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Terminating a Contract

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Plowguy99, Feb 23, 2002.

  1. Plowguy99

    Plowguy99 Junior Member
    Messages: 6

    I would appreciate any feedback. Sorry this thread is so long!
    I picked up an account after a few snowfalls this year. It was a residential driveway about 300 feet long, with a VERY steep incline which curved around near the top. There were trees on both sides and it dropped off on one side also. The guy that plowed it for five years got out of the business and the company they hired for this year quit after one snow. I was a little hesitant about doing it but I agreed anyway. They told me they never had any problems with sliding off of it and the guy who plowed it before never had any problems plowing. I was paid half of the amount that day and was supposed to recieve the other half on 2/1/02. I plowed four times without too much trouble on the hill. I would have to back up the hill because there is not enough room to turn around at the top. The first time down was ok because you are pushing a full blade width of snow. Then I would back up again. On the second time going down I would go as slow as possible for about 15 feet and then it turns almost 90 degrees and you just shoot down. On 1/31/02 we got a fairly slippery snow and on the second time down I went sideways down it and into the woods. Luckily I avoided the trees by a few feet. The left side of the truck was off the drive and the right rear tire was 1/2 inch off of the ground. The blade was hung up on a stump, but somehow after about 45 minutes of screwing around I finally got freed up and was able to get back on the drive. When I was trying to get out I saw someone turn on a light in the house and look out of the window at me. It was about 6:30 am so I figured they would come out to make sure I was ok or see if I needed a phone or something. The light went back off and no one came out. I called the guy later in the day and told him that I was sorry, but I can't plow for him anymore because if that happens again and I break my truck or plow I would be screwed because I only have one truck. What would I do with the rest of my acounts? He said fine, send the money back. I told him that I plowed it four times and would send $100 of the $200 back to him. I figured $25 per time was more than fair considering his driveway. He was extremely pissed and said send back what I want and he will take it from there. I could not get the point across to him that I did a service for him and would not do it for free. He never mentioned anything about the fact that it was the 31st and he owed me $200 the next day. Later in the day I talked to the guy who plowed it for the previous five years. He said there were tracks in the snow a lot of times when he plowed where the homeowners had slid off.
    Now, after all of that, my point is, he lied to me and said they never had any problems sliding off, he never came out to see if I needed help getting my truck unstuck, he never asked me when I talked to him on the phone if my truck was damaged, and he owed me $200 the next day which should have been in the mail already if it was to get to me on time.
    Do you agree with my decision to stop plowing and not send him all of his money back?
    Sorry this turned out to be a novel
    Any input is appreciated!!
    99 Chevy 2500 8' Boss
     
  2. John DiMartino

    John DiMartino PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,154

    Dont go by me,but i would finish the season out,like you were paid to.Not trying to blame you,but didnt you notice the tight turn,and step incline when you priced it/looked at it?I wouldnt trust my customers opinion on wheather or not my truck could make it,my judgement is much better,IMO.I have one account like that,and it gets salt,or salt/sand.If not i wont do it.If i were him,id be a little pissed off,where is he goiong to find a reliable plower to finish the season out now,did you even give him 30 days notice?You should have been suspicous when the new company quit after one storm,that was your warning.You do what you feel is the right thing,i need to sleep at night,so Id finish the job.
     
  3. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    Ugh. Does sound like of them "driveways from h***".

    I agree with John that finishing out the season would be the best plan, the good thing is that the season is almost over anyway.
     
  4. ADLAWNCUTTERS

    ADLAWNCUTTERS Senior Member
    Messages: 212

    sorry i'd drop him .it's not worth you time or mental stress. but you shoud give him time to find another plower. don't feel bad he wasn't up front with you about sliding off problem.or plow him last every time you go out in case you break down.if he is a jerk tell him to keep his money and run from him
     
  5. dan deutekom

    dan deutekom Member
    Messages: 82

    I agree with John. You made a deal. Stick to it.
     
  6. Alan

    Alan PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,393

    Lemme get this straight, you looked at the job, priced it accordingly and now that it came back to bite you you want OUT?

