Non-Koi-Related Rants / Blog

There have been many times that I needed and wanted to complain about something in a very public way, to let the world know of some injustice. Be real, we all have had things happen in our lives that were just plain wrong or unjust, and we all wanted an ear at times to help release our frustrations, and/or to let the rest of the world know about the people or businesses that created or caused the problem. I am sure you have all had these types of experiences, and you may just enjoy this page of my site. On the other hand, you may end up thinking that I am just a whiner and chronic complainer, because this part of my website will be full of primarily complaints for the most part. There may be an occasion that I write something here that is good and will want to share those things as well, but the primary reason for this blog is for me to vent in a very public way! This is probably a character flaw of some sort I am sure, but for those of you that truly know me.....simply add it to that long list. Heck, there may even be the occasional Koi related issue here!

All of you that do know me, know that my life is an open book for the most part. Seems like I am always telling my customers my whole life story....even new customers at times! Some may think I am nuts, but for the most part I have found that most people enjoy and embrace my candor and honesty. For those new customers that do not know me well, I would hope that you get to know me before judging me or what I write here. For the most part I have found that most people enjoy and even appreciate my candor and openness in person to person meetings, but I am not sure that will fly in writing on my website. I guess time will tell?

Recently there have been many things, (seems like one after the other) that have happened to me that I feel were just plain wrong! In my frustration, and even anger at times I admit, I was trying to think of some way to let everyone out there know about some of the unjust things that can occur to all of us.This in an attempt to warn everyone so they do not have the same bad experiences, as well as me attempting to feel some sort of retribution in the matter by letting the world know. Things like businesses that I feel are crooked, scammers, poorly run, overcharging, etc. as well as some personal thing that may have occurred because of some individual or circumstance. Everything I write here of course will strictly be nothing more then my personal opinion, and with that you can judge as you deem warranted. You know what they say about opinions: They are just like a$%holes....everyone has one! and mine is no better I suppose.

I run my life and my business based on some very simple morals. Treat people as I would want to be treated. That is fairly, honestly, ethically, friendly, and with good intentions. For me personally, I add bluntly to this list, but I do know that this is considered harsh by some. I simply do not know any other way then to come right out with it. Of course, even I attempt diplomacy at times, but with some things there is simply no correct way to say something other then straight up and to the point.

Chris will also be posting his thoughts, whining, and rage here as well.

So if you are bored to death, or simply tired of feeding the animated fish on my home page, I hope all of you enjoy reading this blog.  Feel free as well to laugh at some of the predicaments I get myself into! Hopefully I won't end up in too many lawsuits over this blog either!

Click on the titles below to read individual rants.

Pond or Septic System?

Aquascape, Inc. is a manufacturer in the water feature world of landscaping, and one of the largest at that. Many of my customers have an Aquascape- designed and built pond. I even have a pond here that utilizes some Aquascape equipment that I intentionally installed as a long term experiment.

After many years of testing, I have proven many basic design flaws with their equipment, design and function, and have since greatly improved upon their system’s flaws. The water in my pond is actually clear and healthy for fish, pets, and humans! (That is when I do not have it crazily overstocked and packed with big fish!) The standard Aquascape design falls far short of being able to achieve healthy clear water.

The water in Aquascape ponds is extremely unsafe for fish, humans and your pets. Aquascape ponds are breeding grounds for some pretty nasty bacteria that can negatively impact fish, humans, and other animals. Believe it or not a few people die every so often from bacterial infections they get from cleaning these nasty cesspools that Aquascape calls ponds! Many more become ill as well. In many of these cases the bacterial infections are very difficult to diagnose and treat, and many doctors have difficulty finding the bacterial strain responsible.

I have worked with many people who have Aquascape ponds to help them achieve proper water quality and clarity, and a safe, clean, and beautiful water feature. I basically redesign them to be suitable and healthy environments for fish, and/or to simply have better looking water that is not pea soup green or filled with nasty muck, debris, and fish pathogens.

Aquascape ponds may look good for the first year or two to the untrained eye, but as they mature they become complete disasters. The water will be dirty and murky from poor filtration and/or they become so green with planktonic algae you can’t even see any fish in them most of the time! That’s ok though because Aquascape with gladly sell you a maintenance contract for doing the frequent cleanouts they require. But if the pond was truly designed properly none of that would be required and there would be far less maintenance needed. Currently the Aquascape design as it stands is not a far cry from an open air septic system…Yuck!

How it all started

Aquascape, Inc. was started in 1991 by Greg Wittstock. I must say that Mr. Wittstock is a marketing genius! When he first started this company, his ponds were sold as Koi/fish ponds, because the Koi hobby was beginning to become popular in the U.S.

However, by calling them fish/Koi ponds, Wittstock was very quickly attacked by the scientific, Koi, and aquaculture communities for poor pond design and function when it comes to being a fish friendly and healthy environment. He tried his best to twist the science in defense of these systems as for being fish friendly, but you simply cannot argue basic scientific fact, and he was quickly stifled.

On top of that it was fairly easy to derail his arguments once you simply saw one of his ponds that is more than a year old. They are an ugly mess when it comes to water quality. Once he realized he could not win this debate with science, he quickly changed his tune. It was at this point that he started to refer to his ponds strictly as “water gardens” or “water features” instead, and he took the focus off the fish.

