Monday, January 21, 2013
Plus ca change, plus ce le meme chose
It's a new year and with it comes a new attitude...well for me anyway. Some may have noticed, I've been absent on the Ol' Blog the last four months?
I felt after the tough year for turf that was 2012...and it was tough for everyone in the business, I needed to get away from it all and clear my head. I wanted to get back to giving advice instead of just ranting about politics.
So, here I am intent on practicing what I preach, ready to give my opinion on 2013 season preparation.
Personally, I wasn't expecting to have to post in January, but one of our customers informed us Weedman's kids were already out canvassing her neighbourhood trying to sign homeowners up.
Now if you are a Weedman customer and happy with their service- good for you. Stay with what works. However, if you are entertaining the thought of bringing in a third party to take care of your lawn there are a few things you should be aware of when hiring anyone in this industry...including me if you see fit.
I should say now, not all companies are alike and there is still some integrity and truth out there, but you will have to dig deep to find the gold. The smell might be a little potent in the process.
The search starts with understanding the warning signs and the tactics used to snatch your hard-earned money.
1) If anyone tells you they have a weed killer, or a product no one else has, they are not being truthful. Almost 4 years ago the playing field was leveled and we all use the same products now. There are no more silver bullets and systemic killers when it comes to weeds and the next control, "Phoma", is still a year away at the earliest.
As it currently stands, it takes time to get control and convert a weed-filled lawn into a healthy one.
If someone is using a cocktail of their own making then the PMRA and Health Canada are not going to take kindly to its existence since it would be an unregistered product and just as illegal as applying any substance currently under the bylaw.
2) Make sure what you are getting is what you pay for and what you need. There are companies who will sell you a basic program because the price is more attractive, even though they know you have grub damage, or compacted soil. They know that later in the season they can sell you an aeration, or nematode treatment at top dollar instead of saving you the coin now with a prepaid discount for the entire lot.
3) Sometimes saying "yes" to anything is carte blanche to perform applications on your lawn without further authorization. I have heard the horror stories time and time again how a homeowner said yes to a free estimate, no to service, only to find an invoice in the mail box for applications rendered once the season started. There are people who will pay the bill without a fight, or fuss and it's what the company counts on.
4) Be aware, bigger is not always better. The bigger the company, the more resources. Which means a possibility of annoying telemarketing to up-sell you applications, a plethora of different and in some cases, under-trained lawn technicians performing the applications. Also sadly, you may find it more difficult to reach someone if you have a problem with your lawn, or billing.
5) Understand the company's policies. Do they return year to year unless you cancel?
If you need to cancel, what are the protocols and is there any refund pending? Do they perform unauthorized applications on your lawn when they are needed, i.e. grub, even though it is not part of your program. Again, there are instances where someone has paid over 6 bills for a program that was initially under $300, simply because of extra applications. Remember even though negative billing isn't legal, it is a practice that is still widely used as a revenue stream. I recommend contacting the Ministry of Consumer Affairs if you are a victim of negative billing.
6) Trust is paramount. When someone asks me if I guarantee the products I use I tell them, "I guarantee I will do my best with the tools I have." However, how can you guarantee a product many of the manufacturers won't stand behind 100%. There are just too many variables and excuses to hide behind. So if someone in the lawn care business guarantees weed-free, or grub-free etc., I would be skeptical, but that's because I know the products and what they need to perform effectively.
Social media has held many companies accountable who still draw from the old playbook and with a little research you will begin to draw your own conclusions whether, or not you have the right lawn care provider. I find Homestars an excellent source for all home related hires. As for lawn care, I want to believe because of people like you and I and a strong internet voice, that this industry is making an effort to change.
Unfortunately, as with all things, the more things change the more they stay the same.