UPDATE: One ‘Greedy Opportunist’ Apologizes, Makes Amends To Artist

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UPDATE 1/14/11: Maureen Hoffmann, Writer of the Letter below, sent us the following update about this issue:

Both sons of my neighbor came over to apologize for the actions of their friend, “Mr. Chainsaw”. They assured me that they had not given him permission to cut the wood on my property, and they were angry that he had lied and reflected poorly on them.

One son called Mr. Chainsaw over to my house. He stood at my front door and apologized. He also agreed to come do storm damage cleanup and hauling for a couple of days, under my supervision and with one of the neighbors, to make amends and as compensation for the loss in value of the cypress he had cut up. In addition, he returned the two huge rounds of wood that he had cut off the 6 foot log.

Here’s her original Letter, first posted on Jan. 22:

The fee quoted by the arborist to remove the tree was enough to make anyone’s jaw drop onto the snowy ground. But it was mid-afternoon and getting dark. I had a tree on my roof and needed to get it off. And I was still on stun.

“Fine. Get the tree off the roof.” And that’s all he did for the price, taking full advantage of a bad situation. Removal and cleanup would have been an added fee. The urgency of my situation formed dollar signs in the eyes of the arborist.

The second tree, at the road, was brought down at no charge by Seattle City Light because of the danger it posed to the neighborhood’s lines. The crew was courteous and generous, welcome attitudes after the arborist’s pushy greed the day before. The 100 ft. trunk was cut into manageable pieces and dropped into a pile on the side of my property. The base of the trunk was left at a 6 ft. length, and lay in my lower parking area. I figured that all of this could be dealt with in a day or two, after the snow and ice melted.

The next afternoon, I was talking to a local artist that offered to buy that 6 ft. length of cypress for a commercial project she was working on. We measured it, and brainstormed about potential ways to integrate the wood into her project. She’d come by in a day or two, with a truck and some help, to pick up the heavy piece of wood.

An hour later, now dark, I heard a chainsaw droning on and on. I thought, “who in the world is using a chainsaw this late?” Then I realized the sound seemed to be coming from where the cypress log lay.

I flew out the door and to the road and won’t repeat the expletives that came out of my mouth. The cypress trunk was now only 4 feet long. Mr. Chainsaw was standing on my property, under the street lamp, making firewood out of my wood that had been destined for an art piece. Technically, doesn’t this amount to trespassing and attempted theft?

Mr. Chainsaw said that my neighbors across the street had told him he could cut and take it. Really? Couldn’t he (shouldn’t he) have come knocking on my door to ask politely, “Excuse me, but will you be using the wood from your tree that came down? May I cut it and take it?”

And, what were my neighbors thinking in granting permission that they had no right to grant?

We have all heard reports of post-disaster looting and artificially-high rates for repair and cleanup. It seems to me that after we’ve all endured snow, ice, power outages, downed trees, property damage, loss of work, etc., we should more readily offer generosity, respect… and lawfulness. An urgent situation does not grant license to forego courtesy and propriety! We will not be united through greed and opportunism.

My experience due to the downing of my trees gave me a glimpse into a “darkside” viewpoint. Fortunately, that glimpse was contrasted by the many offers of help, and by a plate of fresh-baked cookies brought over by my elder neighbors, an enduring sweet spot in the middle of a sour-tasting time.

– Maureen Hoffmann

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15 Responses to “UPDATE: One ‘Greedy Opportunist’ Apologizes, Makes Amends To Artist”
  1. S Lipa says:

    Oh my gosh – obviously the Arborist put a bad taste in your mouth and now your neighbors whom I believe were thinking they were helping out a mess you obviously had. Love Thy Neighbor. Get rid of your negitive,paranoid additude and be greatful. Yes, your neighbor should have asked first but geez a whole complaint in the burien blog? Get a freakin life and be greatful for helpful neighbors.

    • M-on-a-bike says:

      S Lipa and Elizabeth2,
      Anyone that knows me would tell you that I do not have a “negative, paranoid attitude” and that I do not look for the “darkside”. Quite the opposite. That’s why it was so disappointing to encounter people being so greedily opportunistic in the midst of the tough week we’ve all had.

