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Who's The Fool? (long post)

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by GesnerLawn, Mar 3, 2005.

  1. GesnerLawn

    GesnerLawn Senior Member
    Messages: 127

    I had a little problem with one of my plowing customers during the blizzard we had in January. I had been plowing both the private residence and retail store/office/apartment building for the guy since last year. Our relationship started when I purchased about $1,000 of goods from the store. The store is in the downtown district of my town and was both convenient and profitable for me, but a bit of a pain due to it’s layout. The residence driveway is out of my way in the woods up a long steep hill, but within 5 minutes of another account. The driveway goes down steeply and there’s very little room to put snow at the bottom, so most of it needs to be pushed up…spinning and sliding if it’s deep or icy. Add in the retaining wall on one side, large rocks on the other, a poorly placed picket fence, a BMW and a brand new pick-u truck and it’s pretty tricky.

    Anyway, I rolled out with my shoveler about 5:30 pm with about 4 inches on the ground and the forecast calling for 18 to 30 inches. At about 9 pm in blizzard conditions we broke trail through about 8 inches of unplowed snow to the guy’s residence. My shoveler thought I was nuts. The road is really pretty nasty, lots of curves and hills and it was snowing so hard we could barely see. So we get there and I push out 8 inches pretty easily and open up the apron. I had been to the store earlier to open up the lanes and we also did a complete plow and shovel of the store a bit later. Over the course of the storm, I made a total of 4 trips to the store to keep it accessible to the tenants and try to keep up with the snowfall. It’s within 100 yards of the gas station/convenience store I use most often, so it works out well.

    I dropped off my shoveler around midnight and continued plowing by myself until about 4 am, then took a nap and was back out by 7:30 am. The snow stopped around noon, maybe a little earlier, with a total of 17 inches on the ground. Around 4:00 pm Sunday, I stopped at the guys residence to push out the 9 inches that fe1l since I was there the night before. I was surprised that there wasn’t much snow on the drive, but it didn’t really look like it had been plowed properly, so I started pushing back the apron. The guy shows up at the front door and starts yelling and screaming at me and flapping his arms frantically. I give him the “one minute” signal from the cab of my truck so I can get my truck out of the road and see what’s up. He starts yelling and flapping more frantically. He shouts to me from his front door that he doesn’t need me for his residence any more and that it was already plowed…his next door neighbor’s son’s friend did it. I replied that it doesn’t look like he did a very good job…looks like he had plow shoes on and he packed the crap out of it, glazing the whole driveway pretty bad. So I shout back “fine, your store is accessible but needs a final clean-up” and drive off. No time to worry about it in the aftermath of a blizzard with at least 15 customers I still need to get to.

    As you might imagine, I was pretty pizzed about hauling out there the previous night and risking life and limb only to have some kid get paid for the easy part. So I just crossed both properties off my list and kept on going.

    Later, I briefed my wife on what had happened and left here a list of where I was going and the approximate order I would do them in case anyone called. She asked about whether I was going to finish clean-up at the store and I told her “nope, let his new plow boy do it”. So the next day, Monday at 9:00 am, when the store opens, my wife gets a call from the guy’s manager wondering when I will be there. She informs him that I’m not coming because the guy fired me from his residence the day before. Then the guy gets on the phone and starts yelling at my wife and telling her that I’m a fool for getting pizzed and starts being a real jerk. So she yelled back at him and told him he could have at least called rather than making me go out there to find it already done. He hung up on her.

    So the next day, after I’m all done with plowing and shoveling, I stopped in at the store, with final invoice in hand. The guy starts being a real jerk and won’t let me get a word in edgewise, yelling until some customers walked in. I mean this guy was red in the face and shaking.

    Boy, this is getting really long….guess I’ll save the story about trying to get paid for later.

    So my question is, do you think I was too sensitive about this? I mean, if the guy had just called me, it wouldn’t had been a big deal, or if it had taken me a long time to get there and he needed to get out. But to hire some kid after I’d done ½ of the job, just to save a few bucks. I have no use for customers like that! So who’s the fool, me for dumping him, or him for firing his plow guy for no reason in the aftermath of a blizzard?
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2005
  2. johntwist

    johntwist Senior Member
    Messages: 415

    This is a perfect example of why whoever coined the phrase "the customer is always right" was a jacka$$.
    He did an end run around you without being man enough to call you and that's just not right. That's the type of guy who'd **** another guy in the *** and not even have the common courtesy to offer a reach around. I'd get my dough and be done with him. Let someone else deal with the psychos, you don't need it brother.
     
  3. 04superduty

    04superduty PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,354

    from the sounds of it you handled it pretty good. if someone was to chicken stuff to call me and say my services wasnt needed i would be alittle pissed. Add to that that he yelled at your wife and then yelled at you for no good reason. good luck getting your money from him. it sounds like he is going to be a real pain in the butt.
     
