Problem customers

tomstrees

Active Member
Are you willing to work for problem customers? I haven't had many over the years, most are easy to work for pay quickly and I do return business with.

One problem cuckoo lady called me this morning.

Last winter she called me wanting some log splitting, saying she needed some firewood for emergencies. That made no sense to me because you can't burn wood you cut up and split for a while. I played along. Split up some wood, did some chain saw work and billed her $125. No payment, and it has been over 9 months, only $125 but I chalked it up to all the problems we are having with covid. I have had much bigger non payers that after a number of months I filed small claims court action on and eventually got compensated for hard work. It really is inexcusable.

She made some lame excuse about thinking she had paid me the first time I came over, which was not true. She said she could pay me with Venmo which I have never dealt with, I told her I don't get payment until the job is all done. So I came back again for some chain saw work at her direction and she said something about her not wanting me to work when her daughter was there, a dog came out and pestered me but I thought I did what she wanted. No communication and I had tried to call her for payment and she made another excuse.

This time she wants some chain saw work, maybe I should insist on getting paid before and more work or just tell her to go fry ice. "Trick me once shame on you trick me twice shame on me". I think she would pay this time but getting payment first would be a minimum right?
 

Thumper88

New Member
Location
Oliver Springs
Wouldn’t touch another thing for her. I stop digging my hole if they don’t pay me the first go round. I always send a signed, detailed estimate before the work starts, and then that estimate automatically becomes an invoice once work is finished. I just use an app that sends it as an invoice, and my customers can pay me through cash, check, or card using PayPal. Then I send a signed invoice marked as paid.
 

Reach

Well-Known Member
Location
Atglen, PA
First off, regarding your current customer: Run away! If she didnt pay you twice, why should she pay you now? She already knows you’ll work for free, so now she will expect it.

We will work for difficult customers, but they’re going to pay to get us. We also require a signed contract from every customer, and a deposit from most, so that we are more likely to get paid. If someone does not pay, they get a demand letter, and I’m not afraid to turn a lawyer loose or go to court to get paid, if need be.
 

Tony

Well-Known Member
Location
Lancaster, PA
While my above post was flippant, it is also our strategy. People come to you because they want a solution to a problem. A tree conpany is a service based business. We may work on trees, but they don’t write the checks. If you simply say no, then your business has failed in its basic purpose of “service.”

Politely giving her a competitors card gives her another possible solution and relieves you of a task that will cost you money and time. It will not leave a bad taste behind for either of you.

The 80/20 rule will always apply. 80% of you income will be generated from 20% of your clients. You have to have new clients as turn over is inevitable, but you need new clients that will be the 20% not the 80%.

There are so many good books out there on these topics, so many good resources. John Spence, Seth Godin are two of my favorites, but just the tip of a GIANT iceberg.

Tony
 

tomstrees

Active Member
I did some work for a cosmetics executive years ago her landscaper didn't want to touch; clearing a lot of brush, prickers and fallen wood in a waste area. A friend helped me and we did as she asked. I billed her and she did not pay. A cosmetics executive living in a multi million dollar house, they had emblazoned the names of their kids above the garage in gilt plaques--unreal!

I sent reminder bills and finally got through to her, she said I hadn't done enough. This was not a lot of money, $750. So I went the extra mile rebilled and still no payment. So I filed with small claims court. Her sleaze continued with a BS response that she disagreed with the bill but they decided to pay it, saying she was sending payment which she didn't. I contacted the Small Claims court to let them know she was still manipulating not just me but the court as well which infuriated them and they sent a demand letter to her. I had also gotten a call from The People's Court asking if I wanted to appear on their show, that they would guarantee payment, etc.. I said no. Finally got paid, her landscaper said she was a tough person to work for.
 

VenasNursery

Well-Known Member
Location
Michigan
I did some work for a cosmetics executive years ago her landscaper didn't want to touch; clearing a lot of brush, prickers and fallen wood in a waste area. A friend helped me and we did as she asked. I billed her and she did not pay. A cosmetics executive living in a multi million dollar house, they had emblazoned the names of their kids above the garage in gilt plaques--unreal!

I sent reminder bills and finally got through to her, she said I hadn't done enough. This was not a lot of money, $750. So I went the extra mile rebilled and still no payment. So I filed with small claims court. Her sleaze continued with a BS response that she disagreed with the bill but they decided to pay it, saying she was sending payment which she didn't. I contacted the Small Claims court to let them know
I did some work for a cosmetics executive years ago her landscaper didn't want to touch; clearing a lot of brush, prickers and fallen wood in a waste area. A friend helped me and we did as she asked. I billed her and she did not pay. A cosmetics executive living in a multi million dollar house, they had emblazoned the names of their kids above the garage in gilt plaques--unreal!

