April 15 was a very bad day for Mr. Sneiv. Not because it was Tax Day, but because I got a very disturbing letter in the mail. It was from my landscaper, who has been tending to my yard ever since I moved to the Hamptons. So what was in that letter that was so bad? Tucked between two pages of mumbo-jumbo about the escalating costs of fuel, materials, etc. was the declaration that as of May 1, my monthly bill was going to be increased by 5%.
I immediately said to myself, “In this down economy, they shouldn’t be raising their fees—instead they should be lowering them so they don’t lose customers. Landscaping isn’t even a skilled profession.”
I picked up the phone to offer up my complaint, but got nowhere. I was going to have to pay the extra 5% or find a new landscaper. I told them that I would call them back.
Angry, I went outside to gather my thoughts and survey the yard. Maybe I didn’t need a landscaper at all. My Southampton lot is only ¾ of an acre and I could easily do the work myself. And with the money I would save, I could finally take Karen on that trip to Italy. So I hit redial, and the separation of landscaper and yard was made official.
I have to admit that I was pretty excited about the whole affair. I jumped in my Mercedes and headed out to buy a lawnmower. “With a yard that size, you need a riding lawnmower sir” the salesman informed me. “And if you are new to this game, you are probably going to need a few other items such as a weedwhacker, spreader, chain saw, electric trimmer, rake, shovel, edger, etc. Oh, yeah—you are also going to want a book on landscaping—here is a great one, only 400 pages.” Over $6,000 later and I owned a brand-new, hunter green riding lawnmower and everything else that one would need to take care of a lawn.
Right after I finished paying, I found out that they don’t deliver riding lawnmowers. However, the salesman, told me that coincidentally they were having a sale on small trailers. Shortly thereafter, I was also the proud owner of a brand new trailer. Unfortunately, this all took place before I was informed by the service technician at my local dealership that they could not put a trailer hitch on my Mercedes 550. Luckily, the nearby Ford dealer was able to put me in a genuine pre-owned F-150 Pick-Up Truck that already had a hitch attached, for only $12,650 plus tax, title and license. They were even nice enough to let me leave my Mercedes on their lot, until I could come back and get it the next day.
So I hooked up the trailer to my new truck, loaded up my lawnmower and other implements and headed home. On the way, it dawned on me that I didn’t have a place to store my beautiful new lawnmower. In the past, there was no need for a storage shed because the landscaper always takes his lawnmower and gear with him when he’s done.
Oh well, I would figure that out tomorrow.
Still, I have to admit that I was feeling pretty good about myself. In a single day, I had procured all that was necessary to keep my yard in pristine condition. Best of all, I had not let some greedy landscaper take advantage of me.
I proudly pulled into the driveway, with all my yard stuff in the truck bed and the shiny new lawnmower sitting atop the trailer. Karen was waiting at the door. She had a contemptuous look on her face. Seems that while I was gone, she had been looking at our landscaping bills from the past. “Did you know that we have not had an increase in our landscaping fees for the last three years?” she asked. “Also, I was doing some calculations, and a 5% rate increase is only $20 per month” she added. “What’s all this stuff and where is the Mercedes?”
It all went downhill from that point on. I realized that in the excitement, I had spent almost $20,000 on yard-related stuff.
How could we ever afford to go to Italy now? To make matters worse, that night I began reading about the complexities of yard care. It wasn’t as simple as I thought. How would I know what time of year to trim the various trees in my yard? When should I fertilize? What if I have extensive defoliation, shoot dieback or twig death? How about blight or even a fungus? I hadn’t ever heard of brown spot or dry patch plaguing, so how would I know if that’s what I had? And how much should I water? How could I figure out how to set the water timer when I can’t even figure out how to set the record function on the DVR player? I was now in a cold sweat.
Turns out that landscaping is a very skilled profession. And did I mention expensive? If my former landscaper is reading this, please come back—I will double the increase to 10%.
For Sale: Truck, Trailer, Riding Lawnmower and Yard Equipment. Never Used—Make Offer.