HomeexpensesMurdering plants and taking bad deals.

Murdering plants and taking bad deals.

Our house sits on a lush 0.35 acre property just outside of Seattle. Getting a nice chunk of land was important to us me as we were house hunting. The obvious downside of a good-sized backyard?  Yard work. Check out our little plot of land….



It was clear when we bought the property that the owners had let mother nature run her course and that the surrounding shrubbery was choking off the useable yard space. Especially when you compare it to how the backyard looked a few years ago (following picture stolen off the FB page of the previous owner)…


This last week, a buddy of mine and I spent six hours with a 30 foot ladder and a ten foot pole saw limbing every tree, branch, and bush we could get to.


The fruits of our labor are pictured below…




We were left with a massive pile of branches. A pile so big, I could no longer rent a 27′ Uhaul to dump them as I originally hoped. I was going to need to pay a company to come and remove the debris.

I hopped on Yelp and called one of the higher rated Tree Service companies in my city to come out and give me an estimate. That afternoon I had a guy show up, walk around the property and quoted me $1,000 for chipping and haul away service. I asked him how soon he could get to work and he promised they’d start bright and early the next morning.

I shook his hand and we had a deal. 

The next morning comes and I set my handy-dandy security system up (facing our front yard) so I could check in on the work they were doing while I was away. But every time I checked in on the property, the workers were nowhere to be found. They didn’t end up arriving until 1pm, 20 minutes after I made it back home.

I was livid. 

Before they could even park their truck I went outside and met with my contact, told him I was extremely frustrated that he wasn’t on site in the morning as promised, and said I was going to look for a different company to work with. (side note: he told me he was late because traffic court went longer than expected)

I fired him.


I’ve never fired anyone before. It was pretty awkward, but also kinda liberating.

That afternoon I had another company come out and give me a bid for the same work. Get this, their bid came in at $490. That’s 50% less what Mr. Sketchball was going to charge me!

I was so glad I got a second quote, and feel way better about this new company, but I’m also angry with myself for not automatically getting a few bids before I chose a company to work with.

I’m realizing I’m either dumb or impatient as I literally did this same thing a month ago with our kitchen counters; Agreed to work with a company, and then said no thanks the next day after realizing we were getting screwed.

Take it from me, ALWAYS GET A SECOND QUOTE when it comes to any type of home service or project. I’ve learned this the hard way twice now, hopefully there wont be a third time. 

I got a few questions…

1) Have you used Yelp for hiring out contracting work before? Is it reliable? I feel burned.

2) You ever fired someone before?

3) You ever agreed to a bad deal before?





  1. I haven’t used Yelp, but it’s scary working with any kind of contractor and trusting sites for reviews. I have agreed to a bad deal and never had the guts to fire someone that deserved it. I am such a punk at heart and I wish that wasn’t the case. But I definitely try my best to get a few quotes, because I tend to be really impulsive with my decisions, and impatient.

  2. I use Angie’s List, paying their yearly fee to access members’ reviews. So far I have been relatively happy with it — note: even with great reviews a company can fall down on the job, including Angie’s List. It is up to the consumer to make sure of what is going on: “Caveat emptor”!

    I have not yet had to fire someone, but have explained to someone why I was not going with their bid when “no thanks” wasn’t enough. They weren’t harassing me, the salesman (owner I later found out) really wanted to know. That in itself was pretty cool.

    • I use Angie’s List. I find the companies with good reviews there tend to be good with both communication (letting you know when they’ll come out) and reliability (actually coming out at the promised time). However, I think I end up paying more for this good communication.

      I can never decide if this is a good trade off. Using someone less reliable costs me extra time, work leave, and headaches, even if it saves some money.

  3. I guess I am surprised that it took you this long to learn to always get multiple quotes. The most expensive isn’t always the best and the cheapest isn’t always the worst. Though, many times the cheapest one is in the land of you get what you pay for. In the end you really just have to have a ball park idea of what the project should cost.

    I don’t think I would use yelp, since there was a court ruling last week or so that said you can be sued (and lose) for posting a negative review on yelp. That, to me, takes the teeth out of a service like that. Of course, sometimes people are just jerks and all they do is leave terrible reviews.

