Some people are too stupid to live, and some small businesses are too stupid to stay in business. At least, it seems that it should be that way.
Low-ball contractors, lousy service providers and crappy restaurants. Idiots who should be meeting with a bankruptcy attorney or be hounded by collection agents instead stay around way past their expiry date, pissing off their customers and racking up debt.
Danger, 101 Centavos!
Tree care (trimming, pruning and removal) is a dangerous job. Every year, both professionals and amateurs get to audition for Darwin Awards. Many a hapless do-it-yourselfer, with little regard to safety or common sense, will be featured on YouTube as dumbass fail! of the week, either felling a tree on their back porch (duh!), getting their pickups crushed or getting knocked off a ladder by a back-swinging branch. Professional tree service people get their share too: falling off trees, getting electrocuted or getting hit by falling limbs.
Man’s got to know his limitations.
With me, my limit is a back-leaning thirty-foot lace-bark elm with an 8″ diameter at breast height. Getting that sucker down on the ground took more out of me that I might care to admit. Despite doing all the things right (hey, I learned it on YouTube) with a good front notch, a proper hinge, and an angled plunge cut on the backside, the damn tree just. Wouldn’t. Fall. I finally had to pull the it down with a thick rope tied to its top branch. In the aftermath, with chest, legs and arms all aching and loudly clamoring for a beer or three, I conceded defeat and picked up the phone. There was no profit in DIY’ing the rest of the tree work.
The scope of work was straightforward: remove the other lace-bark elm* from the front yard and grind the stump; trim three large branches off the willow out back; grind the stump of the lace-bark elm from the back yard; haul away the branches and debris; make good the stump sites. The twist was that one of the willow tree branches to be removed was right over the tender new Cornelian Cherry tree. A little care was called for.
Bidder #1 was the highest. After a brief site visit, Kevin the fireman and tree-trimmer in his spare time quoted a precise $486 for the entire scope, with the caveat that we had to be present to see and judge how the willow tree looked after one branch was removed. He detailed how one of his (obviously insane) guys would shinny up the tree limb and take it down one little bit at a time, starting from the top. The crazy worker would have all required safety harnesses and rigging.
Bidder #2 was a no-show, but later called and quoted over the phone. $350 for the same scope, no problem.
Bidder #3 promised to call back, but couldn’t be bothered.
Bidder #4 was a total idiot. This beer-bellied goober turned up on a weekday, unannounced, after missing the first appointment two days prior. He barely looked at the trees, and low-balled the estimate at $200 even. What this lecherous moron spent most of his time on was flirting with Mrs. 101, ogling her legs and making what he thought was winning compliments about how good she looked for her age.
Set that aside for a moment.
Could this dude have done the job for a measly couple hundred bucks? Sure. Farm out the job to a crew of
illegal aliens undocumented workers motivated hard-working future business owners Mexicans, cream fifty bucks off the top, and Bob’s yer uncle.
Good chances that this crew would have not been well-equipped. Instead of commercial-grade stump-grinding machinery, they might have probably used chainsaws to “grind” and left most of the stump in below ground ($50 is commonly quoted unit price for stump-grinding). Likely they would not have used proper safety rigging when climbing up the willow. And certainly, they would have been sans the heavy-duty chipper that eventually left us with a nice pile of mulch for the garden.
Bidder #4 was not only stupid for flirting with a prospective customer (never mind the safety issue: Mrs. 101 packs heat or pepper spray or both, and is backed up by a mean-looking dog who doesn’t much like strangers), but for offering potentially shoddy work.
Winning Bidder #1 showed up on time, with top-of-the-line equipment, and his four-man crew was in and out in less than two hours. He was serious, knew his business, and perhaps most importantly, he was fully insured and bonded. Not a small thing to consider in a business where workplace injuries are common, and you as the homeowner could face liability if a contractor gets injured on your property.
Four hundred and eighty six dollars might sound like a lot when compared to two unqualified bids of $200 and $350, but small money when compared to the full scope of work, done right. With a limited sample of three data points, the “market” might tell us that the price for that job should have been around $300. The “market” isn’t always right.
* A lace-bark Elm is about the worst tree to plant in your suburban lot. The damn thing throws out hundreds of little seedlings every spring. The ludicrously long taproots make these “weeds” almost impossible to eradicate. Good riddance.
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