Why I don't charge for leaf cleanups....

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Rons Rightway Lawncare, Dec 3, 2006.

  1. Rons Rightway Lawncare

    Rons Rightway Lawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,164

    Catchy title ?..... Just wanted to grab everyones attention.

    Anyway I have been reading all the fall clean up threads, the customer is bitching about my price for clean ups threads, the it is taking too long to do a clean up threads, etc.... I figured I would share what I do to deal with the fall leaf mess.

    First off, here is my entire year round mowing strategy... I feel like MY customers lawns should look at least as good after I am done, as if they had done it themselves with their lawnmower with a bagger.

    I made that " with a bagger " bold because typically a lawn cut nicely with a 21 inch mower and with a bagger is about as good as it gets, and most people around here use baggers on their pushmowers.

    So from the beginning of the cutting season as I battle the fast growth of the new grass, through to mid summer when weeds and especially crab grass, I find myself having to do double cuts, sometimes even double cutting and then walking around the lawn with the blower to blow out clumps. I refuse to leave a lawn with clumps or heavy discharge on it.... it looks like crap and like I said the the homeowner had cut it with their pushmower with bagger it would not look like that.

    Spending this extra time does cost me more time, but that is my problem... I charge the same price for these cuts as I do for all cuts.

    Then as the leaves start falling I normally cut back from weekly visits to biweekly and I use the mower to just mulch the leaves across the lawn with some of the leaves ending up in a bed or wooded area if they have it. When I am done I have not bagged any leaves and I have not really added to the leaves in the beds, but the lawn looks clean, just like it would if I had bagged them.

    I still charge the same price for this as I do for a normal mowing. If really doesn't take much longer, and since I am not bagging or racking, I find it hard to justify a higher rate for these visits.

    When I first started cutting lawns years ago, I just mowed the lawn... maybe made two passes over it and what ever it looked like when I was done was what it looked like, typically it never looked all that good. In the spring and summer I would often do just a single cut on the lawns and if there was clumps then there was clumps... Not my problem right! Well I never really thought about it, but I had a lot of customers cancel, seemed like I was getting that dreaded phone call or letter a couple times a month, sometimes faster than I could replace them.

    One day I just decided that putting stripes in yards at the expense of skid marks or scalping was not what the customers really wanted, and that they expect the lawn to look like it would look if bagged - ie.. No clumps, no leaves on the grass when I am done. I began cutting the lawns this way a few years ago and my customer retention rate has been really good ever since.

    Now I see that these " Clean Ups " alot of you guys do are full blown leaf removal. I don't even mess with that.... Too much time involved, and too much seasonal equipment to do it with the big push blowers, the big truck to haul leaves, the vac and so on and so on.... I have yet to find a customer that just HAD to have the leave totally removed, usually they can be mulched over just fine.

    On a few of my lawns I will blow out some of the beds and I mulch that down as well, but I don't spend alot of time with it. If they were to request that I blow out all the beds then yeah I would have a hourly charge for that, but I just don't run into alot of that. Around here most people put pinestraw in their beds and you can just cover up the leaves with the straw and the leaves rot under the straw, so cleaning out the beds usually is just not needed.

    Anyway, long post, just wanted to share what I do this time of the year. I used to try to charge more but it was just a headache. This time of the year I know I work harder - or atleast for longer - for the same pay as the rest of the year, but it is only for 3-4 cuts and then I am done. I am happy to have a happy customer that is most likely going to be with me again in 2007 for yet another year of service.
  2. CrewCutEnterprises

    CrewCutEnterprises LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 898

    Good Post... But how many of these "services" are done at what price while leaves are falling? It will probably be about the same price as 1 or 2 leaf cleanups we do up here. Also I think we may have more leaves up here. but dont quote me on that.


    DUSTYCEDAR LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Messages: 5,132

    so u just grind up what is on the lawn and leave it?
    that wont work up here in the north with all the oak and maples with all the wet leaves it makes mud
    guess if it works good for u wish it would work up here
  4. Rons Rightway Lawncare

    Rons Rightway Lawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,164

    Trees is trees boys! I got oak trees and maples here too making a big ole mess. The difference I think is I am doing it over a period of 2 months with 3-4 visits to knock it all out.... sounds like you guys up north just stop cutting at some point in the fall and then wait for all the leaves to drop and then go in and clean them all up at once.

