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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.


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