Our 4 year anniversary to ourselves is our new office. Centrally located, we will be able to more easily access all areas of Atlanta. This will reduce our gas and labor cost, which will make us even more competitive. The office is great with three offices, a work station, an area for all our materials. We waited for so long to find this because we needed a place where we could install security cameras to watch our vans at night, since we have some unrighteous competitors who I have no doubt would try to sabotage our vans. Will take video this week and post it. I’m So Excited!!!
Archive for March, 2010
Typically when a customer uses us for the first time, we give them a discount for trying us out. We send an email with the price in writing and notation of the discount. Outside of signing up for an annual agreement or taking advantage of a special that we have, your regular price before the first time customer discount will always be your price. Although we always have the right to raise prices, we don’t typically do this on a regular basis. If we did your home last year for $10 off at the price of $115, and you get another $10 off coupon this year, it won’t make the price $105. You just end up paying the same price as last time. If we did let coupons accrue, then eventually the service would be free, and after that we would be paying you.
We also must note that we do not combine coupons. If you receive a coupon or discount from us, and find the discount somewhere else, then you must choose one of the discounts to use. Whenever we provide discounts, it is already the lowest discount we can provide, making it impossible to provide additional discounts for seniors, students, military, or any other special interest group. We respect and listen to our seniors, honor and regard the military, and guide and congratulate the students; but our regular prices are already lower than our professional competitors, and whatever discounts or coupons we provide usually bring us to such a point that even $1 less would make the job impossible.
If a customer is having leaking in the roof, we examine the roof as thoroughly as we can and, if we see anything that is not in proper condition, we recommend the repair of that area of roof. Leaks that come into your attic are tricky and can be the result of many different things, such as plumbing, HVAC units, gutters overflowing, holes in the roof, chimney, etc. We do our best to ascertain the specific cause of the leak by finding what on the roof is damaged, cracked, loose, or missing in the area of concern and then offer to perform the repair. When we do this repair, we guaranteed that the work we did will not lead to a leak and that the repair is done properly with quality materials. We assure that the problem we fixed was or will lead to water getting into the house, but we are not promising that it is the source of the problem you are experiencing. Now, after we do this repair, the leak may persist because the water is coming from somewhere else, either a pipe or appliance in the roof, or the water enters in a separate location and travels or pools to the area of concern. If this is the case, it doesn’t mean that the repair we did was unnecessary or faulty. We only repair or replace things on the roof that are damaged or missing. It just means that the damage we repaired wasn’t causing the leak you noticed. We are glad to return a check out our work if there is ever a concern, but we do not discount or refund any roof repairs because an area we never did work at is causing a leak.
Fixing leaks is a diagnostic activity where you fix the most notably damaged area and hope that the leak was coming from this particular spot. If it turns out the leak was coming from somewhere else, that doesn’t negate or change the fact that the repair we did was still needed and necessary to the roof. If you go to a mechanic because there is a noise coming from under the car, and they see you have a flat, they’ll recommend fixing the flat. If you drive away, and the noise is still there, it doesn’t mean that fixing the flat wasn’t necessary, and they will not refund money for replacing a tire that you approved that was in bad condition.
Our crews are made up of roofers and their experience is vast, but the work that our company does is limited to the most exterior or roof repairs. If the work that we did didn’t fix the problem, it is probably necessary to call a roofing company that can rip up the roof. We can provide a recommendation if this is necessary.
A good analogy of this situation is going to the doctor with a problem, you have a slight fever, and your kidney’s ache. He prescribes something. The fever goes away, but the kidney’s still ache. The doctor doesn’t refund you the money for his work, and though the fever was only slight and not the main problem, it was necessary to fix. The thing to do now is go to a specialist who specifically works with kidneys. Now, if the medicine the doctor gave you had a bad reaction, then that would be a different matter.
Bottom line, our guarantee is that our repairs are good and won’t lead to roof leaks, not that you won’t ever have roof leaks again, or that your old problems have stopped.
A customer can, of course, cancel at any time. However, if the customer waits and cancels us at the door, after we have already invested money and time to do the job, there is a $85 trip charge that we must charge. If your job requries materials, and we have already purchased those materials, and the materials are custom and we cannot reuse them for another service, ie pressed-out gutters or chimney pans, then the customer is still responsible for the material cost. The minute you decide you do not want to use our service, you must contact us immediately.
It is not our fault if you hire two companies and another company comes out before us and you forget or neglect to cancel our service. You should only hire one company at a time and, if you hire a second one, you should contact the first one to cancel instead of assuming they just won’t show up. If you never cancel the other service, they do the service, and then we come out and the gutters are already cleaned, we still have to pay the crews for their time driving out to the home, getting on the roof to discover the gutters are cleaned, pay for the gas of the van, pay for the van itself, and we have the loss of income we would have received had we went to a job that needed gutter service; so the $85 fee will stand.
If we come to your home to do a service, and for some reason you decide not to go through with the service because you are concerned as to what the cleaning will do to the gutters, the trip charge of $85 must be paid. This could be due to the gutters being in poor condition and the fear that the cleaning will actually damage the gutters, or the roof is in poor condition and it is unsafe for us to walk on. Mostly likely, given a situation like this, we will be the party providing this information to the homeowner, but we don’t make the call in not doing the service. All we do is provide information, and let the homeowner make the decision to go through with the service as is at regular price, or decide not to do it and pay the minimum trip charge of $85. If the roof and gutters are in poor condition, it is irresponsible to call us out for service anyway given the conditions of what we are cleaning, but we still must charge a trip charge.
