Landscaper as Every Man
People getting over on others has been a sore spot recently. Last fall I signed an agreement for landscape work in my back yard. Two days later I felt a need to review the details and calculate my own measurements. The landscaper’s quote was based on hardscaping 1700 square feet with pavers, stones, and artificial mounds for height variance.
The second night, I went to bed thinking: my house is 1800 square feet, there’s no way I’m landscaping a house worth of space. The next afternoon I went out to measure what I wanted pavers and travertine for: two seating areas, the patio and a side walk along the side of the house. My rough measurement came to under 600 square feet. Which meant the landscaper was charging me for nearly 3x’s the square footage he was landscaping.
I sent him an email with my measurements and calculations for approximate square footage he was working with. I also scaled back the job. To be fair, I didn’t measure the areas I was scaling back from which could have been another 200 square feet or so. Due to the extremely exaggerated the square footage, the price was also grossly inflated.
Straight talk vs. crooked practice
Amazingly, I wasn’t angry. Perhaps frustrated, disappointed and a bit concerned that I may have already overpaid him by paying half of the inflated quote, but anger hadn’t seated in me at that point.
The day after I sent the email requesting an adjustment and recalculation (followed by a text with the same subject) he laid foundational work for the design he wanted to do which didn’t represent my changes.
At that point, I became peeved. It seemed like a classic maneuver to force me to pay for work I didn’t want by getting in and doing it quickly.
Negotiating Greed & Deception
Three days after I sent the email/text, the landscaper and I had a face-to-face. He tried to explain that the 1700 square feet included linear feet for the borders.I knocked that foul ball out the air. Charging full square foot coverage then adding on linear footage is double-dipping.
Having to have that conversation drained me of my energy and my spirit is tired. He’s not the first person to drastically over-charge me. He’s not even the first person within a three month span. Actually, I can’t recall a time a human being has dealt fairly with me or when a person’s word proved itself by lining up with their actions.
The ordinariness of the deception (fraud) is what is stunning. I’ve reached a point of sensitivity to the callousness of greed and deception. The every-day ordinariness of it makes it that much harsher. People present their greed as their business (capitalism), their hustle (getting theirs), their side gig (getting a leg up), but what they are really doing is looking for ways to get over. They’re looking for suckers, marks, patsies to pay for the lifestyle they aspire to.
What I’ve come to realize about people who over over-charge for their services – over-charge in the sense that the volume or quality of work does not add up to the price – is that they are not interested in truly providing a quality service, building a relationship or acquiring repeat or residual business. Their focus is the grab-n-go. Get as much cash as they can and hurry off to the next gig.
All this said, the landscaper did beautiful work. Frankly, my backyard doesn’t look like anyone else’s in the neighborhood. It’s not finished but it’s still quite lovely which shows a great deal of promise for my future efforts. For that, I can’t resent what I paid. I chalk it up to the growing pains of homeownership and home improvement. He, along with several others, provided intensely painful financial lessons to me last year.
“A fool and his money are soon parted” is a proverb that has constantly run through my mind these last six months. I spent a lot of money on everything because I had the money to spend and no energy or interest in quibbling over fees. This behavior was extremely foolish and the impatience behind it quite damaging.
This episode of my life proved me to be a poor steward. In counting the additional cost associated with my laissez-faire management style, I can see how to better manage the resources entrusted to me.
Stewardship is quite different from capitalism and entrepreneurship. Stewardship is operating with a full understanding that what you have isn’t yours, it’s simply entrusted to your management. As a manager of resources, how do you improve your bottom line? For starters, you don’t give away the bag simply because you’re tired or want to avoid confrontation. The role of good stewards is to multiply the resources they’ve been given. Not through greed and deceit, but by industry and effort with a focus on service.
The over-arching lesson learned from folks getting over on me in recent years is that, in the situations I didn’t put an end to, I gave permission by following through with the interaction. Additionally, I ‘ve learned a great many ways I don’t want to be as a business owner and service provider. Knowing what not to do is as valuable as knowing what to do.