Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Know-it-All


Who would have thought after living in a house for eighteen years and having a great lawn care company go out of business that I’d have a hard time finding another. Other years they’ve flooded my mailbox with fliers and I started looking for them by mid-February. None showed up. Finally, I did an internet search of lawn care services in the area, called all seven listed but none were taking new customers. One big company that’s been around forever would take me if I was willing to pay a surcharge the first year bringing the weekly cuts up from an estimated $40 a week to $65. “But then the following year you’d be in our system and the price would drop back down. That’s just for the cuts,” she went on, “the weed and feed treatments are extra.”

I don’t need the weed and feed, I told her, “l’ve already contracted for that.” You would have thought I said I contracted a hit-man to kill the postman. “You can’t do that!” she said with great indignation. ”They need to be tied to your cuts.” She was such a snippy know it-all that I had a hard time not hanging up on her but I hadn’t decided, yet, if I’d have to let her extort a surcharge out of me. I was running out of options so I politely told her I’ve been contracting feed and weed separately for eighteen years and it’s always worked out fine. I didn’t tell her my weed and feed company uses all organic-based, earth friendly products, the only company in the area that does and if I’m going to pay extra for a service, I’d pick them every time. Weed, feed and bug control is their only business---not a cheap service either---and they run fifty trucks. Obviously, I’m not the only one who commits the Cardinal Sin of not tying weed and feed treatments in with their mowing. How gullible does she think people are? 

It must have been a slow day at the office because ‘chatty’ seemed to be her default mode. She asked who I’d been using for lawn care. I told her and before she could badmouth him, I added that he is also my nephew and he went out of business. She said the reason everyone is full already is because six companies in town did the same thing. “We know everyone,” she says, and “no one is taking new clients.” Clients? Lawyers have ‘clients’ people who cut grass have ‘customers.’ Then she goes on to say that the remaining companies all got together in February “to kind of set the prices”---OOPS! It was almost fun listening to her backpedal on price fixing. She rushed to explain how low bid people always go out of business after bleeding their customers away and I said, “Ya, I know all about low bids. We were in the commercial snowplowing business for decades.” And while she was sucking on that tidbit of information I took the opportunity to ask again, “Are you sure you don’t know anyone who is still writing contracts?” She gave me a phone number.

I was almost afraid to take a recommendation from Ms. Know-it-All who talks-too-much but I called and within two hours a laid-back guy came over, walked the yard, gave me a price and as we talked I felt comfortable enough to write him a check for half the season. It seems he plows snow in the winter for Chatty Know-it-All's company and they tried to subcontract him to mow this summer. He turned them down but told them: “If you want to throw me a bone, I can handle a couple more lawns.” So now the surcharge makes sense. If this big company can subcontract guys like him who have their own small companies, they could collect the extra money to do the billing, then poach the customer away from the subcontractor the following year with no one being the wiser as to who really did the actual work. 

My sister-in-law who passed away a couple of years ago used to say she was ready to go to a nursing home because it was too hard to keep her yard up. And at the time I didn’t understand why anyone would say that. “What’s the big deal?” I’d ask. “All we do is make a few phone calls and write a few checks.” If I could, I’d go back and tell her I’m sorry I didn’t understand why her lawn care was wearing her down. I was stressed out this year thinking I’d be living in a hay field with township violation notices decorating my front door like mini flags waving along a parade route. Heck, I'll be stressed out until the new guy shows up to do the first cut of the season. He is doing my cuts for a bargain rate of $30 a week so when I'm finished worrying about him taking my check and disappearing off the earth, I'll start worrying about him being so cheap he’ll let me down before fall. He looks like a guy who loves his sweets so I might have to start baking on Thursdays to keep him happy and make him feel guilty if he even thinks about stranding an elderly woman before the season is over. ©

39 comments:

  1. Absolutely bake for him to keep him happy and cutting your lawn! I have to cut my own here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd died if I had to do it. I'm allergic to grass and to the hard work.

      Delete
  2. Never thought of the baked goods - good call. Honestly as we begin our downsizing and eventual move I keep saying we don't want an acre or more like hubby wants. We are retiring. I do not wish to spend time on lawn care or have that expense. Why must we have a big yard? I'd be fine in a condo but not him. So the compromise has to be a smaller piece of property that we can handle and when needed won't cost us an arm and a leg. Chatty Cathy was a bit of a pain wasn't she? Snarky and gets to keep her job and doesn't lose customers. How does that work?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A house with a yard is by far easier when you have a dog. But it's a trade off. A friend of mine moved to a condo last fall and they are giving her so much trouble over her dog that she really regrets the move.

