In a hitherto unprecedented breach of the Trade Descriptions Act, a family in Hertfordshire have discovered that the so called ‘non-drop’ Christmas tree that they bought in mid-December was nothing of the sort.
Mr and Mrs Johnson from Watford bought the five foot conifer in good faith from a street trader who even had a prominent sign clearly stating that his Christmas trees were of the ‘non-drop’ variety; i.e. that the pine needles would not fall off the tree once they had got the severed tree home and put it in a hot living room. ‘We even asked him as we handed over the cash if this one was definitely non-drop,’ said Simon Johnson. ‘‘Oh yeah, yeah, they’re all non-drop,’ he said.’
But for the Johnson family, December 2006 will be one Christmas they will want to forget. ‘The family were the victims of a cunning new confidence trick,’ explained the local police. The ‘non-drop’ sign had actually been made by the vendor himself, using a marker pen and some cardboard. The needles began falling within days. ‘It’s ruined our Christmas,’ wept Mrs Johnson. ‘Pine needles falling onto the presents and surrounding carpet, extra hoovering; on some days we’ve even had to use the dustpan and brush. We went back to the disused garage forecourt where we bought the tree, but once Christmas was over, the vendor had disappeared. You read about these scams taking place, but you never think they will happen to you.’
Hertfordshire Police have joined forced with other constabularies around the country in a nationwide search for the inventive con-man. ‘Once one vendor starts claiming trees are non-drop when they are not, then they’ll all be at it,’ said a police spokesman. Detectives have not ruled out a link between this incident and another Christmas crime reported in nearby St Albans in early December. A man came through the window of a family home, opened all the advent calendar windows and ate every single piece of chocolate before the appropriate day, according to the fat child who appears to be the only witness.