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Deadbeat Commercial Customer

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by ProSeasons, Jan 2, 2001.

  1. ProSeasons

    ProSeasons Senior Member
    Messages: 624

    This forum is awesome,just reading the various post has turned me into a budding professional. This is my third year plowing and I have a client who owns 4 fast food franchises in the Fort Wayne area. The first service call I gave this guy was on Dec. 8,2000.There have been 4 more plowable events since then.They owe me about 1000 dollars. I have yet to see a dime.I have been paid by all the rest of my commercial accounts(14 in all), even the bills routed through corporate headquarters I have, all except this guy. I have a signed contract with this d#!%&*head, too.Here's the best part, I'm out plowing one of the 4 stores last night and a truck pulls up near mine with Good Guy Landscaping(fictional name)on the side.Fella introduces himself, "Hi,my name is Good Guy,FYI im in court with this guy for non-payment of landscaping services, so be careful,okay? Take it easy." Guy drives off,I'm reduced to tears and seriously considering seeing how much snow a 9'2" Boss Vee can replace!(I did'nt okay,dont beat me up,I'm a pro.I finished the job.)(But I fantasised about it!)Any help as to my course of action would be greatly apprecia
     
  2. Rcgm

    Rcgm Senior Member
    Messages: 613

    Hey been there.

    Heya man,
    I am in indy to let me tell you something from my past year DO NOT PLOW FOR HARDEE"S.
    email me sometime let ya in on a secret.
    Heresr0me0@aol.com
    The 0 in heresr0me0 are zero's
     
  3. SlimJim Z71

    SlimJim Z71 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,031

    First course of action = Phone call.

    Ask him if he recieved the bill. If he says yes, ask him if there are any problems with it. If he spings up a problem, talk to him about it. If he says he's having a hard time coming up with the cash (not so good sales), make a payment plan of some sort, but let him know that you can't continue plowing for him if he's not given you any money.

    Second course of action = Call an attourney.

    Get them to call the stiff and light a fire under him. If that doesn't work. STOP PLOWING IMMEDIATELY and take it into the court room.

    Good luck.

    -Tim
     
  4. SlimJim Z71

    SlimJim Z71 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,031

    What ever you do... DON'T WAIT TOO LONG!!!

    The longer you wait, the harder it's gonna be...

    -Tim
     
  5. ProSeasons

    ProSeasons Senior Member
    Messages: 624

    Thanks,Tim. How's the chest?
     
  6. SlimJim Z71

    SlimJim Z71 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,031

    Gettin better. Still a little sore, but at least I can breath, I'm alive, and I wasn't stuck in that freakin hospital over the holidays. Thanks for askin!

    -Tim
     
  7. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge Member
    Messages: 44

    I agree with SlimJim, that you ought to call, and call soon. I don't know what you're like, but I have a habit of always assuming the worst. This has gotten me into trouble a few times (I called a customer about an overdue bill, was a bit huffy, and found out the guy's father had died and he was out of town tending to the funeral and estate arrangements). Remember this - be diligent and vigilant about bill collection and be firm if needed, but wait as long as you can before you get mean. Once you start that rock down it's hill, you can never push it back up again.

    I haven't seen your contract language to know what you've given yourself latitude to do, but even if it isn't in your contract, I'd stop plowing until he pays. And if you have to, wait until an hour before his stores open after a huge storm, and tell him you can't do anymore work for him until he pays.

    I'm betting from what you've said here that he won't. But if by chance he does, afterward I'd insist on payment in advance. I'm finding that there are people out there in residential and commercial work that seem to make a habit on choosing the small companies for their work, knowing that their contract language (if they even have one) won't hold up, or that even it if does, the contractor most likely won't sue the customer.

    Don't be prey to these kinds of people.
     
  8. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    At least give him the standard 30 days. Even an attorney will tell you that.

    But.... at 32 days, do call. Cordial call just inquiring. They'll put you off. Wait a couple days, call again.

    Shut 'em off. Snowplowers... even your 'competitors'... are a tight bunch. "Good Guy Landscaping" was trying to help you. If he was lying, you'll get paid after the first phone call - or the check will arrive today. But chances are, that if he took the time to stop and chat with you, he's telling the truth.

    We do that here. Even with guys we don't get along with. We all stop and chat about who's payin, and who's playin.

    No matter how much business this guy gives you, and no matter how much money he's "spending" with you - if he's not going to pay you, he's not worth having. Learn that now before you get stung for several grand. If he's good, he'll be able to argue that you a)didn't snow up, b)didn't do a proper job, c)didn't do it the way you were instructed, or d)plowed too often and was gouging him. Unless you are VERY organized and anal retentive about record keeping/contracts/billing/time sheets/etc. you'll have a difficult time proving your case.

    Any of us can find customers that don't want to pay if we are looking for something to do during a snow storm.

    And walking away from a big customer is VERY difficult to do. However, it IS was sets "business's" apart from plow jockeys.

    Be a Business.... you'll end up with more money.

    Good luck.

