Some clients think they can save a few dollars on a proposed bid or design by buying the plants themselves and just paying for your company to install them. With a business and reputation at the front and center of your work, is this installation-only project worth it? Will this job turn into more of a hassle and take away from other potential work? Or will this client be grateful for your flexibility and accommodation? See what these LawnSite members have experienced and recommend.

Jesssoul: I spent a great number of hours creating a design for a client — that he paid for — in the fall. I just contacted him to schedule an install date, but he asked me to come back with a quote for installation only, as he “will be sourcing the plants himself,” not acknowledging the irrigation equipment, paving materials or mulch, topsoil and sod that will also need to be “sourced.” I have never had a client ask for this, and frankly, I am not comfortable putting my name on a project where I cannot guarantee the quality of the plants. I hand-select them myself from a network of trusted growers in my area. What has been your experience with this, and how would you respond? Obviously, I will no longer be able to provide a warranty, but is this one that’s best walked away from? I said I’d be willing to adjust the labor before he made this request, but I’m not exactly willing to do that now that my markup revenue is at risk.

Service.com: I have had a few customers do that as well, thinking they know more than me on the matter. I tell them that is fine, but like you mentioned, I will not warranty any of the plant life, and if it does not do well, it is the customer’s fault. I try to offer as much advice as I can, but if you want the work, separate it a bit. If you think it’s too much of hassle and can do other jobs elsewhere, kindly decline. I have definitely done both.

wbw: Obviously, you can’t warranty this. Ask about the irrigation, etc., then adjust your install price as needed and quote it again.

Mow-Daddy.com: It’s a bit like giving a weekly maintenance bid. They say, that price sounds good – can you go every other week? Yep, but at at a higher price. I would give them a new bid and bump up the labor price a bit. And have them sign a no-warranty agreement on plants.

TML: I would ask where they plan on getting the plants. Hopefully they will tell you some box store. Try and explain why this may be a risk as they are often brought in from out of your region. If not, I would politely tell them you generally don’t do installations if you don’t provide the material. Especially if you already dropped your labor price. If they want to save by buying their own plants on top of that, sounds like there’d be potential for more service cuts or complaints. I plant some stuff for customers that buy their own, but these are full-service customers and generally it is not more than a few simple plants they picked up in their travels. Inevitably you commit to this and it will tie you up when something more profitable comes along. And good job at least getting compensated for the design if nothing else.

Ben Bowen: We have done this before. One potential issue: the client becomes very particular about how you plant now that he has no warranty. Depending on how I feel about the client, I am either super specific about planting methods, or I just tell them I will plant at my hourly rate. If they get picky, at least it costs them.

Oxmow: Do it if you want or don’t — no warranty on anything not provided by you. Might be a better deal. Install, get paid, walk away.

Jlbf0786: I have had more than a few customers request this before on install jobs. I agree that it’s kind of a headache when they don’t give you prior notice. It’s always because of money in the end. All you can do is either drop the job or you can just quote the job on hourly rates, using a basic formula.

Example:

  • #3 shrub = 1/2 hour (1/2 your hourly rate/install)
  • #5 shrub = 3/4 hour (3/4 your hourly rate/install)
  • B&B Tree = 1.5 hour
  • Irrigation (charge per linear foot installed, etc.)

knox gsl: Do the job with no warranty and increase the labor by 10 to 15 percent for any additional annoyances you’ll surely encounter. I did this once before — I was to pick up the material for the customer. I made sure that she knew I was doing the job on a certain date and everything was to be available by then. I go to the high-priced nursery to pick up her order and almost a third of it was back ordered. The plants that were there didn’t look that great and, in the end, she paid more than my quote to supply the materials.

Mdirrigation: If you are paying wholesale for plants, just subtract your cost, keep your profit and install cost in the price. You aren’t driving for materials, no warranty, all plants must be delivered to the site at the same time. You are making better money.

cotyledon: It’s weird when the customer knows how much you charge to dig some holes.

hackitdown: I would tell the customer, “Unfortunately, I cannot use your materials. I supply my materials so that I can be sure of the quality and ensure a smooth installation.”

marcusmac99: If he’s paid you for the quote that you spent time on, walk away. With the customer’s approach, you give up quality control of a very visible element of the design. You may want to use this person’s end product in a marketing mailer or brochure. Why take a chance the plants he picks are of poor quality? Even if it’s all in writing that you warranty nothing regarding plants, the reputation of your business is on the line. The customer could blame your installation for the dying plants. He tells two friends, and they tell two friends, etc.