Coming to a Woodpile Near You

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

Coming to a Woodpile Near You

November 5, 2002

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Last month, my father bought a new pickup truck. When I asked why, he told me, "Well, I have some wood I need to pick up." Others, of course, might have rented a truck, but not my father who decided to buy a new Chevy Silverado for $20,000 in order to move this wood.

In his defense, there is a lot of wood to move -- seven cords, to be precise, enough to heat his house for the entire winter. What's worse, these seven cords are in Vermont, some 60 miles from his house in Massachusetts. Leave it to him to buy wood in an entirely different state. Why buy wood so far away? Those who know my father already can guess the answer: because he got a deal on it. The wood is seasoned, and seasoned wood usually costs $125 a cord. In exchange for moving it himself, though, he got the price down to $70 a cord.

Let's review. My father has managed to save roughly $55 a cord on seven cords of wood. Total savings: $385. Total money spent on shiny new truck to earn these $385 of savings: $20,000. Having a father who does crazy things like this when you write a humor column and are on deadline: Priceless.

This is the same man who thinks it's sacrilege not to return aluminum cans for the five-cent refund, the same man whose day can still be made by finding a penny on the ground, and the same man who likes nothing better than triple coupon day at the local Stop and Shop. And yet, somehow, he thinks nothing of dropping $20,000 to save $385 on some wood.

Obviously, this was something of an impulse buy -- the wood, not the truck. No, he thought long and hard about the truck, but the wood was such a good deal that he bought it immediately before figuring out exactly how he would get it back to his house. In the past, he has moved wood by hitching a trailer to the back of his Buick Park Avenue, but clearly that's no way to move seven cords of wood. I still think he should have just rented a truck, but when I told him this, he sounded shocked that his son could come up with such a stupid idea. "Then, I'd just be giving all the money I save back to U-Haul," he said with disgust.

I'm convinced he just wanted to buy a new truck, but he does have an elaborate plan for making the truck pay off. His plan is to use the truck for the next year to get as much wood as he can -- in his words, "a lifetime supply of wood" -- and then he plans to sell the truck. He figures he could sell it for $15,000 next year, so if he can somehow use the truck to save $5000 on wood or anything else, then it will all make sense economically. By the way, I'm using here the loosest possible definition of the phrase "make sense."

Of course, he did get a good deal on the truck, which isn't surprising. I'm a little disappointed that I couldn't tag along this time because watching him haggle with car dealers is always great fun. He will gladly waste an hour only to walk away over the tiniest detail. Once, I saw him reject a deal for a new car simply because he decided they were charging $50 too much for the air conditioner.

This time, he went to one place called Muzi Ford where he spent an hour and a half with a salesman. Finally, the manager came out.

"Tell me, Sir, how come you don't want to buy the truck?"

"Because there's another dealer advertising the same truck in the newspaper for a thousand dollars less."

"Well, would you really let a thousand dollars stand between you and the fine service of Muzi Ford?"

"Ah, yeah."

And that was the end of that. Eventually, after a few weeks, he did find the truck he wanted at a price he liked. And now that truck is sitting in his driveway, and he's almost ready to start his elaborate $5000 wood-moving plan. I only hope that I'm not involved. If you happen to see him, be sure to tell him that you haven't seen me. In fact, you're pretty sure that I might be out of town.

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