Fear of the unknown

It’s that time of year again.  Every fall season, my husband spends several hours on the weekends preparing our home and yard for the upcoming winter months.  It’s better to sacrifice the time now to take care of yard and home business otherwise you have a big mess and landscaping expense on your hands come spring time when the snow melts.

The perimeter of our house is surrounded by a jungle of maple, oak, and elm trees, which is nice for an escape from the sun and heat during the summer.  But once autumn arrives with the cooler temps, all of the colorful leaves fall from the trees and blanket our lawn and fill our gutters.

This year, I decided to offer a helping hand to my husband by clearing away the mounds of leaves. Not because I enjoy yard work or anything like that, I just wanted to play with the hand-held gas powered leaf blower.  I  would still be raking right now if I didn’t use the powerful leaf blower.  It felt so good to be able to see green grass again once Tim mulched the piles of leaves with the mower.  That feeling of accomplishment lasted about a minute because as soon as I finished up, the remaining leaves on the trees started to fall from the branches and cover our lawn once again.

Another important aspect of preparing for the winter months is securing a reputable and reliable snow removal service. For the amount of snowfall that Syracuse, NY gets in a typical winter, you would have to be crazy to consider removing it yourself by hand and shovel.  It would be impossible to get to work on time if you had to shovel 10 plus inches of snow accumulation from a random Nor’easter storm. Not to mention the mountain of snow created at the end of the driveway by the by the DOT’s massive snow plows. For reference, last winter Syracuse received 179 inches of snow and that’s not even a record.

I don't even want to think about that!

I don’t even want to think about that!

Snow plowing service in Central New York is competitive and big business. This season,Tim and I have decided it was time to shop around and explore our options. It’s never easy saying goodbye to long-term business relationships; but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do.  For the past several years we have noticed the seasonal fees going up and that’s fine considering the cost of living goes up every year.  It’s the surprise invoice that we have been receiving at the end of the season that has sparked our attention and has prompted this investigation.

I have surmised that these business owners of landscaping and snow removal companies have gotten together and collaborated on how to craft their annual contracts.  They all stipulate a per plow rate and a seasonal rate.  The catch is that the seasonal rate is not the seasonal rate once you read the fine print.  The contracts are structured in a way that includes X amount of plows for the seasonal fee and once your reach that magic number, you will be invoiced Y for the overage number of plows at the end of the season. It’s not like there is a scientific formula to predict the number of snow falls for a given season to plan for the additional expense.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather pay more up front, even if it is a significant amount, to include the entire season so there are no big surprises at the end of the day. It’s not like I want the company to lose money or anything, I just don’t like the fear of the unknown.  Furthermore, I don’t recall ever receiving a refund or credit for the next season on the years that we did not get that much snow.  I also want to know who’s tallying the numbers.  I’m not sitting home every day counting the number of times the snow plow clears the snow from my driveway, this is an honor system scenario.

I am happy to report that I might have found a company with an all-inclusive seasonal fee and contract. I’m not holding my breath until I have contract in hand; but it makes me happy to at least found one company still exists with a different approach.

How about you? Do you prefer all-inclusive or a la carte approach when it comes to service contracts?