Santa Cruz, Calif.-Firewood sales is big business this time of year but protect yourself from being victimized by the tricks of the trade. David George, a weights and measures expert with Santa Cruz County says there are things you should know so as not to be burned by firewood sales fraud.
First...you should know what a cord of wood is. Bulk firewood is sold by a measurement called a "cord." A cord must equal 128 cubic feet. To be sure you have a cord, stack the wood neatly by placing the wood in a line or a row, with individual pieces touching and parallel to each other, making sure that the wood is compact and has as few gaps as possible. Then measure the stack. If the width times the height times the length equals 128 cubic feet, you have a cord of firewood. For example: A stack 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long equals 128 cubic feet, or one cord.
Secondly, George says don't be scammed by terms that are not backed up by law. A cord, like other measurements such as a foot, a gallon, or a ton, is defined by law. A seller may not legitimately use terms such as "truckload," "face cord," "rack," or "pile" because these terms have no legally defined meaning and, therefore, you have no way of determining how much firewood you are actually receiving. If a seller uses these terms it should alert you to a possible problem. Firewood can only be sold by the cord or by fractions of a cord when sold in quantities of 1/8 a cord or more. You may wish to tell your dealer that you intend to ask Weight & Measures to verify the delivered quantity. If this concerns the dealer, you are probably better off finding another wood seller.
Thirdly, get what you pay for. When you buy firewood make sure to get a sales invoice or delivery ticket which shows the name and address of the seller, the date purchased or delivered, the quantity purchased, and the price of the quantity purchased. Dealers are required by law to give this information to you. You might also want to discretely write down the license number of the vehicle used to deliver the wood to you. When the wood is delivered, ask the seller to stack it (you may have to pay extra for this service) or stack the wood yourself. Measure the wood before using any. If the cubic measurement indicates that you did not receive the correct volume, contact the seller before you burn any wood.
So what do you do if you think you've been shortchanged? If the seller can't or won't correct the problem, contact your weights and measures office before you burn any wood. It is also helpful to document the possible shortage by taking a picture of the stacked wood. In Santa Cruz County, call (831) 454-2383.
If you're in Monterey County and you have a problem with a firewood sale, you can call the County Ag Office at (831) 759.7382
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