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Did we get fleeced?

Discussion in 'Bidding & Estimating' started by toofless, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. toofless

    toofless Junior Member
    Messages: 2

    Hi everyone, sorry to jump onto this forum but I have a question for the experts:

    I'm a member of an HOA board here in Northern Virginia. Obviously we have a plow contract, and it's with the maintenance company we use for most landscaping, repairs, etc. Our community has probably 1 mile worth of community-owned roadway w/ 6 total speed bumps, and includes about 90 common area parking spots. These are the only surfaces that fall under the plowing agreement (i.e. no sidewalks, homeowner driveways, etc). The contract also provides for a 2 hour minimum on truck visits (or "runs"), and a minimum for tonnage of salt. There is no variable rate dependent on the amount of snow that has fallen.

    During late December we had a record snowfall here and the guys did a great job in keeping our streets plowed. According to historical weather data, we had 16" of snow on Saturday, then 0 inches on Sunday and 0 on Monday (so, all snowfall occurred on the first day). We received the invoice for this event and I was very surprised at the total. They billed for the following:

    • Saturday - 12 hours truck time, 2 tons salt
    • Sunday - 12 hours truck time, 2 tons salt
    • Monday - 4 hours truce time, 2 tons salt

    I have difficulty believing that they spent 12 hours on the first day, but it could be that they made 6 runs, billing the 2 hour minimum on each run. That I don't have a huge problem with. What really astounds me is the 16 hours of truck time and salt treatment after all of the snow was on the ground. Again, all of this for probably a single mile worth of surface. It could be that I just don't understand the amount of time and material required for this type of maintenance and the amount of snowfall we incurred, but it just seems extreme to me. I will also note that most of the common area spots were occupied during this snow event.

    Now, we really like this landscaping company and we plan to discuss with him the details of the work before we pay the invoice, but I am just mainly looking for a sanity check from the experts before I talk to the contractor.

    Thanks so much, and sorry if I'm hijacking your forum a little here.
  2. fireboy6413

    fireboy6413 Senior Member
    Messages: 396

    He maybe be billing for snow drifts, salting etc, have you spoke with him and asked him why he billed for sun and mon
  3. iceyman

    iceyman 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,925

    when we had our 18" storm we were at our one hoa doing cleanups for 4 days after the storm....if you dont want him there after the storm your place will look disasterous...
  4. augerandblade

    augerandblade PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,054

    tymusicSimple solution to your problem. Monitor all snowremoval and ice control activities :at different levels of accumulations. I been in the business since 1983 and a practice by some companies are to work under more than reasonable hourly/ or contract rates.( And especially on per push/ or salt application )to play games with the setup.payup To me it sounds like ya got fleeced:nod: and your only gonna know that if you keep an eye out on their snow removal activities.
  5. quigleysiding

    quigleysiding PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,129

    I was thinking the same thing.
  6. snowman55

    snowman55 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,071

    I can see it. snow on sat but when 10pm? he would be plowing on sun. when weatherman says 18" it can acually be alot more if you add it up as you plow he may have plowed 4" 8 times but if it was allowed to pile up it compacts to 18". what were the temps? salt effectiveness deceases dramaticly with temp. talk to him, but I'll say that if you were happy with that much snow he most likely spent that much time and mat.
  7. Bajak

    Bajak Senior Member
    Messages: 999

    I can see your concern. I will say however that often times the snow accumulation is just a small piece of the picture.

    After storms there can be snow blown off roofs of buildings and cars, or drifting, that would permit further clean up. If there is considerable traffic it will compress the snow into hard pack that could also require more ice melt and subsequent scraping.

    I can appreciate your prudence in this matter as I'm sure your contractor will too. It never hurts to ask.
  8. mycirus

    mycirus Senior Member
    from Mass
    Messages: 589

    I like the name. Toofless....Ha ha...

    Anyway is it possible they used 2 trucks? 6 hours each truck times 2?
  9. Brian Young

    Brian Young PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,394

    First off,my take is that the "professional weather forecasters" give a "guesstimate" as to how much snow actually fell. We are 5 miles from where they get their "actual snow fall amounts" from and they are more way off than on in inches. Second, people hear "a ton of salt" and think holy.... thats a lot of salt which it isn't by any means. You can unload a V box spreader loaded with a ton of salt in a matter of minutes. Third, like someone else said, when did they start counting inches, at 10 or 11pm INTO the next day. Lastly, that's a major snowfall and unless they had a truck or two just sitting there continuously plowing your lot snow is going to build up and after a major snow storm like that its not uncommon to have several, several hours of opening the roads and lot back up to normal. I'm not saying one thing or another but there is more to snow plowing/removal, especially in a big storm than people think. This is exactly why we invested in on board cameras, now there are no questions!
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2010
  10. Burkartsplow