    As far as I'm concerned you have an ethical responsibility to finish out the season. The opportunity to back away was there before you agreed to do it. If you can't read the terrain well enough to know the potential was there for problems that's YOUR problem. Not taking them back another year is fine,, but honor your comittment for this year. If you can't deal with that concept, get out of the business.

    By the way, how long have you been involved in snow removal?
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2002
  7. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    No way I'd let a customer help me get unstuck. I can just imagine the (liability) possiblities.

    And, I agree with Alan.
     
  8. plowjockey

    plowjockey PlowSite.com Sponsor
    Messages: 622

    I agree with the others. You agreed to a job and you should finish the job.

    I would check with some other plowers as to how to deal with the sliding off thing and maybe put down some salt on the backing up run to help you get traction.

    It may sound like the bad end of the deal but your honor is the priority here. Stay and make him pay.

    Bruce
     
  9. bubble boy

    bubble boy Member
    Messages: 44

    i think...

    if he lied to you about never sliding off, so? i dont see an obligation for him to tell you this.

    he doesn't need to help you get unstuck. how could he help anyway?

    and he doesn't need to ask you about your trucks damage. thats not his problem.

    i realize he could have done the above and would be a real nice guy if he did, but he doesn't have to

    perhaps see about meeting face to face and explaining your situation? be honest, and polite and there might be a comprimise.

    its a tough situation. perhaps sub the rest off the year out and take the $ hit. better than cracking your frame on a tree.
     
  10. Tommy10plows

    Tommy10plows Senior Member
    Messages: 345

    Termination Steep drives

    You have a big truck,, you have a big plow, you have no weight to speak of in the back of your big truck when you do this driveway. To do this job you must always plow downhill, and with the plow angled so the snow rolls off to the down side of the hill, even if that means changing your plow direction as you round a curve and come down the hill.

    First thing you need to do is to get yourself a set of chains for all four wheels. Get v- bar reinforced chains and put them on, at a minimum you need to chain the fronts, and really you should do all four wheels. Also, for this job or any plow job you need to carry at least 20 -25 feet of solid logging chain and a come-along to pull you out, or pull you straight in case you get stuck or side twisted on a hill.

    Start this job by backing up the hill with the plow up, run about 1/2 way up the first section, then stop dead, leave your truck in reverse, and let the plow drop down to the ground, then pick it up so the truck nose drops a bit. Make your first cuts close to the high side of the hill with a full angle of the blade to the down side of the hill. the idea is you want to establish a snow berm on the downside of the hill as you plow. Let the truck roll downhill by gravity with the trans still in reverse. Do not lock your brakes, but if you go too fast downhill, give the engine some gas so you can claw your way back up the hill a bit. You need to completely clear the bottom section of the drive up to the curve before you start on the upper section. Repeat this pattern on the upper section, and always angle your snow runoff to the down side of the hill.

    The reason you back up these steep drives is that the majority of your weight and all of your directional control is up front. Your engine, steering, plow weight and angle of the plow should work in your favor like a bucket on the end of a rope. Do not put that bucket at the top of the hill, you will see it swing down around on you and off into the woods you go. Go slowly, and always use your LOW RANGE in your transfer case, to give you the torque to move the snow and to act as a brake when you come down hill.

    After you cut your openings, you can use your first gear only to plow the hill down. You do not plow these uphill, ever! Do not let your truck shift automatically, use the L1 setting of your trans to control your speed.

    Steep driveways separate the men from the boys, they are the ones that are not always about the money but about doing a job that no one else has the guts to do and doing it well. With a little planning and the right equipment (CHAINS!) you can do them. A deal is a deal, you should honor your part of it.
     
  11. plowjockey

    plowjockey PlowSite.com Sponsor
    Messages: 622

    Tommy

    That is the most complete description of how to do a steep incline I've yet to see.

    Kudos

    Bruce
     
  12. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Yes, I agree a deal is a deal. I have a couple that I think I bid too low, too. But, I see the main trouble as being that you're worried about damaging your equipment. I think the best thing would be if you could find someone to take this account for you. You're going to be so worried about sliding off there again, that it's going to happen (unless you follow Tommy's advise - and maybe even then).
     
