What I Should’ve Said: An Open Letter to the TruGreen Guy

Dear Sir,

It has been a few weeks since we last spoke. I’m not sure if you will remember me, but here’s a quick re-cap of our exchange to jog your memory:

  • There’s a “No Solicitors” sign next to my doorbell. That probably won’t help you – you seem to have missed it.
  • I quietly said, “Hi” with an inquisitive look on my face. You said (loudly and with a laugh), “Huh. It’s like you have a baby sleeping in there.” To which I responded, “I *do* have a baby sleeping in here. What can I do for you?” Still not ringing a bell? Okay, we’ll keep going.
  • You asked whether I had a lawn care company. I used to, but we fired them this year for a whole host of reasons. I didn’t want to delve into the subject with you, so I just said, “Yes, we’re covered.” And you said, “Really? Because I’m looking around in your yard, and there are a lot of areas that are really not looking too good” as you turned and shrugged towards several patches that are, indeed, not looking too good.
  • I said that I wasn’t interested in hiring a new company, and you OPENED MY SCREEN DOOR and handed me a brochure while quickly saying that if I changed my mind, just to give you a call — your company could sort out “all this,” as you gestured to my yard. When I handed the brochure back to you because I didn’t want to waste the paper, your eyes bugged out, you raised your voice, and you said, “Well, excu-u-use, ME.”
  • You stormed off my porch as I closed the door.

That was the end of our conversation. It took less than 5 minutes, but it stuck with me, mostly because I left so many things unsaid. I feel that I need some closure, so here goes.

There is no level on which you were not COMPLETELY wrong in this interaction. Not a single one. Let’s break it down, here.

The first thing you messed up:

You were trespassing as soon as you rang my doorbell. “No Solicitors” means that I don’t want a stranger trying to sell me something by coming to my house uninvited. My city has laws about this, designating your presence on my front porch as trespass on private property. The fact that you then opened my door when I told you I wasn’t interested in your product would convince even the most liberal interpreter of the municipal code that you were trespassing here.

The second thing you messed up:

I know you didn’t realize you were insulting my skills when you told me what a terrible job my lawn service was doing. You just thought you were badmouthing the competition. Either way, though, there are a few reasons that my lawn is “really not looking too good.” For example:

  1. I don’t really give a crap about turf grass. As long as there are no thistles hurting the bare feet running through the lawn, I feel like I’m doing my job. The only reasons that I haven’t gotten rid of the lawn altogether are that (a) we have a Homeowner’s Association with a lot of short-sighted rules, and (b) I can’t afford to have someone design and implement a better plan right now. So we hang onto the grass.
  2. I haven’t declared war on dandelions. I do my part to pinch off the flowers before they go to seed and spread. But honestly, I find them to be kinda cute, and my kids love them. Especially Baby Hippie, who picks them and brings them to me as gifts. He was the one sleeping when you rang the doorbell, so you didn’t get to see how cute he is, but trust me – if he brought you a handful of slightly crumpled dandelions and told you he loved you, you’d stop hating them, too. They’re also edible, which is a nice bonus. Unless, of course, someone sprays them with poison.
  3. Yes, there are some problem areas. I will patch the problem areas with grass seed and painstakingly water it in to cultivate those patches. Eventually. It’s not a priority. You can’t eat turf grass. It’s not particularly attractive in its monochromatic glory. So when I get done planting the vegetables, weeding the vegetables, helping my kids plant their ornamental flowers, and maintaining the exterior of my home, I will find some time for the turf grass. It won’t be as immediate as when your company does it, but I will learn to live with the mediocrity.
  4. But the biggest reason my lawn looks “not too good” is that I don’t want to put synthetic chemicals on it. I lost a lot of sleep last summer knowing that my “eco-friendly” lawn care service was still using herbicides on my lawn. Sure, it was selective, but it was still a pretty hefty amount of substances I couldn’t pronounce being applied to portions of my yard. We live on a corner lot, so any excesses are washed directly into the storm drains that are next to and across from our home. The weeds in my grass weren’t doing anything to hurt me, my family, my water supply, or the plants and animals in my neighborhood and in my soil. The same couldn’t be said for the chemicals I was allowing to be applied to my yard. I get no benefit from destroying the weeds. This was purely for vanity, and vanity isn’t really my style. I am still unwilling to dye my grey hair because of the time, the expense, and the chemicals. But I was willing to put way more time, way more chemicals, and way more money into the earth around my home? That is insane. I’m investing my time and my money in things that matter.

But here’s where we get to the important part:

So yes, my lawn has some problems. You could’ve been a little more tactful in broaching the subject, but that’s not the reason that I’m not hiring your company. Your tantrum at the end of our exchange isn’t the reason, either. Even if you had been charming and respectful, even if I hadn’t posted a “No Solicitors” sign, even if I wanted my lawn to resemble an award-winning golf course, I still wouldn’t hire your company.

You sell heavily-applied chemical poisons for cosmetic purposes. I am trying to avoid this. The two of us are never going to get together on this.

As I was preparing to write this break-up letter, I tried to do some research to make sure that you hadn’t changed your ways since the last time I looked into lawn care companies. Had TruGreen changed, baby? Had it seen the error of its ways? Could I now trust that I would be safe in a relationship with this company?

I spent some time on your websites. I acknowledge that you offer an organic lawn care program option. I see the patronizing lines that “Everything’s toxic in some ways – even aspirin! What’s important is the dose.” I see lots of references to the careful and proper application of your products by your trained technicians.  And I learned that your products (which you never identify even in vague terms – trade secrets, I suppose) are virtually risk-free, according to a Clinical Toxicology Scale. This all sounds terrific, but there are a few things that nag me about each of these claims:

  • Your organic lawn care program sounds lovely, but I don’t think that this cancels out the damage of your much more widely consumed synthetic chemical programs
  • I understand that even helpful substances can be toxic in the wrong doses. But there’s a pretty big difference between medication and weed-destroying chemicals. The main purpose of medicine is to make people feel better. The main purpose of lawn chemicals is to make lawns look like golf courses. Is there a therapeutic dose of herbicide?
  • I’ve seen your highly trained professionals in my neighborhood. Their application techniques are not always the most careful. I don’t feel comfortable trusting that they are using the lowest dose possible to take care of each individual lawn’s problems.
  • A toxicology scale rating from 1984 does not inspire a whole lot of confidence nearly 30 years later. We’ve learned a few things about environmental toxins since then.

I’d like to do a more thorough investigation of my concerns about your products, but that is difficult to do in the FAQ format that comprises all of the information available on your website. Maybe Tru-Green’s “PhD-certified specialist”** could give me more information about the specific chemicals when they come to provide my “Healthy Lawn Analysis,” but I’m willing to forego that knowledge if it means that you never come to my house again. Ever.

So that’s it in a nutshell, Tru-Green Guy. You were intrusive, you were rude, and you sell things that I would prefer to see banned in my neighborhood (and city, state, nation, and planet). I’m sorry that we didn’t make a deeper connection. I think it would be wise to part ways permanently, lest we say more things that might be hurtful to one another. I appreciate this opportunity to address our issues, and I am looking forward to putting this behind me now.


The Reluctant Hippie

** “PhD certified” – what does that even mean? Does that mean that each person developing the “Healthy Lawn Analysis®” has a PhD, or that someone with a PhD certifies the folks who do these analyses? TruGreen Guy, are you one of these PhD certified specialists?  Were you using your certification to determine that my lawn wasn’t looking too good? Maybe you should have whipped out your credentials – I pay a lot more attention to Doctors.


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