    This is a tough spot to be in, especially in the middle of winter when replacing that customer is going to be difficult, at best.
     
  9. jaclawn

    jaclawn Member
    Messages: 92

    I had one last season. Owned a real estate franchise.

    He was past due on two months plowings. This was in Feb?

    First mode of action= Phone call. I called several times and was told that he was "out of the office".

    Secind mode of action= Embarras him into paying. I stopped by the office during a busy time, and went in asking for the fellow. Again, he was "out of the office". I asked the secertary if there was a problem, as I had not yet been paid for the snow plowing, and was just wondering if there was a problem? The look on the faces of everyone in the office was priceless.

    Third mode of action= Stern letter sent certified mail. I got my money after this letter. I threatened shutoff of service if the invoices were not paid in full in a timely manner.

    I got my past due money, but not what was currently due. He still had a week or two to pay the current invoice.

    That was the last invoice of the season. It took until September to get my money, but I finally did.

    He was not renewed this season.

    I think that I will stop at the office if I see the new guy there, and just tell him to be "on his toes".
     
  10. john r

    john r Senior Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 239

    HI, Im new to this site and just going through some posts. I've been stiffed before w/and wo written contracts. A verbal agreement is a contract(just a little harder to prove your case). Let them know you will take them to small claims court for your suit to get your 1000.(give them a DEADLINE FOR PAYMENT). Send your bill certified mail and indicate your interst charges and your intention to sue them for your money. Also keep billing them ON A REGULAR BASIS with your 18% or is it 20% per month. hehehehe! What usually will happen is they will settle out of court, not pay you the accrued interest, BUT, get paid your 1000 bucks. This has worked for me!! Also go to court in the winter. If you are a seasonal worker like me you have more time in the winter. Hope this helps.
     
  11. Eric ELM

    Eric ELM Husband, Father, Friend, Mentor, Angel
    from Chicago
    Messages: 239

    You wrote: The first service call I gave this guy was on Dec. 8,2000. There have been 4 more plowable events since then. They owe me about 1000 dollars. I have yet to see a dime.

    Is it standard to bill commercial accounts after each plowing? I do all residentials and I bill at the end of the month, so my billing has just gone out. I have done the same ones for many years, so I don't even worry about getting paid since I have the bad ones weeded out now. I'm just wondering about the not getting paid and it is just billing time. If you bill for each plowing, that would be a lot of checks to cut for a business each month.
     
  12. Samurai WeedWacker

    Samurai WeedWacker Junior Member
    Messages: 16

    Lots of good advice here.

    In my state small claims court is for disputes involving less than $2500.00. Call your local clerk of court for info on your locale. I am '2 for 2' in small claims court. I didn't have to hire an attorney- the paperwork is not complicated. Keep good records, you will need them in court. Be sure to add all miscelaneous costs & charges & interest to your claim.
    If you win in small claims court & they still refuse to pay you can have the sheriff seize enough of their property to cover the judgement. I once followed a woman until she stopped at a bank. Once I knew where her bank account was I was able to have funds siezed from her bank account.
     
  13. john r

    john r Senior Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 239

    Eric, If you have signed contracts you will get paid. thats a given. Your billing is dependent upon weather or not you need the money ASAP, 30 days, or the end of the plow season. Some of my customers pay ASAP. They want it that way. I like to keep a running record of the snow falls on my bills. When I feel its time bill, send it off! Usually after 2 or 3 snow events the bills gets sent. Not necessarily at the end of the month either.
     
  14. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    Eric,

    We bill twice a week.
     
  15. RB

    RB Senior Member
    Messages: 197

    Twice a week -- I love it!!! Hey John, can a borrow a million? lol
     
  16. SlimJim Z71

    SlimJim Z71 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,031

    I bill every 15 days. This keeps the bills lower for the customers, and gets the money into my pocket a little faster. It's worked so far...

    -Tim
     
  17. TLS

    TLS PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,425

    I bill the day after every storm. Here we average about 6 operations (on the high side) per season. They are sent out NET 30 days. Why not get your money as soon as possible? I can see the guys in the snowbelts billing monthly, and even a seasonal charge divided up into monthly installments, but here in the Phila burbs, it is just not possible/profitable. I would think that its their problem to worry about cutting checks...not yours! Thats what secretaries are for! Some years we have no snow at all!
     
  18. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,011

    To put in perspective, my sand/salt supplier mails the bill the same day I load up at the yard. If I go 3 days in a row, I get 3 bills in the mail in a row.

    Most my customers I bill monthly, a few want pay when I do the work, or a day later, my big account I dont even bill, its a 3 year seasonal contract with the due dates all spelled out in the contract and the check always shows up the first week of the month or else the plowing is suspended and they are well aware of that fact.
     
  19. john r

    john r Senior Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 239

    Bill, What do you pay for a yard of sand salt mix?
     
  20. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,011

    Washed white sand/salt mix $29/ton FOB loaded in my truck.
    unwashed red sand/salt mix (basically turns to mud when wet, only get it when they run out of washed sand) $26/ton

    A ton is roughly a yard when loaded, before it packs down.