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Client Disputes Snow Hauling Invoice

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Advantage, Jan 20, 2010.

  1. Advantage

    Advantage Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    So I get an email from a client telling me that the snow hauling invoice they received is "outrageous". We had 2' of blowing/drifting snow over 2 days on christmas besides the previous smaller storms. This smaller lot was about a quarter full of piles stacked 15' high. We took out 24 quad loads of snow using multiple trucks to keep it efficient. Now you can guess what the bill was. This is the first year on this property and the first time we have had to have snow hauled for this long term client. They stated that previous contractors hauled for $500! Well thats great I thought, I need to find these guys and contract them to do it as that won't even pay for the loader work. They saw the price on the contract, we can't control how many loads/hrs it takes, just do it as quickly and professionally as possible.

    I just needed to vent as I see others on here running into the same issues.
  2. timberseal

    timberseal Senior Member
    from 46385
    Messages: 247

    I would say anytime you can forsee a large unexpected addition to the bill call and "warn" them of it or confirm thats it's ok to go forward with the work. Granted you probably didn't have anywhere you could put any more snow but it just makes it a "friendlier" transaction for both parties. Good luck!
  3. Westhardt Corp.

    Westhardt Corp. Senior Member
    Messages: 845

    Was the removal part of the SOP in the contract, or was it requested? I've done lots of removals/relocations, but it has always been after consulting the client--even if it's in the contract. Sticker shock/payment hassle on removal is my largest concern. On non-contract/new referral clients, we estimate the job, present it to the client, and upon award request 50% down, and balance upon completion. Have only had a few balk at it, but with the expense incurred in these jobs, it's hard to justify doing it any other way. Most clients are more than happy with it, and pristine record keeping as well as constant communication with the client are critical to avoiding these types of hassles.

    Hope you can get it worked out!
  4. Advantage

    Advantage Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    It is an add on service within the contract. Yes, I should have thought about sticker shock and communicated this to them better. We had been going non stop and as soon as I received approval from store manager it was scheduled and done to alleviate any impact on their business. I thought nothing of it as the bill was right where I thought it would be but apparently they have had low baller contractors do this work in the past which made our invoice look like we were trying to rip them off. Plus conditions and snow amount were most likely much different as they have encountered in previous haul offs.
  5. Westhardt Corp.

    Westhardt Corp. Senior Member
    Messages: 845

    But is the store manager involved in the contract at any other point? I'd guess no. It's an easy slip to make--especially while scrambling on an active event. When plowing, the store manager(s) is/are typically who we deal with in the field, and as long as they are satisfied, we are usually in good shape. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't done it too--that's a mistake I made once.

    I've done more removal than I have plowing recently, being that we're primarily a trucking company during the summer. This is why I am extremely cautious when doing it. While a couple hours awaiting a decision is an eternity when the snow is piling up, it's nothing compared to the disaster of a major billing dispute. It sucks...I hope you can get it resolved without basically giving it to them for $500 in order to keep the client.
  6. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    Next time talk to the customer first. Set a budget with them and tell them what they are going to get for that amount.
  7. Mr.Markus

    Mr.Markus PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,779

    Any add on removal that we've done requires a work order and every work order requires a price approval. Sometimes this process buys you time to estimate properly by measuring piles and knowing what you're working with. Sometimes in the rush wires get crossed and someone ends up surprised... don't let it be you when they blindside you with an "I'm not paying that" comment when the work is completed and they're sitting pretty. Major PITA during big storms I know but you begin to see a trend with the ones who call for removal almost like they planned it for when you're busy;)
  8. Advantage

    Advantage Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    Thanks guys. All great advice. I have not heard back yet after the initial conversation. You are right communication is key. We will have to see how this one plays out. I hope that since we have such a long term relationship with this company it will all get sorted out.
  9. Advantage

    Advantage Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    That would be a good idea to do before hand i agree. But after working for about 5 days straight on that storm and getting a call that they want it done and done now, I made it happen. There is an hourly charge on the contract with no budget numbers. It was done efficiently. If they wanted $500 worth of snow taken away, there would still be hardly any parking and terrible runnoff/ice down the lot.
  10. Westhardt Corp.

    Westhardt Corp. Senior Member
    Messages: 845

    Somehow I think this is something you will handle differently in the future, regardless of the outcome of this.

  11. WIPensFan

    WIPensFan PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,594

    Sometimes they call and just want it done right away, like he said. They have no idea what it will cost, but you think they do or they don't care because they initiated the call. Hope it works out Advantage.
  12. Westhardt Corp.

