salt application

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Greenman2ooo, Oct 23, 2000.

  1. Greenman2ooo

    Greenman2ooo Banned
    Messages: 107

    Do any of you think that $50 is reasonable compensation for salting 42,000 sq ft of lot and applying Calcium Chloride to 2,000 square foot of walk.

    I had a client request the service and that is how much they were paying. My cost for salt, at "recommended application rates" would be $42. Add $5 for half a bag of calcium chloride and I'd be spreading it all for $3. This is a management company that should know how much things cost???

    I have seen their numbers for other lots and they are equally low, so I know they haven't made a mistake, so to speak.

    I obviously can't afford to salt the whole lot (their spec) at the recommended application rates. Any suggestions? Should I plan on applying less and have them sign a waiver stating that they assume all risk since the price they are willing to pay won't cover "recommended application rates" of 2-4 ounces per square yard (about 14 lbs per thousand, on the low end)?

    Or should I just make two half-rate applications and charge for them? On-site management will want the lot properly taken care of and would sign the forms needed to salt twice if I explain the situation. However, then they are being overcharged in my opinion.
  2. Alan

    Alan Addict
    Messages: 1,393

    Does this look like

    Well,, I'm pretty much a hardnose about some things. One of those is having the customer tell me what they are willing to pay for a given service. That's kinda like telling the grocery store how much you are willing to pay for food. I'd be inclined to tell them that if they want to set prices they oughta find another sucker to take the fall for them.
  3. OP

    Greenman2ooo Banned
    Messages: 107

    Creative problem solving

    There are other ways around the problem. I can talk with the managers of the individual stores and explain the situation and ask them what they want done. We may be able to come to an agreement as to what areas to concentrate on.

    The managing company could care less if I put the salt on the roof of the building, as long as the store managers don't call and complain about the parking lots. Ultimately, customer service falls in my lap. I saw a sign that said something along these lines, "'yes' is the answer to any reasonable request made by our customers."

    I really like that attitude, even as bad as mine can get. I prefer to attempt to meet reasonable requests. If not, I attempt to figure out a solution other than throwing in the towel as my first option.

    If this was an account I hadn't yet landed, I'd do as Alan said (Diplomatically, of course.), 9 times out of 10. This is an established client. I can't let a few dollars jeopardize this when I can do as they ask, or find a solution that pleases everyone.

    Anyone that has additional input, feel free.

    BTW- Alan, I wasn't discounting your advice, I certainly undertand where you are coming from. Feel free to comment further.
  4. n y snow pros

    n y snow pros Senior Member
    Messages: 246

    I whole heartedly agree with Alan.We spread by the yard and the minimum we will charge is 195.00.You must also remember the cost of the equipment,driver and your liability.If they cant understand this then you should say thankyou,but no thanks let the libality fall on someone else.The last time i checked paying out thousands in claims was not worth a 3.00 profit.
  5. cat320

    cat320 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,224

    I agree with snow Pros let them do it for$3 dollars and your see them charge more for there time & gas+profit.I get $90 a pass for a 100x100 lot with a sand salt mix and i know that I should be getting more than that but there are to many wolves here waiting to jump on my account.
  6. GeoffD

    GeoffD Veteran
    Messages: 2,266

    This is why i believe the best way, is it if you call on what and how much you want to spread.

    Now for me, In the contract bid, i figure in a material spreading cost. Now if I have to come to the lot 5 times in January and spread 12 yards of salt. Then i send out a bill, for the monthly payment (all ready stated in the contract of what i is going to be) then i add an extra 360 dollars (sand/salt mix 30 dollars a yard). Now in the contract the monthly part of the bill includes a factored in amount for the spreading of sand and salt, plus plowing. I am making a profit on the retial sale of sand and salt mix, in addition to my regular profit.

