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Criminal Customer Service

On a warm day in early November, I heard the sound of chainsaws in my neighbor’s yard, so I wandered outside to find that he had hired a company to cut down some trees. One of the tree cutters was cutting limbs halfway up a huge, 60-foot oak tree located just inches from my neighbor‘s front porch. It was pretty thrilling stuff. One wrong cut and the front of my neighbors’ house would be in ruins.

When the job was successfully completed, the owner of the company noticed me watching and strolled over to introduce himself.

“Hi! My name is Andy and I’m the owner of the company working on your neighbor’s yard.” Andy proceeded to point out a few trees in my yard that needed attention and quoted a price to remove them. We agreed on a number and he said that, even though it was late in the day, he could start immediately. I was impressed with his work ethic and eagerness to begin so I gave him the go-ahead. About 45 minutes later Andy and his crew had felled about seven or eight trees in my yard.

After assuring me that he’d be back first thing in the morning to finish the job and haul away the debris, Andy asked if he could go ahead and get a deposit. That seemed reasonable to me, since he had already done some of the work. Then Andy asked if the deposit could be paid in cash. Things were a bit tight, he explained, and groceries were needed for his small family. He seemed like a hard-working young man trying to make his way as an entrepreneur, so I scrounged up the cash and handed it over. Andy thanked me and bade me farewell until the next day.

The next day came and Andy failed to show. It was the same the following day and then the day after that and the day after that. I called Andy repeatedly, asking him when he could come and finish the job. He always had a ready excuse and promised to come back soon.

But he never did. Meanwhile, my yard looked as if a tornado had ripped through it. Felled trees and limbs littered both my front and back yards.

After a week or so, I was forced to hire another tree company to clean up Andy’s mess and haul off all the debris. The new company told me that cutting down trees is the easiest part of the job and worth only about $100, so they would have to charge me the full amount.

Almost a year later, I was driving through my neighborhood and noticed Andy’s crew working in my neighbor Frank’s yard. I immediately reached out to Frank to warn him about Andy’s cut-and-run scam but it was too late. Frank had already given Andy his money (all cash) and Andy had once again left a customer with a yard full of fallen trees.

But Andy didn’t count on running into Frank. Frank was 72 years old, retired, and didn’t have a single thing to do but see that Andy was brought to justice. So Frank researched and found about 50 other people in our area that Andy had also scammed. All told, Andy had raked in a total of around $40,000 to $50,000 from his victims. Then Frank spoke to a detective and filed a police report. After a brief investigation, the police issued a warrant for theft along with an additional felony charge for preying on elderly people. A week or so later, the police picked up Andy and the last I heard, Andy was still doing time in jail.

The part that was hardest about that experience for me, though, wasn’t losing the money. It was seeing a smart, talented young man throw away his potential. All he had to do in order to prosper and grow a healthy, thriving business was keep his word. He only had to follow through and actually do what people paid him to do. If he had, then not only would he have avoided jail, he would have had the gratitude of his customers, respect of his family, and a thriving business to boot.

So don’t be like Andy, who couldn’t see the forest for the trees. People are always watching your customer service and grading you accordingly. When you act in integrity, there’s no limit to how high you can grow.

© 2021 Charles Marshall. Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his Web site or contact him via e-mail at

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6 Responses to Criminal Customer Service

  1. Alssa Mathews January 14, 2021 at 11:27 AM #

    Thank you for sharing this! It was worth the read and my time! Integrity is an important quality, the choice between what is convenient and what is right!

    • Charles Marshall January 14, 2021 at 11:32 AM #

      Thanks for the good words! Yes, it often comes down to the choice between what is convenient and what is right, doesn’t it?

  2. Aaron Meyers January 19, 2021 at 4:12 PM #

    Charles, how do you like your new digs? Let me know if I need to ship you any GRITS of other Southern staples!
    Love your tree removal story.

    • Charles Marshall January 19, 2021 at 4:21 PM #

      We’re loving it here Aaron! Thanks for the kind words about the article. They mean a lot coming from you, sir. I’m going to keep you in mind in case I need some of those Southern staples!

  3. Tammy Swingle January 21, 2021 at 1:42 PM #

    Thank you for the words of wisdom. Integrity goes a long way when you are in collections.

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