The bottom line to this entire policy is that we do not show up at homes out of charity. Every one we go to, we are making an investment because a verbal contract is made that we will provide X service for Y money. If the promise of Y money was not there, then we would never even attempt to do X service. The only reason we show up for service is because the customer called or emailed wanting service and approved the service at the price we offered. If we spend money to do the service, and they cancel, the most reimburse us for the cost we’ve spent. The cost for our crews to show up at a home is $85.
The only time we have ever sued a customer is over a trip charge for canceling us at the door because he had another company do the service. We went to court and we won because we were in the right. If we showed up at your home after emailing you a date, calling you the day before, and you didn’t decide to cancel us or postpone us till we showed up ready to do the work, you need to pay the trip charge. It wasn’t our choice to spend the money we did to arrive there, it was your choice.
Payment is due within 5 days of the service being completed. ”Payment is due in 5 days” is written on our website, in the email we send a customer with their price in writing and their scheduled date, and it says it on three separate spots on the invoice. After 5 days, we begin an automatic process of reminding our customers by email and postal mail of the balance due and the numerous ways one can settle the account. Though we have the discretion to do so at any time, we typically do not call customers till a bill is 30 days past due. At 45 days past due, we place a lien on the property. At 90 days past due, we file a FIFA with the court.
Every now and then, we get a comment that a customer does not like our collections process. They feel it is overbearing, but those comments are few a very far between. Oddly enough, those comments only come from people who are late paying their bill. If everyone paid their bills on time, they would never receive an email, letter, or anything in regards to correspondence about an overdue bill. Someone who gets an ounce upset about being reminded they owe us money does not see the pound of pain they’ve caused us in regards to interest we have to pay on carrying balances or bills we cannot pay because they did not show paying their bill the same urgency or concern that we showed in getting to their homes and doing the gutter service.
While the rest of the world was prepping for the Superbowl (and being from Mississsippi, “Who Dat!”), I was going around the city knocking on doors of some of our long time debtors. Three customers, two who have used our service before, and one first time customer, with bills more than 30 days past due.
The first was the home of JF. JF wasn’t home, but his kids were. We didn’t know that none of the adults were home. We sent all three of the customers emails stating we were coming out, and none replied. We didn’t know what to expect when going out. In 4 years, we’ve only been to 9 homes, including these three. I can’t explain it in anyway other than to say that when you physically show up to someone’s house who has been ducking their responsibilities, it has a way of getting results.
Alas, there were no results to yield from the first house as it was only kids at home. We asked the kids if there was a number we could call a parent at, or an address we could go and see one at. We learned nothing new, and just left a copy of the invoice.
With JF, we don’t understand what has happened. JF never complained about service, and has used us more than one time, but for some reason they are putting a lot at risk to get out of paying a $95 bill. We are at a point where they give us little choices in moving forward. The next step is placing a lien, which would put their home in limbo and seriously affect their credit report. Most people don’t realize that a lien can appear on a credit report, but it does. If you pull your credit report and look at the “Negative Public Records” section, it appears there and it does have affect on one’s ability to get credit.
The next step after this attempt is pressing charge for theft of service. Once this is filed, JF will be arrested and charge, and will have a few hours of jail. He may not have to even pay bail to get out as it is a low misdemeanor, but the fine who could end up paying to the court along can be up to 1050% more expensive and, if not paid, a short jail period. The disturbing part of this for me is that JF would rather risk paying more, going to court, and possible jail time over paying a small bill he owes. He has kids for christ sake.
The next debtor is DW. DW’s situation hits me more personally than JF. I don’t have kids, so I have never had either the obligation or responsibility that comes with the role. JF’s inaction could affect his family in serious ways, but I haven’t walked a mile in his shoes. I have, however, when it comes to DW.
DW is a failed millionaire with a failed business. He worked in talent representation, web design and hosting, and tried to make himself a small-time media mogul. Picture Russell Simmons but with a small business. It seams that a few years ago, DW was doing well for himself. He bought himself a 400,000 home that would be work almost twice as much in another neighborhood. He seemed to have a staff and several businesses, but all of those business seem to have closed and failed, with their contact information invalid or inactive, and their websites dysfunctionally operating.
We did a little more work for DW than we do for the average customer, but though he lives in a big house an boasts himself as an entrepreneur, he did have the money to pay the bill. He paid part of the bill, and we negotiated other aspects, but he still has a lien on his house which will negatively affect him. If only he had settled his account on time, he could have avoided the extra costs in money and in future financial stability.
What worries me is that DW has become a total failure in his successes, and I have never experienced failure yet. In a relatively short amount of time, I built us the largest gutter cleaning company in Atlanta. And before this, in previous jobs and careers, I always excelled. I’ve never experienced failure, but I know that it is only a matter of time. I would almost trade the remainder of what he owes to know how it happened, what caused such a collapse.
My theory is that he invested too much in industries that are designed for him to make his living off of the management of talents of others. If the people you hire aren’t talented, then you are going to loose.
I had suspicions of the motivations of DW and JF, but all my suspicions of KB were easily confirmed by KB. He told me that he hired my company without the funds or ability to pay, and was out of work without a job. Her purposely stole services from us, but regretfully. He has been proactive in communicating with us, unlike his counterparts, and we’ve worked out a way where in can work off the balance.
Though everything is settled now with KB, I can’t imagine hiring someone for work when you know there is no way to pay. The ethics and logic escape me. I can wrap my head around the sociological idea of the desperate, the idea that one must steal to simply survive; but stealing the elective service for gutter cleaning is not even close.
I still have more respect for KB than the others. KB was honest about his actions, regretful, and prepared to make amends. JF is trying to ignore the consequence of his action, and DW simply doesn’t care.