    Westhardt Corp. Senior Member
    Messages: 845

    True, but how many times have we all had a "sure thing" answer from a potential client...and then they see the price tag and suddenly their tune changes? Better to iron it out first in an uncomfortable discussion than to chase it down with arguments and attorneys.
  13. WIPensFan

    WIPensFan PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,594

    Agreed. These are the parts of doing business that suck the most. Trying to do the right thing and provide top notch service, and having the customer turn it around on you!
  14. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,644

    Well put...and professional:bluebounc
  15. Westhardt Corp.

    Westhardt Corp. Senior Member
    Messages: 845

    Thank you, both!
  16. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,931

    well the client could have accused you of half loading the trucks, maybe they say they dont believe it took 20 truck loads worth lol, ahhhh. Hope you get paid for it,

    One of our clients called after their lot was perfect, wanted 100% of the spots available for xmas eve liquor store customers lol... i could understand why too, store was packed for two days prior.

    Anyway, we dropped our tractor, operator off around 12:30am, left truck/tractor onsite and picked up the operator at 6am.. so 5.5hrs worth to clear every spot and pile away from the parking lot, picked up the tractor/truck/trailer at 9:30am when the other truck brought a driver back to move it to the next site..... was almost 1k for this work alone... that machine was busy all storm in situations like this after the snow stopped, so was our other smaller tractor on small lots.

    I know after the guy starts asking questions that he doesnt want to pay it, both the owner and the manager i spoke to to get this work done, they called us, not we convinced them it should be done.

    Then, after all that, and still not paid, they have 8 more days until its past due... the old building owner still had another snow contractor on contract for the site, new owner calls me, same one ive always dealt with for this new contract, stating that he wants to know if the low was "cleared before we got there", i said, WTF, how would that have been done if we JUST GOT THERE? He seemed to beat around the bush, and then paid the cancellation fee afterwards to drop us, but stated no fault of our own and was happy with the quality of the job and how fast our response was at their request.

    Im waiting for the next descent storm to roll through so its obvious that if were more expensive than xyz company that theyre going to keep, thats why.
  17. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,931

    with the trucks in your signature, im sure your dealing big hauling! i couldnt expect any of our smaller clients to pay 50% up front, some need a week just to get checks cut honestly lol. Id love for 50% up front for plowing though!
  18. Brian Young

    Brian Young PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,394

    We hauled snow out of a PITA condo place WE HAD last year. Needless to say we lost the contract this year to a low baller but a lot had to do with the price of removal of last year. We spent almost 10hrs with 1 loader, 4 dump trucks with a turn around time of less than 10 minutes per truck and my truck as a clean up/salting truck. Their bill was around 3-4k I think and they thought we ripped them off. I now offer a spending cap to places that are "price conscious" and or have no clue what it entails to do jobs this big. AND they based it all on the second largest snow fall amounts in our city's history.All I can say is you should see how the place looks now :laughing: :laughing:
  19. Camden

    Camden PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,604

    Are they refuting the amount of snow you hauled or just the amount you charged?

    By doing simple math you would be able to show them how many cubic yards you hauled away. Lot length x Lot width x Snow depth (in feet) divided by 27 will give you the figure.
  20. Westhardt Corp.

    Westhardt Corp. Senior Member
    Messages: 845

    Well, generally yeah. Sometimes it's just one truck, and their equipment, though. I did one a couple years ago that involved clearing a parking deck, and instead of using one tons, I suggested just one dump, parked in the loading dock under the deck. It worked great, and the bill for the truck was maybe $1000--not too crazy. Another involved one truck and 2 Bobcats (loader broke) that loaded the truck while it park in a loading dock next to a drive in door (they could get over it then) I've quoted on-site work to tune of $6,000/day as well.(on 8 hours--we typically work 10-12 or whenever daylight allows). That's when you're talking 50/50 payment, as there is a *lot* of money going out for something of that scale. Typically, if a client is not OK with hearing figures of a few hundred per hour as a starting point, then they are probably not ready to approve this type of work.

    Most of our hauling requests are for 1,000 yards or so. At that point, you can do it with one truck if you have the time, but really--truck hours costs the same, whether it's one truck for 10 hours or 10 trucks for one hour. How fast do you want it done?

    I have contemplated a shorter trailer for hauling, as it would better facilitate skid steers. But it would have a reduced capacity. The ultimate is using hook lifts and multiple containers--like Shamrock. :drool: