Friday, December 30, 2005

Symbiot says Adios to Erie operation

What's going on at Symbiot? Word comes that John Allen, who ran its landscape operations out of the Erie, PA, control central he built a couple of years ago, left Symbiot on Dec. 15. Then, a couple of weeks later, Matthew Glover, Symbiot's senior VP of national accounts, confirms that the Utah-based mega-service provider is closing down the Erie operation entirely. He reportedly told Jim Martin a reporter with Erie Times Newspaper that Symbiot is streamlining operations, reducing operations in the process. The Erie operation will be shut down sometime in the first quarter of '06

To find out how the move is being seen in Erie, PA, go to Type in "Snow-removal" in the search box. You will have to register (it's free) but, until we can get more info, this is a pretty good look at the situation. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

This is no holiday treat

The Capital One television Christmas "No Hassles" credit cards pitch was an inane assault upon consumers' intelligence. Almost makes me glad Christmas has passed. Where's the humor in snarky David Spade's "No" as in "no blackout dates" to his co-workers in a corporate cube farm? Sarcastic. Smug. Capital One, and Spade, reached a new slithering low with its Christmas 60-seconder that had that annoying punk tossing "bonuses" to subordinates, including the moron behind the reins of a sleigh who (cue the predictable climax that's apparently supposed to be humorous but is cruel) gets dragged, screaming and whimpering, behind a team of dogs. Enough, enough, puleeeese. — Ron Hall

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas parties, why just once a year?

Tis the season . . . for Christmas parties. We had ours this past Monday night. A nice little affair. Trays of those fancy tiny snack things. A lot of us wore Hawaiian shirts (I own a dozen) and leis in spite of an outside temperature of 100 below zero. Alas, I couldn't hang around long. Having a long trip home, I sucked down my two free drinks, got to know a couple of my colleagues a little bit better and headed west.

Then, on a city bus heading for a park and ride, I heard about a REAL Christmast party. Turns out the guy sitting in the seat behind me had a terminal case of cellphoneitis. By the time I stepped off the bus, a trip of about 20 minutes, I knew more about this guy than I did about some of my in-laws. In fact, everybody on the bus, which was about half full, found out more about this character than they really wanted to know.

But the good stuff involved his company's Christmas party, held that afternoon. As he told it, he and a group of co-workers chipped in a total of $210, which they offered to a colleague if he would eat a "a case" of chocolate, or as he described it, "about 90 little bottles of chocolate" that the office staff had received as a gift from a client.

It seems the chocolate lover got about two thirds through the case, or about 60 "little bottles of chocolate" before . . . well, you can guess the rest. It wasn't pretty, and I'm talking about the bus guy's description of the event.

What is it about Christmas parties that prompts us to do these things? — Ron Hall

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Callback times: How long is too long?

I never realize how important friendly, helpful customer service is until I'm on the receiving end of the frustrating, not-so-helpful kind. And around this time of year, 'tis the season. It gets tough when we're trying to get so much done in order to take a day or two off and I'm guilty too — I'll ignore e-mails and not answer phone voicemail messages until I get my other work under control.

But as a magazine editor, I'm in the service business so I've got to return the e-mails and the messages. It's not like I'm a government employee who can just let everything go to voicemail, haha.

I thought about this last week when I was trying to secure a Christmas "gift" for my dad, who had serious surgery this year and really doesn't need to spend his whole winter shoveling the driveway. I got a referral for a local landscape and snow removal company and called. Several times. I understand that this is the busy season for snow removal services and that many companies have a voicemail system for their calls.

But I never got a call back. I called three times, leaving detailed information and I never heard a peep. Now it's been longer than a week, and I'm really soured by the company's lack of a callback. Yes, I got a great referral and have heard nothing but good things about the techs, the pricing, and so on.

But if they never call me back, I'm not going to take the time to chase them down anymore. Next!
— Stephanie Ricca

Friday, December 16, 2005

This is a problem? Let's lighten up folks

Having been ticketed myself for such heinous crimes as parking too far from the curb in front of my home, leaving my car parked on the street for more than 48 hours without moving it, partially blocking a sidewalk after pulling my car into my driveway, I symphatize with the TruGreen service guy in Brooksville, FL, who is breaking the law, technically, for parking his truck in the street to do lawn services.

Cops there say they generally don't enforce the law unless somebody complains. Complains?

Yea, that's the reason why I've gotten so many parking tickets over the years, a neighbor who doesn't have anything better to do than play traffic cop on our street. Hey pal, go play with your petunias.

What say we give these home service people a break. What else are they going to do with their trucks, drive them up into homeowners' yards?

Here's the link to the article. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Scotts tells smokers quit or hit the road

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. is getting tough on employees who smoke, reported the Associated Press on Monday, Dec. 12. They're giving them until this coming October to give up the cowboy killers or find another job. The company wants to reduce its health care costs. It reportedly pays 75% of employees' health insurance. Scotts employs about 6,000 people and recorded sales of $2.3 billion in its last fiscal year. The company says it can fire smokers legally in 21 states, the AP reported.

