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Got fired today...

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by trustyrusty, Jan 15, 2013.

  1. trustyrusty

    trustyrusty Senior Member
    Messages: 174

    Got fired today from three accounts for doing too good of a job. All are smaller apartment complexes, two with lots of walks and one plow only with a 3" trigger. We have a zero tolerance policy on walks and keep our walks totally clear at all times. We have been having a lot of little 1/2" overnight snows that find us clearing walks. We have only plowed once at two of these places and twice at the other.

    Today the supervisor at the management company in a city hours from here sent an email to the local manager that we were no longer needed. The reason? They are over budget. Snow removal of both walks and parking areas is now the responsibility of the manager (a lady) and the maintenance man with the equipment provided by the company, namely shovels.

    At the start of the season we sent a quote and service agreement and it was returned signed by the same supervisor that cancelled us. I feel we did exactly what we agreed to do and no more. I do not feel like we over-serviced the properties at all so that part doesn't concern me.

    The local manager is very unhappy. I asked if there was any complaints about our service and she said no, service was top-notch. She said that our cancellation would probably be annulled as soon as we got another decent storm.

    I told her service would continue as per agreement until I received notice of cancellation in writing specifically naming all three properties.

    Ironically, one of these locations has a resident who has asked us why we do the sidewalks but leave the parking lot such a mess. We told him they are on a 3" trigger so small accumulations just turn to ice. He said "Somebody's gonna pay big if one of us falls out here." In other words he struck us as a entitlement "user" just waiting for his chance. I think this move might bite them in the arse but that's a lesson they'll have to learn the hard way.

    Lucky for us it was our least favorite accounts.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2013
  2. thelettuceman

    thelettuceman PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,216

    "Lucky for us it was our least favorite accounts."

    Why would you go back?
  3. scott3430

    scott3430 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,003

    So they signed your 2012/2013 snow season contract, but yet they were still able to just out of the blue cancel your services that they signed for?

    Are you going to ask them to honor the contract? Or just let it go - seeing that your not crazy about the property anyways.
  4. Buswell Forest

    Buswell Forest PlowSite.com Addict
    from NH
    Messages: 1,668

    My contracts for logging include a stipulation that the landowner can stop me and send me packing at any time for any reason- but...They must pay me $1000 cash to cover my lost time, effort, and money in setting up the job, planning on it, and the moving costs.
    And $1000 is not even close to the actual number, but any more will scare them and they will not sign.
    Of course, if they stop me for any negligent actions on my part, the stipulation is not valid...and the state forester needs to side with them in the matter for it to happen.

    I think such a stipulation in a snow plow / removal contract is prudent as well...and next year I will have all my accounts sign a simple contract to that effect.
  5. Antlerart06

    Antlerart06 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,437

    I had same thing done to me The head office cancelled the contact Told local office they had to handle it So the local office contacted my Company to do the service now I bill the local office few things changed We dont do the Icemelt no more on the walks They do that service and trigger went up to 2''
  6. trustyrusty

    trustyrusty Senior Member
    Messages: 174

    We'll just let it go for the following reason: We are the only snow and ice company in our small town. A few business owners do their own and I have seen two plow trucks from out of town. They have one account apiece and travel 15-25 miles to service them (both are churches.) Hardly seems worth the travel time and in fact one of them talked recently about working a sub deal or talk to some property owners and do a trade where we would do the account he has in our town and he would do one of ours in a town nearer to him. Anyway, if we try to pin them to the contract there will no doubt be a conflict and if that happens they will never hire us again no matter how badly they need our services. That means that when they decide to again hire somebody they would find someone local who was willing to set up for the job, or bring someone in from a different town. Either way we would then have competition who would most likely want to expand, the only way for them to expand being by lowballing us on our accounts.

    By saying "whatever" and being easy to work with we hope to remain their "go-to" company for snow services if and when they need it. Like I said, they aren't our favorite jobs but we'd rather service them than have competition breaking into the market we currently have virtually cornered.
  7. scott3430

    scott3430 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,003

    That sounds like a good plan of action to keep some competition at bay - if you have the market for your area.
  8. allseasons87

    allseasons87 Senior Member
    Messages: 813

    Was zero tolerance on walkways in your contract?
  9. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,885

    Yeah we added cancellation costs, since its all too possible to go out, quote, get the job, sign all paperwork, pay $200-400 for their insurance requirements to send additional verbage for adding additional insured etc. for snow work, then staking out the place, photos and a property report... Two salts later and you salt too often so we're cancelling or whatever..

    or the first snow storm of the year they don't like something and your out. I hate to bind anyone to a long term contract but its like cell phones, the termination cost is because you bought the phone at a discounted rate.. most of the time at least.
  10. Flawless440

    Flawless440 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,543

    I have seen many times, people dont know what they want.. They want you out there all the time but know they cant afford it.. For example tonight, it's going to be 40 degrees tomorrow.. Everyone is going out to salt, that shi_ is going to melt and customers will be pissed to have to pay for it..
  11. scott3430

    scott3430 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,003

    Seems like customers want it all.......until they get the months bill and then change there mind like a drop of a hat.
  12. trustyrusty

    trustyrusty Senior Member
    Messages: 174

    Yes, our customers understand that the walks will be kept ice-free under all circumstances and our itemized quote and service agreement clearly spells it out.

