I know that some of you have an unjustified view of me.  I believe that there’s a perception out there that somehow, because I run this site and do my best to sound smart, that I’ve got it all going on – great landscaping business, website and everything else.  I’ve learned from all my mistakes and I never get taken advantage of.

Not true.  Despite having learned quite a bit on my own and from this site, I still do stupid things.  Plenty of them.

In regard to one client in particular, I’d been doing something stupid for three years.  But it ended a couple days ago.

It started out innocently enough – we got a call from someone referred by their sister, for whom we’d built a patio.  They had grand plans – flagstone patio, tiered retaining walls over a change in elevation of about 20′.  Nice project.

After the first design (which we don’t usually charge for), they wanted to add a waterfall to it.  They already saw the initial price, so they must have had more room in their budget.  Hungry to make the big sale, I quickly modified the design to include a water feature that spilled down over the retaining walls.

They liked it, but wanted to move the flow of water a bit and the layout of a couple walls.

I still wanted the project, so done and done.  But I was yet to have been been paid a penny, and this client was starting to fail the sniff test.

Long story short, a family member bought them a gift certificate for one ton of flagstone to go toward the work we were to be doing.  Only it had gone two years and the last conversation we’d had was that they had a $2,000 budget for a small retaining wall.  All told I’d visited the site 7 times, made 5 designs or design revisions, and other than the $400 I was paid for the flagstone (by someone other than the client), I still hadn’t been paid a penny.

So when the client called again this year, at long last I was going to set things straight.  He was doing a flagstone project himself in his front yard, wanted to know if we sold flagstone, mentioned the small retaining wall in back.  I told him we’re design/build, not retail, and that after 3 years, 7 site visits and 5 design revisions, I’m not interested in doing one more thing before he pays me a $1,000 retainer. No more site visits.  No more designs.  No more bids.

Then he asked about his $600 gift certificate.  I told him it was $400, but more importantly, it was not for dollar value, it was for a ton of flagstone, and that since the price of stone had been going up, I’d purchased some flagstone for him awhile back to make sure I didn’t take a bath on this gift when he finally got around to hiring us.

Which was more or less the truth. Sorta. I had a ton of flagstone for him, sure, but it was a pallet assembled from jobsite spoils and leftover scraps of previous jobs.  Living up to my end of the bargain, I’ll be delivering that ton of flagstone to him in the near future.

Finally telling this client where the bread got buttered felt good.  I knew that it would.  And I can’t wait to see his brand new DIY flagstone patio.

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