  7. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,324

    I've salted and applied calcium for what may seem like a low price. I simply added $20 - 40 to my rate for plowing the lot to make up the lost profit. Of course I don't tell the customer that. If you already gave a price on the plowing then this is not an option.
    The reason I say $20 - $40, is because some only want salt when the lot is plowed, while others want salt any time ice is present. Those who want it only when the lot is plowed, I add $20 to. Those that want it whenever ice is present, I add $40 to. Yes it can backfire in a sense, if we get 5 ice events, to one plowing event. No method is perfect, unless you charge what you want, for each service, right from the start.
    I've also "stuck to my guns" on prices for plowing, and gave them a "freebie".... I've sometimes "given" them 3 flats of annual flowers to be planted in the spring for free. Of course they pay the labor for me to plant them. I explain it as "3 flats of annual flowers free, that's 96 plants".
    To them, 96 seems like a lot. My cost for them is $24. They see the word "FREE" and it "blinds" them sometimes. I also charge them for cedar mulch, and top soil. So actually, I am getting more work and profit in the spring. Sometimes the planting areas need peat moss too. You get the idea here. Recoup the cost of salting in other ways. This has worked for me, and I am happy with it. What works for you, well, you have to decide that.

  8. OP

    Greenman2ooo Banned
    Messages: 107

    Business sense


    Thank you for the advice. As the tone of my post should have indicated, I was trying to find a way to make this work, rather than an excuse to give the job up. You have obviously picked up on this.

    I can't afford to tell people how I'm going to do the work THEY are paying for. As long as the work is profitable and reflects well on our company I try to do whatever it takes to meet customer requests. If they need to be "danced" a bit, I can do so. In my area, college grads don't make what I am making yearly. I'm sure this is the case for many of us.

    After talking to the management company, I found out if there is a 10x10 patch of ice that needs salting, I get paid the same as if I do the whole lot. If I have to throw a little ice melt at the entrance of the store, ditto. So there are solutions other than telling the customer to find another contractor. If I come back after-hours and clean up where the cars were parked and clean the aprons, I get paid for a full plow. As you can see, giving this customer up would be foolish. There is a lesson to be learned here.

    I've taken a lot of good advice from others. Take some from me. Be more creative in solving "problems" such as this one. I will be the first to admit, sometimes I would do well to take my own advice. So I'm not "pointing fingers."

    One good idea--or even looking at things from a different perspective-- can be the difference in a couple thousand dollars a month in your pocket or another contractors. That may be chump change to some of you, but not the case here.

    I understand, sometimes the people think they know your business better than you, but this is not the case in this instance. Although I'm new to this business in general, I am not new to business practices and customer service procedures. I always knew I would start my own business. I envisioned how I would deal with customers as I was being dealt with by various companies in my day to day life.

    Do you like dealing with companies that have rigid policies and refuse to make exceptions, even in the face of common sense?

    I'll step down off the soap box now, but it is food for thought.
  9. Doug406

    Doug406 Member
    Messages: 65


    I realize Chuck is telling you what you want to hear, but not properly maintaining a lot in snow and ice control is not flower installation.


    Do you think the patron that is walking in to the establishment that slips and falls breaking her 74 year old hip care that you were following "the rules of the contract" for salting. NO- she is going to sue the store and you. Then the store would have been glad they were charged by the yard for salting.

    Expain this to the client or do not plow the lot. It is too much of a risk factor. Sure there are other contractors doing shabby work, but you do not have to be one of them, because you have a support team in this forum to compile informative data.
  10. n y snow pros

    n y snow pros Senior Member
    Messages: 246

    I stand behind what i said and agree with Doug406.You are now telling us information that we were not privy to earliar when you asked for our opinion.I for one will do anything possible and in reason to save an account,BUT not if it means i have to stick my neck on the line.I like most here you included im sure have worked too hard to get where you are at to have some management company tell you how to take care of there property during a storm.That is why they are a management company and not a snow plowing firm they dont have a clue.To think its a good deal to get payed for a complete sanding or salting when they only need spot sanding,sure that works in your favor but to have your hands tied by only being allowed to put so much down during a storm well thats just stupid.I take salting and sanding as an extremely critical and profitable money maker and i believe the reason i have not had 1 slip in fall with all the commercial work we do in New York(the slip & fall capital of the world)is do to the several reasons but the biggest being that we control the amount of material we spread.If you let the management company control this you will get hit hard one day and you wont want to feel the sting that will follow.I have seen it numerous times and i certainly.My own feelings are if a management co wants to control your salt usage well you may as well make them your partner.
  11. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,324

    Whoa, wait a second!