  4. Italiano67

    Italiano67 Senior Member
    Messages: 640

    I think I would have explained to him the next time you seen him the ramifications of what he did. I would never have just quit during the snow event. That just creates a bad relationship even though you were technically right but I see his point about his store. He probably did not really think you would take it so hard. All he saw was the 9 inches on his drive and somebody was available to do it immediately( his neighbors son).You have to have a thick skin over those type of things. Remember at the end of the day you are still ahead if you kept his account because you were allowed to plow at your discretion at his store which I am guessing is lucrative for you payup . My .02 cents.
     
  5. GesnerLawn

    GesnerLawn Senior Member
    Messages: 127

    Anthony - Can't say I would disagree with you knowing what you know. But here's a little more info. I had 8 priority spots on my list for the blizzard. An industrial lot, a cop, 2 nurses, an Asst. Fire Chief, a steep push up, and this guy's house and store. For those properties, I'll do anything I need to in order to get them out, and they all get top notch service. This guy had 2 of my 8 priority slots or 25% of them. I had made a commitment to him!

    All I expected in return is to get paid on time and to be treated with a little respect. He gave me neither. He disrespected me by firing me from his door step. He could have at least had the decency to come out and talk to me if he couldn't call me for some reason. Then he disrespeted my wife by raising his voice at her, and calling me a fool (the first thing he said). And although he was never 30 days or more late, he was a slow payer (I bill everyone except the industrial lot net 15).

    There was still room to patch things up if he had gotten on the phone with my wife and asked what was going on. I could have easily misunderstood him in thinking he didn't need me at the store anymore. Besides, I had been at the store 4 times, the last one just three hours before the end of the storm, so it was in pretty good shape. I just had to push out the 2 parking spaces and sidewalk at the curb on RT1, drag out 3 inches from 3 or 4 parking slots, touch up the rear apron on another road and touch up the walks. The place was acceccible and could open for business and everyone would have understood, as it was less than 24 hours since the end of the storm.

    It's not like I left the place a mess and inaccessible. I wouldn't do that....nor plow it in.

    Wait until I get to how he acted when I showed up to collect on day 31 after invoicing, 9 days after he claimed to have mailed the check out......
     
  6. GesnerLawn

    GesnerLawn Senior Member
    Messages: 127

    Here's a little more. By the time I left when I stopped in to talk to him the next day, everything was cool. I apologized for my wife raising her voice at him, and we chalked it up to a misunderstanding and shook hands. He, however refused to acknowlege that he should have called me.

    And I billed him light and went over the invoice with him line by line. I didn't bill him for pushing out his driveway during the blizzard, and I only billed him for 2 of the 4 pushes at his store...one full push including the walks and one partial for the lane and aprons. And I didn't charge at all for a little 2 inch storm we'd had earlier in the month. I didn't want to give him anything to argue about.
     
  7. SkykingHD

    SkykingHD Senior Member
    Messages: 368

    Who is the fool

    This is a simple agreement issue. You and the store owner had an agreement. For an amount of money you would plow the snow off his parking lot and drive when a predetermined amount of snow fell. You committed man power and equipment to do this job. The customer did not live up to his agreement. You gave him free driveway snow removal and only charged him for half of the plowing you did at his store. How could he not be happy. You are the one who lost on this.

    Agreements have 2 sides and should be honored by both till the end of the agreement. You have expensive equipment and man power you have committed to do this work. If you had not committed this equipment and man power to his job you could have made money at another job. This is about YOU making money for your investment, risk and labor. Your time and investment has value don't give it away. No one else is giving away there equipment or labor.

    Dave
     
  8. BreyerConstruct

    BreyerConstruct Senior Member
    Messages: 132

    I ended up eating about 1/2 of a bill at the beginning of our season. We got 12", customer insisted we got like 8. so I ate a few pushes, as well as a small storm before, & one after. Since then I've adjsuted my contracts to read better. It now states that I plow every 2-3" BC of falling or drifting snow... and I will be plowing WITH THE STORM. THis guy figured it was every 2-3" or whatever fell, but I'd be there at the end. & yes, I sat down w/ him at the beginning of the season & explained how it all worked.

    I only mention this story 'cause your comment about agreeing it was a miscommunication/misunderstanding. My guy has never plowed, and was under-billed for the prior years (I bought that plower out, he was charging $40-45 per hour, & guessing at the total time involved. Should be $75-100 per hour around here).

    We parted as gentlemen, he wrote me a polite note expressing his concerns (he still thought I was trying to cheat people).
    I replied w/ a letter thanking him for his concerns & assuring him we'd do our best in the future.

    It's dicouraging when you lose a client & lose some money, but I guess it's part of business. My good clients I'm trying to give "extras" to whenever I can. I figgure I'm just weeding out the poor businesses in the area. LOL

    ~Matt

    (PS. now you've got time for a longer nap at the end of the storms! LOL)
     
  9. BreyerConstruct

    BreyerConstruct Senior Member
    Messages: 132

    another quick note. I used a 200lbs of salt or so whenever I salted his lot, he's in a bad area for drifting & is a well packed down lot from cars.
    He insisted he did the same amount of melting w/ 15lbs of ice melt. Mind you, it was mid 30's, full sun, & already plowed & salted earlier in the week when he did this, not 15 & the middle of the nite when I did it!
    What can you do, eh?

