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Unbelievable customer stories

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Jerreber, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. Jerreber

    Jerreber Junior Member
    Messages: 22

    Thought I would start this thread to vent my frustration. I have (had) a customer that signed up for driveway clearing. It's just a small drive, shovel the city and private walks and thats it. Last night we had about 10" of snow and it was extremely wet plus it's the first snow of the season. Anyway, we couldn't make it by 7:00 am since we only had about a 6 hour window and I'll admit I am overloaded when we get +8 inches. Customer calls at ten after seven to yell at me because we arent there. I tell him we will be there in about an hour or so and said my apologies explaining that this is a rare snow and it's taking a bit longer to get through our accounts. We show up, knock on the door to ask him to move his car out of the way which is parked right in the middle of the drive. He comes out and first tells me that he can't get in his car because of the snow and then says that this isn't going to work out this winter if he has to move his car everytime! Then he tells me to snow blow around the car. Apparently he didn't see the plow on my truck. First of all there is no mention in our contract that we would be doing the drive with a blower and he never requested it when he signed it otherwise I would have priced it accordingly. I tell him that it would be double the price to do it if we have to blow and go around the car. After all this he walks inside and we wait for ten minutes but he never comes out to move the car! So I take off and decide to drop him. He later calls me to fire me and says it's my customer service. He did me a favor. This is the first year I've taken on residentials to supplement my commercial work. I'm thinking I may just stick to commercial!
  2. JTVLandscaping

    JTVLandscaping Senior Member
    Messages: 862

    Typically, you can spot trouble during the estimate, there's been some that I never even called back when they replied to my newspaper ad...I have worked hard to weed out all the a-holes on my route, don't need any more.
  3. Jerreber

    Jerreber Junior Member
    Messages: 22

    Exactly. The only thing that felt odd about this guy to me was he wanted a contract in may and we dont take care of his lawn. Just glad I found out I didnt want to work for him on the first snow of the year!
  4. Mick76

    Mick76 2000 Club Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 2,157

    If you told the customer that the drive would be done by 7am and its not, its your fault...shame on you. Id be pissed too. You stated your overloaded if you have 8 plus inches, why would you do that to yourself and your customers?
  5. mycirus

    mycirus Senior Member
    from Mass
    Messages: 589

    I never give a time I can be there by. I always say that snow doesnt always fall by 7 am so I do my best to go out and plow when it meets the trigger.
  6. Brian Young

    Brian Young PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,394

    Been there, done that! I took a new approach to explaining how and why we do things to everybody including existing customer's. Just about everyone thinks we have either 50 plow trucks or they're our only customer. It's bad but I have to explain common sense kind of things, I tell them we TRY to have everyone done by 7am BUT if it starts snowing at 3am it's not going to happen. I then find myself telling them if it starts snowing at 3am typically there should be no problem getting out of your driveway and the whole point of us plowing is to keep your driveway clear enough to be able to get in and out but a few inches of snow shouldn't prevent them from doing so. Ten inches is a lot of snow though, plus why wouldn't you just back drag from his car back? I would never go ask someone to move their car. But the MOST IMPORTANT thing is to not over extend yourself.
  7. DodgeBlizzard

    DodgeBlizzard Senior Member
    Messages: 526

    Lesson learned, never give time promises when it comes to snow removal. Most people understand. The ones who don't and get verbal, I let other plow guys have them.
  8. bhmjwp

    bhmjwp Senior Member
    from kcmo
    Messages: 309

    Several years ago we let our residential customers know that we could not guarntee times, and will usually be after the streets are done. If they wanted before streets done then a return trip charge would apply for apron clean up-$25. The City and sub division plowers take forever here on residential streets.

    This was much better than telling them after our commercial are done!
  9. northernsweeper

    northernsweeper Senior Member
    Messages: 397

    A few years back I was doing only driveways. I was plowing with a mid 70's 3/4 ton Ford with a fisher plow. It had been an early and nasty winter. I was charging 20.00 per plow for driveways. One customer was an older couple. Their house was kind of a shack, and their vehicles were old and beat up. Every time I would pull in and plow, I would see them in the windows. I knew he had lost his job at a local lumber yard, and his wife only worked part time. It was close to Christmas and they already owed me 200.00. Its not like I was rolling in the dough, but I knew times were tougher for them. I was done plowing when he came out. He came up to the truck with his hands in his pockets, looking at the ground. I rolled my window down and he began to apoligize for not being able to pay.I cut him off and told him he didn't owe me a dime, and that I was glad I could help, and hoped things got better for them. As I wished him a Merry Christmas, I could see the tears in his eyes. Best Christmas present I ever gave. I hope all on here, have a prosporous season and a great Christmas. Just remember, there are always people who are worse off than we are.
  10. 7_below

    7_below Senior Member
    Messages: 245

    I'm going to have to agree with Mick. You are providing a service and people expect you to hold up your end of the bargain. I understand that we cant control the timing of snowfall and it may be after 7am until you get there, but you need to make that clear to your client.
    Besides, what the hell are you doing letting 10" of wet snow pile up like that. No wonder you were late. Not a good impression for the start of the plow season. Good luck with that....
  11. theholycow

    theholycow PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,180

    While the customer sounds like a jerk handling your mistake ungracefully, there is one major question I'm left with: If there's 10 inches of snow, how do you expect him to move the car?

