Well, as a gardener offering garden maintenance, it has happened before and it will happen again…I smashed a customer’s Window when using a garden strimmer!
This was a new one-off customer who was looking to tidy the garden up after the previous tenants moved out, and was looking to put the property back on the market for new tenants. The job was simple, for 2 of us to come along and cut all hedges back, de-weed the flower beds and patio area as well as cut the grass. We decided to start on the back garden first before starting on the front garden.
The back garden went really well. We had completed everything in just 2 hours (we had allowed up to 4 hours for the job to be completed) which meant that with just a smaller, front garden to go, we were well on track to keep the job in budget, and to get to the next job on time. All flower beds had not only been de-weeded, but had also been turned over looking as good as when the compost was first laid, the grass was cut to the lowest setting and you could see the patio again. Even the waste had been bagged up and thrown in the van!
At this point, the customer let us know that she was going to meet the handy man (as more work was being completed inside the property) at the local Wickes store to purchase materials, but will be back shortly. It was during this time that we started to work on the front garden. The grass was way too long to initially cut with a lawnmower, so we decided to strim it first, before raking the grass clippings and going over the lawn with a mower. As soon as I started to strim the grass, I saw a tiny stone flick up and hit the lower glass on the bottom of the front door, shattering the window instantly.
In my 13 years as a gardener, I had smashed a window just once before in the exact same way a couple of years back so I knew how to handle the situation, although the previous window situation was for a much more understanding customer. It’s one of those things that you never think will happen to you, but somehow, finds a way to creep up on you! We decided to carry on with the front garden with hopes of having it finished before the customer returned, so that we could focus all of our attention on finding a resolution to repairing the Window.
How did the customer react to the smashed Window?
To be honest, I was annoyed at the reaction of the customer. She didn’t respond well, and was instantly telling me that this has ruined her day, that she has people coming to take pictures and that she wished she had taken an alternative garden company on who knew what they were doing! I put up with it for about 5 minutes, under the assumption that she doesn’t mean what she is saying due to the initial shock of the incident. But I did end up saying
I have been doing this job for a number of years. Me and my business partner are well experienced when it comes to garden maintenance, and when we aren’t doing this work we are laying paving slabs, installing fence panels and all other aspects of hard garden landscaping work which makes cutting the grass one of our nicer jobs to do.
We have never been to your garden before. Using a strimmer to cut the grass is common practice, especially if its not been looked after, and given the amount of years this lawn has been down, and given the amount of times it has been strimmed and cut, I am not going to assume that there will be stones hidden in the grass. It is what it is. It was an accident. The rest of the garden looks nice. Let’s come to a resolution instead of falling out over this.
After being stared at for a few seconds, which felt like a lifetime (if looks could kill), the customer agreed to look around at the rest of the garden to have something to feel better about, before coming back to look at the smashed Window.
I explained that there are 2 options that I am prepared to go down which consisted of the following:
We charged £160 to complete the work. For such a small Window (although it wasn’t your standard straight, plain glass panel) I doubt that it would cost more than the £160 job to replace. I suggested that she pay to have the Window repaired, to not pay us for the work completed, and to keep the remaining amount as way of apology from ourselves.
We have public liability insurance, which she can claim from and get a replacement Window. I offered option 1 as way to avoid going through the insurance, and let her know that the insurance could take a little longer than she liked to have the Window repaired.
At this point, I was trying to be as fair as possible. She was still obviously angry at the situation but I didn’t blame her. Although I would have liked for her to understand that it was an accident and these things happen. She asked that we wait in the van whilst she had her handyman and brother in law come to have a look at it, to decide on an option together. This meant that we would miss our next job, but agreed to wait in the van as I like to resolve issues quickly.
After an hour or 2 of waiting in the van, she confirmed that she would go with option 1. So off I went, unpaid, including my business partner who I done the work with, but with a problem solved.
What you should do if you smash a customer’s window
If you are a gardener, smashing a Window with a strimmer or lawnmower is bound to happen one day. Now I know what everyone says, ‘it depends on where you face the strimmer’ ect., but believe me, this isn’t always the case. Stones can be hidden in the cleanest of looking lawns, and can fly in any direction when hit.
Although not compulsory to have here in the UK, the best thing to do is take out public liability insurance for circumstances like these. It’s not just smashing Windows with a strimmer or lawnmower that you need to worry about, but for a wide range of problems, like breaking a hidden cable whilst hedge cutting.
Although, I do know of other gardeners that have ran into the same problem, who have argued that due to it being an accident, it was down to the customer’s property insurance to replace the window. How true this is, I have no idea! Either way, get public liability insurance! If how ever you have smashed a Window without the relevant insurance, then don’t panic as in the eyes of the law (UK) you’ve done nothing wrong, since public liability insurance is not compulsory when it comes to gardening. You should definitely ask the customer to have their insurance pay for the window, and offer to pay the excess which I doubt will be much, before offering to pay to replace the glass yourself.
Do you have similar stories? Please share in the comments below!
4 Comments Add yours
Hi, looking for advise on insurance companies for public liability etc, can you recommend any?
Hi Susie, to be honest I wouldn’t be able to recommend a particular insurance company as I tend to browse through comparison sites to find the best deal although last time Simply Business found me the best price.
Fortunately I’ve never had to contact my public liability insurance so I couldn’t even let you know how the customer service is!
If the business is more complex, such as employing staff or taking on subcontractors when needed then it’s best to call companies for your public liability quote as they will know what extras to add on, in this case employers liability insurance would be a must.
If you have expensive tools and equipment then getting insurance for these could be a good way at keeping your mind at rest also.
I wish I could help more! Let me know who you end up getting your public liability insurance from as I may have to give them a go!
Thanks for your reply, much appreciated, I think my son is going to go with Direct Line Business insurance as they are offering a 10% discount….. whoop ! We love the blog by the way it is a great source of information!