We had a GIANT tree in our front yard
That pine tree that’s leaning over, and doesn’t look too hot? Yeah, no bueno. It was infected with something and was really not looking good – so it had always been in our plan to get it cut down some time. It was all entangled in the power line and even though you can’t quite tell in the photo, it was leaning over to the side across our driveway a good amount.
We knew it would cost a pretty penny, so we thought it would be a while till it came down. Until I talked to our neighbor…
Our neighbor across the street was gardening in front of her house many weeks ago. I hadn’t met them yet so I wandered outside with one of the kids in tow and introduced myself to her. We got to chatting and she mentioned that she was getting some trees in front of her house cut down. I asked if she didn’t mind telling me how much it was because we wanted to get the dead pine cut down too. She had two trees (not quite as big) that he had quoted, and to cut and remove them he said $1200. WHA!? That is dirt cheap for around here. With my jaw dropped I asked for his contact info. She laughed and gave it to me. She also warned that he was a bit of a hustler. He came to her house several times asking if she wanted her trees cut down. She wasn’t in the market to do it at the time like us, but he gave her a good price, so she figured, why not?
When he was at her house later in the week I asked him about our tree. Right off the bat I knew he had no idea what he was talking about – he used WAY more information and description in anything I asked him than he ever needed. Red flag. I feel a little bad saying that because I’m someone who talks a lot and frequently gets intimidated about work and I wonder, “am I good enough?” WAY more often than I’d like to admit – but he was just going in the most round about way of explaining everything. And incredibly unnecessarily. Finally I got him to nail down a price, kind of, $900 – $1,000. Not too bad at all, but we asked if he offered a cash discount. A LOT of contractors will offer people discounts if they pay in cash, so we frequently ask this on jobs we handle for clients as well as ourselves. Another red flag: he had no idea what I was talking about. Right there I knew that he didn’t work many big jobs. I wasn’t expecting him to be licensed and honestly couldn’t care less if he was or not, but a handyman or person in the construction field not knowing that was a common question was a big sign that he didn’t do a lot of reputable work. However, Chris and I didn’t really mind that. If it meant that we got our tree cut down for a lot cheaper, it wasn’t any skin off of my back. He asked, “What does that mean?” I told him, “You know, a lot of contractors will offer a discount to clients if they pay in cash.” He just replied, “Sure.” To which I received a blank stare. And I asked, “Sooooooo?” figuring he would tell me what the discounted price was. I got another blank stare. So I asked, “$850?” He agreed. I’ve never named my own price before, but whatever.
We asked when he would start. It was a Wednesday (MANY weeks ago) and he said Friday. Friday came and went. He wasn’t there. Monday came and went, he wasn’t there. The next Friday came and went, he wasn’t there. He gave me his number (because he also tried to get me to hire him to redo the concrete on our driveway – that is DEFINITELY not happening), so I called him. He said he’d be there the next week. The next week came and went, he wasn’t there. He called me, said he’d be there in a day or two. He wasn’t there. He came by the house, said he’d be there the next couple days. He wasn’t there. He called again, said he’d be there in the next couple days, he wasn’t there. It got to be kind of funny. I always wondered – when will he claim he’s going to be there?
I was annoyed, but it was also par for the course. I couldn’t expect him to be on top of things because he obviously didn’t entirely know what he was doing – and this is the kind of service you get when you get a price like this. I watched as he worked at the neighbors house periodically and when he hadn’t been there for a while I asked her how things went and told her about how he was supposed to cut our tree down, but hadn’t been there yet. She had a HORRIBLE experience. She agreed to have him cut 3 other trees on her property, but the price kept going up and up and she kept paying him. And he kept taking FOREVER. There were a ton of log slices left and she finally told him to just stop. She had paid more than she initially agreed to and he wasn’t finishing it up like he said he would, and she saw him throughout the neighborhood working on other jobs, so she was annoyed. I totally get it.
FINALLY he showed up on our door step one morning before I was taking the girls to day care and said he was going to do the work right then. HOORAY! The only thing, he wanted half the money right there. Before he started any work. No, no, no, no, no. Not happening. I told them, “I’m not giving you any money before you’ve done any work. I’ll gladly give you the amount of money for the amount of work you’ve done at the end of the day or even at lunch time, but I’m not giving you anything before nothing has been done.” He and his helper tried to talk me into it, round and round and round. I am not the girl to be fucked with. I told them, “I’m leaving to take my girls to day care, you’re making me late, you can either cut the tree down or not, but you’re not getting any money before no work has been done,” and I closed the door.
