Are your lawn care employees ‘wildcatting?’

Do you have lawn care employees that are out mowing lawns during the day? If so, do you have any way of tracking what they are doing or where they are going? If not, you may be in for a rude awakening. This discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum was an eye opener to the dirty tricks some lawn care employees play.

One lawn care business owner wrote “this past week I was filling up with gas and this lawn service truck pulled up along side. Now, I was in my personal vehicle, so they had no idea I was a lawn care business owner myself.

We started some small talk, I made some inquires as to their equipment, schedule, rates, etc. I asked who owned the business and they told me they were a crew for ’so and so.’ I asked how much they got paid… When they told me I was rather surprised, I’m not sure I’d trust that much equipment and my reputation to someone making that small of a wage. Not without some type of good supervision.

Now the kicker. They said the wage really wasn’t that bad, because they ‘wildcatted’ a yard or two daily without the bosses knowledge and split the money between them. So they were actually making $30-70 dollars a day more, in cash, than their paycheck reflected.

So, what would you do…Call the owner and let him know? And ow do you keep your crews from doing something similar?”

A second lawn care business owner said “I feel that’s BS. It would piss me off to no end and some people would be getting fired in a damn quick hurry. It’s stealing either way you look at it. The owner is paying them an hourly wage WHILE they are stabbing him in the back. I spent the time, money, and sweat to build my business to what it is. I laid my families welfare on the line to start something from nothing. I have paid my dues and have earned the right to my share of any and all business performed by my business with MY EQUIPMENT. If it was me…. I would be telling the owner in person about what was said.

My father dealt with this same issue with his lawn/landscape business. He got a phone call one day from a phantom customer because the guys missed a spot. My old man waited until the next week and had me come with him to catch them in the act.

He fired them both on site, had them remove their lawn care uniform shirts from their backs, their hats, and told me to drive the other truck/trailer back to the shop. We left them both with about a 10 mile walk to the nearest store. (this was in the pre-cell phone days). I thought my father was going to literally rip their heads off. He felt so betrayed he actually threw up after we got back home. He was just sick to his stomach about what they had been doing.

Wouldn’t you want to know? Then tell the owner what’s going on.”

A third business owner said “when I was working for a lawn fertilizing company there was one customer’s neighbor that asked for an estimate. After I gave it to him ($55 per application) he said ‘the last guy did it for $30.’

I was the first guy from my company that serviced his neighbor so I found out who this guy was and that he was giving him the $30 price and was pocketing it.

He kept trying to get me to do it for $30 saying ‘come on, the $30 is yours. I won’t tell your boss and you’ll make extra money.’ What a jerk. First, I’d never steal from anyone let alone they guy that gave me a job for 10 years. Second, this type of jerk would be the first to turn someone in for having a chemical accident on his lawn. Third, encouraging someone to steal proves he’s not a desirable customer. Fourth, he was a jerk.

I have a feeling the guys I trained to take my place at that job are taking the $30.”

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