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Verbal Contracts....uh ohh

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by roblandscape, Feb 26, 2003.

  1. roblandscape

    roblandscape Senior Member
    from Phila
    Messages: 185

    Well I messed up,..

    I have had a landscaping business for 5 years now. This is the first year I offered snow plowing to my customers, anyway I got about 25 driveways I do, plowing,and snowblow the walks, the customer doesn't have to lift a finger.
    This past november I started giving customers prices and told them, for example " It will be 50$ every six inchs, We come out and plow every six inchs, I told most of these people this over the phone.

    Well its now a full week after we got a 21 inch storm, HUGE for my area. During that storm I plowed all my accounts three times. Today the calls started coming, saying that I am too expensive, and that they don't understand how I could charge them 150$,
    Well I told them I cleared their drive 3 times and reminded them of the conversation we had in Nov. It seems alot of them don't have a good memory, Because they wheir not happy, Meanwhile my truck was in the shop all week getting u Joints and wheel bearings, a 525$. bill.
    It seem they think a truck, with a plow, that never breaks,or needs gas, and it comes with free insurance for a lifetime, just showed up my driveway one day.

    Oh well,.. I will give written contracts next year, Too late for it this year! Thanks for letting me vent:realmad:
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2003
  2. myo

    myo Senior Member
    Messages: 193

    Written contracts save your butt in the end! Better luck next year.
  3. Sndun

    Sndun Member
    Messages: 56

    I feel your pain. I'm dealing with one PITA right now who opened his mouth to two other accounts of mine whom he is friends with and it's not going very well. Needless to say, they've been dropped.
  4. Chief Plow

    Chief Plow Senior Member
    Messages: 201

    We learned that lesson the hard way also. Get a good written contract for next season. You'll be glad you did.

  5. roblandscape

    roblandscape Senior Member
    from Phila
    Messages: 185


    Yeah, I knocked 50 dollars off a bill for one customer thinking they would be happy, no no, they ended the phone call saying that, they would call me if they need me to do the snow in the future,.. Well guess what, six inches is coming tommorrow and when she calls for me to come and clear their snow, I will tell her I'm too busy and she will just have to find someone else. Or pick up a shovel and do it herself............ooooh noooooooooooooooo.!! I hate her
  6. Chief Plow

    Chief Plow Senior Member
    Messages: 201

    Just remeber to be professional. The last thing you want is a bad reputation....

  7. roblandscape

    roblandscape Senior Member
    from Phila
    Messages: 185

    Chief, Thanks, but the last thing I want is a PITA customer.
  8. Sndun

    Sndun Member
    Messages: 56

    Roblandscape- I think you have the same exact customer as I do because I hate her too. :realmad:

    Chiefplow- I tried my best but the first SOB keeps calling the other two and influencing them. I kept my cool and dealt with them in the most professional manner I could have. I felt like I was speaking with children though. The sad thing is they are successful people and more than twice my age. I just don't understand some people. :confused:
  9. BigRedBarn

    BigRedBarn Senior Member
    Messages: 133

    Regarding contracts, please see my too, too long post under "Ethics Question."

    I may be stating the obvious in that post, and I apologize if I'm doing that. But, I thought I'd give you my thoughts more from a customer's standpoint. I contracted snowplowing for a small lot of mine for quite a while. If only you can get some customers to see your viewpoint, you'd be doing a lot.

    By the way, do all of you have extra copies of your "proof of commercial plowing insurance?" Again, from a customer's perspective, this is something I always had to ask for and it was always like I was asking for something that no other customer had ever, ever asked for, and how could I possibly need something written as proof when they told me they had it?

    To me, I would include a copy of this as an attachment to every bid I put out. Do any of you do this as standard practice? I ask for this from every contractor, e.g., carpenters, plumbers (and their local permit, if required), etc..

    By the way, speaking of local permits. If you have to have a permit for commercial plowing from a customer's town or city, do you include a copy of that too, as standard practice, with every bid you put out?

    Just wondering.
  10. roblandscape

    roblandscape Senior Member
    from Phila
    Messages: 185

    No I don't, but I am going to put together a folder to submit to all customers within the week, I am sick of the guessing game that I feel my customers have, I guess my communication skills are lacking,therefore I must put it into paper... I must admit I'm in the wrong, but hey, you live and you learn right:nod:
  11. BigRedBarn

    BigRedBarn Senior Member
    Messages: 133

    To me, by admitting you're wrong (even if you aren't) you show your professionalism.

    That's the way I see life. So many times we get it hammered into our heads by others that you can't admit you're wrong. Never, ever. To me, that way of thinking is holding this country back.

    There's a lot of teaching that's been going on out there in industry, for a number of years, that says that an employee who admits to being wrong is a valued employee. The old standard of CYA (cover your @$$) no matter what is being thrown out the window.

    Congratulations on improving your "product."

    Another concept that's being pushed in industry is "continuous improvement." That IOS9000 certification stuff that you read about in the business section of the evening paper stresses that a lot.

    The concept: Admit to your mistake, figure out how to correct it, implement the correction, monitor the correction, and keep the customer informed as to what you're doing.

    That concept is working at a lot of companies. Unfortunately, it's the larger companies where new concepts take a long time to implement. It's the small businesses in this country that will take us into the future because they can implement change, and implement it quickly.

