Some customers are early planners. They will sign a contract with you before the leaves start to fall. And then there are others who wait until the forecast is calling for the worst snowstorm your city has had in five years. They call you expecting service. Do you fit them in your schedule? How much should you charge? Is a contract required? These PlowSite members explain how they handle potential last-minute customers.

brandonh98: This is my first year with the snow removal business, and I’m trying to do everything as legitimate as possible. I’m curious how to deal with customers that call five hours before the snow starts falling. Do you have a separate contract for “emergency” snow removal? If so, would the driver (me in this case) have to knock on the door to get this contract signed before plowing? I’m currently in need of new customers and don’t want to turn anyone down that could be a potential customer.

SnoFarmer: How are you going to get paid if you don’t go get the money? We charge them full price plus. We also put them at the end of the list, unless they are close to another location we already service. I then take the opportunity to upsell them on a seasonal contract.

cjames808: I don’t use a contract; you could, though. I try to collect right when I tell them the price. This saves from stopping and getting out again to talk and collect payment. Tell them the price, collect, do a good job and quickly. I do emergency plows at the end of bigger storms: 4 to 6 inches or more.

kimber750: Any flag downs are cash before the plow drops. I would want to be paid at time of service or a signed contract before the storm starts. Last season I couldn’t drive a mile without being flagged down. Even had a couple guys ask me to plow a public street so they could get to their hotel. Most change their mind when they hear the price, but some are willing to pay. Flag downs are a huge risk in my opinion, and I charge accordingly since there is no contract, I’ve never met the person before, and that person could know some compromising information about that location.

FredG: Typically, if you get a call right before or during a storm, the customer will only use you that one time or only call when they need you. They are either not prepared, didn’t pay their original contractor or just don’t care. If you’re in need of some clients, you will get enough flag downs. If you can get them to sign on, great. Always collect the money first. If you don’t, they could try to bargain the price down once you’re finished. No way would I touch a flag down for less than $40 to $45. Around here you could sit in your truck with a cup of coffee at a convenience store and wait for them to come to you.

aeroseek: Cold calls are a solid 60 percent of my income each season. Other companies around here turn people down because they have so many contracted accounts. I have a few contracts, 20 or so, but these last-minute, desperate people are lucrative. $40 to $80 for a driveway? How can I say no! I make a sign that sits in my truck bed, “Ask me about snow plowing.” I sit at a gas station or the bank. Never fails. I probably do 40 cold calls a day in a 5-inch storm.

BUFF: I’ve done a couple flag downs and turned several away, too. Typically, I’m plowing a neighbor’s drive and they approach me. If the drive isn’t marked (which it typically isn’t) I tell them to walk each side of the drive to identify the edges of the drive; if they don’t, I don’t plow. Always cash up front. Give them a card, and try to sell them full service.

jacobMB: The client must leave payment in a sealed envelope in their mailbox and text or email us to confirm it is there. We get to it if we are nearby during the storm, but no guarantee it will be done until after the storm is over and all our seasonal contracts are taken care of.