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Why your landscape contractor says “We can’t do that for you.”


What’s interesting is that I’ve heard several homeowners complain this week that they’ve been calling around and can’t find anyone to do _______. You may think that doesn’t make a lot of sense, and some folks do get downright offended. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that they don’t like you and think you’re a stinky jerkface, though, here are some darn good reasons why they may be passing on your project.

They’ve never done it before.

wow, does this logo take you back or what???
wow, does this logo take you back or what???

I’ve always taken a no-fear approach to client requests, reasoning that I can probably figure out a way to make it work. That usually works out but when it doesn’t – boy, does it go poorly. When you’re running multiple crews and keeping everyone busy and paid, taking on jobs you know you can do well is the safe route.

In most cases this one’s no mystery – the contractor will tell you, “I’ve never done ____ and I’m not comfortable experimenting on your project.” Sometimes clients can be baffled by reluctance when it doesn’t seem like that big a stretch from what they usually do, but there’s typically a reason. Be cool about it and your contractor may be able to refer you to someone else.

They’re not equipped for the job.

Same as above, most contractors are pretty up front about this. You want me to take down a 100 foot oak hanging over the house? Sorry, I have a Subaru and a pruning saw. But keep in mind, not all landscape pros are chatty like me. they may just pass sans comment.

They see the problems and they waaaay outweigh the possible profits.

One of the frustrated homeowners I chatted with this week was trying to get bamboo removed from her backyard and no one wanted any part of it. I can completely understand that attitude. Removing bamboo means a lot of digging, cutting, and pulling, installing barriers, and you’re still not going to get it all. It requires vigilance and maintenance for months, if not years, later. I have a couple of long term clients for whom I would do this. Someone new, fresh off the street? I don’t know, man. Even after setting all kinds of realistic expectations you could still end up with a one star review on Houzz because it’s really expensive and impossible to guarantee. Nope.

Same thing with removing poison ivy. The last time I did a paid poison ivy removal job was twenty years ago. Never again.

The bottom line is that what dozens of women told me before I finally got married – “it’s not you, it’s me” – may well be true. If someone passes on your project appreciate their professionalism and look forward to finding the right fit. Good luck!


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