    Oh crap, another long post. Sorry.
  12. roblandscape

    roblandscape Senior Member
    from Phila
    Messages: 185

    Big red, good reply,

    I love working for myself, I never have worked for anybody else. and will do everything I can, NOT to work for someone else,

    Yeah, I love the money in this business, it can be good, But I find myself rushing around like a maniac trying to make all my customers happy,to get them all cleared out so they can go to work, It seems no matter how hard I work, my cell is always blowing up, with customers asking, "when are you going to be here", it seems that they think they are the only customer that I have.
    Anyway, I rush around like a wild man to make these customers happy, and the money comes second, (or thirty day later), But It just really got to me tonight when I had 3 customers call me and complain about the prices after I used every minute to the fullest,(during the storm) to get to everybody. But hey thats how this buss. is, I just have to go against everything I was taught growing up and not let these PITA 's get to me
  13. digger242j

    digger242j Senior Member
    Messages: 672

    I can't tell you where the idea came from, it's not an original thought of mine, but it goes something like this: We spend too much time trying to fix the blame, and not enough time trying to fix the problem. It's something I try to keep in mind...
  14. billfires

    billfires PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 23

    verbal contracts

    roblandscapes, are you spreading yourself too thin? As a plowing professional your customers expect you to be able to perform a service and really aren't concerned that you have 2 feet of snow. The reason that they have you do snow removal is that they don't wish to deal with it themselves. If a customer needs to have their plowing done by a certain time and that's what you agreed to then I think they have a right to be upset. The complaints about the charges for services are out of line if that is what they agreed to. I think some people in this business get lulled into doing more and more and then get caught off guard when we have a "storm of the century" type of event. You need to ensure that you can perform your services even when the blizzard hits. Just my thoughts, it's only my opinion. Bill C
  15. BRL

    BRL PlowSite.com - Veteran
    Messages: 1,277

    Good point. Rob said it was his first year providing snow plowing services, so he is learning that lesson the hard way. Good experience that will certainly help him in the future. Rob make sure you take these experiences from this snowy season & turn them into positives for next season. I can't believe the customers would be complaining about the charges if that was the agreement you had. They should have been plowed 4 times technically, so I'd think they'd be happy you took care of them in 3 plowings with that kind of storm.

    Big Red Barn,
    Great posts. I think it's great to hear a customer's perspective. As far as the insurance proof that you mentioned goes. You should find out the contractor's insurance company & have the insurance company send you the certificate direct, with a request for notice of cancellation. I can show you a copy of my certificate, but that doesn't mean that maybe I haven't paid my bill since November & that the policy has been cancelled. When you get the certs from the insurance company, they will notify you if the policy is cancelled for any reason. This goes for the plumbers, carpenters etc. also.
  16. BigRedBarn

    BigRedBarn Senior Member
    Messages: 133

    BRL: Good points on the insurance. I typically do check for active insurance, especially with someone new.

    If you prefer the customer working directly with your insurer, that's cool. But, a pre-prepared card or sheet with all the necessary info for them to do the contacting would go a long way in my book. It shows you're prepared, and ready to work. In other words: "this sheet has all the info you need on getting insurance confirmation, including phone numbers, contact name(s), etc."

    I guess what I'm trying to stress is being pro-active. It shows you've done this before, you've got your act together, you know what people want & need and, therefore, you're the best person to get the job. Does that sound about right?

    The newsletter is another cool idea. With all the computer technology around, this is getting easier all the time. Just be careful that it doesn't do the wrong thing and turn off people. That is, it should have correct spelling, proper grammar, or as best as can be expected. I’ve seen some newsletters that made a business look bad because they had so many errors. There's always someone around you can turn to for help with proofreading. You'd be amazed at some of the people who are quite good at this stuff, like many a secretary I've every worked with over the years.

    Again, just my thoughts.
  17. digger242j

    digger242j Senior Member
    Messages: 672

    Do a search using the keywords "spelling", or "grammar". There have been some, uh, interesting exchanges....


    (Thanks to the powers that be for the new Spell Check button. I'd spelled "grammer" incorrectly. :eek: )
  18. roblandscape

    roblandscape Senior Member
    from Phila
    Messages: 185


    Thanks for the replies:D
  19. PAPS Landscape

    PAPS Landscape Member
    Messages: 51

    That's part of the reason why I don't do residential. Its not worth fighting with customers over snowplowing, then losing them for all the work they have over the summer in the landscaping end. A messily $200.00 in snow plowing for the winter is not worth a seasonal landscape contract. ;)
  20. mike9497

    mike9497 Senior Member
    Messages: 466

    well i feel yah.i have contracts and after the 24 inches of snow i had res and comm call to vent.i was more than fair with the res customers only charging them for a 16 inch snow fall.which was 3 trips for some.but in the end i lost one res customer because they were cheap to begin with.my commercial accounts just read there contracts over and saw where they were wrong.they thought the loader work was included in the prices.it states in my contract a 12 inch snow fall will require a front loader to stack and remove snow piles.the rate will be $XXXXXX per hour.some of my commercials have a cap for loader work.like my funeral home has a cap of $800.00 per snow fall so we use are bobcat for this location and my f350 dump to remove the snow its about 3 1/2 hours worth of work which covers the $800.00.sorry to get away from the thread,but do contracts for next year it will save u alot of time.plus put in your contract what will not cover in damages like you won't cover any pavement damage.just something to think about for next winter.hope you have better luck next storm.