    Messages: 82

    That's why I stated in the contract "........remove 2 inch or more of fresh snow within 24 hours after the end of a snowfall......" even if we get pounded after 4 am storm so we can't guarantee we will be there by 5, 6, or 7 am. It works every time. If we get complaints we drop pita customers but that only happens few times. I let my wife do all the talking and smoothing out with customers so they can understand what's going on. Good thing we have a lot of loyal customers and they are willing to wait for us to show up because they are satisfied with our work clearing out driveways and sidewalks.
  13. Jerreber

    Jerreber Junior Member
    Messages: 22

    Guess I should mention they only wanted to be plowed out only after the snow was finished. We were getting more than two inches of snow per hour. And who isnt overloaed when you get two inches of snow per hour. I dont suppose you have five extra trucks just sitting around just for those large storms? Probably not I'm guessing. In my area we might get a storm like this every other year. I take on as many accounts I can to be finished within an acceptable time frame during a typical storm event. Its not like I waited until all ten inches came down before I started plowing any of my accounts
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2011
  14. jklawn&Plow

    jklawn&Plow Senior Member
    Messages: 469

    I would not have rang the bell. Clear what you can and move on. Next time around I call when I'm 30 min away and leave message to move cars so I clean the driveway. When I get there I do what I can and go to the next one. I have time guratees and a fine print disclaimer due to when and what.
  15. LoweJ82

    LoweJ82 Junior Member
    Messages: 29

    Had a high end customer that I did a lot of work for over the summer ask if I did snow removal I replied yes and they asked by what means, Told them I used a skid with a reg snow plow they didn't want a plow on there driveway but wanted the same reliable service they had gotten to all summer long......

    So the wife goes and picks up the toro in my sig and gives it to me as a tip for my summers work and says don't worry Ill still pay you to do my drive.
  16. 7_below

    7_below Senior Member
    Messages: 245

    Don't get so defensive now. You werent clear in you original post. I had a client like that once, they wanted me to plow after any given storm. In Syracuse it's normal to have a 12-14" storm several times a year when we average over 125" a year. Last year we got 175"! While plowing after a storm is more economical for the client, it's no good for the plower. More wear and tear on the vehicle, takes longer, scheduling, etc. Now if I get a client like that, I cap off the trigger at 6". No way do I let it pile up over that. It's not worth it for me.
    And just a side note, although I don't have "5 extra trucks laying around", I do have 7-8 other guys that can bail me out if I'm in a pinch. You gotta have a backup plan if you're "overloaded".
  17. Weenuk

    Weenuk Senior Member
    Messages: 207

    There were numerous methods this situation could have been dealt with better than you did. Could have still cleared this drive with the throwers and then politely request that in order for you the clear the drive properly. Could he please move his vehicle to either side of driveway so you can at least plow half of it. You could have dropped an employee off with a thrower to clear drive as you plowed other drives. In the end it does seem like you handled this situation badly and your mistake for not asking client if there shall be vehicles in drive during a snowfall and adjusting your estimate.
  18. Mick76

    Mick76 2000 Club Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 2,157

    My company can handle 2 inches an hour easily... Its fairly common to have Nor easters in Maine and I have backup equipment to handle such events. Not trying to bust your balls but if you've contracted services to be performed by a certain time, you better deliver or you won't be in this biz long..... maybe you should decreased your accounts or sub some of them out so you can give your $ accounts the time they need..... good luck with your decision
  19. M&S Snowplowing

    M&S Snowplowing Senior Member
    Messages: 132

    My contract states that I will make every effort to have my clients cleared by 7am as most of them work 9-5 jobs (must be nice lol) BUT it also states that this can not be guaranteed. I have a little spot next to that section of my contract that they must initial at the time of signing showing that they have read that part, understand it, and agree with it. If they don't agree with it I just say "thank you for your time but I don't think I am the right service for you at this time" and move on. So far it has worked out very well and none of my clients have ever had a problem if I show up a little late.
  20. lawnlandscape

    lawnlandscape Senior Member
    Messages: 374

    We only blow driveways so this avoids problems like this.

    I have never understood how so many guys say they 'plow' normal residential driveways. There are only 2 options
    1) Back-drag into street (Illegal)
    2) Push off sides of driveway (Damaged lawn & Landscaping) + just looks half assed IMO.

    Just my 2