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Business Owners and Managers

One Arborist's Unusual Requests

Landscapers, Arborist and grounds professionals alike have been in the situation where a customer approaches them with an unusual request. Vic Foerster, a consulting arborist with West Michigan Tree Services, has seen his fair share of strange requests.

"Five or six times a year, we’re asked to by someone to literally cut their neighbor’s tree in half — vertically…They don’t care where we prune off the limb or branch, as long as there’s nothing left overhanging on their property."

No matter the underlying reason, customers will ask for strange requests and believe it can be done simply because it is their property. He turns down the outlandish requests.


Many people asked them to spray for spiders, ant and birds and to use the most potent product they can. These customers see these as pests as opposed integral parts of the ecosystem to help their landscape. Vic turns down these jobs.

Moonlight landscaping

A superintendent of a golf course knew that removing specific trees would upset some of his club members, so he asked Vic’s crew to remove them in the middle of the night so the club members wouldn’t know until it was done. Vic turned down this job, as well.

Hush Hush Treatment

A university arborist asked Vic’s crew to treat some Ash Trees affected by Emerald Ash Borer – but not tell anyone. Some of the university professors didn’t like the use of pesticides and would try to stop the production. Vic did this job but posted on the site afterwards.

The Swanson’s – Dr. Swanson was a renowned inventor in the medical field as well as an outspoken environmentalist. Before he passed, he and his wife asked for Vic’s crew to run twine throughout the canopies so the hawks would stop diving up on the song birds and squirrels at their bird feeder. Afterwards their property looked like a giant safety net!

Mrs. Thorton – A strong willed retired principle lived by the words, “When in doubt, cut it out!” Vic had to work hard to explain that even healthy trees lose their leave in the fall and the mess they made didn’t warrant a good enough reason to remove them.

Mr. Ernstein – A very smart successful software engineer had terrible stress and anxiety about a tree falling on either his property or his loved ones. He insisted any tree larger than 6 inches in diameter and within 40 feet of his home be removed. He also requested that his trees be inspected for splits, cracks or trunk decay multiple times a year.

The past three examples, although a little eccentric, are great examples of unique clients in this industry. They all were great clients and gave repeat business.

These may or may not happen to you and your crew, but it is good to be prepared so if the situation arises you aren’t stuck with seconds to decide on a morally difficult situation. “What will you do when someone wants you to cut their neighbor’s tree in half? What will you do when a client asks you to spray ladybugs or other beneficial insects, simply because they’re annoying? What will you do when faced with a request to clear-cut a healthy, mature woodlot because the client wants more sun to improve his or her tan lines? (Yes, that was a real request.) Would you string twine to save song birds?”

Read the full article on Tree Service Magazine at www.treeservicesmagazine.com.

Tell us what you would do in any of these situations or share any unusual requests you have received on the forum or under Tell Us Your Story.