Posts Tagged ‘safelawns’

Why is a NH Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating important to your lawn?

Published by JKeefe on October 20th, 2010 - in Lawn Care Companies

The NH office of the Better Business Bureau is located in Concord at the following website: http://concord.bbb.org/

The BBB allows consumers the opportunity to examine the track record of local businesses in a wide variety of industries, lawn care included.  Within the BBB, a business can apply for accreditation  http://concord.bbb.org/Business-Accreditation/, once approved a given business has agreed to live within the BBB code of Business Practices.  There are eight principles that summarize an accredited business http://concord.bbb.org/bbb-accreditation-standards/.  This type of pledge clearly illustrates the committment to the consumer.  Becoming accredited is a pledge from a given business to the consumer relating to how serious they take their particular line of work and how willing they are to be transparent and resolve issues or complaints if they arise.

There are many businesses who are accredited within the state of NH and many that are not.  In the case of Chippers, we are an accredited business with the BBB, meaning we have applied and been accepted under the guidelines listed on the BBB website.  The largest provider of lawn services is not an accredited company.  Lets move onto the BBB rating and determine what it means to the average consumer.

The BBB rating is like a credit rating, it is a score determined by the BBB resulting from not only volume of complaints, but tracks if they are resolved and how quickly they are resolved.  Every business makes mistakes, what sets a great business apart from a poor or deficient one would be billing practices, customer service response, and the ability to resolve the mistake.  Lets look closer at this BBB rating.  Like a credit score, it sums up the likelihood or predicts how you, as a consumer are likely to be treated as a client.  The BBB score is also an indicator of general business practices that would be of interest to you such as customer service and billing.  In other words, a BBB rating can be summarized as how likely- statistically- you are likely to encounter a problem within a given business.

For example, Chippers has an (A+) rating, the highest rating possible.  On the other hand, a large firm doing business out of Londonderry NH has an (F) rating from the Concord BBB- the lowest possible.  The following report has been taken directly from the NH BBB and outlines the deficiencies within the nations largest lawn care company operating in NH:

“This company has received a pattern of complaints. Complaints allege that after the company does work for the consumer they automatically return the next year to care for the consumer’s lawn even after the consumer has canceled the service. Consumers state that they cancel the company’s return visit, but they company still comes out and then bills the consumer for the work done. The company has responded to most complaints by issuing refunds, but they have failed to remove the cause of the complaints.

Before you renew or accept your 2011 lawn services with the nation’s largest provider of lawn care, consider this information and perhaps there are alternative lawn companies that could provide better billing, customer service, and results.

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Review your lawn contract before renewing

If it seems to good to be true- you may be right

Did your doctor ever tell you to get a second opinion?  Hundreds of commercial lawn care contracts will be mailed out shortly to residential homes in remote parts of NH and VT.  Even more lawn contracts will be mailed out to commercial customers in the hopes that those in the appropriate position will sign, mail, or simply fax it back with no questions asked.  I propose that each contract deserves not only a second opinion, but a thorough examination line by line item.  The national and larger regional lawn care companies typically roll your program over from year to year.

Most lawns are not being examined to determine true needs but rather recycled in archives from prior years like a CD player on repeat.  While this automated process may approach adequate at best, I sincerely doubt you are receiving a turf care program worthy of your hard-earned dollars.  Furthermore, I doubt most existing clients even understand what they are receiving and why versus what is available in their market area.  Let me expand on this theme.

Many remote lawn accounts are labeled and classified as ”commercial”, with most customers unaware of this practice.  These kinds of accounts are processed at a high volume utilizing heavy machines called Turf-Trackers or even tractors.  These machines do a decent job on large properties or fields but are anything but light and are not ideally suited to home lawns or smaller settings.  An inexperienced operator can easily cause damage while running the machine over frost covered lawns, shaded locations, and especially slopes.  Turf can be easily torn, compacted, and ripped up without careful attention from the driver.  These machines make it easy to operate at an aggressive speed as they work to achieve the goals set for them by the larger corporate office.  If these facts don’t cause you to raise an eyebrow, please read on.

Unfortunately, many of these “commercial” contracts are recycled revenue without any fresh investigation data to support the renewal.  In fact, I would wager that most if not the majority of these accounts are seldom looked at beyond the production dollars they represent each year.  Simply put, the large national chains are usually too far away and their attempts to service remote regions often severely stress their limited staff and outsourced customer service centers.  Most national lawn care companies utilize lawn programs like McDonald’s “Happy meals” except without the toy because you get a few fertilizer visits, grub control, and a lime treatment.  Who would question that?

Does your phone call get forwarded to a call center or does a real person answer your call?  Are you able to reach your lawn care office or do you even know where it is?  Are you supporting your local economy or something much larger?

How can these large lawn care services claim and advertise to be local when they drive nearly 2 hrs to service lawns in remote areas of NH beyond their primary service market?  Is that local service?  Again, any company that pre-mixes fertilizer in a liquid medium and then applies it to every lawn in a single day is doing their clients a basic injustice as outlined in my blog post (http://mrgrassblog.net/2010/04/22/price-and-the-…awn-treatments/ ‎).  Mixing concentrated fertilizer into a liquid is an easy and inexpensive way to administer a lawn program.  As I said before, yes it works well for some lawns but not all lawns.  You get exactly what you pay for with this type of treatment, a quick buzz of green.  There are lots of natural and organic alternatives to this kind of turf care.

