An already busy summer season just got busier for Flatline Lawn Care owner Michael Walsch.
"I’ve gotten 10 lawns through there already, and I think 3 or more are regular cuts," Walsch said.
He recently signed his company up on a new app in the area called GreenPal.
"It's definitely an easier way to get more lawns without the hassle of doing the foot work," Walsch said.
The company was started in Nashville 6 years ago as an easy way for lawn care providers to connect to potential customers. Now it's in 40 cities including Baltimore. Over 30 vendors are already signed up.
"Homeowners can get on our website, list their lawn and local, prescreened vendors can then bid on the property." GreenPal co-founder Gene Caballero said.
Then the homeowner chooses who they want. After the service is done, the vendor posts a photo of the work and the homeowner has 24 hours to dispute the service before they have to pay.
"I trusted that this service this lawn service would do a great job ... so I went ahead and I submitted payment," Florida customer Maria Alithinos said. "That's my mistake."
Alithinos used the app to hire a company in May in Tampa. She paid before she realized what they had actually done.
"There was a sea of trim throughout the lawn," Alithinos said. "Why would you leave the lawn looking like this?"
She said she tried to get her money back but the company said no.
"In the meantime, I contacted GreenPal's customer service via email. When you call, no one answers the phone. It’s an automated thing," Alithinos said.
Months later, she never got a response.
"If you’re taking money from a provider or if you taking money from a consumer, you need to have customer service," Alithinos said.
But Caballero says they make it clear vendors handle all of the customer service.
"Upon homeowner sign up, we just let them know, 'Hey, we are just a platform to connect the two. We make it easier for you guys to do business, but all in all, the vendor that you select is the guy that you need to reach out to for any issues with service, any issues with payment," Caballero said.
Alithinos is warning new customers to do research and don't pay too soon.
"It’s a convenience. It’s all on there. You get the bids. You can pay on there. You could have a fantastic experience and that's great. If you do have a poor experience, you have nobody that’s going to give you any support whatsoever," Alithinos said.
GreenPal doesn't ask for IRS tax forms, but all vendors on the site have to have commercial grade equipment, references, pictures of previous work, and a valid social security number and bank account.
"We don't 1099 the vendors so this is their business. They didn't start a lawn care business for us to tell them what to do and when to do it, so we just try to make it as easy as possible for the two to connect," Caballero said.
They don't recommend any vendors to homeowners and say customers shouldn't just look at the price, but at the reviews and ratings on their site before making a selection.
"If the homeowner picks the cheapest guy that has 0 ratings and 0 reviews, they are taking more of a gamble than someone who is maybe a little bit more expensive but has a 5 star rating," Caballero said.
Caballero and Walsch also add it isn't a red flag if you can't find an official website or page for the vendor. Most small lawn care businesses don't have one to eliminate extra overhead. They rely on word of mouth and apps like this to get customers.
GreenPal also says if a vendor falls below certain criteria, they will part ways with them.