Tree farms lose money on dishonest tree cuts

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HILLSDALE, MI. (WILX) -- When you go to cut your Christmas Tree for the holiday season, you're usually paying by the foot.

Glei's Orcharad and Greenhouse shares a photo of a tree someone cut wrong.

Unfortunately some people are finding ways to get around that, and it’s costing tree farms money.

If you cut your tree a foot or two from the bottom, you'll save a little money. But that money you're saving is hard earned money that tree farm is missing out on.

"It's like stealing. It's like going to a car lot, putting a dent in it, and saying, 'this car's got a dent in it. Aren't you going to give me a deal on it?' But people don't see it that way," said Damon Glei, owner and president of Glei’s Orchard and Greenhouse.

Glei says each of the thousands of Christmas trees he sells takes anywhere from eight to 10 years to make.

"And someone does what they did to this tree and leaves a foot and a half of stump on the ground, they quickly turn an 8-foot tree into a 6-foot tree," he said, gesturing to a tree a customer cut short.

He says it puts two years of hard work and hard-earned money right down the drain.

"This is my livelihood,” said Glei. “This is how I make a living...how I feed my kids...how 50 of my employees feed their families. It's important."

Glei says he understands that in business, sometimes there will be losses; in the tree business some trees don't make it. Glei showed News 10 a dead tree.

"We've taken care of it for probably six years to get it to this point. And it's dead. And I can't replace it, so I'm not going to have any revenue."

But having a customer leave two feet of tree behind really sets them back.

"You cut me $20 there...that would have helped me make up this difference," said Glei.

Glei says unfortunately he has product stolen far too often.

"This weekend we had four, five [cut short] that I know of so I just lost $100."

He says that an additional two to three trees were stolen outright.

He says it takes the fun out of providing a symbol of joy around the holidays.

"Really? That's the Christmas Spirit? I don't think that's the Christmas Spirit we learned when we were growing up. All I'm asking is for an honest day's wage from an honest day's work. I don't want to gauge anybody, but I don't want to get gauged."

Glei told me it’s things like this that make his trees' prices go up, and that if you can't afford an eight foot tree don't cut one down.

He says he’s thinking about tagging his trees before they get cut down, so he can make a honest profit.

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