I wondered if when I got home if they would be there. Before I left with the girls I made sure all the doors and windows were closed and locked, and when I returned home later that afternoon from work they weren’t there, but OUR ladder that they took from the side of the house was propped up against the tree. Okayyy…..
Another week rolled around, I figured the tree wasn’t getting cut down. I got another phone call a few days later letting me know that he would be coming by in a couple days to do the work. Yeah yeah yeah. But then he actually showed up. Surprise! He had another guy with him and told me about how he had been in the hospital, and in a separate incident also fired the other guy who he was working with because he had no idea what he was doing. Whatever. Are you going to cut the tree down or not? Finally, they actually got started. I had to go to work, but Chris was there for about half the day. He told me that night what a rag tag group it was and how amazing it was to watch these HUGE trunks of tree just drop everywhere as they were cutting it down because they had no idea what was going on. It’s a good thing we aren’t tied to any of the existing landscaping because they definitely destroyed the tree right underneath it and a bush a bit lower down the hill. By the end of the day they had a chainsaw out there cutting the trunk down in smaller pieces. They were still there at 7pm and Chris gave them half the money for cutting the tree down but reserved the rest for when they took away all the debris – the other half of the job
It was cut down, but our driveway got a lot more narrow (Chris can barely squeeze the truck through the opening they left). He said they’d be back in the next couple days to take everything away. Uh huh. No one showed up. Then he called. No one showed up.
Finally, last week when I was driving home from dropping the girls at day care he called and told me his friend was going to, “describe all the details of the necessary events that will need to happen,” and he handed the phone to him. His friend was just like him – really round about way of just giving me 1 single piece of information. He finally spit it out: $1500 to take it all away. I told him to put the other guy back on the phone. I said, “No, that’s not happening. I’m not paying twice as much as the original quote just to get the debris taken away. Please do not do any work and leave.” He said he understood and hung up the phone. I am not the girl to fuck with. Not happening. If he had done even some of the work when he said he was going to I might have haggled him on the price, but more likely just not ended things so abruptly. But, for you to just fuck around the whole entire time and then try to slide over on us and jack up the price: not happening. Not my problem. I wanted him to leave and not do any work because I didn’t want him to claim I owed him any money.
May this be a lesson to all of us: NEVER PAY ANYONE FOR WORK THEY HAVE NOT DONE. NEVER give a contractor or other worker money up front for work that has not been completed. In the state of CA it’s customary to put a deposit down to secure a job, but it cannot exceed 10% of the job’s contract. NEVER make progress payments that are unfair to the client. We have reworked contracts with contractors when we work with clients (and for our own home) to reflect a more fair payment schedule. And if a contractor doesn’t like it, tell them to kick rocks. NEVER be afraid to say no. If a contractor doesn’t want to work with you because you want to be fair with your money, then they aren’t worth working with. You are PAYING them for a service, and they should provide a fair service.
What this guy didn’t know was that this wasn’t my first rodeo.
So, we got our tree cut down for $425, but now we’ve got QUITE the pile to contend with
And yes, those are trucks of the pine tree that have split another tree.
We’ve posted the fire wood (pine makes excellent camp fire wood), and some people have taken it. But I see a run to a green waste facility with our trailer in our near future 🙂
can you use any of the big round flat pieces as stepping stones (blocks?)–I seem to remember that Young House Love did something like this. It of course won’t be as durable as stone, but could be pretty and the girls could jump from stump bit to stump bit?
meryl rose says
We could, but even with sealing it, Pine is well known for rotting away when on the ground. It would probably only last 5-7 years. I know I may seem lazy, but I don’t want to have to redo steps then. We definitely thought of it though, and thought it would be pretty cool.
Hi Meryl. This was a crazy story! Were you worried he would topple big tree parts onto any structures/vehicles? I’m also glad there weren’t any chainsaw injuries among his “crew” during their time there!
That is a good price though. We paid $2700 to remove a huge redwood that was too close to the garage. But we did get enough wood chips to sheet-mulch all our yards plus share with all the neighbors.
Be careful out there!
Wow. That’s exactly why people don’t trust contactors and handymen. These numbskulls drag the good ones down.