    ~Matt
     
  10. SkykingHD

    SkykingHD Senior Member
    Messages: 368

    this is what you do

    1. Plowing with the storm is the only way our small trucks can move some of this heavy snow. The plow truck are not earth moving equipment. Akron Ohio was plowing heavy snow. Before the storm was over they had broken down 50% of there fleet. There trucks are all 94 or newer and 5 ton or larger rigs. You cant move 24 inches of wet snow with a 1 ton truck. Tell them either you plow with storm or bring in front end loader.

    2. Salt. Go to a salt company's web site. There is a chart that shows what salt will do at 15F and also at 32F. As you can see from this chart one lb of salt will melt 6.3 lbs of ice to water at 15F. At 30F that same lb of salt will melt 46.3 lbs of ice to water. Also direct sun light is very powerful at melting snow and ice. He is comparing different ice control products also. Straight salt vs a blend of salt and other ice melting products.

    Good luck. Charge for your work. You deserve it, you worked for it.

    Dave
     
  11. ratlover

    ratlover PlowSite.com Addict
    from IL
    Messages: 1,325

    I woulda told him, our argreement says I get paid for X, i'm getting x dollars regardless if I finish your drive or not. I will go plow your other store for X $$$ as per our agreement. If you dont like that then get another contractor. I woulda kept up my end of the contract and expected him to keep up his or dump him and tell him that I was dumping him.
     
  12. OneBadDodge06

    OneBadDodge06 Senior Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 735

    I'd get my money out of him and knock him flat for talkin to my wife that way.
     
  13. BreyerConstruct

    BreyerConstruct Senior Member
    Messages: 132

    Any update?
     
  14. GesnerLawn

    GesnerLawn Senior Member
    Messages: 127

    Update - I got the check the next business day after I stopped in to talk to him, he got p.o.'d, called me an A hole and threw me off the property. Funny thing is that it was postmarked that day when he'd told me he mailed it ten days earlier. The check cleared.

    Interesting note....he didn't get plowed at all during a recent 3 inch storm and for the last storm it wasn't plowed before the start of business, maybe not at all. So maybe his new plow guy isn't working out either. If so, that would be 4 plow guys he's gone through in 3 seasons...that's with me plowing for a season and a half.
     
  15. jeffwoehrle

    jeffwoehrle Member
    Messages: 56

    No truer words were ever spoken. Seems that most customers who insist on being a PITA have never had the luxury of being told where to stick it. This is particularly true in the restaurant business as well. People complain sometimes for the sake of complaining. What a refreshing blast of cold air when somebody refuses to take it.

    More businesses standing up to senseless bull$hit from such whiners would make it better for all.
     
  16. GesnerLawn

    GesnerLawn Senior Member
    Messages: 127

    Yes, and those whiners are often the people who think that they are so important that the rest of the world needs to bow to them. The same people who cut you off in traffic, park in handcapped parking spaces without a permit, cut in line etc...the "do you know who I am" kind of people. I have no tollerance for people like that.

    It takes all kinds of people for our society to run. Without the gargage man, life on this planet would really stink!
     
  17. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,887

    Wouldn't a written, signed contract have helped out in this situation?
     
  18. Allagash

    Allagash Senior Member
    Messages: 159

    I've owned a carwash now for three years. When I bought the place, I took a fair amount of B.S. from some customers. As time went on, I learned to sniff out the troublemakers and deal with them swiftly and sternly. I love the ones who, in front of a lobby full of people, decide to hop on their soap box and tell you (and all those listening) about how dirty their car came out the last time they were in, how expensive we are compared to carwash X, etc., etc.. Or my all time favorite...I just got my car washed and all those scratches weren't there when I came here. As an owner, if we messed up somehow, I will do whatever is within my power to make the situation right, assuming you have a ligitamate gripe and treat me fair and rationaly. If they are unreasonable (less than 1 percent of all customers by far) I now stand up to them and argue my point with force. I've told customers to go use the carwash down the street on more than one occassion. It takes a lot to get to that point but it feels great to be able to do it if necessary. I've gone so far as to drive their car off my lot and leave the car running in the parking lot next door if they don't leave.
     
  19. GesnerLawn

    GesnerLawn Senior Member
    Messages: 127

    Maybe, but it's still not something I want to do. At least not until I've got more than one plow truck. Besides, then I'd be stuck with the jerk.

    Even for lawn care, I don't do contracts, just "agreements." They allow for the person to back out with notice, and the same for me. I do find them helpful for stating policies and expectations for both parties.
     
  20. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,887

    You are never stuck with a contract, there should always be a way out for either party with proper notice and agreement to pay in full what is owed.