Customer cancellation

OK so I'm nearly finished laying a nice mixed size sandstone patio for a client when they ask me to do further works by installing an artificial lawn, so I quote them a good price, essentially at cost. They agree and pay me an up front deposit to cover materials cost which I duly order and pay for. All materials and a skip booked to come in Monday and a labourer to help me shift the several tons of stuff. Now fast forward to this afternoon (Sunday) I get a phone call from said client asking if they can cancel and if I can essentially give them their money back, I explained that it is far too late to cancel any deliveries and that even in the event I could money would be lost. Now seeing as I still have an ongoing job there that I need to get finished and paid for I would rather this situation didn't go sour. Obviously it is unlikely that they will get any deposit back and will be stuck with a load of materials for a job they don't want done anymore (It seems to be cashflow problems) and will also have further costs to cover my losses, which tbh more or less means they may as well go ahead with the project anyway now. How does everybody think I should proceed with this when I'm on site Monday morning? They are a nice old couple and I don't want to upset them at all, but I'm not a charity and I have a business to run.

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  • Are you sure you can't cancel the delivery for tomorrow if you get in touch as soon as they open? Otherwise, I'd suggest sitting down with them, going over the figures and explaining exactly the money that's lost. Could you offer to carry on with the lawn job and they pay it off in installments over several months?

  • PRO

    If the deposit they gave you only covers the goods purchased then I would say sorry no refund, as you said you are not a charity you have to cover your costs already incurred also the labourer might demand paying as well being short notice. We have clause in our terms and conditions to cover this type of event happening.

  • Today, the priority is to cancel the labourer. First thing in the morning get on the phone to the suppliers and cancel the deliveries. If they are local get down there yourself.  As long as they don't leave the base, there should be no handling charge. You can't push water uphill and if the customer has cancelled, they've cancelled.  As you have an ongoing job and I would think are into some money there, it's a damage limitation exercise and any charges should be passed on to the customer.

    Come lunchtime tomorrow, it should all be sorted and breathe - it's what we are in business for, the odd tricky situation!

  • Deliveries are coming first thing so chances are they'll be out before I can try and cancel. Likewise with a skip it wouldn't just be the case of ringing up and cancelling last moment and expecting money back, and obviously I also don't want to muck about my own suppliers. As far as contract goes I'm covered for anything like this but I'm loathe to press on with that angle as it may cause bad blood and especially as it could make me out to be a 'bad guy' locally as I have had a few smaller jobs come off this already for neighbours and I'd like to keep a decent rep in the area I wish I were in the position to offer installments but obviously last minute notice I'll still have to pay the labourer for wasting their time and I also have bills to pay and a family to support so rather than spending several days doing a job for a future payment (that may not even come) and that I had booked time and refused other jobs because of it puts me in a position where if I could be losing out money wise, as I said I was also doing them a deal at cost and not marking up my usual margin. It concerns me now whether their financial situation will cover my initial work.
  • the skip might be on site before there office opens and the materials could be already loaded for a flyer in the morning I bet you wished you never answered your phone today (Sunday) and realistically I don't know what they expect you to do on a Sunday, if you had a office that would not be open till 9am tomorrow I know this will not solve the situation but try to find out what the problem is and take it from there 

  • The fact is that if this job is not going ahead, the materials just have to be stopped, even if it means turning the deliveries round on the doorstep.  Suppliers are in no different position to you, they want your future business and should be sympathetic.  An awkward and difficult situation yes but has to be done, suppliers take materials back to base all of the time.

    • Thankfully it has all been sorted out and the job is going ahead as planned now. I just explained that it was going to cost almost as much to cancel and materials had already been delivered by the time I got on site and the old fella said carry on. Worst part though is the old guy thought he'd do me a favour over the weekend and move a few bags of cement.. Which he dropped a split..swept I have a nice dusty coating of cement that needs to be cleaned off...
      • All's well that ends well! 

  • PRO
    Your big mistake was agreeing to do the job too quickly, you should have made them sit out the cooling off period before agreeing to start the work.

    This is where you end up between a rock and a hradec place, the customer wants everything done ASAP, but that leaves you exposed as a contractor.

  • PRO
    I'm pleased it's ended well Neal. That's as long as you're paid.

    In the future make sure you write out a quote and send with T&Cs and get a signature.

    Don't feel sorry for clients that don't think through what they can afford before asking for work to be done.
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