    I realize Chuck is telling you what you want to hear, but not properly maintaining a lot in snow and ice control is not flower installation.


    You misunderstood. The flower installation, has nothing to do with maintaining a lot properly. When I salt, it's the whole lot, or not at all. The establishments that don't want de-icers, sign a waiver stating that because they don't want de-icer, they are 100% responsible for any slip and fall suits I become the target of. If they don't sign the waiver, I don't take the account. Sometimes that alone makes them reconsider de-icing appllications. What I was trying to say, like Greenman "picked up" on, is that sometimes you have to bend, or be flexible. By that I mean this.
    Say to plow and salt the lot you were figuring:

    Plowing - $350

    Salting - $100

    To me, it's the same as:

    Plowing - $300

    Salting - $150

    <B>The profit margin still stays the same.</B> That was the point I was trying to make.
    If there is something you can include that appears free to the customer, and it will help you get the account, then I do it.
    I have one account with a short, narrow walk out to the curb (they have no lot). The front doors are maybe 10' from the curb. The walk is about 15' long. I included $10 to the price of clearing the walk, and give them de-icer for free. It doesn't even take a bag of calcium to do it. Almost a 1/2 bag. In fact, I hardly have to put down any de-icer, because the road plows pelt the windows of the building when they salt the street. I have yet to find ice at this account. I still apply enough calcium for it to be visible, and to insure that the walk is ice free. This account, I can do this at. Can I do it at all my accounts? NO. It's just a little thing I can do to get the account. Like the flowers did at another account, which by the way wanted salt for any ice events as well as being applied after plowing.

  12. OP

    Greenman2ooo Banned
    Messages: 107

    I would love to partner with them since my net worth would increase by millions, if not billions of dollars. Maybe they don't know how to price a proper salt app, but they do know how to turn a profit. That profit is NOT at a contractor's expense, in my experience.

    Nobody is asking me to do $%&# work, nor put my neck on the line. All of us, the management company, my company and the client have the common goal of managing snow and ice with public safety in mind.

    That price doesn't interfere with anything. I see it would for others of you. I can make two half-rate apps when salt is necessary and charge for both of them.

    Hear me out here. If the lot doesn't really need salt, I drop a few grains and charge the $50 they are willing to pay. The next time they need salt, I apply at the rate I feel will do the job properly. This way, I get paid what I want and charge what they want.

    Store management loves me so much, they would sign a form for me to tear their beautiful new buildings down if I asked nicely. So, getting them to sign the authorization forms will be NO problem.

    The problem is solved already, maybe my last post didn't express that very clearly.

    Nobody is trying to cheat me or tell me how to run my business here. Someone just doesn't understand salting procedures. They don't know application rates, but there are many professionals at this board that don't know application rates, so how can you fault the management company? Should I give the job up because of that, in spite of the fact there is a way around it?

    Maybe it isn't for everybody, but dealing with these companies is a specialized area. Government doesn't have a monopoly on the bureaucratic process. Granted, a large management company such as this does have some "red tape." However, they pay at or near the top of the market price for all other services.

    I'm no fool. If the money wasn't right (overall) I would not be so adamant about this.

    I do appreciate you guys attempting to keep me from making a big mistake, based on your understanding of the situation and given the limited information I have provided.
  13. Snow Pro

    Snow Pro Senior Member
    Messages: 146


    Hate to tell're getting snowed, man. You're too impressed with this billion dollar company you think is treating you fairly. If you take this job, they will be getting even richer at your expense.

    You're not making $3.00 on that salting job. What does it cost you for gas to get there and back? How much for the cell phone, pager, office phone, insurance, gas, oil, tires, wear and tear on your salter, water to wash it out when you're done, your labor to order the salt, unload it at your shop, reload it into your truck? You can't ignore your time unless you work for free! What about that profit you need to offset the risk you're getting yourself into? If you don't see they're taking advantage of you here, you're in for a rude awakening.

    My suggestion here is to sub out the salting work to one of those other guys in the area that does it so cheap. Make sure you don't keep any of the liability for getting in the middle.