    Burkartsplow PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,246

    I dont think you got "Fleeced" at all. The contractor did his job and you were and have been very happy with his service in the past. For an 18 inch storm a lot of time and material goes into the snow clearing and ice removal process. If we have storms of that capacity it is easy to keep doing cleanups of lots and roads for days after. Just like people stated drifting, thaw/refreeze cycles and vehicles bringing in snow off there cars.. I guess the only way to keep track of them is stay up 24 hours a day which snow professionals do all the time during a storm. they could have been there 2 or 3 times during the night while you were sleeping. Our job is to clear the snow and the only way to do that is start when begins and keep coming back again and again till it is over and then get a little sleep and head back out to do cleanups for the next couple of days. But ask him about the invoice and get an explanation, but I do find it ANNOYING when we get a heavy month of snow fall and my accounts get there invoice and they start to complain about the amount of the bill. I tell them I did not make it snow talk to the man above. But you dont see me calling my clients at the end of light months asking them to give me more money or questioning why my invoice to them is so low.
  11. Brian Young

    Brian Young PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,394

    I agree with Burk. its very easy to assume things especially when your tucked away in a nice warm bed. After being up for sometimes days straight and functioning like a zombi there is nothing that pisses me off more is when you did your job, didnt pencil whip the customer and they still *****! I always wanted to take the complainer's along for a storm to really show them all the B.S. that comes with the territory. From the sounds of it you made up your minds by even asking and taking the effort to log onto here.
  12. cretebaby

    cretebaby PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 4,162

    This comment " probably 1 mile worth " troubles me a bit.

    Just like a ton sounds like a lot a mile sounds like lot but really isn't.

    I would bet there is more than a mile of road at play here.
  13. JD Dave

    JD Dave PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,194

    24 hours to plow 1 mile of roads and 90 parking spots. I don't know but that sounds a little extreme to me. Call your contractor and have him break it down for you before you go jumping to conclusions. If he plowed it every 2" he would have been there 9 times which would be 18 hours at 2 hours/time.
  14. cubanb343

    cubanb343 Senior Member
    from ERIE
    Messages: 637

    90 parking spots. 18" of 'documented' snowfall. Probably more like 24" and was falling Saturday into Sunday. Combine that with plowing around parked cars. And all those cars getting brushed off, then driving over all the snow, you're looking at significant clean up time and salt for all the packed snow. Also, may have been salt, scrape, salt, scrape on Sunday night/ monday. Ask your contractor, I'm sure everyone here is interested as to what is said.
  15. toofless

    toofless Junior Member
    Messages: 2

    First, thanks to everyone who responded - I really do appreciate the input. It sounds like the overwhelming concensus is that the work was probably invoiced fairly.

    cretebaby - it is truly at most a mile worth of roadway...70-80% of it is a single, circular road, and it takes me less than 10 minutes walk a lap.

    now, y'all get back to sharpening your plows. :)
  16. NW Snow Removal

    NW Snow Removal Senior Member
    Messages: 533

    Depending on your hourly rate, you may have gotten fleeced. In our contracts we never bill hourly for this reason--> I never want a customer thinking we are milking hours. If you are going by hours maybe you should address the fluctuation of hours on different depths of snow in a 12 hour period. Then you would know about how much your cost would be ahead of time instead of possibly being milked for hours. Asking the guy to break down the service for you will go far and hopefully he clears it up for you. If he was just driving the main lanes during the snowfall and it took him an hour to make a few passes and lay down salt he could technically hit you with multiple "main road" visits of an hour with 2 hour minimums. Also. speading salt for one mile 450lbs/lane /mile per application is a pretty heavy application. WI uses 250 / lane mile & IL uses 300/lane mile, but they do repeat applications as they should and probably so should your crew so the salt spreading is actually pretty good for this event.
  17. deicepro

    deicepro PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,124

    I agree, this could mean 1/2 mile or 2 miles:confused:
    I would question him nicely, see if he reacts oddly, hesitates, etc.....
    Then pay him, no matter what he says.
    Then dedicate time to watch him, log his hours, etc.....( without him knowing )
    Wait to see what he invoices you next time.

    I've had skeptical people do that to me ( me not knowing )
    They were actually embarrassed to tell me this:blush2:
    After that, they never questioned anything
  18. DugHD

    DugHD Senior Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 420

    Possibly your contractor is a member here. He should be replying shortly. :laughing: Just kidding.
    Dont listen to your weatherdata , they're as bad as the forecasters at being accurate.
    Good luck , you sound like a fair person and I hope the contractor wasnt fleecing you.
  19. forestfireguy

    forestfireguy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,276

    I'd say depending upon drifting conditions and how broken up those 90 or so parking spaces are it could very well be fair. Best suggestion, since you aren't taking issue with the actual service that was performed and you like him for landscaping pay the bill as is. Then for next season have a better snow spec sheet and get per inch/per push prices so you know what you're paying for before anything happens. In you spec sheet spell out EVERYTHING, leave NO GREY AREAS. Specify how often(in inches) the place is to be pushed, your overal expectation of service, spell out salt apps etc. The time you spend on the spec will pay huge dividends, in saved frustration and possibly money
  20. Greenstar lawn

    Greenstar lawn Senior Member
    Messages: 405

    Dont forget to add all the people either shoveling or snow blowing the snow off there drive into the streets:mad: