Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This little piggy goes to market in 2014

I expected to be talking about Spring today, enjoying the seasonal change, getting ready for the 2012 lawn season launch, but noooooooo. I sit here with a picture of a pig atop this post.

Phoma Macrostoma! If you've been reading this blog then you know it's coming. Actually it was to have arrived this year (2012). After all, it has been approved as the next great, or not-so-great, organic weed control by the PMRA from what I'm told.

So why isn't it available yet, when its creator Karen Bailey in a phone conversation I had with her, told me it would be?

First of all, don't get mad at Karen. She's always been very pleasant to me and I'm sure she wants to see the weed control she created on the market as much as anyone.

Depending on who you talk to, there are two schools of thought.

One side says, Scotts is having problems recreating a product that will perform the same way Phoma Macrostoma does in the lab...hence the delay.

The other whispers, Scotts is still selling a lot of Weed-B-Gone and don't want a better weed control on the market until that dog has finished hunting. Since they have the licence for this product they can do whatever they want.

So, my friends is it greed, or is it the fact that a company that makes 3 billion annually doesn't have the resource to fix this problem?

I tried to get an answer from Scotts but they only sent me a link to the government PDF on Phoma Macrostoma, which is of absolutely no help.

As it stands now, we are not expecting this product until 2014. That's another 2 years! I guess they'll have to sell you the inferior Weed-B-Gone with the same active ingredient, (iron chelate), that is in Fiesta? Yup the exact same Fiesta all the lawn care companies now use to control weeds...or try to.

However, Scotts has dumbed-down their product to the point, for the most part, it is ineffective and who does the customer bitch to?- The lawn guys.

Even using the recommended rate with this stuff I still get complaints, that "it just doesn't work" and I completely understand. Expecting an organic control to make your lawn weed-free especially when neighbours around you have given up on their turf, or you're in a new subdivision where they are still building and disturbing all those juicy weed seeds from dormancy, or you live next to a school/ city owned field, you can't win.

I, as a lawn care provider, can only hope to hold the line until I get something more effective.

Is that Phoma Macrostoma? Perhaps, but now I have to wait two more years to find out.

Maybe Scotts figures in another two years, we'll be so fed-up and desperate, we'll pay anything for the precious product?

I think it's time to light a fire under Scotts' ass and send a little message? I'm not just talking about boycotting Weed-B-Gone. I'm talking about all Scotts' products, fertilizers, grass seed, insect controls, the whole shootin' match.

So let's turn up our collective noses...since money is king and Scotts sits on the throne with a pompous swagger.

Tell them what you really think.

Oink! Oink!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Forget March break...we're going back to school now.

"The government is letting us spray for weeds again!"

"Don't go with that company they can't possibly give you the same service for the price they are offering."

"We have the best products, the same ones golf courses use."

"All our technicians are licenced professionals."

"Don't pay attention to a few bad reviews, we have thousands of satisfied customers."

Do some, or all of these statements sound familiar?

These are some of the tactics used to get your business every year when it comes to lawn care.

Let us look into each of these statements and answer them, shall we?

The government is letting us spray for weeds again!

Since the approval of Fiesta, which is an organic weed control (not killer), we have been allowed to spray weeds. In fact, no one has ever said we couldn't spray weeds, it was just a matter of, with what?

Since the pesticide ban the older methods like Killex, Par III, etc. were no longer allowed, but organic methods? Use as much as you want pal.

The fact that some companies are twisting this information to get you to pony-up your dough is heinous. remember it is a Provincial bylaw, which means: it supersedes all municipal bylaws. So when they say they can now spray in...let's say Markham only...they are lying to your face.

Don't go with that company they can't possibly give you the same service for the price they are offering.

It is competitive out there, but I believe there are enough lawns for everyone. However some of the bigger companies have more overhead, must adhere to franchise agreements and financial bottom lines and targets. Given the nature of the business I believe this is more a statement of panic than anything else. You can tell, by how fast they come down in price when there's a competing bid.

Give the customer your quote, tell them what services they get and what makes you different from the other companies out there and let the customer decide.

We have the best products, the same ones golf courses use.

This is just a bald-face lie. Golf courses are still exempt under the bylaw and we are not allowed to use the same products. As far as using the best products out there under the bylaw? Sure, we all use them, but one company having an edge over another would come down to customer service, not product.

All our technicians are licenced professionals.

When I first started in this business I was part of a "no experience necessary" cattle call. I was given 1 day of training, mostly on how to up-sell a customer and then sent my merry way in my own truck. By the end of the first 2 weeks, half of the employees had quit or were fired.

The remaining wrote a rinky-dink technicians test and were passed regardless of knowledge. Did I suddenly become more knowledgeable after that test? No, but I did write for my licence at the end of the year and over time I gained the knowledge.

This year the same routine will be conducted by many a company out there for one reason and one reason only. The first round is like planting a flag on your territory and the more trucks and employees you have out there, the quicker that can be accomplished. At least if you end up with a half-assed job, or fertilizer burns on your property this year, you'll understand why.

Don't pay attention to a few bad reviews, we have thousands of satisfied customers.

It is true that a pissed off customer makes more noise than a happy one, but when you are checking sites like Homestars where customers rate companies on a scale of 0-10, take what you read into perspective. If a company has a ton of zeros and then a series of glowing reports followed by a ton of zeros, that sounds more like crisis management than a true testimonial to me.

Look at the average score if you want a more accurate picture and try to focus on companies that have an average of 7 or higher. You probably won't see any of the top names in lawn care there.

This quiz doesn't eliminate all the pitfalls, but it does put you in the frame of better preparation before you sign on the dotted.

Doing your homework will take you far and your lawn will end up with the passing grade.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The univited guest

So here we are with the season looming and it will probably start early. I'm still hearing the buzz from the CBC's Marketplace broadcast on Weedman. I could go on about leopards and their spots, but do I really need to?

Despite the bad press, the tactics some companies have used year-in-year-out to bully people into paying for unwanted service have worked...so why change now?

I will lay money on it: There will be several of my customers, who are former clients of other companies and will find their lawns flagged by these intruders in the spring. This will force me to delay the start of their lawn care program while everything is sorted out.

How is this possible?
The customer cancelled their contract with Weedman etal. and gave us the confirmation, in fact, they've already paid us for our service for the year.

It's all about a barely legible clause on the invoice of a company like Weedman that states: "service continues year to year for your convenience." The bigger companies and perhaps some of the small ones will do anything to adhere to this principal and ignore the customer's desire to discontinue.

I can't say this has never happened to us where we did an unwanted application, because it has. But unlike our competitors we apologized for the misunderstanding, did not bill the customer, did not send them to collections and did not hound them any further for their business.

It may sound ridiculous to some, but we call each and every customer before the season to confirm they wish to continue with our service so we don't do unwanted applications and run into these situations.

So make sure you cancel in writing, get a cancellation number and write down any information you can to help you when this happens down the road...because it will.

I'm now advising some customers who have been repeatedly harassed by one company, or another, to threaten legal action for trespassing if unwanted applications are performed after cancellation notice is given otherwise, like the common cold- you can get rid of it for a while but inevitably it will be back again one day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


At this time of the year, it is not uncommon to find ourselves competing with other lawn companies when quoting lawn care.

We show up, measure and assess the property then leave a quote based on square footage and lawn conditions, (previous grub damage, compacted soil etc.)

The recommendation usually involves a few notes/ suggestions and the price. We ask the customer to contact us with their decision when and if they are ready to proceed.

Yesterday, a potential customer sent us a quote from one of the larger competitors and I was amazed at all the bells and whistles before they actually got around to conveying a quote.

Does this sound like a bottom line proposal to you, or a lawyer trying to deflect attention away from the real issues?

The names have been omitted to protect anonymity, but I am here to read between the lines and educate you on what is really being said. After all I used to work for a company like this before I started my own business.

We would like to thank you for the opportunity to provide you with a quotation for the 2012 season as well as provide you with some further information regarding our programs and services offered for your home at (potential customer address)

OK, so far so good.

(This lawn company) has lightning fast service calls for those with a passion for being pampered.

As long as you can afford it.

We guarantee your complete satisfaction and are committed to our 24 hour response time on our free unlimited service calls!

Careful now, "unlimited" means I could call and have you there every day of the season for your 24 hour yet, lightning fast service.

One of our Senior Lawn Care Service Advisors...

Warning: Senior Lawn Care Service Advisor may be an unlicensed summer student.

...will visit your home to assess and resolve any problems or answer any questions you may have regarding your lawn or services applied.

And we'll up-sell you applications to fix those problems.

If you're not at home we will leave you a detailed written report and follow up that evening with a phone call to go over your concerns and resolutions to solve them.

Oh, I see now...get as many service calls as you want. If you don't follow our recommendations and pay for the extra service, you have no one to blame but yourself and the satisfaction guarantee is off the table. Hey, we told you so.

In addition to unlimited free service calls,(this lawn company) offers unlimited free re-applications on all services we apply!

In truth, this would not be a good idea as doubling up on an application could severely hurt the lawn health. Anyone seen fertilizer burns? Maybe they haven't been in business long enough to know better?

(this lawn company) is simply the best, with over 40 years of longevity and industry proven success! You can trust our total satisfaction guarantee and that we will keep our promises.

40 years? I guess I was wrong, but when are they going to tell me how much I have to pay instead of blowing their own horn? This is a quote right?

(this lawn company) is proud to have moved into this new era of Natural lawn care in Ontario where legislation allows for only the use of Natural and alternative approved products to be used on all turf grass areas. (this lawn company) has been testing and mastering these alternative products over the last few years and have the best Natural Program and value proposition on the market!

Then, it might concern them to know there are other companies using the same products and charging far less.

For the 2012 Season...

Alright! Finally the quote.

...we are very excited to be offering our all new Program which is our greenest and most environmentally friendly approach that we have ever had to offer! This program contains a revolutionary new liquid weed control product called Fiesta WHICH WORKS IN HOURS NOT WEEKS AND REQUIRES NO WATERING TO BE 100% EFFECTIVE!

Still no quote! BTW Fiesta has been out for a few years now. Everyone in the industry uses it and liquid weed control has never needed water as it would be rendered ineffective.

You will receive 4 scheduled applications of this weed control throughout the season plus unlimited access to free re-applications by just contacting us via a quick phone call or e-mail!

I guess they haven't heard how expensive this product is? F.Y.I. they keep using the words "weed control", which is correct yet, I've seen this company's lawn sign proudly promote, "We kill weeds".

Also this program includes 3 Slow release granular polyon coated technology golf course grade fertilizers,

The key word here is "grade", but the customer will see golf course and go "wow". You do know that golf courses are exempt under the Provincial bylaw and allowed to apply what the lawn care industry can no longer use, don't you? It's not the fert alone creating beautiful turf grass on the fairways.

and a free mid-summer inspection of your lawn as well as a Summer Stress Relief application for Chinch Bugs.

When last I checked there are no products legally registered in Canada for the control of Chinch Bugs. There are soil amendments that seem to deter this insect activity, but this is the same type of wording that had the government pulling Neem Oil off the shelves last year. Jesus! Grow a brain!

We are on your lawn a minimum of once a month from April through September for a minimum of 6 visits. The cost for your property at (potential customer address) would be $318.1 payable on a by application basis over 5 equal payments of $63.62

Finally payment info!...oh...wait a minute...

...or if you wish to prepay and save making it only $302.195 HST included that's a savings of $15.905 by prepaying now.

Wow! Save $15.905! Whatever will I do with the extra half penny? Just round it up people.

Back By Popular Demand!!! Our Special Beat the HST Offer!

They haven't done one application yet and here comes the up-sell already.

We also have an amazing special offer for this year.

Actually it's a special offer every year, but nothing sells like the fear of passing up a deal.

We are offering a Special Beat the HST offering which allows you to have our program as described above as well as your choice of 2 premium add on services, that's 8 actual visits to your lawn. You can choose 2 of the following services to be added as part of your Beat the HST program: mechanical core aeration, natural grub control, and natural crab grass preventer. For an additional $199.0895

$199.0895? Anyone else find this confusing and wonder why they're doing it? Seems more mechanical than personal to me.

you can have this deluxe package. The original cost for this program is $544.41 but by prepaying this you will save $27.2205 that's an amazing 25% off. Making the total prepaid price only $408.3075!

OK let's see...hmmm...original program $302.195 + another $199.0895 should equal $408.3075 which is 25% of %544.41 making me save $27.2205, but it doesn't add up. So maybe I should carry the one, divide by 13% x the square root of lawn square footage....why does having a nice lawn suddenly seem so hard?

Me thinks, someone needs to go back to school.

Perhaps we all need to study harder. I recommend a site called Homestars to see what other customers have to say about services they've used, or Google the company name and "complaints" to gain a better understanding before you say "yes".

If a company is worthy of your business then the pretty words and window dressing will be evident elsewhere and not just on the quote.