      Guys like Rick often look at lawn care like a hobby they enjoy, like pretend farming. Not my idea of a good time but I sure have liked having a great lawn all these years.

      Chatty Cathy was condescending. I'm pretty sure she's the wife of the guy who started the company and like you, she takes care of all the consumer service. She likes to mine information from people who call, scope out the competition thus she talks too much.

      Delete
  3. Wow. No idea there was a Lawn Care Mafia!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I had thought about that before I wrote this. LOL

      Delete
  4. Glad you got that resolved, Jean! I thought I was in the same fix earlier this week. The company I got passed off to, when the bigger company I was with decided to "fire" their smaller customers, wasn't responding to my calls (to pay them for last month) so I wondered if they had closed up shop. But I got an email saying the payment gal was at a destination wedding and could she call me when she got back into town. Whew! And I noticed my grass was cut on Monday. Big relief.
    Even though I am considered a commercial customer, it's hard to find someone when you are just one smallish property, I find.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When we get good repeat service from people like lawn care we take them for granted, don't we.

      My guy showed up to cut and it looks awful. I'm withhold judgement because we've had so much rain and he needs to figure out the best pattern to use so he's not making weird tracks in the grass. Might have to have my nephew draw him a map.

      Glad you got a return call!

      Delete
  5. I sold my home specifically because of the lawn care issues and when I moved into this house instead of the condo with the patio the agreement was I would never have to touch, contract for or do anything about the yard....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good deal if you can get it. I take it the deal is with your sister? If I'm remembering right you live together?

      Delete
  6. Price fixing? For lawn care??? You should send a letter! That is crazy.

    But a big yard was a big reason we chose a condo ... but a very low density complex, 1,000 trees on 7 acres so it feels more like a home. Also, our water bill was pretty high to water all those living plants and the patch of grass. Some plants had special ground injections, some got separate fertilizers, quarterly this and semi-annual that so even my HOA fees of $400 covers all that, the water and the trash. PLUS we have a pool, clubhouse rooms, undercover patio, BIG patch of grass for my snipers and millions of rhodies, azaleas, eye of david, vinca minor, roses. Just love that part of condo living.

    Mr. Ralph would mow the grass in three directions, then brush with a broom. Anal much?

    Sad that your first mowing job didn't go so well. Best to talk to him right away (and make a map!) and have a platter of cookies and a bottle of water waiting for next week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Send a letter to who? I doubt it's illegal to

      I agree a condo makes sense for those tired of lawn and house maintenance but I'm not moving until after Levi is gone and/or I start needing more oversight. By then (2-4 years) the social life I've built here will have dwindled away then I'll move closer to where my family lives.

      I love how Ralph mowed in three directions. A guy in my neighborhood does that. My nephew didn't turn around on the lawn. He did it on the sidewalk...makes a huge difference. This first mow would have been hard to make look good no matter who did it. It was too long and wet but rain was expected all week so he had not choice but to cut wet. I'll give him a couple more cuts before I jump in with requests/suggestions.

      Delete
    2. Better Business Bureau? Department of Labor? Consumer Affairs? Angie's List? City Council?

      What a nitwit she is for telling you!!!!

      Delete
    3. Nitwit is right. She forgot who she was talking to. But I don't think it's that unusual for service businesses to sync their prices. They see each other at trade shows and conventions, repair centers, etc. and talk...

      Delete
  7. Isn't silly that these people are so money makers. Luckily, my wife enjoys cutting the grass and for now while she's getting better after her knee operations, our daughter Nicole said that she would do it. Mary Lou wanted to give her some money for her efforts but she said hell know. She said it's her turn to help us because we helped her when she was growing up. What a wonderful daughter. See ya Jean.

    Cruisin Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You raised that daughter right! Mary Lou will be back to the cutting the grass before the end of the season.

      I don't think I have ever cut a lawn since I was a teenager and we had a push mower without a motor of any kind.