  13. wxmn6

    wxmn6 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,037

    First of all, you said you were a little hesistant about sliding off that steep driveway. But your customer told you that they and the plowers never had any problems sliding off the driveway. So you accepted that job because your customer said that they never had a problem. You made the pricing judging on the driveway but you probably did not add some additional price for the risk of sliding off the driveway because you think that you will not slide off because of what your customer said.

    So what happened is that you slipped off the driveway and got stuck for 45 minutes. Your customer lied to you, they did have serious problems sliding off the driveway. It is your customer's fault. You signed the contract because of what your customer said by his word. He probably lied to you because maybe the previous plowers left him because of problems of sliding.

    So I think that the contract should be adjusted by raising the price, or cancel the contract because you signed the contract based on what your customer told you.
     
  14. Ohiosnow

    Ohiosnow Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Messages: 415

    I used to have a clause in all my bad drives that either of us could cancel with a 10 day notice just for that reason. I now have all big & easy jobs after 27 yrs of plowing, nothing even a little scary.
     
  15. PAPS Landscape

    PAPS Landscape Member
    Messages: 51

    I would tough it out and get all my money worth and then drop the account for next year... but a deal is a deal.. you wouldnt want a client to back out on you...
     
  16. leprechaun_50

    leprechaun_50 Member
    from SW Minn
    Messages: 33

    Tommy
    Bravo !!! Your response to Plowguys post is one of the reasons that I love this site. I am new to plowing and even though all my work is on level ground I still learned some very valuable information. THANK YOU!:)
     
  17. PINEISLAND1

    PINEISLAND1 PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 664

    "This contract is cancelable upon written notification by either party. Monies invoiced or due for services rendered are due and payable upon such cancellation."

    This statement is in our contracts, (thanks to John Allin and SIMA for the contract advice).

    I hate to ruin a relationship, and get any bad PR, but maybe you could approach it humbly with him and just tell him with your equipment you dont feel you can handle it, and you are excercising your contractual right to cancel.

    Its not a great option, but I have had companies cancel mine for reasons I didnt like as well.

    Late payers are a whole different problem. That is just another strike against him.
     
  18. Plowguy99

    Plowguy99 Junior Member
    Messages: 6

    Thanks everybody for your input.
     
  19. thegrasscatcher

    thegrasscatcher Junior Member
    Messages: 7

    Adding to Tommy10plows' comments.. dont get a cheap come-a-long.. make sure you get one that is a compound come-a-long with at least a 12 foot cable. Anything less, and you will be dissapointed.

    Wally
     
  20. Big Todd

    Big Todd Senior Member
    Messages: 126

    Just had to throw in my two cents...

    At first I was inclined to agree with you, but after reading some of the responses, I got to thinking about a situation that we are dealing with this year.

    We have four small motels that are owned by the same guy. He is of Mid-Eastern decent and very difficult to communicate with. When I bid on them I gave him what I thought was a fair price. I was figuring on one full push and one quick clean-up per snow event for each "no-tell-Motel". It was never stated in our contract, but I sent out a letter to all of our accounts before the season started stating that, for the most part, plowing would be done at night and we'd be back to clean up durring the follwing day. Standard procedure, right? Well after about the 2nd time out, The guy calls me and says that for three of the four properties, they don't want to be plowed at night - they want us to come the next day so that they could have everyone move their cars...

    This, as you can imagine, takes at least twice as long as I had figured on. I told him we'd do our best to accomidate him, but he'd have to be flexible and I hope that none of his guests complained that they had a hard time getting out in the morning. Well, you guessed it, the next snowfall, it got to be 10:00 in the morning and we hadn't plowed any of his places yet and he calls to ask why it's not done yet. Yadda Yadda Yadda... we end up doing the place twice per snowfall amounting to it taking about three times as long as it really should.

    I thought about dropping him altogether because it wasn't worth the money, but we are trying to be professional. Also, in retrospect, I could have (and should have) raised his price, but I didn't.

    Coulda', shoudla', woulda'... The moral of the story? Gut it out and don't make the same mistake next year.:(