I pay my gardener $100 per month. He or one of his employees comes once a week on Mondays, and does a pretty good job. When the weather is rainy, he does not come until it is dry, so sometimes there is a week where he does not service my lawn.
There have been one or two times over the past couple years where he did not come, and for no apparent reason. He typically comes when I’m working, and he often sends an employee, so I don’t have a chance to ask why he didn’t come.
Should I still pay the $100 for a month where he misses a week because of rain? What about for the week he didn’t show? Sometimes, a month has five Mondays instead of four. Should I calculate the number of times he comes and work out his monthly pay depending on the results of that?
What are the ethics of paying for these missed weeks of service?
You didn’t ask me about the money you pay your gardener, but I’ll go there first. I’m assuming your gardener swings by for 15 minutes to give the lawn a once over, or…? Otherwise, I’m puzzled by how he is only being paid $100 a month for four visits, unless you meant $100 a week? Either way, if you have been paying him the same amount of money for the last several years, it’s time for a pay raise that at the very least keeps pace with the rates of inflation for those years.
It’s your gardener’s responsibility to show up, but it’s your responsibility to set the boundaries. I assume he has a cellphone, so you can call him and lay out what your expectations and needs are for this relationship. If he doesn’t meet them, then you have a reference point for a follow-up conversation. For instance, if he doesn’t show up due to rain, ask him to come at a different time. You can show him goodwill, but he should also show you equal consideration.
If he does a good job, and this arrangement has been working for several years, and you feel happy with it overall, there is no need to dock his pay for a missed day here or there, especially if he works five Mondays during some months instead of four. Chalk it up to goodwill and a job well done. I would, however, ask him to let you know ahead of time if he is not going to show. Tip him an extra $100 at the holidays, and give him feedback on a job well done during the year.
This is what a landscape gardener from Los Angeles told me: “I always charge the full amount even if I missed a day. (I missed Thanksgiving.) This is my standard reply: I charge for 4 visits a month, and 4 months a year I make 5 visits, which I do not charge for. Therefore, you get 4 free visits that are typically cancelled by rain or severe weather. Even if we miss a week, we have only saved a mow and blow. The next week, we usually have to make up the work that was to be done.”
One final thought: Take some time to get to know him. Everyone has a story, and it is important to connect with those who work for and with you. He will appreciate it, you will have a greater understanding of him, and it will ultimately help your professional relationship. There are so many domestic staff who come while their employers are at work, and they are invisible to those who employ them. For him, you will no longer just represent a garden that needs tending.
Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch’s Moneyist columnist. You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch.