firewoodCall it getting burned, or a deal that's all wet: State officials are warning that some of this season's online firewood vendors are scamming consumers, leaving unusable wood, short orders, and no way to track them down.

"Consumers need to take steps to ensure that they're dealing with a reliable firewood dealer and not a fly-by-night," said William Rubenstein, Consumer Protection commissioner for Connecticut, in a statement. "We're cautioning consumers to take extra care when responding to classified advertising where the sellers' personal identification is often quite limited."This season, complaints to Rubenstein's office typically involve buyers who answer an online ad -- like those found on websites such as Craigslist, Backpage, or BeatYourPrice. The customer orders the wood advertised, but what comes off the delivery truck turns out to be scrap wood, unseasoned logs, or just plain short of the amount for which they paid.

Because these unscrupulous vendors may take only cash, and then may not provide a receipt, the unwitting consumer gets stuck with the bad load.

"Paying by cash gives buyers little recourse if there is a problem with delivery or with the wood itself," Rubenstein said in his statement. "Before payment, buyers should confirm the amount and quality of the wood. If the load is short, consumers should withhold a portion of their payment until the full amount is delivered."

Rubenstein's office issued some additional tips to avoid problems with winter firewood orders:
  • Determine the wood length. The standard length for firewood is 16 inches, but some larger wood-burning stoves can take 20-inch-or-more pieces.
  • If you intend to use the wood this winter, buy only seasoned firewood that has been stacked and dried for at least six months.
  • Don't buy firewood by the truckload -- stick to cords and half-cords. A cord of wood measures 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. A half-cord is 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 4 feet long. Have your firewood stacked when delivered. Measure it to be sure you received the amount for which you paid.
  • Get a signed and dated receipt. It should include the name, address and phone number of the business, the name of the business owner, the amount of wood delivered and the total price.
If you find yourself in a pile of frustration with a firewood dealer, contact your state Consumer Protection office, or seek assistance from your local attorney general's office.

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