      Delete
    2. As a kid, I did cut the grass with a push mower. You couldn't have a sit down one. You'd have to push with your legs if did have one. LOL See ya Jean

      Delete
  8. Rick has always done mine and now with his leg, he can't, at least not till July, probably, maybe next month. So after looking like "the bad neighbor" (I expected someone to mow-out "cut me" in my lawn!) I hired my neighbor who does my snow in the winter for a bit. He did such an awesome job (and yes, I'll pay, probably well!) that I'm not sure I can take Rick back!!! He's a great mower but he skips the edging. Maybe I'll get him one of those contraptions that do it for his birthday!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My neighbors have always hired my nephew when they had a temporary need like you do now. Weed wackers always make a huge difference and they are always on sale around Father's Day if you wait until then.

      Delete
  9. your story and description kept me smiling this morning! :)

    We are in a weird gap; lawn needs mowing, but we are going to get a pool installed soon, so most of the lawn will go away, and so far, hubby is rebelling at buying a lawn mower he won't need for long, or paying for a service that he might cancel soon. I suspect a weed whacker will be used in the interim, but he hasn't bought it yet and I'm veering into nag territory... LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are companies that cut without a seasonal contract. You call when you need it cut, pay before they start. That kind of service would work for you or maybe get one of your neighbor's services to do it for a few weeks until the pool gets started. Lawns cost too much to let go if there are parts of your lawn you want to save.

      Delete
  10. Wow! Sure does sound a lot more complicated and more expensive than what we’ve dealt with here. But then you probably have lots of grass year ‘round. Even during a regular season without drought my grass doesn’t grow that much and they could easily skip a week many months without mowing, but other shrubs, house-roof high bushes separating properties to be cut periodically. I just pick up fertilizer bags then have them spread several times a year with the spreader my husband had from when he used to be able to do it and the gardeners easily do it on one of their regular grass cutting days. Maybe we have more low-wage earning employees available for services out here though most of the young guys who come here are the same ones who had been coming. Do hope you get good service as it sounds like you’ve arranged. You do give me food for thought ‘cause I don’t know what I might encounter If my guys would quit and I had to hire a new group. I noticed the gals across the street dismissed their gardeners and bought a fancy mower, other trimming and cutting devices and do their own now. Of course, when we were all younger on this street most everyone did their own yards. Now with so many doing away with most of their grass there hasn’t been as much need for gardeners.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No way do we have grass year around. In the winter the ground is covered with snow from December to March. Our weekly cutting season is May through October. My yard is not huge, 85 ft wide in the front 175 ft in the back.

      I always thought you guys in CA had immigrant workers who dominated the lawn care industry. We don't have that at all. The last time I looked into getting a gardener to take care of the bedded areas of the yard it was $50 an hour five years ago. I do that myself. How many people make more than that so they can pay out $50 an hour?

      Weed and feed treatments are six times a season if you do the environmentally friendly kind that won't harm the underground water table, etc.

      Delete
    2. How could I so easily forget the snowy winters! I must not have been thinking. I have no flower beds requiring regular attention. They’re here an hour max and often much less time. My gardeners are Mexican-Americans — usually the same four though typically only a couple of them, plus often their employer with whom I actually contract. They do the house next door, too, and had been before my husband hired them.

      Delete
  11. We're just starting out hiring someone to cut our grass (we live on 3.5 acres with just 2 acres cleared) Our original guy just upped and quit after 2 years. Now, after a few interviews, we've hired someone but its been 2 weeks and he still hasn't shown up. My husband just doesn't want to cut the grass anymore despite the fact he just sits atop a John Deere tractor and drives the thing like a car. How hard is that?
    Anyway, I've often wondered about who would cut the grass if the time came when hubby couldn't. After reading your post I shiver at the prospect.
    Good for you. I'm glad you resolved your problem.
    I enjoyed your post. Looking forward to reading more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Riding a tractor to cut grass seems to be a thinkg you either love or hate. I know plenty of people---both men and women---who love it. I've never done it but it looks hot and boring to me to cut it by the acreage. My lawn with two people is a 15 minute job with one cutting and one weed wacking. Believe it or not, the lawn care business is stressful. You're always working against the weather and customers who don't understand how it effects their schedules.

      Delete
  12. I just don't have anything to add here at all, being without a house or a yard. My inclinations tend to be anti-lawn anyway, given the way we've eliminated such vast amounts of land for the use by birds, insects, and other such. Still, it was interesting to read about the expense involved. People down here who promote native plants, groundcovers, and such have said that it's not only better for the environment (they like to call them wildscapes, as opposed to landscapes) they've also talked a good bit about the savings that can result when mowing and etc. no longer is needed. You've certainly put some substance into that topic!

    As for the know-it-alls of the world, they can be entirely annoying. For one thing, they often know far less than they think about the subject at hand, and they can cause some real problems while trying to enforce their "informed" opinion. (Yes, anti-vaxxers do come to mind.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The entire back of my property (185 x 40 tapering down to 20 ft)is wildscaped for the animals to travel back and forth between a lake and wooded state lands. (Whatever grows, grows. I throw a lot of wildflower seeds out there.) It was a new concept when this neighborhood was developed 20 years ago. But none of the townships or cities around here would allow you do to do a wildscape for your entire yard. Native plants are encourage in planting beds, though, but they are a small portion of a yard mostly around the foundation of houses. Water in the Great Lakes area has never been an issue like it is in other areas of the country and that really factors into how people view lawn care, I think.

      I hate the anti-vaxxers! I saw one on TV yesterday who said no pro-life person should get a vaccine. I didn't know it, but apparently back in the 50s the first vaccine was developed using a fetus and they are still using that strain today for whatever vaccine he was talking about.

      Delete
  13. Our lawn mowing guy is retiring end of season, so he is only mowing the larger lawns or people who have it done weekly--to make the most money. Quite a few of us can only afford a cut every other week, so we have taken on a guy recommended by our retiring guy.
    This new guy, doesn't cut it quite short enough, so Dar is going to talk to him about it. You know, she will set him straight. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ya, they can control how often you need it cut by how short they cut it. The only trouble with short cuts is in the hottest part that short grass will burn up if it gets much sun. Glad you got a smooth transmission, though. That means a lot.

      Delete
    2. Interesting as I sometimes have reverse problem — getting them to let grass grow longer in hot weather — even skip a week mowing if not long enough, but do other things and I’ll pay them anyway.

      Delete
    3. If you pay by the season instead of the cut, it's easier to get them to skip a week and they will edge the lawn that week instead. I don't like the short cuts, but Judy does it to save money as she pays as she goes.

      Delete
  14. You've picked a topic I'm unfamiliar with - lawn treatments. Stubbornly so. I did finally hire a local guy to mow, a great relief and worth every penny at $45 a week. I love this guy. He's an avid bird watcher and so nice. Even though he'd never done this, he helped me clear the pond of lily pads two years ago. I supplied the fly-fishing waders. And the giant pond weed clippers. He and I chased down all the lily pads. Days it took. Together we hauled hundreds to shore. Whew! Did they stink while they dried. My shoulder hurts just thinking about all that work. (Babying the shoulder these days.) Anyway, the pond is now clear enough for boating. Lily pads are regrouping, though.

    I am discouraged enough with my lawn's weeds to start paying someone to apply treatments. Have to be organic. Well, that's next year's concern.

    You really managed that know-it-all well. To think you got such a reasonable lawn guy out of that conversation. Wow. Fingers crossed he shows up. Yeah, I say bake now and again for him!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm impressed that you have a pond big enough for boating! Glad you didn't tackle it alone. That could be dangerous if you lost your footing or got trapped in the lilies.

      Until you get around to hiring someone for your weed control it really helps to pick the "flowers" off broad leaf weeds like dandelions. They are also easy to pull after it rains. I do that in my bark beds.

      Delete
  15. This is the first year we've had a lawn service. My husband and I have done all the maintenance on our property, but the pruning, weeding, edging, mowing, etc became a big job and hard on old joints. We feel fancy and relieved to have found a great crew!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With your husband's knee surgery coming up it was a good decision to get a lawn care service. I would imagine there are more services like that in your area of the country than where I live.

      Delete
  16. Fingers crossed with the new fellow, but I laughed out loud at your ending. Thank you! :D

    ReplyDelete
  17. I always struggle to find people to do needed home/yard maintenance work in my area. Whenever anyone says, "Oh, you can just hire someone to do that," I immediately feel exhausted by the effort I know will be involved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really miss the yellow pages when I'm trying to find someone. I've had good luck with The Handyman Connection, which is nation-wide. It's kind of like Uber in that jobs are posted through them and contractors can take them if they want. I know someone who does work through them and he tells me everyone is background checked before they are allowed to take a posting.

      Delete