OLYMPIA - The cool fall weather is prompting many residents to buy firewood for the approaching winter. The state's Department of Agriculture is advising consumers to take steps to make sure a bad deal doesn't leave their wood piles and wallets short.
The weights and measures program with the state ag department has received 31 complaints in the past 12 months.
"The majority of wood sellers play by the rules, but there are some who take advantage of the unsuspecting," said Jerry Buendel, weights and measures program manager.
He said people complain about getting less wood than they paid for. For best results, said Buendel, he advises consumers to be present for the delivery and take time to inspect the firewood before it's unloaded.
"If you're not satisfied, refuse the load or negotiate a new price," Buendel said. "You should also ask for a receipt."
Washington state law requires wood sellers to provide a receipt that shows the name and address of both the buyer and seller, as well as the date delivered. The invoice should also state the price, the quantity delivered, the quantity upon which the price is based and the type and quality of wood.
Buendel said the legal measure for firewood in Washington is the cord or a fraction of a cord. He said sellers often deceive buyers with terms such as unit, truckload, face cord, rick or pile. Buendel said these terms have no legal definition and cannot be used as a measure for the amount of firewood being sold.
A cord is 128 cubic feet. An easy way to determine a cord is to measure the stacked pile. If the width times the height times the length equals 128 cubic feet, it is a true cord.