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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Do you want it done? Or do you want it done right?

Anyone who has driven past our house lately knows the sad state of our grass. And when I use the word grass I use it very loosely. I guess technically there is grass there but it’s mostly Bermuda and crab. Don’t get me wrong. There is also quite a bit of winter rye which is gorgeous grass in the winter but in the summer it turns into hay. Literally. Just ask my kids who can’t run across it barefooted because after it has been mowed feels hard and rough like…hay. So in a nutshell we have green weeds and brown hay and lots of bare patches in between.

My husband has spent many hours fretting over the state of our lawn. We had TruGreen Chemlawn apply two rounds of their wonder chemicals before we realized that even their lovely product isn’t going to help the hay. Any fescue that we did have in the early spring had long since been completely overtaken by the weeds so basically we were paying them for nothing. Shame on them for taking our money when it was apparent that there was nothing left to even salvage. And then they had the nerve to leave a follow up review on our doorstep stating that the condition of the lawn was “improving”. Ha! (In their defense, we did use them before at our other house on a lawn that was established and not planted with hay and after several visits from them we had the nicest grass on the whole street.)

So being the good wife and stay-at-homer than I am I started checking the phone book for reputable lawn care companies. We decided we need to have someone aerate and overseed in the fall. We wanted to start looking now so we could figure out how much money we were going to have to spend and get on their to-do list.

I found four places in the local phone book that I decided I would call. How I determined which four companies to call was based solely on how their ad looked in the Yellow Pages. That’s such a girly way to go about it. My husband probably would have just starting calling in alphabetical order but I spent a lot of time analyzing how their ad looked, what it said, where they placed the words aerate and overseed in the ad, what kind of graphics they used in the ad, etc.

There was one company that had a glowing cross on either side of their name in the ad. I decided that was a good sign. The company is probably run by good Christians if they have glowing crosses beside their company name in their Yellow Pages ad. I called them and liked the sound of the owner’s voice right away. I liked it even better when he said he would come out later that afternoon if we were going to be home. Great! Nice voice and good service! Those glowing crosses didn’t let me down! Surely I have found the company for the job! I said we would be home and for him to come on over at any time. That was five days ago and I’m still waiting. So, mark the glowing cross company off the list.

The next guy I called told me he would come out in a couple of days to give me an estimate. However as he was telling me this I heard a toilet flush in the background.


This guy actually did come as promised and gave me a very low quote…almost too low…but all I could wonder about the whole time I was talking to him was whether he was going number one or number two when we were speaking on the phone. I took his business card but for some reason I didn’t want to keep it. I guess it’s because after I heard the toilet flush I never heard any water running, any hand soap pumping or any towel drying going on in the background.


So, I marked the talk on the phone and then flush and then not wash your hands guy off my list.

The next guy I spoke to gave me a quote over the phone based on estimates of how big the yard was and conditions of the lawn as described to him by me. His price was about what I expected and he seemed nice enough but he didn’t want to even look at the grass and give me a firm estimate until we told him we were going to use him. The last thing I needed was to have someone come out in September and say “Whoa! This yard is bigger than I thought. That price I quoted you in July is waaaaay too low!” So I politely listened to him talk about the seed he used and the fertilizer he recommended and I silently crossed him off the list.

I called one more guy. He was all business from the minute he answered the phone. I was describing the grass and where we lived. He then declared that he saw the contractors planting the grass when they were building our home and that he has been by there recently and had seen how bad it was.

He then got very serious and said, “Do you want it done? Or do you want it done right?” I didn’t answer thinking that it was a rhetorical question but when he remained silent I quickly realized he actually wanted an answer. So I let out a little nervous laugh and then said, “We want it done right.” I mean what else was I going to say? His response was, “I only do high quality work so if you aren’t interested in doing it the right way then I’m not your guy. If you want it done the right way I’ll be out tomorrow to take a look at things. When will your husband be home? I’d like to talk to you both if possible.”

This guy knew what he was doing. He actually wanted to talk to my husband. In this case that’s a good thing because before my husband spends a dime he wants to know exactly what he’s getting. I had been trying to explain seed and fertilizer types, aerating methods and other landscaping stuff to him based on what the other landscapers had told me and we were both getting confused. It was going to take him talking to an actual landscaper before we spent any money. This landscaper probably knows that most lawns are managed by the man of the house. I hate to stereotype but I think it’s probably true. At least in this household anyway. I take care of the inside of the house. Dan takes care of the outside. This isn’t to say that we couldn’t switch roles if we wanted to or needed to but we tend to fall back on the 1950s method of division of household labor. It works for us.

After I hung up I started to become annoyed. Do you want it done or do you want it done right? What kind of a question was that?? I only do high quality work. Whatever! But the more I thought about it the more my conversation with him reminded me of a conversation I had with Ken Bloch. Before we moved here we had to sell our house. We had our house on the market previously and the house remained on the market for eight months with zero offers before we finally gave up. We used two different realtors both of whom came by word of mouth and neither of whom I really interviewed before selecting them. I wasn’t going to make that same mistake twice so when my husband got his new job here I actually interviewed several realtors before choosing Ken Bloch. I had it narrowed down to two. One was Ken Bloch and the other was a nice husband and wife team. They seemed so sweet but Ken was super confident. His confidence was almost off putting but I just knew in my gut he could back up the big talk. So we chose him and three weeks after we put the house on the market we had two full price offers on the same day! So I decided to meet this landscaper in person before I turned him away because of his bravado.

We met him two days later and he had nothing good to say about our grass. But I would have questioned his knowledge as a landscaper if he had. He recommended starting from scratch. He told us how he would kill the crab grass; how he would use a tractor to aerate and then have three people come behind the tractor with hand aerators. Then he told us all about the seed blend he would use and then he said, “If he (pointing up to the sky) gives me good rain then 14 days after I’m done you will have new grass!” He did a great job selling his service and we definitely believe that if he gets rain then we will have grass. Unfortunately he didn’t give us any suggestions on how to pay for his services. I’ve decided that perhaps the kids don’t need preschool next year and that maybe eating isn’t quite as important as it used to be. I am trying to loose a few pounds after all…


Anonymous said...
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Honey+2B's said...

This guy better do a good job, he sounds pretty confident and borderline cocky...who would've thought that growing grass could take so much work, time and money, yikes! Good luck!

Pam said...

Grass? I don't think we actually have any. We just mow the weeds and call it a lawn! Actually, I am just happy if my husband mows and trims, but we won't get into that...

Of course, we have plenty of grass, or something, growing out in the garden where we DON'T want to!