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A Post-Holiday Screed

Why you should avoid pre-lit trees: a post-holiday screed.

I’ve always cut my own Christmas trees, thinking a fresh, long-lasting tree was worth a trek in the snow and the sore muscles the next day. One year I had an enormous Scotch pine that hung in there from mid-December to mid-January.

In 2007, I was so strapped for time I bought a pretty (at that moment) pre-cut Frasier fir from a lot. It looked great, until the needles started bungee jumping off it. We bought it December 5th and put it up and watered it constantly, and by December 14th I had the Monty Python leaf suicide scene being re-enacted daily in our house. It was so dry I didn’t think it was even safe. We took down the fire hazard and went to a florist shop. Mr. Shukti spent the morning helping me clean up needles and did not want to drag another fresh tree into the house. At that point I looked for a little potted Norfolk pine. I didn’t want to blow any more money and would have been content with a little diorama and Nativity underneath it. They didn’t have those, but they had… pre-lit artificial trees.

I looked at one, a gorgeous thing, and almost passed out when I saw the price tag. Then I noted the 15-year warranty. OK, in fifteen years I’ll be in Hawaii, retired and stringing lights on a palm tree. We bought it.

Big. Mistake.

When I plugged it that New Year’s Eve, I heard a sharp pop! This is never good, and when I looked up I saw a portion at the top was burnt out. The tree was loaded with ornaments and garland so I couldn’t exactly trouble-shoot it until it came down, but when I took everything off it I worked with it for two hours, checking each bulb. It became apparent I couldn’t fix it. I took the section back to the nursery as I was told, and they fixed it, assuring me the fuse that caused this was an oddity. I shouldn’t have this problem again.

I did.

I plugged it in one day in early January 2009 and heard the dreaded pop! again. There was a larger portion out this time, toward the bottom. I took it back to the florist, receipt in hand, wanting a refund or at least a similar non-prelit tree. They could do neither of these things for me. I called the tree manufacturer — you have to dig to do that, because the phone number isn’t on their web page for little people like you or I to call — and was assured by the first person I talked to that this was somewhat my fault, because I should have shipped the tree back to their company for trouble-shooting. They were sure it was merely a burnt-out bulb, and that happens. (Not on the cheap strings of lights I’d bought for live trees, it didn’t.) They were also much more concerned with the fact that I didn’t have the original box the thing came than the fact that it didn’t work — how could they be sure it was one of their products? ¬†Apparently the 15-year warranty didn’t matter to anyone either, even though I only had the thing two years and used it pretty sparingly. I asked to speak to a supervisor and got passed back and forth between the same two sales people.

When I feel like dealing with it, I am going to pour myself a glass of wine, sit down, and try cutting every light off the thing myself. I don’t know if all pre-lits do this, but I’ve heard horror stories from other people. A friend had to shear the lights off her table-top pre-lit. (Besides having to buy regular lights, the tree is fine.) I’m still angry but at least I can help you avoid this. You want an artificial tree, Google for unlit ones. They’re out there. And that way you won’t give either of these businesses(?) your money either.

Shukti

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