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Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by tinkenboutit, Dec 28, 2009.

  1. tinkenboutit

    tinkenboutit Junior Member
    from zone 5
    Messages: 26

    "To all of our customers,
    A small problem has arisen. At a few of our accounts we have arrived to find that all or part of the job has been done by someone else. Then the customer asks for a discount because some of it is done.
    Unfortunately, if we show up, we can not renegotiate the contract price on the “one time” event. If we show up and it is partially done, no discount can be given. If we show up and it is done, a $10.00 service fee will be assessed to cover cost of gas and time. After 2 times of showing up and the job is done, we will have to drop you from the schedule unless we are informed at least 12 hours ahead of the end of the snow event.

    Thank you for your attention to this policy and if any clarification is needed please feel free to contact us at XXX-XXX-XXXX"

    The previous was a letter I sent out to all of my customers. This is our 2nd year and we have almost tripled our residential accounts. Residential customers around here don't like written agreements. If I was to demand one they would just move on to the next guy. I, however, am not the cheapest around. I really don't understand this aversion to written snow removal and lawn and landscape maintenance agreements.
    What do you guys do when you go to an account and it is partially ("My neighbor did my sidewalk for me. How much are you going to discount for it?") or completely done? What I do is spelled out in my letter and I'm sure we won't have a problem with a majority of the customers. My partner feels we should drop them right away. I think they should have a chance to conform to our, now written policy. I always explain verbally when we take the account. Seems to go into one ear and out the other for some people.
    So far this is the only real problem we've had.
    Any comments, critically or otherwise, are welcomed.
  2. clark lawn

    clark lawn PlowSite.com Addict
    from NE ohio
    Messages: 1,233

    it isnt going to make a bit of difference, chance if they acually read it they wont "remember" about it at a later date anyhow.
  3. Kubota 8540

    Kubota 8540 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,963

    Only had that problem a couple of times. The owner would call 2 snow contractors and who ever showed up first got the plow and payment. I won't play that game and told them so. I just didn't show up from that point on. When the customer realized they had now only one choice of snowplowing and wasn't happy with them they called me to plow again, but the price went up. What goes around comes around. This is not my hobby , this pays the mortgage. I think your letter is more than fair, $10.00 seems mighty cheap.
  4. LoneCowboy

    LoneCowboy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,760

    the first time gets a phone call which is basically WTH? I was there, you had it done, do you wish me to continue?

    After that it's a full charge if I show up and it's done and I'm within the normal time limits.

    Usually I just get dropped the 2nd time, but that's fine too.
  5. RepoMan207

    RepoMan207 PlowSite Fanatic
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,039

    The fact that they have time to do any of it, or have it done before you can get there to do the job you said you would do just amazes me. I think you are your own worst enemy in this situation. Where are you when this is happening....and if it's happening at more then one account......I think that spells an issue on your part, not theres.
  6. Kubota 8540

    Kubota 8540 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,963

    Not necessarily true, it takes what 10 minutes to shovel a walk? or for a neighbor to stop by and do half a driveway?
  7. dchr

    dchr Senior Member
    Messages: 159

    Lot of things could be going on-he could be not arriving in time OR the customers are panic stricken that he is not coming--neither shows good faith or confidence in the job you are being paid to do. I only do written contracts-no signed contract-no snow plowing--simple. If they are afraid of signing a paper saying they are going to pay I don't want the account. I have had this happen once-the past storm we had. New account for a 2 family house,landlord not on premises. Contract states driveway will be clear/passable no later than 7:45 am on weekdays,no later than 8:45 am on weekends (landlords idea-not mine). Anyway-get there at 7:40 this past storm after being there twice the night before to find the tenants snow blowing. I stop-get out-guy say's we got it taken care of. O.K. fine. Call the landlord and tell her-she say's they get anxious sometimes. She tells me to keep going there and charge her the normal rate regardless of the amount of work I do.
    If I had no contract-I wouldn't have a leg to stand on as far as collecting if she decided not to pay me. As far as the $10-that's mighty cheap figuring in drive time,fuel and wasted time you could be making money. Rant over.
  8. MSS Mow