    My " services " are at the same price I charge for grass cuts since basically that is what I am there doing. I just go back and forth with the mower and spend a little longer than a typical mow job so the leaves are cleared off the lawn, like I said most end up mulched.
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Man, I'm busy into late February with leaves...
    This year it's even worse because of the drought, many Lco's went out, and on another note, out of all the ones still in it, more than a few categorically refuse to do leaves. And I know why LOL!!!
    As for me, nothing works like a 10hp pushblower, at least not once they get 4-6 inches deep, and wet.
    I will NOT 'chop'm up' with my finish mowers unless it is a real light cover.

    As for estimates, I don't do that.
    I found out the hard way it's too hard to tell upfront.
    If someone absolutely has to have an upfront price, I bid on the high side.
    But it doesn't matter, I got to give at least 20 estimates to people who have never dealt with me before just to get one of them to say yes with a scowl and regardless of the answer they all look at me like I just handed them back their cat, dead (or, deer > headlights)...
    I don't got time for that.
    So, I do them first and foremost for regular customers that have been with me ALL year.
    Since it's too hard to tell upfront, it's $50 pmh, after I am done I will tell them how much they owe.
    Generally, anywhere from 100-200 for non-hauled jobs, 200-400 (and 600 is not unusual) for hauling them away.

    If they don't like my price, that's one less lawn I have to deal with.

    p.s.: THIS is the number ONE reason why I save my winter money in spring priority ONE, no matter what!
    I had mine saved this year around May, so come autumn it's take it or leaf it, it doesn't matter.
    If you didn't save your winter money early, this is how I learned to do it :)
  6. QualityLawnCare4u

    QualityLawnCare4u LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,758

    Ron, that is basically the same way I do my yards year round. I can not stand to leave a yard with clumps in it so in the summer I have to do some double cutting also but it looks bagged when I'm threw (I mulch all my yards except one). In the winter I blow the leaves away from the house and fence and maybe light flowerbed cleaning and I don't charge any extra neither. When I leave there is not a leaf or pinestraw to be seen. It takes me about the same time in the winter as summer because I don't have to weedwhack as much so the blowing comes out the same. I could see me charging for a leaf cleanup in my area, :laugh: a fart in an elevator would go over better. Don't get me wrong, I wish I could charge extra for it. I do realize that folks up north have different types of leaves to deal with so their time may take much longer than mine to justify the cost.
  7. sildoc

    sildoc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,925

    Shoot, between leaf removal and aeration I probably would break even. I double my gross with leaves and aeration. No way I am doing it for free even if I am there to cut the grass. they get charged for the mowing and hourly for leaves.
  8. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,592

    We deal with leaves the same way you do. In the net it doesn't take much longer to mulch up a lot) of leaves with these big machines, we all run these days. And when you have a crew at the site they can man the blowers and herd the leaves to the mow guy and then spead the mulch pieces.
  9. sildoc

    sildoc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,925

    Still leaves only really mulch when they are dry. Here we get wet in November. Leaves start to fall late October and end around January. Charge for the extra time at least.
  10. Greybeard

    Greybeard LawnSite Member
    Messages: 132

    Quote "Then as the leaves start falling I normally cut back from weekly visits to biweekly and I use the mower to just mulch the leaves across the lawn with some of the leaves ending up in a bed or wooded area if they have it. When I am done I have not bagged any leaves and I have not really added to the leaves in the beds, but the lawn looks clean, just like it would if I had bagged them."

    Ron - If you cut every two weeks around here the leaves would be up to your knees. No bull. We have sugar maples and oaks that start to drop in October. On my own lawn I mowed and bagged weekly for three weeks and got about 6-7 cubic yards of fine chopped leaves. The next week we had some cold nights and rain, and they really came down all at once. No mower would have touched them - too deep. A baler, maybe. We blew them to the curb and picked up with a vac truck.
    On one of our accounts 5 guys with blowers and rakes moved leaves for an entire day. When they were chopped fine through a 30 HP Giant Vac they filled my 20-yard truck box. Twice. One lawn.
    I've been to North Carolina many times. Beautiful country. You certainly have trees, but not the same ones, and the climate is different. It's great that you can manage the leaves your way, but it sure wouldn't work around here.
    Here in the northeast we don't spend much time dealing with kudzu or cactus, but I know that folks do in other places. They've got their own methods, too. It's a big country.

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