Now think about this. We all know that whether you call them ponds or water gardens, most of us associate fish with them. Wittstock knows full well that most folks will want to have fish in these “water gardens/water features” but he doesn't really discuss the fish aspect because he knows they are not fish friendly by design and function. Many of Aquascape’s ads show fish in their ponds as well! It is obvious that they are clearly, yet indirectly, advocating putting fish in their systems, so it’s all semantics as to what you call them, and Wittstock knows how to play the game.

Focus is on contractors/landscapers – not homeowners

Aquascape’s primary focus is on contractors that build and install their ponds and Wittstock teaches them ONLY how to build the ponds. It’s mostly landscaping techniques they are taught. The contractors are never taught about proper water quality or clarity, and how to achieve it.

What little is taught to them regarding biology or water chemistry is completely incorrect as well. These contractors are taught to tell their customers that these water features are self-maintaining and will achieve their own balance in time. They really like to throw around the terms “balance” and “natural” in their sales pitches. They either imply or directly tell the customer that their ponds are balanced systems that take care of themselves. If you believe this one, then I have some swampland in Florida to sell you!

Aquascape ponds ok as water gardens, not so great as fish ponds

In reality, and by definition, a “water garden” is just that: A place to grow aquatic plants (thus the word “garden”). The Aquascape systems are just fine for being a true water garden that houses nothing but plants. However, as stated above, many, if not most, folks that have them prefer to have them for fish. Even if they originally had no intention of putting fish in it, many people end up doing so. Let’s face it, how much fun is it to sit and stare at plants when you can have fish like Koi swimming around that actually have individual personalities? A water garden with just plants is literally like sitting and watching the grass grow!

Marketing mania

Since its inception, Aquascape has gotten into just about every aspect of the fish/pond hobby. This company even sells its own fish food for their so called “water gardens” that are supposedly not sold to house fish. Hmmm! If they are not for fish why would they sell fish food? If they are not for fish why sell all the ineffective chemicals to keep the water clear? You surely don’t need clear water for the plants. You need clear water to see fish, and chemicals and fish simply do not mix well.

Aquascape also manufactures and sells many types of equipment like skimmers, waterfalls, pumps, underwater lighting, etc. Some of their stuff is complete and utter garbage, and poorly designed and made. I would also be interested in seeing just how much of it is made in China as opposed to the U.S. As we all know most things made in China are of inferior quality. They have poor quality plastics and steel, as well as just about everything else.

“Magic Wands,” “Snake Oils,” & “Fairy Dust”

Let’s talk about some of the questionable things this company sells. It is ironic to me how they advertise how that their systems are “natural” and “balanced,” yet they manufacture and sell all these things to make the water better or more balanced and natural.

If their ponds are designed so well as to be natural and balanced, why would you need to add all these things to make them better? It’s simple. Their ponds are not natural at all, and definitely not balanced. No man-made ponds are, when speaking of the average size water garden.

First of all, Mother Nature would never allow such a small body of water to house much in the way of permanent life, and in most cases these small ponds would only exist seasonally for short periods of time. So forget natural as they do not exist in nature in the form or size of an average Aquascape water garden. As for balanced, the fact that they are so small does not allow for balance by nature’s standards. It requires human interaction to remain as balanced as possible, but no way can this be achieved in these shallow Aquascape ponds without constant upkeep. We will discuss this aspect a little later, and pick apart their design flaws. Too shallow being just one major flaw.

Their Magic Wand

One of the devices they sell I call a “magic wand,” (a $400 “magic wand”); they call it an Ion Gen. This device is supposedly sold for algae control.

With this thing, once again they have taken a little pinch of science and twisted it into something it’s not by leaving out some very important scientific facts. This little, crazily overpriced device uses electrolysis to emit small doses of copper into the water column. Why? Because copper is a known algaecide and can kill many unwanted algae like green water plankton and string algae.

One problem though; copper is HIGHLY toxic to fish -- even in small doses.

 

A concentration of just .006 parts per million (ppm) is considered a toxic level to most fish and aquatic life like amphibians and other species. This unit is capable of putting as much as .25 ppm into the water column! As you can see, this level far exceeds that which is considered toxic to fish!

Now you also have to understand that you need a higher concentration than .006 ppm (and even higher than their maximum output of .25 ppm) to kill many of the common types of algae that end up in ponds. So… it won’t work anyway, and it will absolutely, positively affect the fish in some negative manner, and possibly kill them in time. For sure at minimum the fish will be under constant stress and duress from the continual and purposeful leaching of highly toxic copper into the water column.

Here is one of my favorites … (not!)

“Aquascape Beneficial Bacteria for Ponds provides clean, clear and healthy water conditions and reduces pond maintenance.

  • Contains eight pure strains of concentrated beneficial bacteria;
  • Effective at reducing sludge, uneaten fish food, fish waste, dead and decaying plant material and excess nutrients that cause poor water quality and clarity;
  • Safe for fish, plants, pets and wildlife.”

(The paragraph above is an exact copy of one of their ads on this stuff.)

Ever see commercials on TV for Rid-X? You know, the stuff they sell for septic tanks? Well basically Aquascape’s “Beneficial Bacteria” is the same stuff. Let’s look at their ad another way further below and add a few of my own comments (in red):

“Aquascape Beneficial Bacteria for Ponds provides clean, clear and healthy water conditions and reduces pond maintenance.” This is simply not true. It does NOTHING beneficial for your pond or your fish. They are implying that these bacteria are part of the nitrification cycle. They are not nitrifying bacteria. They are not even close, as a matter of fact.

 “Contains eight pure strains of concentrated beneficial bacteria” that are used to break down muck and wastes that should not be there in the first place if the pond and pond filtration were designed properly!

