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*Rant alert* customer doesn't want salt

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by SharpBlades, Jan 9, 2013.

  1. SharpBlades

    SharpBlades Senior Member
    Messages: 366

    I have a residential customer with a long (by my standards) quarter circle driveway.

    The drive is about 175' long but it goes up in elevation about 60 feet. On the inside curve it it is almost like a cliff. Within 18" of the edge in one spot it starts dropping 2-2.5' for every 1 foot. This drive has a tendency to ice up real easy with how the wind blows...

    I got this account in 2011 and I told the customer that without salt it would be extremely dangerous and I would have trouble getting up it, let alone her. I told her that without salt the drive would ice up and whoever was driving on it could very easily slide off, possibly rolling down the cliff hill We agreed on a seasonal plow rate and a per application rate for salt, salting after each time I plow.

    Last year I plowed And salted without a problem and they paid on time without a complaint.

    This past fall I sent out contracts as normal and theirs included salt... They opted for the 2 payment seasonal plan and monthly billing for salt... No problem by me.

    On the first of this month I mailed out their bill that was for the second payment on the seasonal plus last month's salting... About 5 or 6 apps if I remember.

    Today I received their payment and on the invoice stub they had a note not to salt anymore!?!? Like really WTF? Are you freaking serious???

    Do they really expect me to risk rolling my truck just so they can save some cash?

    I'm going to be calling tomorrow once I calm down to talk to them. Does anyone have advice on how to handle something like this? I already know that I will not do this drive without salt... I'm not about to risk my truck or my life, or risk sliding off and having to pay for a hook...

    When I got the contract the customer told me that they called multiple other plow guys and I was the first one with the balls to actually want to do it.
    Between that and the fact that most plow guys around here has full routes, I doubt they'll be able to find a new plow service
  2. 2006Sierra1500

    2006Sierra1500 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,758

    I wouldn't do it in the first place, but if they're gonna be like that, don't do it anymore. Wait until they call and they're stuck at the bottom.
  3. L.I.Mike

    L.I.Mike Senior Member
    Messages: 370

    Tell them no salt no service. Why put yourself at risk.
  4. White Gardens

    White Gardens 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,665

    1.) Figure out why they don't want salt.

    2.) Offer an alternative, such as sand, calcium cloride, or magnesium.

    3.) If they say no, walk away and leave it at that.

    4.) When they call again because no-one will do it, jack up the price by 25% and make sure you can salt every time.

    Heck, if it's that steep, I'd be salting before every storm to ensure traction.

  5. quigleysiding

    quigleysiding PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,129

    I have one thats steep like that. I just figured the salt right into the price, I dont see why you would charge them extra for it if you need to apply every trip. I would drop them if you cant get them straitened out. not worth getting stuck.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  6. Antlerart06

    Antlerart06 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,437

    Make it one price Due to the risk That includes the salt and plowing in one price
    Price it per visit
    I have a few drives thats how I price it salt or icemelt is included So they cant say no to salt,icemelt
  7. FordFisherman

    FordFisherman PlowSite.com Addict
    from 06611
    Messages: 1,613

    You have been paid in full up to this point? Simple, no salt, no service, thank you and good luck.
  8. BUFF

    BUFF PlowSite Fanatic
    from FR NoCo
    Messages: 9,092

    Talk to them and get a clear understanding as to why they no longer want salt. Maybe it's the product they don't want so offer them something else like White Garden mentioned. If money is the issue then to stage has already been set and it's going to be a hard sell.
    The property owner should understand the icing issue along with the hazards it creates, if not refresh their memory. If they still decline then so be it. The next time is snows and you feel like you're putting your equipment and personal safety at risk don't plow. Call them and tell them their decision not to have salt applied has created un-safe conditions and you will not be able to service the property until this condition has been addressed. They may come around and then again they fire you, either scenario you're not damaging your equipment.
    One thing I do is make sure the customer understands the hazards and how I'm going to manage those hazards. Unfortunately we've become a soceity that needs to document most everything eliminating gray areas to ensure both parties are talking about the same thing.
  9. framer1901

    framer1901 Senior Member
    Messages: 852

    Good lesson I learned years ago, don't ever bid something assuming the customer will agree to salt also.