    You're in this business to make a fair honest profit. Why go through all that trouble to intentionally lose money? I'd rather stay in bed!
  14. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy Addict
    Messages: 1,011

    "The establishments that don't want de-icers, sign a waiver stating that because they don't want de-icer, they are 100% responsible for any slip and fall suits I become the target of. If they don't sign the waiver, I don't take the account. "

    Why not? Thats what your insurance is for. If there is a slip and fall, you give it to your insurance carrier along with a copy of the contract that spells out what you do and dont do and let them deal with it. Thats what you pay your premium for.

    I asked my agent about waivers and he told me point blank they are worthless otherwise insurance co's would be handing them out left and right.

    I certainly wouldnt pass up a lucrative account on account of some worthless and unnecessary waiver.
  15. Snow Pro

    Snow Pro Senior Member
    Messages: 146

    I've never seen the need for waivers. It's just another obsticle you have to deal with when selling an account. It's hard enough getting them to sign once, who wants to try to sell that waiver too?

    I agree with thelawnguy. That's what insurance is for.
  16. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith 2000 Club Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 2,324

    Honestly, because before the subject came up here, and because of this forum, I have been enlightened A LOT about contract wording, and details. Up until this year, my contract was a one page document, that made no mention of who was liable for law suits. I thought that's what my insurance was for... like you say, you're right.

    I now know better, and have a much longer contract this year. I don't know how well a contract would hold up though either.

    What has everyone's experience been here on this forum? Has anyone been sued? We were sued in 1998, for a slip and fall in 1996. The guy sued us sepatately from the Diner he fell at. He sued them too. When the case went to trial, the guy settled for $50,000. Our insurance company paid $25,000, and the Diner's paid the same.

    Neither insurance company cared that I had detailed records of the snow event (which I gave them copies of). The fact that the snow turned to rain at 1pm, and only 2" accumulated before that. It rained heavy until 3pm, washing everything down to blacktop. Then the guy fell at 11 pm.
    Maybe he thought after 2 years all would have forgotten what the weather was like that day? The law suit said we "were negligent contractors leaving large patches of snow / and or ice on the parking lot surface". We plowed and salted as outlined in the contract. The diner owner was a fanatic about any ice, for fear of a lawsuit. He ended up getting sued anyway.

    I guess the insurance companies were scared, since he was sueing for $250,000 from each of us.

    And just so I am clear on this, a waiver is worthless, but wording a contract to include the same details that the waiver would, is binding?
    Both are signed by both parties. What makes the contract binding and the waiver not? The fact that it's called a contract?

  17. OP

    Greenman2ooo Banned
    Messages: 107

    Another of my long-winded ramblings

    This is a really simple concept: Don't take offense to the simple analogy, no offense is intended.<---Should have been a lawyer. :)


    Focus on the fact that although the numbers are different in each equation, they add up to 6 nonetheless. Does it matter what the numbers are when they add up to acceptable profits? This is the point both Chuck and I have been trying to make.

    This situation is similar. I spoke with the management company. They aren't going to be "coming to see how much salt I put down," I was told after expressing concern. I made them aware that I would need to make 2 applications at that price to assure proper coverage. They will pay for as many applications as it takes to keep the lot ice free.

    This is the key to this whole thing: The more work I do, the more the management company can charge and the more we both get paid. Hence the low salting price encourages multiple applications, and 1" plow intervals encourage more plowings per storm, no cap on expenses, each 1" plowing paying full price.

    If the lot really doesn't need ice control and I throw down a couple hands full of salt, it gets charged as a $50 salt app. So although the individual price for salting is low, the overall price they pay is actually higher than it appears. Anybody here sell ~546 lbs of salt (estimate of what it would take to properly salt one acre lot) for more than $100 spread??? I'm sure some of you with V-Box spreaders might have a higher minimum, but I will have a tailgate unit, 750 lbs capacity.

    Snow Pro-
    "If you don't see they are taking advantage of you, you are in for a rude awakening."

    No snowjobs here. I was born at night, just not last night. :D I wouldn't do anything for $3. You have totally misunderstood the whole situation, obviously. I will make exactly as much as I choose to make because although they are only paying $50 for an app they are truly paying $100 if it takes two to do the job properly. We all know it would take more than $50 worth of salt and labor for sure. That is why they will always be charged $50 per app, but never charged for less than 2 apps per event.