    MSS Mow Senior Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 983

    I gotta disagree with you on this one Ryan. I had a similar situation with a customer this year. My situation...customer lives at the end of a long subdivision road (dirt) and their driveway is long as well. You cannot see their house from the subdivision road, it runs down a long hill towards the house/garage. Well, on the second storm this year, I show up at about 3am to plow (done snowing at this point). They require me to have them clear by 630am. When I show at 3am, their driveway had already been plowed by the neighbor. My customer called me later in the day and wanted to know why I hadn't come to plow. I told her that I had and give her the times. She said her neighbor told her it wasn't done, so he was just helping them out. Not really sure why he was trying to piss on me, but anyway, he didn't cleanup around the garage and house. I didn't realize that, because when I saw the driveway down to house had been plowed, I made the assumption the entire thing had been done. So I had to run back out and finish cleaning it up. Luckily for me, the customer understood once I explained the situation to her, but I can see where it can be a problem and NOT be the contractor's fault. THis one is definately getting the full charge for the cleanup too.
  9. RepoMan207

    RepoMan207 PlowSite Fanatic
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,039

    I can see your point....I have run across my fair share of over zealous plow guys just looking for something to do. I have never shown up to find one doing one of my accounts thankfully. Even if I had, I would make contact as soon as the storm is over and explain the bill is still in the mail.

    discounts?....no charges?.....I don't think so. Not going to happen.

    On another note......What the heck is that stuff I am seeing outside? I heard a rumor that it was winter, but It's been awhile since I have seen that white stuff in the air.
  10. Kubota 8540

    Kubota 8540 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,963

    Sounds like most of us have had similar situations with some accounts. Fortunetly none this winter so far. .....
    What a week in Northern Illinois. 2" Monday, plow & salt,.......4" Tuesday, plow & salt, .......Wednesday, freezing rain & sleet, salt & sand, Thursday 2" rain & high 30's ......Xmas morning rain afternoon snow, plow & salt after 6 pm, Saturday 5" snow, plow & salt, Sunday 2" snow plow & salt, .....Monday winds and drifting........COOL !
    Sounds like you out easter's are going to get it on New Years Eve.
  11. RepoMan207

    RepoMan207 PlowSite Fanatic
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,039

    Hows that saying go...."I don't want to count my chickens before the eggs hatch"....Too true. On the optimistic side of things, if there right and the temps stay cool and the storm tracks the way there saying...I'm looking forward to it.
  12. Kubota 8540

    Kubota 8540 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,963

    I'm actually hoping for a dry week here? Does that sound bad? I need some shop time.
  13. augerandblade

    augerandblade PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,054

    Thats one advantage of a seasonal contract. If they prepay and the neighbour helps out from time to time fine. All I do then if make tracks with my tractor in the drive or maybe snow blow back a bank to let em know I was there and move to the next customer.
  14. tinkenboutit

    tinkenboutit Junior Member
    from zone 5
    Messages: 26

    I've been doing lawn and landscape maintenance for 10 years. Second year professional snow removal. I have a good steady customer base.
    First of all, everybody can't be first. One of these is a middle aged man who doesn't go to work till 3pm and he says he doesn't like to drive in the snow anyways. As a matter of fact he called me that morning telling me there was no hurry. Then when I got there the drive was done but the sidewalk, steps and other misc parts weren't done. He came out, apologized for the drive being done (his neighbor did it "without my knowledge"). Then he wanted to know how much of a discount he was getting for me not having to do the drive. I told him none. I said that I was here and I didn't sub the driveway out to the neighbor. He did complain that his neighbor told him he owed the neighbor $20.00 for the drive. I said I couldn't continue doing his snow under these circumstances. I have to make a living. He got real apologetic because he didn't want to lose our lawn service. First year on both lawn and snow for this customer. I told him of his choices. Let us do all the snow removal at agreed price, let the neighbor do part and I'll do the rest, at original agreed price or we end our business relationship.
    The other is an elderly lady who doesn't drive on the snow either. Doesn't go anywhere in her car unless the city streets are clean to the pavement. I have an account right next door and the neighbor to their north cuts a path on the sidewalk. That customer pays full price anyway and understands. Says the neighbor to the south did the other driveway. I haven't had a chance to talk to her yet. I also do her lawn and landscape maintenance. She was never wishy washy before on lawn service.
    $10.00 I guess sounds cheap but most of my properties are in the same part of town and I drive past almost all of them to do the other accounts anyway.

