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Trigger troubles

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by smenchhofer, Mar 16, 2008.

  1. smenchhofer

    smenchhofer Junior Member
    from in
    Messages: 25


    I have a small commercial and residential plow business and have just recently had problems with the homeowners (and some businesses) calling days and even weeks after we plow stating 2 inches was not on the ground at the time of plowing and refusing to pay.
    Some even state the National Weather Service reported less than two inches so why should they pay us?

    I have tried to explain to them that snowfall amounts can vary greatly from block to block even house to house but it seems to fall on deaf ears.

    Sleet, freezing rain, ice, and snow combinations can also change accumulations. It can snow, then sleet, then drop freezing rain which compacts the mixture hours later giving the consumer false readings as to actual accumulations. What they see in the morning or when they get home from work is sometimes quite a different picture when compared to earlier events.

    How do you guys cope with this (if you do)? And, I am thinking of placing a few more lines in my contract but am undecided as to how to word it.

  2. davink

    davink Member
    Messages: 50

    The route that I do in CT runs from near the Mass boarder shouth into CT. Especially with the storms this year, the houses that are 10 miles north are usually getting several inches more than the ones to the south, as well I have some homes that are on the mountain, which the elevation is like 1000 to 1500 feet higher, and can really make a difference in the accumulation of snow, or the type of precip.

    What I ended up doing was adding to my contracts that when the trigger amount is reached and when plowing will start is at the opinion and descression of the contractor. All my clients know this and this year, after the new contract and explaining to them the differences in my route, they did not give any crap this year.

    Good luck with it, I hope this helps.:redbounce
  3. LoneCowboy

    LoneCowboy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,760

    drop 'em
    write it off, and drop 'em
    who needs it?

    You were there, you did a good job, some things are discretionary and they aren't willing to deal with that, well, who wants 'em as customers?
    let someone else deal with 'em.
  4. WMHLC

    WMHLC Senior Member
    Messages: 248

    bring a camera and tape measure with you, and snap a pic. Can't hurt and only takes a couple seconds. Think it would save alot of stress.
  5. derekbroerse

    derekbroerse 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,377

    Next they'll accuse you of cutting the tape measure an inch short.... :rolleyes:

    Seriously, those people aren't worth the headache. It shouldn't take a tape measure. Do they really think they'll have no problems with 1 7/8" of snow but be stuck at 2", or even 2 1/4"?

    People that split hairs aren't the kind of customer I want. Thankfully, I haven't had to deal with that (knock on wood)
  6. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    Go seasonal. Then you don't have a problem about how much snow is on the ground. Just put in the contract that anything under 2-3 inches is at the discretion of the contractor.
  7. frostypuck

    frostypuck Member
    Messages: 54

    I had the same issue with one customer who thought that I plowed his driveway too soon, since it was "going to change to rain anyway" I told him that if I could predict the weather in New England that accurately, I'd be working for Channel 7, not busting my hump in miserable weather plowing driveways.
    The storm in question did result in 2-3 inches of snow, followed by rain that washed much of it away. However, his neighbors that hadn't dealt with their drives had a pile of frozen slush for several days, where my customer didn't.
    Explain to the person that you are the professional making the judgment call, and you'll probably not have any difficulty in the future.
    Chris in Boston
  8. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Very simple - you plowed so they pay what they agreed to. If they don't trust you, drop them and move on.
  9. MB3

    MB3 Senior Member
    Messages: 123

    Had the same problem

    I had the same problem with one of my customers, and stopped by and told them that it was a 2 inch trigger, and I was the final say. If they would not like me to be here, and take care of their job, then they would have to find another person. They said, what if we just call you, well, I said it does not work that way, we are always out right when it stoppes, even if it is 2 in the morning, I am not going to back track and change my plans because you decided to call me. You have to be the boos in these situations, or they will drive you crazy. IS it really worth the few bucks. If you do a good job, and they leave, they will be back.
  10. BigLou80

    BigLou80 Senior Member
    Messages: 558

    I just tell people at the begining of the season that I decide when, if and how many times to plow. if they don't like it they can hire sombody else. so far everybody is more then happy to pay me
  11. reply firm but polite

    " I am sorry that you are not pleased with our services. I think that you should
    find someone else to clear your snow (this year or next year)"

    Sometimes (they) balk : "I didnt say I wasnt pleased,.."
    or " I just dont think you need to plow so often,.."

    Explain that homes near them had more snow and you had the option of driving
    past their home and not plowing. But, if you have to come back for a special trip,
    it is going to cost more money and you are trying to save them money.

    Ask them to accept a discount (something is better than zip) and ask them to call
    when they want to be plowed. You wont charge extra if you are out plowing but there
    will be a travel charge if it is a special trip ,..(that always makes them back down)

    Or, how about someone that calls from out of town and asks that you just, "take a
    pass at their driveway" .... what does that mean? take a "pass" ??
    Do I drive down their driveway and not lower my plow ?? Or just lower it part way down
    and leave 6 inches and 2 tracks ???
    And they have no idea how much snow we have up here.

