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Friday, June 8, 2012

"Internet Special:" A Cautionary Tale

We learn a lot of interesting things up on Cascade Bluff. Things that some savvy, woods-wise folks probably learned long ago... But there you have it, we also know lots of really useful odds and ends (like chemotherapy doses, what sizes long acting morphine pills come in, how to calculate cardiac output and the names of all the latest angiotensin receptor inhibitors...) that seem practical to us... or did at one time... 
But we are very much enjoying our steep learning curve about life in the hinterlands of northern Minnesota. And we are happy to share! 

For instance: for those of you who've ridden with us in any one of our vehicles, perhaps you've pondered why we always carry a bow saw...and why we have four of them (3 for the cars/trucks, one for the property... We decided that Cloud Pine, the Prius, doesn't need one...)
Here's why! This tree limb hadn't actually blocked the road yet, but was about to... Val at work with bow saw #3, the one that lives in the back of Ursula the Ruddy Explorer... 

That's a fairly simple lesson that we've taken to heart: "Never travel without a saw." 
Here's a more modern cautionary lesson!

Ever come across something that looks pretty darned good when you peruse it online? Well we've recently been in the market for yet another noisy large toy for the Bluff: everyone's dream machine, a wood chipper. Now if you're like me, the words wood chipper instantly bring a certain dramatic scene to mind. (Alert! Coen Brothers' sensibility... Don't try to claim I didn't warn you!)
You remember that one, don't you? I had to find the right clip -- the one with Frances McDormand's fabulous line at the end referring to the object in question...

But I digress! We have been on the hunt for a new or used wood chipper of our own, to help make use of the very large piles of branches, shrubs, brush, leaves, etc that Cascade Bluff gives us when we do things like cut firewood, make trails, create a garden, walk twenty feet, you name it... All that brush really would be much more useful as chips for our walking and snowshoeing trails, as weed-blocking mulch for our attempts at landscaping and planting (yes, it's true) more trees in the forest, and for the garden... Not to mention helping make the place less of a tinderbox for fire season... 

So, we researched wood chippers. We won't tell you the sad story of a customer service nightmare at an unnamed local business...suffice it to say that in certain stores, the customer is not always right, or even remotely treated with respect... but I digress again... 
Unfortunately few places these days actually have a chipper assembled at the store. We found a couple, but not exactly what we wanted. So, we asked Dr. Google... and ended up on a Big Box Store's Online section... a few clicks later, and our "Internet Special" wood chipper was on its way to us!

It took everyone a while to figure out how to get the darned thing to Grand Marais... two shipping (not chipping) companies, a call to Chris, our intrepid contractor, nice folks at one of the 2 local lumber yards who let us have the chipper delivered to them for pick up...
They even loaded it with their forklift into Dimples (our dented red Ford pickup)... 

The fact that it was raining might have been prophetic...

...and how little clearance I had for this big box in our garage up top the bluff, after a long and bumpy ride up our hill... 

The next day, with help from our buddy Nick, we unpackaged our new Chipper and discovered....


... a nice big dent in the gas tank... complete with rust...

It was soon clear that this machine had been purchased once, tried out, failed to work, and was returned. Not usually a problem... unless the store then repackages it as new and ships it to someone else! 
Val and Nick found a number of things wrong with the machine: dented gas tank, leaking gas tank, non-functioning electric starter, and a full reservoir of oil (was supposed to be empty)... 
Many phone calls later and with a promise of a full refund, and on another rainy day, we learned the wisdom of saving shipping cartons! Thank goodness we didn't say yes to our friend Evan's request for a big cardboard box to build a fort!! 

The chipper reloaded in the back of the truck... this time with no forklift... Thank you, Nick! 

The news in person at the other end at the Unnamed Big Box Store in Duluth was intially discouraging. First we were told that the fine print on the "Internet Special" on this chipper said:
"No Returns."
Huh? What fine print? Never saw anything like that... Wait a sec, no returns?? Not even on a product with an obvious dent and a leaking gas tank? 
Well, humanity and common sense prevailed, and the Big Box Store's customer service angels came through for us. A very nice young woman firmly argued our case with the Online Department (quite clearly an entirely different division than the in-person store) and got us a full refund! Thank you, thank you!

The story's not quite over, as we still have no chipper... Anybody out there have a used chipper that they no longer need, that doesn't require a power take-off from a tractor (thanks for the idea, Matt, but just not practical for us...) and can be towed behind an ATV? Our research continues... and so will this cautionary tale! Check back later this summer for, we hope, photos of whatever new/used/rented chipper we end up with at our adventuresome New World at Cascade Bluff!









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