Before you sign on the dotted line, before you pre-pay for your entire year upfront- get a second opinion from a local lawn care company.  I welcome the questions and the challenge to take your property to the next level.  If you are not in our service area, I have companies I can recommend to you- just leave a comment to this post.  Even if you decide not to make a change, doesn’t it just make sense to get another opinion like a car or house repair?  Don’t just sign without thinking about what things could be like in 2011.  I know it’s easy to just send the lawn contract back, but a free second opinion from any other turf health care company is time well spent.  Make this winter the time where you decide to explore what has been going down on your lawn in the past and why!  Support your local economy and research who services your town for lawn treatments.  Exploring new options can be educational, fun, and you might even receive better results!

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Lawn Pesticides and the rainbow of emotions

I normally don’t write on the topic of lawn pesticides because it is so vast, involves emotions, has supporting scientific data on both sides, and has so many people who claim to be “experts”.  There are some who would request additional laws through legislation given their own unique perspective on an industry I have worked in for over 24 years.  Unfortunately, these very factors create confusion because most people are not aware of existing oversight from state agencies concerning laws already functioning within the scope of lawn treatments and specifically pesticides.  On a happier note, there are already stacks of laws restricting, monitoring, and enforcing the use of pesticides in a lawn setting within the state of New Hampshire and Vermont.  Both states have divisions within their respective departments of Agriculture.  In either state, you must pass a written exam which is very comprehensive in material and substance in respect to the license you desire to obtain.  For instance, if you want a turf license, you must take a turf category exam which tests life cycles and specific pests relative to turf or lawns.  In addition to this, you must also take what is commonly known as the “core” which consists of basic terms and laws relative to using pesticides in each respective state.  Items such as reading the label and rates are covered as well as important safety protocol among lots of other subject matter.  If you wish to get another license, say for treating ornamental shrubs, you must take another exam- but you do not have to repeat the “core”.

In both states, your license expires after 5 years so you must either keep up on annual certification credits or retake the entire set of exams.  Each license requires its own set of credits so this often involves a lot of training during the winter months to accrue enough points to renew every 5 years.  In either state, you must have a minimum grade in order successfully pass, become certified, and have a license issued in your particular category.  In New Hampshire, at least one person within a given company must also obtain a higher class license (Supervisory) like a manager who oversees his or her employees who have an operator class license.  The Supervisory level person must then take the exam again, receive a higher score, and pass an oral examination to receive this “Supervisory Level” class license.  As you might imagine, this is most delightful and lots of fun . . . NOT.  As you might have already surmised, all of this licensing and continuing education helps to keep the industry informed on the lates products or issues at hand, monitors product being applied per state and acre by filed reports, and provides a great deal of accountability.  

There are different classes of licenses ranging from commercial, to commercial not for hire, to private.  These classes cover home farms, to golf courses, to commercial lawn companies who treat businesses and residential home lawns.  Each has overlapping general rules in NH but each has specific regulations that must be adhered to as part of best practices when dealing with pesticides.  As you may have concluded by now, there is already a lot of regulation regarding pesticide use in NH and VT.  Bad decisions cannot be prevented by adding legislation already on the books designed to watch and monitor any business involved with pesticides.  However, nothing substitutes or compliments intelligence quite like common sense.  Making good daily decisions on what products to use, where to apply them, appropriate rates, and when not to treat for issues are all very important to a high quality, reputable business.  Simply put, it’s the right thing to do.

Real trouble arises with a lack of experience and businesses who do not become licensed yet illegally apply pesticides.  Real trouble continues when a home owner can purchase similar or the same products at a Home Depot/hardware store and then treats for the wrong problem, at the wrong rate, at the wrong time of year because they did not know the pest life cycle.  I can assure you, there are millions more “Do it yourself” folks out there treating their own lawns or pest problems than all of the commercial lawn companies combined in either state- or the USA for that matter!  The pure volume of these numbers speak for themselves.  Who do you think is more likely to inadvertently make a mistake, the employee equipped with a state license with training or “Mike” on the weekend?

As for pesticides, I have read that the sole intention of a pesticide is to kill- and by definition this would be correct.  However, vinegar used at a higher concentration is used as an organic herbicide and can burn your cornea or cause serious injury.  It’s still vinegar but it can be used as a herbicide too.  Very interesting.  I believe in using the right tool for the right job.  Should everyone be “saucing” up their lawns just for aesthetics?  Maybe not.  This question is all in the eye of the consumer.  We do live in the United States where choices can be made?  We all have the right to make choices, all within reason- within the laws established by our government.  Perhaps there are alternatives.  There are materials and pesticides that exist which are in fact more environmentally safe than just 5 years ago.  Like colors on the rainbow, the industry of lawn care continues to change in favor of less pesticide use and more education.  This statement means there may be a time and reason for using a particular product, but only after ruling out alternative measures.

For instance, does every lawn have to be weed free?  Most likely not.  You can reduce pesky weeds in your lawn by keeping it properly cut and healthy.  You can reduce nuisance weeds by aerating and overseeding, by doing many little things correctly.  Who is willing to step up to the plate?  What is wrong with treating for weeds maybe once or twice a year to knock back the population complimented by a turf health care program?  What is wrong with living with weeds?  To each his own may best sum this up, with a dash of compromise.

The issue of pesticide use will always be a hot topic, and it should be for many reasons.  However, additional government regulation and control may not be the best and first answer over education and common sense.  Information is power and those who rely on emotions and not real information are at a disadvantage.  This is my humble opinion for today’s post.  I hope you learned something new today, use it!

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