"Why would we admit someone into this environment when they're passing risk along to everyone else? Our view is we shouldn't and we won't," James Hagedorn, the company's chairman said in the AP news report. -- Ron Hall

Monday, December 12, 2005

The next generation

Last week, Ron Hall and I were fortunate to attend the Ohio Sports Turf Managers Association's (OSTMA) annual meeting held over lunch during the Ohio Turf Conference in Columbus. While we were standing around chatting before lunch, a gaggle of gangly young men in very new suits and ties clumped into the room together. It was a beautiful sight, these thin young men in their uncreased suits and carefully knotted ties. They were turf students who had each earned a scholarship or award from the OSTMA. To some, a $500 scholarship to help a 19-year-old attend the national Sports Turf Managers Association conference in Orlando next January might seem like small potatoes. But it isn't. A trip to the national show at just this stage of their training opens up a whole new world of opportunity for students. The OSTMA members, by their generosity and hard work, showed all of us the true meaning of professionalism. You see, it was a year of dynamic growth and reorganization for OSTMA, and thanks to the dedication of its members, the association has come through it stronger than ever. If you are lucky enough to have the chance to be involved with a class act regional or local professional organization like the OSTMA, seize the opportunity. By working together, Green Industry professionals can have fun, advance their own careers and contribute to the growth of the next generation. Congratulations to OSTMA and its honorees. -- Lynne Brakeman

Thinking beyond IPM

Want to see what the future of lawn care might look like? Check out this Web site.

This is the Web site of an ambitious project known as the Urban Landscape Ecology Program. It is the brainchild of Dr. Parwinder Grewal an entomologist and associate professor at The Ohio State University. He and a sizable number of colleagues (researchers, academics AND industry figures) are delving deeply into the role of lawn and landscape care in today's urban communities, and how it can be made sustainable. What you'll learn from this Web site will surprise you. — Ron Hall

Friday, December 09, 2005

Snow, snow everywhere

I've never seen so many snow pushing people (or maybe I never paid much attention before), but this morning I saw trucks of every size, shape and color pushing snow after last night's storm. The snow swept up from the Ohio River Valley, starting about 7 p.m., dumped its load and scooted on out to the Northeast. We got about six inches in my small Lake Erie community. It was the third snow event of the season. Hey, It's not even winter yet, not by the calendar anyway!

Stopping in at my favorite local coffee stop before sunrise this morning, I asked the manager. a friendly young lady, if she was happy with the job her snowplow guy was doing. She says with a shrug: "Yea, he does a pretty good job." She says she gets to work just before 5 a.m. and he's usually there and pushing snow when she arrives.

Grateful for the restaurant's warmth and the hot black coffee in the bitterly cold predawn, I looked out over the empty lot, cleared of its snow, and count about 30 parking spaces. The restaurant sits on about a half acre of property, I'm guessing. The manager tells me her "snowplow guy" charges $50 every time he pushes out the lot.

On an adjacent property, another restaurant, I see a F-250 with a plow, but it's parked. What's surely a young lady dressed up like an Eskimo is pushing a broadcast spreader back and forth, lengthwise, across that lot. I suppose that she knows that she can attach a small spreader to the back of her pickup and save a lot of walking. But maybe she doesn't mind walking. And she doesn't seem to be in any hurry. It could be her last job of the morning, or her only job. Who knows? — Ron Hall

The flying lawnmower

This is sure to be a hit at next year's EXPO and GIE shows: the flying lawnmower.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Children and lawnmowers don't mix

Just in case you need a reminder why using child labor in the Green Industry is a bad idea: See story here. — Mike Seuffert

EAB coming to Cleveland?

Just as the editorial offices of Landscape Management have just completed a move to downtown Cleveland, it looks like we're being followed closely by the emerald ash borer. According to an article from the Associated Press: "The emerald ash borer beetle, which has destroyed millions of ash trees in Michigan and northwest Ohio, has been found in Lorain County, State Agriculture Department officials said.

That is the farthest east the voracious Asian insect had been found and puts it closer to Cleveland, where, like in many cities, ash trees are popular street trees."

Lorain County is just east of Cleveland's Cuyahoga County. Thousands of people commute between the counties every day. It wouldn't be difficult for the EAB to hitch a ride. Just when we were getting comfortable here, too. — Mike Seuffert

Monday, December 05, 2005

Calling planet earth

The Chapel Hill News in North Carolina reported recently that 34 people there signed a petition asking the city to quit using herbicides and to severely curtail the use of insecticides on city property. The leader of the petition drive said she would not let her daugher go to town parks anymore in spite of the "integrated pest management" program it instituted in 1999.

When the question arose as to whether it would be wise not to spray a wasp nest near a city park, a local official offered this alternative — take a watermelon about 50 feet away and smash it open. Then dump five pounds of sugar on it."

"The bugs'll come. You haven't killed a thing, but it solves your problem," he was quoted as saying in the news report. — Ron Hall

As the snow flies ...

I already have my pet peeve figured out for the winter. Does that make me sound like a Grinch? Anyway, we recently had our first significant snow events here in Cleveland and I noticed this. In fact, I've noticed it every year but this is the first time I'm saying anything.

People, if you're going to clear off your front and back windshield, then for pete's sake, clean off the whole car!

You've seen these cars, trucks and vans out there, I know you have. The driver, in his hurry to get on the road, hastily scraped a hole to see out the front and another to see out the back, leaving a good six or more inches of powdery white stuff on the hood, on the bumpers and on the roof, making his car look like a doughnut. Then when I'm driving behind him and a good wind kicks up, as it is wont to do in winter, all that powdered sugar blows off onto my windshield and I'm blinded. Does he think his defroster is that good that it's going to melt snow on the roof?

Is this a teenytiny problem in the wider world of problems? Oh, definitely. But if you live in a snowy part of the country (and if snow and ice management is part of your business, then 'tis the season for you), try this: keep a cheap broom in your trunk or trailer. That's usually a good way to clean off the roof in one fell swoop (or at least brush it onto the next guy's parked car!)