“Effective at reducing sludge, uneaten fish food, fish waste, dead and decaying plant material and excess nutrients that cause poor water quality and clarity.” These bacteria are used in the waste water treatment world at much higher concentrations. They are naturally forming anyway, so even if you did want them in your pond, they would come on their ownThis is not something you want to add or waste your money on! This sludge and muck, etc. is exactly why their ponds are cesspools/open air septic systems. Do you really want your fish swimming in a septic system?

“Safe for fish, plants, pets and wildlife.” Maybe, maybe not… doesn’t matter because you are not going to use this crap. You would be better off putting it down your toilet to help your septic system.

 

 Pond salt?

 Oh, this is a good one, too. “Pond salt,” like it is some special salt made for ponds. Again… NOT! It is simply sodium chloride in crystalline form and there is nothing special about it. You can buy the exact same stuff in the water softener section of any home improvement store. I get mine at Lowe’s under the name Solar Crystals. All you need is 99% sodium chloride with no additives or preservatives.

First, you do not need salt at any level in your pond unless you have sick fish, or nitrite in the water. Other than that, YOU SHOULD NOT PUT SALT IN! Now here is the main problem I have with this company selling “pond salt.” At Lowe’s you can buy 40 lbs. of it for $5.00. That’s about 13 cents a lb. Aquascape sells theirs for $4.79 a lb.! They are making over 3,500% gross profit on this. They are blatantly ripping you off, people!

I could go on and on about all the different snake oils they sell, but let me assure you that you don’t need or want any of it in your pond! It’s as simple as that! Some of this stuff is actually harmful to fish as well, and ALL of it is a waste of money. As I have stated, if these ponds were designed and built correctly to begin with, you would not need all of these Band Aid type of fixes.

Poor Design

So let’s talk about these ponds/water gardens/water features, or whatever you wish to call them, and go over exactly how they are designed.

First, you have to understand that Aquascape is a company geared toward the contractors and landscapers that install their ponds. It is NOT geared toward the consumer/end user, and especially not for Koi keeping.

Aquascape’s philosophies, equipment, training, etc., is all designed to make the building and installation as contractor-friendly and efficient as possible, and not much focus is put towards a safe, fish-friendly and healthy environment for fish or people. All their training is devoted to the contractors getting in and out as fast as possible, and selling the customers as many of the snakes oils and fairy dust as Aquascape makes.

This company devotes a ton of money and time into training their contractors to do things “the Aquascape way.” From strictly an aesthetics standpoint, their training is fine. They do a decent job of teaching these contractors how to make a pretty and natural looking environment, and their equipment they sell is geared towards this as well.

However, one problem I do have with their training is the twisted science, partial truths, and even downright misinformation from a scientific and biological standpoint that they teach their contractors. From a scientific and biological standpoint, their teachings are simply wrong, or at minimum leave out crucial information and scientific facts.

Shallow ponds cause problems

Let’s start with the pond depth they usually incorporate. Most Aquascape ponds are less than two feet deep. This makes for very unstable water conditions because these ponds are subjected to constant environmental changes in water temperature and water chemistry due to their shallow depths and small volumes of water.

The ambient outside temperature changes will quickly affect these shallow ponds and this is not good for aquatic life. Most fish and other aquatic creatures need a stable environment to be healthy and thrive. Shallow water simply does not allow for this.

If the outside temperature changes quickly, then so does the water temperature and chemistry of these shallow ponds. This causes constant stress on fish and will lead to their early deaths. Their colors as well will suffer due to the constant barrage of UV rays through the shallow water and the constant temperature fluctuations. Yes, fish can even get sunburn without the protection of deeper water. Shallow water also promotes extreme algae growth as well.

For example, when the outside air temperature gets into the 90’s and higher, some of these ponds water will reach dangerous water temperature levels in the mid to upper 80’s. Water at these temps holds very little oxygen, and this is no matter how much additional air you try and add to it with aeration or waterfalls!

Scientifically, the oxygen content of water is limited by the temperature of that water. The warmer the water, the less oxygen it can physically hold or accept from aeration or waterfalls.

On the other hand, when the outside air temperature is cold this can be hard on the fish in these shallow ponds as well. Once the water temperature on the bottom where the fish stay in winter reaches below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the fish are under severe stress. In these shallow ponds there are no varied temperature zones as there would be in deeper waters. So the water can reach dangerously low temperatures due to the shallow water. On top of this, with the waterfalls running, the water can be super cooled and even get to below freezing. This, combined with the changes brought about by ambient air temperature changes, can all be a lethal combination for fish. So as you can see shallow water is not a good thing. Deeper is better.

Proper Biological filtration is required in an outside pond

Now Aquascape has even twisted the science here as well. Here is how they attempt to twist the facts. As most of you know, biological filtration is required in an outside pond. This is accomplished primarily with the filter, and, more specifically, on the filter media housed within the filter.

The filter media grows colonies of what are called “nitrifying bacteria.” No, not “beneficial bacteria,” but true “nitrifying bacteria.” These are very specific strains that are the heart and soul of biological filtration. These bacteria will also colonize on any substrate within the pond. They grow on the liner, rocks, plants, algae, etc.

So, Aquascape says that a shallow pond with a large surface area will grow more of these bacteria as opposed to a deeper pond with less surface area. Well, this is true when speaking of a pond with no filtration. The more surface area there is overall, the more “incidental” nitrifiers that will grow.

