The lawn care season is in full swing. Every year more and more people are opting to hire a lawn care professional to tend their yards for them. Some choose this option to save them time, some to avoid being out in the heat, and some to ensure their yard is as beautiful as can be. Regardless of the reason(s) people choose to hire a professional, one should always be careful and research a company completely before entering into any contract for lawn care.
Due to the large number of ‘professional’ lawn care companies today, you’re going to get a mix of those with professional attitude and a sense for adding value to the customer’s experience as well as those companies who choose to utilize high pressure sales techniques and shady practices to maximize their profits, leaving their customers dissatisfied and stuck in a lawn care contract they are not happy with. Many states’ consumer affairs departments repeatedly warn consumers to take the time to research any company you’re considering hiring before you end up stuck in a contract with a lawn care company that provides poor results.
Some companies will use a door to door sales tactic commonly referred to as “splash and dash.” This high pressure sales tactic aims to trick homeowners into paying premium pricing only to receive questionable, low-rent results. Some customers end up entering into a contract with these companies they will find hard to cancel. Other homeowners end up with damaged lawns or incomplete work. Some of these door to door salesmen will also attempt to seek upfront fees before leaving.
Here is a short list of steps you can take to avoid getting taken by a company over the care of your lawn:
1Spend the Time to Shop Around
Get written estimates from multiple companies. You will want make sure you compare the estimates, the services and products a particular company is offering as well as researching the companies reviews online.
2Ensure that you understand the pricing and what is included
When providing an estimate for a customer, a true professional knows that every lawn is different and every yard requires an individualized approach to get the best results. In order to provide an accurate estimate for services, the property must be toured so the company providing the estimate can get a complete idea of what services are needed, how often and if any specialized services will be required in order to achieve the results you desire. If an estimate for extensive work is given quickly and/or without having first inspected the property, you should let this be a red flag and be very cautious of that particular company/professional.
Additionally, you will want to ensure you ask pertinent questions during the estimate process. What is the billing cycle for the service agreement? Will you be billed by the week or month? How does the contract and/or agreement address rainy weather on the day your lawn is scheduled to be mowed? Are all the services you desire included in the estimate? How does the company handle grass clippings? Do they haul off clippings, etc. and clean up debris and grass clippings left behind when the job is done? Does the company service their customer directly, or utilize sub-contractors? Make sure that you know exactly what you’re getting before you pay and/or enter into a contract.
3Research the Company online and check for previous complaints
You may contact the Georgia Department of Law Consumer Protection Unit at 1-800-869-1123 to ask if prior complaints have been reported against the company or salesperson. Additionally, check with the Better Business Bureau for that company’s ratings. Remember that while the BBB is a reputable source for a company’s ratings and complaint history, the reviews from other consumers just like you is an invaluable resource not to be overlooked when researching a particular company. The point is, utilizing more sources of feedback while researching is always a good idea and helps to provide the big picture.
4Closely study/inspect the contract
This is a bit self-explanatory, but should be mentioned none the less. Aside from ensuring all of the items, services and products included in the estimate are a part of the contract, you will want to ask additional questions to ensure you are not surprised down the road. Contract life, renewal clauses, offered guarantees, Cancellation policies – all of these points must be covered to ensure you remain in control of your money, and your lawn care. In addition to the above tips, it is always a good idea to request a company’s cancellation policy in writing if you are looking to sign a long term contract. Having this information in writing will help ensure you are able to cancel the contract if you are not satisfied with the services you are paying for.
For more pointers, tips and information on protecting yourself; or to file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Law, please visit http://consumer.georgia.gov/
If you happen to live in another state, perform a google search for the consumer affairs department in your state.