    If we have heavy ice, we charge for three apps, although we only spread it once. Nothing dishonest here, just doing things as I'm told they need to be done.

    The only thing that matters here is the final result. I would never settle for a $3 profit, gross or net. I have more business sense than to put myself in a position intetionally making myself more vulnerable to lawsuits.

    My salt would cost me $36.85 for one proper application (at low app rate, bagged salt)and I would charge two $50 application fees to equal $100. The $36.85 would come off the top, by far the largest expense-- then gas, oil, maintenance, insurance, etc. Still a fair amount of profit in there with my overhead being WELL under the remaining $63.15. Keep in mind, regardless of what dollar amount is left that this is for 5 minutes worth of spreading, granted there is more time involved, but this puts things into perspective.

    Let's generously say this involves a total of 30 minutes labor including loading, driving, and spreading. Let's further assume my costs are $30 an hour ( a high estimate).
    For that half hour, my costs would be $15. We subtract $15 from $63.15 and arrive at a hypothetical net profit of $48.15 for that half hour of time.

    The numbers would vary, depending on your individual costs, but this gives a general idea where I stand hourly with salting those accounts.

    I can certainly do all three locations in less than an hour and a half even if they were treated as a "special request" salting rather than fit into a more efficient route with accounts, some that are visible from one another. With efficiency comes increased profits. I'm quite familiar with the concept that time is money.

    Their contract allows for salting after snowfall, or "in a preventative fashion." They aren't wanting to hang me out to dry. Nor themselves.

    Bottom line is this. That lot won't get a grain of salt less than it takes to keep it ice free. I won't get paid a penny less than fair market price. I doubt highly they will break our contract and replace me due to me charging exactly as they have requested

    Now I have just about written a book and given much more information. Not all of the information I have, but certainly enough to explain the situation as completely as I can. I reread my last post and still can't believe I got the response I did from Snow Pro, I thought it explained quite thoroughly that I would not be getting paid $3.

    [Edited by Greenman2ooo on 10-28-2000 at 06:52 AM]
  18. John Allin

    John Allin Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    2:48 AM ??
    6:52 AM ??

    Man, you got a severe case of insomnia
  19. OP

    Greenman2ooo Banned
    Messages: 107



    It would appear that way, wouldn't it? The way this forum is set up, you can only edit within an hour of posting. That message was actually edited four minutes after posting the original post.

    There is a glitch somewhere because, although I am one hour zone away from the Eastern zone, I must set my profile to -5 hours. At that setting, my posting times are correct, but editing times are off by four hours???

    I do, however, have to admit I have lost a lot of sleep due to my plans to do snow removal this season. Not in a negative way, just that I get so excited thinking about snow removal.

    P.S. Please don't call mental health on me. The men in white overcoats will be here soon enough. I'll feel much better, then. They will give me my medicine that makes me sleep! :D
  20. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy Addict
    Messages: 1,011

    "When the case went to trial, the guy settled for $50,000. Our insurance company paid $25,000, and the Diner's paid the same."

    So what is the problem? Things worked the way they are supposed to.

    I was sued in 1997. Their atty contacted me, I gave them my ins co and no more. My insurance co contacted me, asked for a copy of the contract (yes, a 1 page sheet with not much more than prices and start/completion times) and a 1 page explanation of what I did that morning i.e., amount of snow, weather, times, what and where I ate etc. Then I recieved another letter from my ins co thanking me for the prompt reponse and they will get back to me if they need additional info.

    To date I have not heard a word. When I asked my agent his response forgeddaboutit.

    "And just so I am clear on this, a waiver is worthless, but wording a contract to include the same details that the waiver would, is binding? Both are signed by both parties. What makes the contract binding and the waiver not? The fact that it's called a contract?"

    Doesnt matter what you call it, or where you put it. Yes you can put in the contract you do not sand but this will not get your ins co off the hook for slip and fall. They can argue you put the snow in a location where runoff could freeze and cause a hazard, didnt clean to the pavement, on and on.

    As Snopro said, why throw up a roadblock you can do without?