However, these incidental colonies are small in comparison to what a properly designed filter and the proper filter media will house. So, these incidental nitrifiers growing on the liner are not nearly enough to ever process all the ammonia and nitrite produced with the system.

Simply put, you need a properly designed and sized biological filter to accomplish this, and no matter the surface area of the pond, as these just aren’t enough. So they try and twist the facts to have you believe a shallow pond is better than a deeper one. Simply not true…period!

Lava rocks do not work well as biological filter media

Their filter waterfalls are just fine. However, the media they use primarily is not. The type of filter media is the heart and soul of proper biological filtration. Many times Aquascape contractors use lava rocks as filter media. Long story short, this rock does not work well, and you end up growing more bad, anaerobic bacteria than true nitrifying bacteria. Also they have no easy means built into their systems to be able to periodically clean and drain the waterfalls. So these waterfalls end up being a box of muck and harmful bacteria!

More serious design flaws - Inadequate Filtration

 Most Aquascape ponds incorporate a waterfall as a combination mechanical and biological filter and a skimmer filter which filters the surface of the pond only. This in itself is a design flaw. Most of the muck accumulates on the bottom of the pond, and Aquascape has nothing to filter the bottom!

This is a HUGE design flaw! As for the waterfall filter, it is critical not to collect muck in the biological part of your filtration. If you do, and do not clean it regularly, you will grow more anaerobic bacteria than the good nitrifying bacteria.

As previously discussed, these anaerobic bacteria are bad for the pond, fish, and you. In most cases these waterfalls contain filter matting as the mechanical media to collect dirt and debris, and then have bags of lava rocks as the biological media. The waterfall boxes are designed as up flow filters.

This means the water enters the bottom of the waterfall box, rises up through the filter media, then overflows out to the pond. In many cases these contractors install one filter mat in the bottom of the waterfall then sit the bags of lava rocks on top of it, then sometimes have one or more filter mats on top.

Here is the problem. First, lava rocks make very poor biological filter media. Why? Because firstly they take up too much room in a limited space due to their size and shape.

Second, these rocks are covered in small craters. Aquascape will tell you with their twisted science that these craters give the bacteria more surface area to colonize on. This is true to a degree, however, these craters get plugged up with organic muck and dirt, and at that point the good nitrifying bacteria cannot survive there due to the low oxygen levels. So you end up growing anaerobic/bad bacteria that will harm the fish.

Another problem with lava rock as filter media is that muck gets trapped in and around these rocks, and this in turn inhibits proper flow through the waterfall tub. The muck buildup literally blocks proper flow. This is referred to a channeling, and thus you are wasting valuable space for growing nitrifying bacteria that is required.

Also, lava rocks are heavy and messy to work with, as you will find out when cleaning the waterfall frequently due to this design flaw.

There is much better filter material to use. You can get more details about proper biological filter media on my website.

Also the filter mat that they install under the lava rock is there as mechanical filtration. It is used to catch the dirt and debris and remove it from the main water body of the pond. So why put it UNDER the lava rock when it has to be frequently cleaned of all the muck it captures? It is design flaws like this that really make for poor filtration and lots of difficult maintenance on the pond to keep it clean. It doesn’t have to be this way, people!

Their skimmer filters are sufficient for this type of surface filtration. They do an adequate job of collecting the floating debris like leaves and such.

Lack of bottom drain feature a serious problem

However, as discussed above, they do not have any means of filtering the bottom of the pond. This is where the majority of muck is collected. Instead they load the bottom full of gravel to hide the muck. We will discuss below in the next section why this is a big problem. The primary way to filter from the bottom of the pond is by incorporating a bottom drain. This is a specially designed plumbing device that is installed through the liner and then piped to some type of filtration. At minimum this can be piped right to the skimmer box. Since water seeks its own level, the water on the bottom will flow through the bottom drain by gravity to the skimmer or other specifically designed mechanical filter. The gravity part is important, as it keeps the dirt particles and fish wastes whole and thus easier to capture and filter out. Where if you had a pump on the bottom of the pond to pump this collecting muck, the pump would puree these particles into microscopic form, and thus be much more difficult to capture. Make sense?

So not having bottom filtration is probably the number one issue I have with Aquascape pond designs.

A Gravelly Mess

 Probably my second biggest issue with Aquascape ponds is the gravel they put in to cover the entire bottom and plant shelves. This is where the cesspool comes in.

You see all the fish wastes, dead plant material, leaves, dead bugs, etc. all end up in this gravel. Over a very short time this gravel is barely visible because it gets full of, and covered by, all these waste products. First, it looks like crap! Second, when this occurs this biological muck is an anaerobic bacteria factory and parasite nursery. Anaerobic bacteria are not good, as they carry fish pathogens that can and will attack your fish.

Also these bacteria need no oxygen to survive and they actually thrive in a low to no oxygen environment. These bacteria end up there because of the muck, as this is what they live on for food. Yes, they consume and process this muck, and one byproduct of this action is hydrogen sulfide in gas form. Aquascape talks about this as if it is a good thing! It’s not!

This gas gets trapped in this muck layer, and in time releases as bubbles which rise to the surface and dissipate. Hydrogen sulfide is highly toxic to fish, and is responsible for killing more fish than almost anything in the pond. This is especially true in winter.

In winter, this regular gaseous release gets inhibited when ice closes off the surface of the pond. When this happens the trapped gas can and will kill most of the fish, especially the larger fish. This is why it is critical to keep a hole in the ice directly over the deepest part of the pond where the fish usually live all winter. That slightly deeper water is a tad warmer than the shallower water, so this is why the fish live in the deeper spot all winter.