I sent reminder bills and finally got through to her, she said I hadn't done enough. This was not a lot of money, $750. So I went the extra mile rebilled and still no payment. So I filed with small claims court. Her sleaze continued with a BS response that she disagreed with the bill but they decided to pay it, saying she was sending payment which she didn't. I contacted the Small Claims court to let them know she was still manipulating not just me but the court as well which infuriated them and they sent a demand letter to her. I had also gotten a call from The People's Court asking if I wanted to appear on their show, that they would guarantee payment, etc.. I said no. Finally got paid, her landscaper said she was a tough person to work for.
We used to do large landscaping jobs (for us anyways) with materials would be over 100k

we belonged to a lien company
They could lien a property in less than 24 hrs and you got paid immediately

we no longer do landscaping and now that I run the company I do things a little different
But if I don’t get paid on schedule I threaten a lien on the property
Has worked every time without actually going through with the lien

It only works if someone owes on the property and if they rent the owner will get notified and you’ll get paid immediately

I feel bad for people that own the property and their contractor gets a lien on their clients property

If the property has a mortgage the mortgage company will flip out also because they won’t have anyone else besides their self on the title
So long story long
If all goes south threaten a lien has worked for us
Besides if property is paid off and customer don’t give a shite and tell you get paid after I die I don’t care
 

tomstrees

Active Member
Debt collection is hard to execute. As far as I know you don't get paid until the property is up for sale as it is just an impediment to that.

I have been trying to collect on a multi thousand dollar debt by a guy who ripped me off years ago on an expensive collectible. I got a legal judgment and it is earning interest at 6% a year; I used Legal Shield/Pre paid legal which is $25 a month or so to send demand letters. Finally he called me wanting to clear the debt after his father died, but the estate hasn't cleared yet. You can get private detectives to locate people and bank accounts if you have a court judgment and have them grab money that comes into the bank account.
 

VenasNursery

Well-Known Member
Location
Michigan
Debt collection is hard to execute. As far as I know you don't get paid until the property is up for sale as it is just an impediment to that.

I have been trying to collect on a multi thousand dollar debt by a guy who ripped me off years ago on an expensive collectible. I got a legal judgment and it is earning interest at 6% a year; I used Legal Shield/Pre paid legal which is $25 a month or so to send demand letters. Finally he called me wanting to clear the debt after his father died, but the estate hasn't cleared yet. You can get private detectives to locate people and bank accounts if you have a court judgment and have them grab money that comes into the bank account.
Yes they have to get any lien off before any sale but if the owe on the property whom ever owned the property will have a fit and you’ll get paid then
It’s all a crock and bull
Try to only work with honest people and companies
 

Rusticus

Member
Location
Kerrville
As soon as I realize a customer may be difficult, I refer them to another reputable arborist...if I catch it soon enough. I used to just charge a PIA tax, but I didn't like staying mad and having to do more administration work than I already need to. My peace of mind is worth it and I can focus on the parts of the job I truly enjoy more.
 

Tuebor

Well-Known Member
Location
Here
I did some work for a cosmetics executive years ago her landscaper didn't want to touch; clearing a lot of brush, prickers and fallen wood in a waste area. A friend helped me and we did as she asked. I billed her and she did not pay. A cosmetics executive living in a multi million dollar house, they had emblazoned the names of their kids above the garage in gilt plaques--unreal!
My mother would always remind me that rich people didn't get rich by spending money. Reminds me of someone else currently in the news (cough, cough).
 

tomstrees

Active Member
As soon as I realize a customer may be difficult, I refer them to another reputable arborist...if I catch it soon enough. I used to just charge a PIA tax, but I didn't like staying mad and having to do more administration work than I already need to. My peace of mind is worth it and I can focus on the parts of the job I truly enjoy more.

I don't why someone in business would even want to turn the problem on to other people, just tell them you are too busy, or don't return their calls. Finding a replacement is their problem.
 

tomstrees

Active Member
My mother would always remind me that rich people didn't get rich by spending money. Reminds me of someone else currently in the news (cough, cough).

There are good wealthy people to work for and bad ones. Here in "Disneyland", Fairfield County, CT, we get all types; referrals like the cosmetic executive who are just manipulative types that like to treat workers badly, to quality old money types of sound mind who are just trying to get a job done well and reasonably. Some apparently wealthy people may be living with huge debts that they will never reveal, so their ability to pay is limited. That's where clear communication on contracts comes into play.
 

Jehinten

Well-Known Member
Location
Evansville
I don't why someone in business would even want to turn the problem on to other people, just tell them you are too busy, or don't return their calls. Finding a replacement is their problem.




A tree conpany is a service based business. We may work on trees, but they don’t write the checks. If you simply say no, then your business has failed in its basic purpose of “service.”

Agree with Tony. When the customer is talking to other potential customers, you can either be the guy that "was too good to work for them" or you can be the guy "that although he was too busy to do the job, recommend XYZ so that the job wouldbe completedin a timely manner"
 

Rusticus

Member
Location
Kerrville
I don't why someone in business would even want to turn the problem on to other people, just tell them you are too busy, or don't return their calls. Finding a replacement is their problem.
We still want them to have quality work and promote sound arboricultural practices. Some companies can better deal with the legal processes and douchery that is all around. We all have our niche.
 

tomstrees

Active Member
I can understand the need for reasonable and quality work depending on what is involved. Still there should be an "Angie's List" for contractors with ratings on customers--the contractors are often defenseless against the problem customers. Why is it that a customer supposedly dangling a little money in front of another citizen gets to dictate all the terms?
 
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Tony

Well-Known Member
Location
Lancaster, PA
I don't why someone in business would even want to turn the problem on to other people, just tell them you are too busy, or don't return their calls. Finding a replacement is their problem.
Tomstrees,

You are missing the point. This customer has a problem. You cannot solve the problem. The point is, the “work” she wants done is not what she is willing to pay for. The work is not the problem.

You cannot solve the problem. Pass it on perhaps the next company can and get paid fairly for the effort.

Q.T.I.P. (quit taking it personally) that shit. Move on.

Tony
 
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