    A complicated parking lot, bid sorta cheap cause I knew I could salt my problems away, I just assumed they would salt being a government housing place - ended up salt on call and the call never came. My bad, lesson learned and I didn't walk away, it was my mistake not theirs.

    I do a development that one year wanted to drastically reduce the salt we put down, not a problem. One night I seen a BMW up on a rock in an area we used to salt - we started salting like we used to that night and three days later the Assoc called and said to go back to the way we used to do it, meanig salt the bad areas - I simply said not a problem.

    We do driveways that there is no way it can be just plowed, it's priced to plow and salt it, I actually charge them less on nights we only salt it. Fair for them and fair for me.

    Not everyone is sitting on endless cash, and they need to cut costs. If I was you, I'd continue to plow it being carefull as heck, if it's as bad as you say, they'll call more than likely before the year is over and request to go back to the way you were doing it before.

    By doing it this way, you earn respect in their eyes - one thing that I've learned over the years, some people just do not take well to being told what they need, you need to softly suggest and steer but in the long run they need to learn on their own.
  10. RLM

    RLM PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,270

    I would first deposit/cash their check (so you have whatever your owed, plys as I understand it). Then discuss with them that no salt your done, if so send a check back for the difference between what you were owed and payment for seasonal on plowing with a letter terminating contract.
  11. 2ExploreSnow

    2ExploreSnow Member
    Messages: 64

    You're from Upstate NY. Put chains on your tires and continue with plowing. ... and yes, you can bill for steep driveways, but I'm guessing you already accounted for that.
  12. BigLou80

    BigLou80 Senior Member
    Messages: 558

    I am not so sure I would advise him to cash the check unless he is at least half way through the season as defined in his contract. To be 100% with in the law you may have to prorate the first part of the season then apply what's left towards the salt. If your still owed money then by all means cash the check and do what RLM is suggesting.

    I don't know how your contract is structured or if it includes a termination clause, if you don't have one you may want to look in to what your state requires for rightfully terminating a contract. It could be 2 weeks or 30 days. You don't want to just walk off the job and be held liable if they slide off the driveway because you failed to provide service

    All that being said, hold your ground but with out the emotional attachment you have in your post here. One of the hardest part of being a small business is not becoming personally attached to your work. It's just WORK sure it's got your name on it so do it right but don't make it who you are. Talking to clients about these sort of issues becomes a million times easier and you look far more professional when you lose the emotion and just tell it like it is. Remember that loosing the client is not always the worst possible outcome.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  13. ALC-GregH

    ALC-GregH PlowSite.com Addict
    from pa
    Messages: 1,143

    bingo. Set the price to include salt. When/if they ask what it is without salt, tell them it's the same whether you salt or not. It's not that hard to get around these types.
  14. BigLou80

    BigLou80 Senior Member
    Messages: 558

    I almost forgot....

    Like many others have said, if you feel the driveway is going to need salt after every storm then you should have included it in your seasonal price. The only reason I can see for line item billing with a seasonal contract is for customer driven services that are only provided to their property. IE you get a warm day with a lot of melt and some refreeze which requires additional salt or sand
  15. basher

    basher PlowSite Fanatic
    from 19707
    Messages: 8,993

    Including salting in the price would have solved the problem but IMO now you have two choices.

    Argue they signed a contract and have no choice, which is lose/lose

    or tell them the salt is necessary for both your and their safety and if they do not want the salt than you will be willing to let them out of their contract if they send you a request in writing.

    If they have paid in full with-out the current check, don't cash it until the situation is resolved.
  16. Eronningen

    Eronningen Senior Member
    Messages: 447

    X2. My thoughts exact