Aquascape twists this science by saying the muck never accumulates to dangerous levels because these anaerobic bacteria are processing it out. Well this is simply not true because of the sheer amount of muck that forms in this gravel cannot be quickly processed by the bad, anaerobic bacteria. It is a slow biological process. AND, remember, these bacteria carry fish pathogens that WILL hurt your fish in time.

So as you can see, the number one thing you want in a pond and filtration system is muck removal on a continual basis. You want zero muck accumulation, or at minimum you need a design that allows for easy and regular removal of it!

It’s OK though, because Aquascape sells a special bacteria that help digest this muck as well. The same bacteria they use in waste water treatment plants. Are you getting the sarcasm here people? Do you really want your pond to be this septic system that Aquascape designs promote?

UV Light

One other key missing element is something to address green water algae. Your pond water will turn green. When this happens to your new pond, Aquascape will tell you it is normal and that you are simply going though "new pond syndrome". I just love this stuff they come up with!

While it is true that a poorly designed pond will turn green it surely doesn't need to be this way. There teachings are that it will turn green and all you need to do is purchase their special snake oils designed to eliminate it. Hmm, why does this not surprise me? All you need to do is buy this stuff and put it in for life and you will have no problems with algae. Poppy-Cock! Firstly the stuff will not work, or it is dangerous to the fish. Manu folks are duped into thinking it works sometimes though. This is because the pond eventually gets so green it chokes itself out of getting sunlight. Once it is so green the sunlight is blocked from penetrating the water. This fact, and this fact only is what leads to the eventual die off of the algae that causes the green water. Then the pond will clear for a short time. However, after a short time of being clear, the cycle will start over again. The reason some people think their snake oils like barley straw helps, is because the natural clearing of the green water by it blocking its own sunlight just happens to coincide with them putting these magic elixirs in their pond. Thus they are fooled into thinking the snake oils cleared the water, when in fact it was the lack of sunlight penetrating the water caused by the green water itself blocking the sunlight.

A properly sized and properly installed UV light is a 100% fix for green water, and EVERY pond ends up needing one. Another simple fact, and yet another design flaw of Aquascape.

I could go on and on, but frankly I am tired of typing. In general, some Aquascape equipment is fine to use. You can even hire an Aquascape contractor to install your pond. However, as you know, landscaping is an art, and water feature landscaping is a very specialized form of art. So be careful which Aquascape contractor you hire. Now you can also use your knowledge to have them install a proper pond per your direction, instead of their very lacking designs and function.

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If you need some recommendations I may be able to help. For more details I am available for pond design consultations, and can give you clear specifications to give to whichever contractor you hire. There are some critical things that need to be engineered into your pond design to truly make for a healthy, clear, and low-maintenance pond. This is not something you will get with an Aquascape design. If you want to learn how to tweak their designs for a proper pond, simply contact me and I can steer you in the right direction. You should also read through my website for other very important information regarding water quality and how to test and maintain it.

How to Cook with a Chiminea (Clay fireplace)

Few backyard activities are as primal or satisfying as building and tending an open fire.  The smells, light, and warmth make us feel strangely alive and remind us of our wild roots in nature.

But enough of that sentimental junk!  Let’s get a few cords of wood and some marshmallows and light it up.

Fire pits of all kinds are a great way to enjoy all the sensations of a campfire in a clean, controlled, and safe way.  In my opinion, a clay chimenea is the ultimate in fire pits!  These thick stoneware fireplaces shelter the flame from all sides and funnel smoke up the stack and away from the audience.  Unlike the cheap metal pieces you get at Home Depot (the ones that get red hot and even melt with any decent flame inside), a real clay Chim is thick enough to work around and handle safely even with a roaring fire inside.  Hanover Koi Farms will have these magnificent Clay Chims in stock this season in 3 different sizes…..just saying….you should buy one from us….

On to the tutorial!

You need to set up your Chim, of any size, in an open area with a clear line to the open sky: no overhanging roofs or trees.

Make sure wherever you decide to plant it is stable enough to support the weight of the chim, even loaded with sand and wood (we’ll get to that).  Note: when using a metal stand for your chim, the area under the base does not necessarily have to be heat-proof (ie cement or stone), but should be non-flammable.

Anyway, fill the inside of the chim with a thick layer of sand about 1 ½- 2 inches thick.  This will make the inside easier to clean and will prevent scorch marks.

Place a couple of bricks inside the chim.  The wood will get stacked on top of this, making a little cave where you put your kindling.

Layer up some logs across the bricks.  Chims don’t need much wood to burn well and cook.  If you do plan on cooking with this fire, you might want burn hickory or apple wood.  I used maple here and it worked out just fine.

Now wedge your kindling in that little cave you built earlier and light it.  Once the fire is going, add wood a little bit at a time until you have a good bed of coals going. That’s right, you’re going to cook with the coals, not the flames.

Don’t add too much wood at once!

Once you have nice layer of coals a few inches thick, it’s time to cook.  I’m going to make steak and potatoes, but there are endless recipes you can make using a Chiminea.

I wrapped my potatoes in a double layer of heavy foil (one layer will just burn right through)  and buried them in the hot coals.  I kept it simple, but feel free to add onions, peppers, butter, or olive oil inside the foil with the ‘taters.

Then I buried the wrapped potatoes in the hot coals and let them sit for about 30 minutes.  You can test for done-ness by poking them with a skewer or knife.  If the potatoes “give” easily, they’re done.