      Grateful? Absolutely! If you knew me you would know that I feel no shortage of gratitude in my life. Sure. A tree fell on my house but the roof is fine and I’m fine. There are people that endure the damage of hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis that have their whole lives wiped off the face of the earth. You think I don’t know that? In the scheme of things, two trees down are nothing.

      Secondly, the 6 ft. length of cypress was not in a “parking strip” at the road side. I have a garage-size space cut into my front yard that is my parking space. Mr. Chainsaw was parked in MY parking space, on MY property, cutting MY wood that was sitting there. If he had had the courtesy to come knocking on my door, I probably would have offered him some of the rounds of wood that were sitting buried under the branches, which he overlooked while he was making a big piece of wood into matching, little rounds.

      • areyouserious says:

        Your point makes sense. It is a shame that a large part of our society has forgotten or were never taught common courtesty and generosity. It does make me wonder how we would fare in a true emergency as opposed to an inconvenience.

  2. elizabeth2 says:

    I am sorry that you had to pay a huge fee to the arborist, but honestly, in a situation like that, I believe the arborist had a right to charge whatever the market would bear. He may have been working long hours and if you wanted it removed right away, perhaps that is something you shold have paid for? You could have said no – free country.

    Secondly, the “lower parking area” where the 6 foot piece may or may not have been on your property? The parking strips in our neighhborhood belong to the City of Burien, not to us which is what I discovered when I inquired about some problems about that wide area.

    Also, when we have lost trees and huge branches, we put a BIG SIGN on the trees saying FREE – we are more than happy to have anyone remove the wood for their use and get it out of ours.

    In a major storm like that, I was grateful that we had heat, that we had a home and that all the branches that fell on our property did not hurt anyone. When we have lost trees, and we have lost many, sometimes we pay the arborist, sometimes we take out a chain saw, sometimes we work with our neighbors, whatever works.

    Relax, take a deep breath and stop looking for the “darkside” and the “sour taste” in life. Find the things for which to be grateful and thankful and let the rest go!

  3. Wulfie says:

    I am sorry but I disagree with the two of you. The tree was on the writer’s property NOT the neighbors. As the original writer stated, she had SOLD the tree at the 6 foot length to an artist. I would be surprised if the artist wants it at the 4 foot or shorter length. The neighbors STOLE from her by telling someone that they could have the wood.

    Using your analogy, I could tell someone they could move into my neighbor’s home because they are having problems paying their mortgage so I would be “helping them out” by finding a tenant for them even though they may have found someone else who is going to rent their home.

  4. Feral Dog says:

    Where you at liz, I will come get that wood

  5. William Forest says:

    Mr Chainsaw should cough up what the 6 foot log for whatever you had sold it for.
    What he did was tantamount to stealing.

  6. Steve says:

    If I was the OP, I’d be pissed too…

  7. Betsy says:

    I have been to Maureen house. The area she describes is clearly her property. The “parking area” as she describes it is not a strip. No one had the right to take something out of that area with or without a neighbors permission. (Sounds like a poorly crafted excuse to me from Mr. Chainsaw.) As for Maureen, she is not a negative person in the least. She was only pointing out that some people seem to take advantage of others in such situations. She didn’t say it was illegal to charge what he did – just immoral (in my opinion).

  8. Loren says:

    Why all the mystery with the “arborist’s” name?
    Why not let us know so we don’t call them when we are in a jam?

  9. M-on-a-bike says:

    Here is the arborist I am NOW RECOMMENDING:
    Louis at Eagle Tree Service, 206-246-6633
    He is courteous, knowledgeable and fair in his pricing.
    Louis will have plenty of work to do in my yard, now and later.

  10. Neil says:

    Maureen is not a negative or paranoid personality. I have had the pleasure of meeing her and she is one of the nicest and engaging personalities i have ever met. She is a successful businesswomen and has an awsome disposition on life. She does a lot for our community, ex. the walk n talk burien event is organized by her.
    If you need any further proof of what a class act she is- she is taking the high road and not naming the arborist that took advantage of her situation.
    Love you Maureen, sorry about what happened. Meet you at the gym if I can get my lazy butt off the coach.

  11. nikki says:

    What a wonderful update! No lawyers, courts or retaliation. A great demonstration of people using common decency and doing the right thing when they’ve made a mistake.

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