    Also, the I asked the manager if there were any problems with the service and she specifically stated that we were doing what we agreed to do.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2013
  13. 2ExploreSnow

    2ExploreSnow Member
    Messages: 64

    So, let me ask this. Is there a 'more intelligent' way to write a contract to avoid or at least lessen these conflicts?

    It's almost comical. Contractor has equip, manpower, and knowlege of trade. Gets all walks, steps and main areas clean with edge-to-edge sharpness. Area is pristine! Property manager, at 4am starts calling every 15min nervous that not enough is done -- basically you end up (or could) chasing snowflakes. Meanwhile, there is 2in+ of slush on many of the roads and weather will later be in upper 30's.

    After 2, maybe 3yrs of that, 1 party drops the other. Later another company picks it up... yep, find out from friends in industry, same thing all over again.

    I always thought either get more aggressive and send a team of workers to just Park themselves there - and they pay. Or, just do the walks, steps, front entrance and just let nature take care of the rest... again for minor snows and ice control.

    (sorry if I'm thinking more than a manager... I'll now crawl back inside and listen to the rain while dreaming of deep snow)
  14. jasonv

    jasonv PlowSite.com Addict
    from kannada
    Messages: 1,114

    Shovelling 1/2" of snow seems excessive. They obviously weren't expecting that. I wouldn't want to pay for that either. I suggest spelling it out more clearly, that way they'll run for the hills BEFORE signing, rather than after.

    Either that, or lighten up a bit. Let them sweep the 1/2" falls.
  15. framer1901

    framer1901 Senior Member
    Messages: 805

    It's really hard to get a good feel for what a customer wants when there is a site manager and another person some distance away that is actually paying the bills / monitoring the budget.

    Both those people are customers but you are really trying to make the payer happy while trying to hold the site manager at bay.

    Any site manager will say you're doing fantastic when you have a zero tolerance location and they come in and it's black and wet, they aren't paying the bill, they are happy because all the residents aren't complaining - it's the bill payer that is un happy.

    Over the years we've gotten better at figuring out what customers really want but there's times that there is just nothing you can do about it - usually you hear things after that first bill goes out. We try to work with them so it doesn't end up a disaster but sometimes there is just no working it out... Shake hands and move on - just make sure it's friendly parting of ways, you never know what tomorrow will bring.

    Now if it was a place you rented three loaders and had 150 ton of salt sitting at, well, you should have had that covered in the contract.
  16. Buswell Forest

    Buswell Forest PlowSite.com Addict
    from NH
    Messages: 1,668

    Ding ding! Winner, chicken dinner!:salute:ussmileyflag
  17. trustyrusty

    trustyrusty Senior Member
    Messages: 174

    Really?!? Once 1/2" of wet snow is packed down a slip-and-fall is as likely on it as it is on 2". If you get 1/4" skiff every night and never do anything about it because it's not enough to worry about in a week that adds up to 1 3/4" of packed snow on the walk. How will you explain that to the customer who hired you to keep the walks "free of snow and ice 24/7?" I assume when you get a less than plowable snow event you do a salt run on some of your lots. Why? For the safety of foot traffic in that lot, most likely. What is more important to pedestrian safety, a clear lot or clear sidewalks? Our temps have ranged between upper teens to below zero for most of the winter so far, so we are not getting any melting from Mother Nature. Ignoring small events would quickly equate to a very poorly managed sidewalk program. We use whatever means we feel will be the most cost effective to the customer to maintain these properties based on the present conditions. In 1/2" of heavy, wet snow we would likely scrape it and apply a light application of ice melter, but for 1/2 of very light, fluffy dry snow we would likely conclude that a heavier application of ice melter alone will take care of this and that is all we would do.

    There is no misunderstanding of service. This is the company that originally put us in the snow business over 8 years ago by asking us to provide service to a different property that they sold last year. We still do that one for the new owner. In 8 years of servicing their properties we have not raised our prices at all, but have remained profitable by increasing efficiency through equipment and technique. Also in 8 seasons they have never expressed any concerns whatsoever and the contract and level of service has been the same throughout.
  18. jasonv

    jasonv PlowSite.com Addict
    from kannada
    Messages: 1,114

    Now that you've disclosed that there is a history there... ok, you're right.
  19. plowfever

    plowfever Senior Member
    Messages: 234

    I'm dealing with a similar situation at two pizza huts I do here in Indiana. Management is in Texas and is always saying we are the highest of all his customers at any of there 50 stores. We have had this account for close to ten years so it isn't like we are just building a relationship. This fall I gave them a flat rate what it would cost per visit. We got hammered with 10-12" of snow in late December and we made 6 visits to each store. We plow and salt every time. This storm was doubly bad because it started at 7am and snowed all day. So it wasn't like we could wait and do it when it was done or they would have had a mess. I'm going to tell them we had to do it this way and we have never let you down in 10 years.
  20. nepatsfan

    nepatsfan Senior Member
    Messages: 727

    How do you have zero tolerance walkways along with a 3" trigger on the parking lot? Seems like a high trigger for any parking especially if it is zero tolerance on the walkways. So you can have a nice clean walk to the lot and put your helmet and elbow pads on your way to the car.