    One other thing, off topic. I can't believe people who seem surprised that what we do is actually business. If they want somebody who's doing it for beer money they need to get another boy.
  15. FeelLikeANumber

    FeelLikeANumber Member
    Messages: 63

    I've run into the same problem this year myself. We've had 5 times so far this year that ive had to go plow and i've shown up 4/5 times to one account and realized after driving 6 miles out of my way that somebody else has shoveled the driveway or snowblown it. This being a driveway that I purposely put at the end of my route because the CUSTOMER complained that I was " waking up the neighbors by showing up between 3-4a.m. with loud noise from the truck/plow" or that "the strobe light made the neighbors think that i was the ambulance and that there was a problem." (they're elderly) So we agreed last year that I would put them at the end of the route (between 9-11a.m. ish) so that these former "problems" would be avoided. That seemed to make everybody happy. This year, i show up at my usual time and somebody else has taken care of it. Well, a regular customer pays for their own drive as well as the "elderly couples" drive and i finally send them a note saying that If i dont get a phone call ahead of time, and have to drive out there its gonna be a 10 dollar extra charge. I havent had to drop the plow once yet but im getting annoyed driving over there all the time only to waste time and gas. If i have to drop the plow, im charging full price no matter what at this point. I hate to sound cheap but, im in it as a business and if your neighbor wants to help then the least they could do is call me ahead of time and tell me not to bother. Its getting old, quick. If you show up and its done, then all the better, but they should be charged something. You have a formal agreement and that should be understood by both parties.
  16. buckwheat_la

    buckwheat_la 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,254

    weither they get you or someone else to do it, or if they call more then one company and the other company gets there first, at least have the curtisy to phone and cancel for the day, save you the aggrevation. When we had our first event we received almost 2 feet of snow, well we were swamped by phone calls (we had competitors phoning to ask for help) but when we took on a commitment to any one time clients that phoned in, they were all warned that if they found someone else to do there property, and didn't phone phone in to cancel, we would be charging them for travel time, the message to customers, "DON'T WASTE MY F@CKING TIME WHEN THERE IS 2 FEET OF SNOW ON THE GROUND!!!"
  17. Bajak

    Bajak Senior Member
    Messages: 999

    I'm putting that on my contracts:laughing: I love seasonal. It's just so much easier that way. I tell all call ins "contracted customers get preferential treatment, You will be done last."
  18. buckwheat_la

    buckwheat_la 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,254

    amen, we say the same thing, which is why i am not offended if they find someone else to plow it, but if they do, just phone in and let us know, no hard feelings, if i show up and it is plowed, and i could be digging out someone else out that needs my service in a emergency situation, then you PAY travelling expensese
  19. RepoMan207

    RepoMan207 PlowSite Fanatic
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,039

    I know full well what it's like to do a "first" service or a "per request" customer to arrive and find it already done. Pisses me off to no end when they can't atleast pick up the phone, especially when you give them an accurate ETA, or keep them updated as you go. But we're talking current, contracted customers.

    These are all exceptions to the rule (this post and the few before it). I have atleast visited every one of my accounts before they have even had time to get up and take there first piss of the day and make coffee. Even on a 16" storm, you can tell I have been there recently, and you can get in and out of there drives with ease.

    Why would anyone be calling a second company to service them if they already have a contract with someone? They wouldn't unless you haven't shown, or you have a track record of not showing. (I'm not saying that is the case in your situation tinkenboutit)

    Again. exceptions....Brokedown, over slept, blizzard from hell, bit more off then one could chew, over zealous neighbor, friend, family member, minimal day time storm you only want to plow once........There is always the unexpected. But for the most part...there is no reason why a drive isn't atleast broken open before people wake up and get moving.
  20. buckwheat_la

    buckwheat_la 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,254

    and this is a important point, that i kind of over looked, your contracted places always come first, and if you feel that you need to retaine the services of another company, have the curtesy to phone your current company and cancel with them, then letting them drive to your place and wasting time. The same snow storm i talked about before, out of all our residences (about 300), we had 3 contracts that found other means to get out (digging out themselves, or getting a neighbor to help them) they all said they understood, and still wanted to stay on contract, we went around to there places, did a thorough touch up, then i phoned them back and I gave them all the month for free, it is our fault, we failed THEM, and it is a ode to our great customers to be this understanding