In the meantime, I cooked the steak.  I got a 16 oz top round because it’s lean….and cuz that’s what was on sale at Weis.  What can I say? Our fish eat better than we do!

To cook this, you can either wrap it in foil like the potatoes, or use a grill grate like I did.  I got this grate at goodwill for $3, but you can get also get cheap mesh grill grates at Walmart.  Set the grate on top of the bricks and set your meat a few inches over the coals.  Adjust this height or spread out your coals if the meat is cooking too fast.

Remember, flames aren’t necessary or even desirable to cook with.  The coals will provide the even, medium heat you want.

Once your meat is cooked through (medium rare in my case), remove the grate with the meat, and dig up your potatoes.

 

It’s a thing of beauty!   Maybe not the classiest of meals, but it's hard to beat on a cold day.

Chimineas are great for cooking and all around outdoor enjoyment year-round.

Disclaimer: Never light a fire inside a building structure, or around anything flammable.  Only use fire pits outside in a well-ventilated area, and use proper fire-handling equipment like tongs, pokers, and thick gloves when working with your Chiminea.  Finally, always cook your meats to a safe internal temperature and never cook over wood treated with chemicals or pesticides…. Seriously, don’t be stupid.

Written by Chris O'Brien, Copyright Hanover Koi Farms 2017

Amazon Sucks! (And will cost the consumer in the end)

Many people now go to Amazon.com when purchasing ANYTHING nowadays it seems. Why not, you can surely find the best deals on many things there. Or can you? Basically put, Amazon.com has become an e-commerce monopoly, and as with all monopolies they are completely exploiting and abusing the retail world as well as the buying public, to fuel their evil greediness! Read the facts below and you will quickly see how they take complete advantage of any business that wants to sell on their marketplace. They will destroy any small business in the end as well, as they cannot absorb this abuse like the big lot stores. In the end this monopoly will destroy the ecommerce world, and/or the consumer will end up suffering for it. So if you think you are saving money there now, just wait for it. In the end you the consumer WILL end up paying for how Amazon abuses their power. The money squeezed out of the sellers there will eventually be passed onto the consumer.

As many of you know, Amazon.com is the leading internet retailer worldwide, and had $107 billion in net sales in 2015.  They’re touted as the leader in e-commerce, e-retail, and the premiere internet marketplace.  Who wouldn’t want a piece of that, right?  This is what I thought 2 months ago when we signed up for a professional seller account for HKF.   Since then, dealing with this site and everyone associated with it has been nothing but a hellacious nightmare.  Let me walk you through why Amazon is a huge scam for sellers and buyers alike.

The first problem is that Amazon is a seller on the Amazon marketplace!!! That’s right, unlike Ebay, they list and sell stuff on their own site.  Not only do they dictate how everything on Amazon.com is bought and sold, they’re also selling stuff themselves! So of course they warp the entire system to give them an advantage and help THEM sell the most.  Products sold by Amazon itself (not an independent seller on Amazon) get priority over those sold by EVERY OTHER VENDOR selling on Amazon:  Their products appear highest in buyer search results, and they are always the first vendor in line to get the sale when a buyer purchases a product, EVEN IF THEY DON’T OFFER THE LOWEST PRICE FOR AN ITEM.  So buyers are getting screwed because Amazon is trying to force them to pay more by buying from them, and sellers are getting screwed because Amazon has unique advantages that can’t be competed with.  For sellers like me, who are paying $40/month just to list our items for sale on Amazon, it’s a kick in the teeth knowing that, even if I offer the best price, shipping, and customer support, I’ll still never be able to sell more than my competitor: Amazon itself.

Nothing about selling on Amazon is user friendly.  This wouldn’t be so bad if you had decent customer support, right?  Well Amazon’s seller support is a complete joke.  It’d almost be funny if they weren’t playing around with YOUR MONEY.  I logged half a dozen complaints about problems with the selling programing.  I reported the first problem (I couldn’t change the price of shipping on some items I was selling) on October 1.  It’ currently November 30, and Amazon still hasn’t fixed the problem. The same is true of all the other problems I’ve reported to them.  They either never address the problem, or when they do provide a solution (which is rare) it doesn’t work.  I’ve communicated with Amazon “seller support” through email, phone, and online chat.  None of the representatives spoke English well, and most of them couldn’t answer the simplest questions about Amazon.  You can never reach the same representative twice, and most of the time they have no idea which seller they’re talking to, let alone what problem they’re addressing (During one email conversation, the Amazon rep called me a different name in each email: Chris, John, David, and Robert [who are David and Robert]).   There are no managers or higher-ups to speak to speak to so if you have a problem with using Amazon.com you’re better off googling it than asking an Amazon Rep (because they’re just going to google it anyway: we caught a rep doing this during a phone call once).