    Collect what you can and dont do them next year.
  12. Neige

    Neige Sponsor
    Messages: 2,215

    Seasonal, thats what I do, with a 2 inch trigger. 1.5 falls and I get the opposite calls, there is 2 inches in my drive why have'nt you come by. It never fails you just can't please everyone. I now explain to these clients, if the city plows don't go out. There is no windrow, and I don't go out. If they are a major PITA, I won't do them the following year.
    I won't let a few clients dictate how I run my company, or change the way I do business.
    If 95% are happy, I'm doing well. I always listen to complaints, and if I can improve my business, I will. But there are some clients, even if they were to pay double are not worth the headaches.

    Messages: 56

    Wow this a very helpful thread. I think that editing my contract to say when plowing is done is left to the proffesional discresion of the contractor, is our best bet.
  14. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,644

    it is very difficult to please everyone, my residential contract states that when the average of my total route hits 3" I will go out. I have also gone to seasonal. But since I also do commecial at 1.5-2" and all my resi's are REAL close to my house, I tend to hit them also. I actually had one customer say why was I there? there wasn't 3".:D

    Since I went to seasonal I have not lost a customer in the last 3 years.
  15. smenchhofer

    smenchhofer Junior Member
    from in
    Messages: 25

    Thanks for all the advice with this thread. Everyone has been very helpful. It is simply my fault for not including "our discretion" in my flyer/contract.
  16. scottL

    scottL PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,613

    I've noticed a somewhat common theme in many threads like this. Both residential and business making wild claims, not paying on time, stiffing the bill completely, rude, etc. etc.etc

    Yet, we all know that these consumers will simply pick up the phone complain about their current service and the new service is happy as s--t to pick up the new account. Then the circle starts again and another plower is screwed.

    Granted I should also say that sometimes it really is the plower at fault or simply a mis-understanding.

    With this in mind ...(How about this idea as a work in progress ) why do we not create site like an angie's list or ebay comments which a plower can identify a consumer. Then allow the consumer to rebuttal if they choose.
  17. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,644

    kind of like a reverse BBB. I would check into the legal bs first with a lawyer. it would be nice to just double check to see if they are a repeat PITA. that said, if you ask the right questions up front you should be able to tell all by yourself if they are
  18. riverwalkland

    riverwalkland Senior Member
    Messages: 401

    the problem i have been having is if i go to check the level, and its just short, but the town truck put a foot of snow at the end of the driveway, i push it because know the owners would get stuck in it. And i also do it for free, but then they call saying there was not enough, even though i was not going to charge them. One possible solution is to ask if they would like to pay a lower price, and have you plow when its a tad under the trigger. that way they wont have to worry about how often you come. it seems to work for my crabby customers...
  19. QuadPlower

    QuadPlower PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,056

    1) The Contractor shall be responsible for the snow removal from the Driveway and sidewalk of the property located at the address listed below.
    2) Snow shall be removed if the total accumulation is two (2) inches or more as determined by the Contractor.

    These are the first two provisions in my contract. Use them next time.

    I can't believe the majority of the plowers are telling you to cut your losses and run. I agree that I would drop them next year OR use the above language and double their rate.

    You do have some sort of an agreement I assume? Something with a signature on it?

    Write them a letter stating that you are a professional and it is your discretion whither or not the trigger amount was met. Invoice them again and state that if payment is not recieve with in 10 days legal action will be take to recoup the required amount. They agree that you did the work. Its not like they are saying that you billed them and did not plow. If you have something in writting, there is not a judge around that won't judge in your favor.

    After 10 days file a suit in small claims court. It cost next to nothing to do. As soon as they get the certified letter, they will be calling you and you can tell them to pay and you will drop it. Otherwise, you did the work and you need to get paid.

    Don't waste time. According to grandviews count down you only have 11 days. The warmer it gets the less eager they will be to pay.
  20. YardMedic

    YardMedic PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,266

    I've done this, providing service at the end of the driveway for nothing (to me it's an investment in good will with the customers). There are a handful of my clients who would want it cleared at the first sign of snow, so a quick ride around my route to hit the ends doesn't take too long and it's still paid for at least some. We haven't had too many storms like that -- 2 this year. I haven't had people call to gripe about me pushing the ends without charging -- it was done like that to point out that the driveway WASN'T being done and what I did WASN'T being charged. I'm also pretty fortunate not to have had anyone complain about not reaching the trigger, primarily because I think each time I did a full plow we had enough.

    I don't know that I'd go with a lesser charge for plowing under the trigger, because then it makes a lower trigger, and it's harder to justify the full charge when you get the real trigger. For me, 2" or 8" is the same cost to the consumer, and more than that is charged more for reasons of coming back more often.