  4. Just remember it’s easier to say to someone “Thanks for coming by, I am getting a couple more quotes” than firing someone because of price or incompentancy. Angie’s List! Angie’s List! Angie’s List!! Always use Angie’s List! When you sign up, make sure you rate your experiences with these two contractors.
    Your yard is coming along looks nice!

  5. I tend to be impatient too and sometimes have overspent because of it. As far as firing. Yes, I have fired many before. It gets easier except those time when you actually like the person and hate to see them go. I never used Yelp but like a comment above stated I read about company suing over bad reviews.

  6. I’m so used to shopping around since my mom does this for almost everything. Always get a second quote.

  7. 1) I’ve used Yelp for a number of services and only got burned once. I had the “highest rated” plumber come in and he was an arm and a leg just to look at the problem. Ended up hiring someone much cheaper.

    2) I’ve fired a bunch of cleaning ladies. They tend to get complacent – but that’s still my hard earned money!

    3) I think we’ve all made bad deals. It can take a while to figure out who’s reputable and fair when you move in so don’t be too hard on yourself.

  8. I’ve never used Yelp or any service for a contractor. My husband and I take a lot of walks in the neighbourhood and whenever we see a contractor or service sign we mark it down and then keep an eye on the work. It gives us a pretty good idea of how quickly some companies do work, how good it looks, and then if we’re looking for similar services we’ve been known to go up and talk to the actual people who live there. We also signed our cleaning lady by taking a similar approach with people in the neighbourhood – we wanted someone that we could trust and also do a good job for a good price. It is surprising how honest some neighbours can be!!

  9. did you post your review on yep so others will know what you experienced? That is very helpful as I look at those.

  10. LOL… Yelp. Yelp should stick to Restaurants.

    Angie’s List. As everyone else has said, Angie’s List is worth the miniscule $26 a year to join. It’ll save you a ton of money. I am willing to bet that contractor has some pretty bad reviews on Angie’s List.

    Angie’s List also has a Groupon type deal service that I’ve used many, many times.

    Do yourself and your wallet a favor, and sign up.

  11. I use Angie’s List and it’s saved us thousands of dollars. Oftentimes you get a discount for being an Angie’s List user, and they send out “Angie’s List Deals” that provide deep discounts for specific services. We’ve used Angie’s List to find contractors for installing a wooden fence, tree removal services (twice), chimney maintenance, hot water heating installation, and pest treatment services. Angie’s List is awesome.

  12. Tsk, tsk, tsk… Ninja, I thought you would know better especially given that you keep telling us you do not like to spend your hard earned cash in a foolish manner…

  13. Take a picture of what needs to be hauled away with a person or a ladder or something to give it a frame of reference. Post it in the help wanted section of craigslist and ask for a dump/haul away service to give you a quote over the phone. It should be quick, simple, a cash transaction paid only after you are satisfied they have picked up every single smidgen of branches. It should also cost a couple of hundred dollars for what I see in your photo. And it shouldn’t take them more than 45 minutes to an hour to load without damaging the grass. You figure they are making money hauling it away and more money selling the wood for fuel.

  14. Never have used Yelp, but neither have I used Angie’s. This is due to not really hiring anyone to do anything. I have had good and bad reviews of both review services, so I would stick with multiple quotes and references. But the real question is, why didn’t you cut those branches into a nice size to have an outdoor fire with and make yourself some S’mores and packet dinners???

    Anyway, great work on the yard.

  15. I have an insanely familiar story with a contractor I hired recently to fix an AC unit… right down to them using the traffic court excuse. The first time the guy just completely missed his window, and extended it to the afternoon window. Around the end of that window he finally calls to say he can’t make it because he was in court longer than expected. He was also the first person I had to fire.

    I fired another mold inspector one time because his quote was wildly different than the guys who I initially thought could be extra pricey. One contractor said only floors should have to be removed, the other insisted the whole kitchen had to be ripped out. In the end, I fired both contractors, hired a lawyer, and got out of contract on that house. (The owners flooded the entire kitchen on closing day by accident and were trying to hold me to the deal)

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