Finally, the seller fees charged by Amazon are ridiculous.  For every item you sell, Amazon takes at least %15 of the selling price as part of their fees.  This is IN ADDITION to the $40 monthly subscription fee for professional sellers.  This makes it even harder to compete with Amazon (which, remember, is selling stuff right alongside you) and turn any kind of profit.  But it’ll be ok as long as your making sales, right?  Wrong.  Even if you manage to beat out Amazon on their own marketplace (which is unlikely), you don’t get paid until well after you ship the item.  That’s right: Amazon holds your earnings until 10 days after the item you’ve sold is supposed to ARRIVE to the customer.  So, after paying your monthly seller fees, you make a sale!  Then you lose at least %15 of that sale to Amazon right off the bat.  Then you have to ship your item to the customer (you have to mail out a product BEFORE Amazon pays you for it).  Then you wait until 10 days after the latest calculated delivery date.  During all this, if you have more monthly seller fees due, Amazon will kindly automatically deduct these off your profit from this sale.  Then, generally about 60 DAYS later, you get paid whatever’s left.  So basically, Amazon is like a deadbeat roommate: they’ll pay you the money they owe you but only some of it, and only when they feel like it.  So sellers are getting screwed, but what does this have to do with the majority of Amazon users who are strictly buyers?  Well, when the sellers are hit with these crazy fees, they have no choice but to cover their costs.  How do they do that?  They have no choice but to raise their prices.  Amazon has just forced them to pass on the cost of all the fees to the buyer.  Amazon squeezes profit out of the sellers who then have no choice but to squeeze what little they can out of the customer.  So in the end, Amazon is NOT saving the buyer any money: their policies are COSTING the buyer more.  This is sure to get worse as more Amazon sellers figure out that they can’t stay in business without raising their prices to cover themselves.  So even if Amazon’s prices appear cheap now, I can guarantee they will NOT stay that way.

Let’s review: the website itself barely functions, sellers are pegged against Amazon (who makes and breaks all their own rules), customer support is useless, and Amazon will siphon off your earnings through the whole drawn-out selling process.  Needless to say, we’ve made the executive decision to withdraw all our items from Amazon, close our Amazon account, and spit on Amazon’s shoes on our way out the door.  If you are a small business, or anyone looking to make an honest dollar selling products in a competitive marketplace, DO NOT sell on Amazon.  You’ll save yourself time, sleep, headaches, and a whole lot of money.

So here’s what I propose, on behalf of every small business owner trying to scrape out a living doing what they love and doing it honestly and competitively:  Don’t give Amazon your money.  Don’t buy FROM Amazon and don’t buy ON Amazon (because no matter who you buy from, Amazon’s the only one making money).  They don’t deserve it.  Show them that Americans still care about business ethics and that these marketplace monopolies that extort both buyers and sellers are NOT going to be accepted.

Instead, buy directly from the seller.  If you find a vendor you like on Amazon, look for them outside Amazon (they’re sure to be somewhere else on the web).  That way you both dodge Amazon’s BS, and you’ll actually be supporting the (often small) businesses you’re buying from, away from the draining fees Amazon marketplace.  It’s no different than choosing a Mom & Pop produce store over your “local” Super Walmart.  Take your money where people still care about you as a customer, not just a source of their $107 billion in yearly earnings.

Thanks for listening, guys

-Chris & John

Hanover Koi Farms

Credit Card Companies & Banks SUCK!!

We all know most of the ridiculous and sometimes fraudulent things that banks and credit card companies do and advertise, so i won't go into those details. However you may not be aware of their latest form of scamming us and misleading advertising.

I am sure you have seen all those bank and credit card commercials that have been advertising how they and their cards will give you a percentage of "rewards" "cash back" etc. on every purchase when you use their cards. Well guess what? Again they are criminally misleading us. While it is true you will get these incentives, the lies come from whom actually gives them to you!

As most of you are aware, I am a seasonal business. In the winter sales are slow. One particular month this winter I had only one credit card sale. However it was for $6800.00. When i got my statement from my credit card processing company, I saw the normal percentage that they take out of every sale for this particular sale. However, in another section of the statement I noticed another charge of $175 taken from my account, and it was listed as "reward" for that particular card. Well, it was no reward to me as it was be DEDUCTED from my account on behalf of that $6800.00 sale! Since I did not know what this charge was, I called the company. They told me that this was an additional fee I had to pay because the customer used a card that offered a "reward" on their purchases. It was at this moment that I found out that the MERCHANT pays these incentive and NOT the credit card companies or banks! On their commercials they say that THEY will give you a "bonus", reward", etc, BUT it is not them at all giving them to you. It is the merchant like myself that pays 100% of this incentive, and the banks and credit card companies gives you NOTHING! Yes, you heard right! It's just another form of misleading advertising where they try to make themselves look good, when all along they are hurting you the consumer!

Can you imagine the meeting that took place when they came up with this idea? I can picture it perfectly. I picture some idiot sitting in the meeting at the bank or credit card company saying "how can we sucker more people into using our cards without it costing us (meaning them) a cent? Then someone chimes in and says;" I have an idea; Let's offer a reward or cash back BUT let's make the merchants pay all of it!" We can then advertise that we give these incentives, and it makes us look good, but in reality it we are giving up nothing"

Yes, that's right people, the MERCHANT is the one that is paying all those reward s and what not, and not the banks and credit card companies! So guess what? This will eventually mean these added costs to the merchant will be tacked on top of the purchase price of whatever product you purchase. In the end you are getting no rewards at all, and in the end it will simply jack up what you pay for things in the long run.

Doesn't this just piss you off? It surely does me! Americans are so easily manipulated and fooled by all the false and misleading advertising going on out there. I am here to tell you that banks and credit card companies WILL be the final nail in the coffin of the American economy. Think about this the next time you use your credit card.

Please do not take this rant as me saying or implying I will not take credit cards for purchases any longer, or that I do not wish to. I will continue to take them , and please do not feel guilty using them at my business. I just thought the truth needed to be told to all of you. By the way, You are all welcome for those rewards and such that we the merchants are giving you, but please give the credit to whom it belongs.

Firewood Fraud?  Apparently many of us are being ripped off by some firewood vendors!

Are they ripping us off intentionally, or is it like many businesses out there that simply do not truly know their trade? I think a little of both!

