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Old 06-10-2004, 10:31 PM
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Some of the local, upscale, successful nurseries in my area have started using a replacement guarantee of 1/2 the cost of the plant limited to one occurence. I'm sure there is some fine print about as long as the plant is not neglected or abused after installation as well.

Every landscape contractor I know dreads replacing plants. Furthermore, after losing 16 5-6' arborvitae I am a little sqeemish about guarantees as well. It is simply a losing proposition, of both time and money. You know that even if you plant every plant by the book some are going to die, it is just a fact of life. Do heart surgeons guarantee that you'll live? Do lawyers guarantee you won't go to jail? I suspect if I knew I wasn't going to buy the farm on replacements I would be happier doing it.

Has anyone tried a system like this. I know you are all saying it could never work, but the guys making the big dollars around here are all doing it. Just curious.

Last edited by jwholden; 06-10-2004 at 10:33 PM..
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Old 06-10-2004, 10:38 PM
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To clarify, if a $150 plant dies, it costs $75 to have it replaced?
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Old 06-10-2004, 10:40 PM
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You got it.

I'm thinking that I may have read the tag wrong and that may have only been for retail sales. Hmmm...I'll have to stop by that nursery again.

I like the concept.

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Old 06-10-2004, 10:51 PM
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We offer a one year guarantee. Anything that dies, we replace once, at no charge. We have a written guarantee. (pm me if you'd like a copy.) We cover the price of replacement on our bid, but not the price of labor.

We actually love it when a plant or two dies, because then we can rush right out and replace it. It gives us a chance to show what great service we offer. It also gives us a chance to walk around the property and sell more work to our extremely happy customer. I call the free labor really cheap advertising!

I have even been known to call up clients up in the spring, to ask them if they have any plants they need to have replaced. It blows their minds!
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Old 06-10-2004, 10:56 PM
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Do you guarantee trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses? In my parts grasses and perennials are often not covered.
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Old 06-10-2004, 11:07 PM
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Everything but annuals and "plants from seed"-grass, etc. And we even replace those if they have a maintenance contract with us.
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Old 06-10-2004, 11:34 PM
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Today I finished a job that included replacement of plants that were installed last summer by a contractor that didn't guarantee plant survival. That part of the job sold for $2000, the additional work was $7500. This client spent $120,000 with last years contractor. That is a client I wouldn't want to give up on just yet. I'm quite certain all future landscape construction will be done by Alfresco in that yard.

Although it isn't written anywhere I have been known to tell my clients that I don't care if it gets hit by a meteor, if you feel like I should fix it, CALL ME, I will make you happy even if it's a year or 3 after the written warranty has lapsed. So far I haven't felt like I have been taken advantage of.
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Old 06-11-2004, 06:56 PM
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Nurseries here in Aus have been doing something similar for about 10 years now. The only difference is that they will replace the plant FREE. Here nurseries put 100% mark up on their plants. So they actually don't loose any money by doing this.

My wife and I had a nursery for 4 1/2 years and addapted the same policy.

We had a few customers come back with their dead plants for us to replace. The idea is that the majority won't. They feel embarrassed to do so. Or realise that they were responsibe for the death of the plant.

It is a great selling point.

As far as applying this to landscaping goes - I believe that you have to look at what your markup is on the wholesale price of the plants. And if necessary increase it to cover the replacement of approx 10% of the total wholesale plant cost.

About 12 years ago I was doing a lot of revegetation work for local councils. I had to maintain the sites for 6 months and replace all dead, stolen and damaged plants. I always added 50%, onto the normal markup on the plant material, to cover this.

I worked out that about 10% on average would be replaced. If the project was in a high profile spot about 30%.

I have also known competetors who have had all their plants stolen in one night. I mean $1,000's worth. So be carefull how you word your guarantee.

Because I don't do mush soft landscaping any more I don't have to deal with it now.

BUT, it is a great marketing tool that will fool some people.
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Old 06-12-2004, 01:32 PM
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The nurseries around here offer guarantees for retail customers but not wholesale customers. Homeowners take in their dead plants and the nursery gives them a new one free.

I have one customer who I've now replaced a Japanese Maple for twice. The site is fine and his watering seems to be fine, but the first two died after one season each. I do not plan on replacing a third if I can help it.

I planted a hedgerow of cedars for a customer this spring (40 5' cedars at $90 retail-a-piece) and I tried to allow for 25% replacement (wholesale cost) in the job price. I say "I tried" because the installation took longer than anticipated, so now I've only got budget room for less than 15% replacement.

Anyway, I don't know how the 1/2 price replacement idea would work. I think it's better to just allow for having to replace a certain percentage each time I do an install...we get 'em at wholesale prices anyhow.
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Old 06-13-2004, 01:27 PM
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We do one-time replacement, woody plants only (no perennials, grasses). In my new pricing spreadsheet I also have a part to fill in an underwriting percentage. We seem to have trouble with Arborvitae survivability every now and then, so we jack up the UW % on them more than the rest.

Our contract stipulates that it does not include labor, but we always throw in labor anyway. Seldom do things die, and when they do it gives us the opportunity to look like heroes.

On a side note, I've been giving half-hearted thought to starting a very small, exclusive nursery that sells only highly sculptured, trained trees and shrubs, with no guarantee on any of 'em. Just as there is no possible replacement for Vermeer's Girl with a pearl earring, you can't replace a plant that is singular in shape and form.
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Old 07-05-2004, 08:15 PM
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I offer a one-year guarantee on all items. All trees are marked up 100%. Shrubs and perennials can vary 30%+. Generally, itís the customerís fault that something dies. We always use soil amendments and proper planting techniques. It really helps if you just sit down with the customer and make sure the irrigation is hitting all new plants and the customer knows exactly how and when to water. Communication with the customer will bring down the death toll of plant material.

Hereís a copy of our guarantee:


All plantings as indicated will be guaranteed as follows:

Trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials are guaranteed for 12 months if there is an automatic irrigation system installed. Where plants die, replacements will be made with plants of the original size and quality as previously specified at no cost to the owner. One replacement for each plant that dies will be made. Transplanted plants from the site have no guarantee, though every precaution will be made to assure their survival.

The above guarantee will not apply where plants die because of chemicals, animal damage, vandalism, fire, storms, hail, drought, insects, exceptional or untimely freeze, or other acts of God, or by any other contingency beyond the landscape contractorís control.


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Old 11-18-2004, 05:58 PM
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Ptrain

Interesting you mention ( exceptional or untimely freeze ) now how do you convince that to the customer.

I ask cause the extreme winter we have had the past 2 winter seasons


Some people I have talked with in spring said they are no longer guaranteeing passed 12/1 or 1/1 Whether planted spring or fall.

Interesting this is.....Spring I was giving guarantee to 12/1...no problem at all.......Fall planting I felt shaddy only providing 1 - 3 months guarantee so I gave them a 1 year.

If it survives winter.......it will survive.
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Old 11-15-2005, 07:28 AM
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I've had 1yr warranty since starting 10yrs ago. I've been burned so many times b/c people just neglect their plants. Yes, there's a disclaimer in the warranty that they must give proper care.
We just recently replace 5 plants that when pulled out, were clearly rooted out but bone dry. We had already got the plants and were on site so replaced. They clearly didn't water after the first couple months. If the client can't give ME a gurantee that they will take care of the plants, then I can't gurantee the plant. It's not a piece of furniture! It's a living thing.
I just revised the contract for 30 day warranty. If anything is wrong with the plant from the nursery or workmanship then we would know in that time. If in one year a plant dies, we'll replace it at 1/2 price + the labor involved. The clients have incentive to take care of the plants because they actually have something at stake. We're covered b/c we're not out of pocket on a replacement (yes we markup plants 100%).
I've had no probs with this approach so far. All clients think it's very fair since a plants health is really out of our hands unless we're doing the maintenance.
What do y'all think? I know 1yr is standard but everything we replace is due to neglect at my expense.
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Old 11-15-2005, 08:57 AM
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I'm happy to see this thread!! I'm faced with a problem right now, which had inspired me to start the thread regarding Blue Spruce availability.

I have 2 jobs where Blues have died. We had an extremely dry hot summer this year and I am certain the trees died from a lack of water. One job had half the trees die, the other reports 3 of 14 have died.

The 14 tree job specifically asked about guarantee and I told them that I could guarantee the trees would be planted properly, the rest would be up to them. I also offered them a full guarantee at double my original estimate which they declined. In speaking with the client, I was able to get him to admit that he hadn't been as diligent with water as perhaps he should have. So I think this one won't be a problem except for finding replacements of the same quality.

The second is more touchy for me. 3 of 6 Spruce have died. This is a regular maintenance account that I've been servicing for about 6 years. It's in a condo project and I've gotten 4 other accounts there from people seeing our work at her place. I've also done casual work for a number of other residents there.

The client did not ask about a guarantee and the work was done during an extremely busy period where I really didn't get a chance to spend some time with her to explain an optional guarantee. I did explain how sensitive the trees would be to receiving water on a regular basis and she seemed to understand.

I returned to this location a few months later for some other work and noticed some of the Blues had changed to a pea soup green so I went over to investigate. The soil was powdery dry, I immediately summoned the client and again explained the water requirements for the trees. She seemed embarrassed and explained that her hose was too heavy to drag clear over there, so I set up her hose for her and we watered the hell out of them, but it was too late. 3 of the 6 ended up dying and no I'm faced with a problem.

The only places around here that offer a guarantee are the "Big Box" stores, but you can't find quality plants there. I haven't discussed replacement terms with the client yet, and here's what I'm faced with: This was not a large job to start with and I had priced it very reasonably since this client had done so much business with me. I expect that trend to continue, but her property is small and the jobs we get there are too. A full guarantee would put a pretty serious burden on me and would take some time to recoup through other work there, yet I don't want to risk losing this account. I had considered doing the replacement at 1/2 cost to split the burden with her, and it seems some here have had similar thoughts.

I'm interested in hearing comments and ideas about my dilemma. Thanks!
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Old 11-15-2005, 10:34 AM
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The way I see it is that you do share some liability for those trees for two reasons. First, it is a regular maintenance client for you and, presumably, you were on site fairly regularly where the status of the new planting could have been checked. And second, you admitted that you didn't spell out the cultural requirements necessary for the planting (I know that people SHOULD know that they need to water, but...).

I'd offer the 1/2 price replacements, or maybe just offer to replace them on a maintenance visit at the cost of the trees. You said that this is a good client that has scored you additional work over the years, so you do need to take that into account.

Also, when you do planting, you NEED to have a statement (contract) spelling out your replacement policy so as not to have this kind of thing bite you in the ass in the future.

As an aside here, I think the idea of selling an "extended warrantee" has some merit. Hmmm....
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