go work at Home Depot - lol! Usually I can spot the PITAs but this one really came out of left field...you are right about learning the hard way! Good News though - was first in line at the bank this morning and the checked cleared...From here on out she is but a memory!! Hope to never hear her name again!!! Later, GO MAVS!!!
  7. Mac_Cool

    Mac_Cool LawnSite Member
    Messages: 62

    After 8 good years of bidding experience (different industry) I've learned that people selling their homes and politicians running for office always get billed upfront and once the check clears, the work gets done. Meeting with the customer first and having them sign the estimate is a good idea until a working relationship is established.

    The woman is probably stressed from whatever is happening... selling a home, moving, buying a home, maybe a job change or promotion and some people don't handle stress well. Not an excuse for her but you have to be in control and this time she was in control.

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