With the rising costs of electric, propane, and heating oil, this year I decided to burn wood in my fireplace. Since I have lived here at the farm, I never rally utilized the fireplace prior to this season, so I needed to find some wood. To date in my search for quality wood it seems some vendors are cheating us. This may or may not be intentional, and it simply may be due to ignorance on our part and/or the part of the vendors. I am not sure yet, but would like to tell you what I have experienced so far.The first place I looked was on Craigslist, and found quite a few ads for local firewood vendors. Here is an account of what happened.

As stated I found quite a few vendors advertising on the York PA. Craigslist. So I picked the one that I thought was the closest, as well as reasonably priced.  After calling them and discussing their wood and pricing, I arrange for a cord to be delivered.They said they would get back to me when they could arrange delivery. So a day or so later they call and tell me they can deliver the wood. However I could not be at the farm the time they wanted to deliver it, so I arranged for them to drop it off , and I left payment for them. This was my first mistake!

So now I arrive at the farm after delivery and see the wood dumped just off the driveway. Upon inspection I noticed that most of the wood was not the split heart wood of the main trunk, but about 70% tops and branch wood. This if you do not know, is inferior wood, and should only make up no more then about 30% of the total cord max. The next thing I notice is most of the wood is completely rotten and wet in the first 1" circumference around each log. As a matter of fact much of the rotten part of each log fell off when they dumped it, and made a mess. I probably lost about 10% in rot that was turned into sawdust upon dumping, and left all over the ground. This was obviously wood that was very recently picked out of the forest where it laid and was left to rot. This is not the proper way to store and harvest firewood. It must be dried properly and in a specific manner for it to season properly. We will get to that later in this rant. I will say that once you got through the rotten outer surface that the heart of each log was of good quality oak.

Concerned about the wet and rotten part of the wood I attempted to burn some. It simply would not burn due to the wet nature of that rotten outer surface. You should know as well that I was told that this wood was ready to burn.

Even though I was disappointed in the quality of the wood, I decided to look past it and keep it anyway. It would soon dry out and be able to burn in the near future. So I commence to stacking.
I had set up a rack that was 16 feet log to accommodate a cord of wood. On this rack a cord would take up the entire sixteen feet in length, and should stack one row of logs to 4 feet high. (We will discuss in detail later what a  real cord of wood is suppose to be).
After stacking, the wood was obviously short of the sixteen feet stacked 4 feet high, and it was about 20% short of a cord....... (and this is when considering only these two factors in measuring a cord.) In reality it was a far larger percentage short because of other factors. We will get to that.  So needless to say, this fact, combined with the fact that it was inferior wood, as well as would not burn, it was simply unacceptable. So I call the vendor and tell them to come get it, and give me a refund. They agreed.

When the vendor arrived to take back their wood, I showed them what I did not like, as well as how I was short a cord. They really could not argue the point, as it was obvious, and they offered to bring me more wood in replacement of this load. However, lately I am simply fed up with being disappointed by shotty businesses, and business practices, and I simply will not give them my business. I must say however, that this vendor did seem to want to make up for his mistake. I will give him that. as well I do not think this vendor was intentionally trying to short or cheat me. His primary problem was ignorance in not knowing what good wood was, how various grades of wood should be priced in the industry, as well as what a cord of wood truly was. So since he did seem remorseful I gave them $25 for their troubles of delivery and pick up of the wood, and sent them on their way.

Now let's stop here and discuss firewood, and the industry standards, as well as what a "cord" of firewood truly is supposed to be.....by law. In my recent dealings with three vendors in a row, is seems as though the vendors themselves, at least some of them, don't even know what a cord truly is, or what the firewood industry standards are! It also seems as if many folks that purchase firewood don't know either, because if they did these vendors would not be able to attempt to short people like they do. So I think we need to go over a few things about firewood, for the sake of the vendors and customers that do not know how things are supposed to be in this industry.

Let's start by talking about the wood itself. It is a well known fact that different types of woods, ie; oak, maple, etc, have different value as firewood. The type of tree/wood has  a great influence on how much a cord of that given wood type should cost. Knowing this, it is also well known that oak is one of the best, as for burning, lasting, and getting the most heating efficiency from a given fire of the same. Oak simply burns better, longer, and more efficiently then most other average, softer, and common tree woods available. It is for these reasons that oak is the preferred wood to purchase and usually commands the highest price per cord. So needless to say when you are comparing prices per cord of wood, make sure as well that you are considering the type of wood you are getting.

Now, let's discuss the most important aspect of buying wood. The cord. By definition, a cord measures a volume of wood stacked tightly mind you, that is 8 feet long, by 4 feet wide, by 4 feet high. More importantly it needs to be 128 cubic feet of wood BY VOLUME AND STACKED TIGHTLY! To put this to example, if you cut logs 4 feet long, and stacked them reasonably tight, then the cord would be these 4 foot logs in a single row stacked 4 feet high, by 8 feet long. However, as you know, most people do not and cannot have logs to burn that are 4 feet long! Most firewood is generally cut between 16" and 24" long per log. Somewhere in this range are the most widely used and accepted lengths in the industry. However, there are occasions that a customer may have the need for longer, or shorter logs to accommodate whatever receptacle they are burning in. For example, some small wood stoves cannot handle logs longer then 12" at times, and some people have huge fireplaces that can handle very long logs.

Now, understanding all of this, it ishould be easy to see that if you stacked two rows of 16" logs side by side by 8 feet long, by 4 feet high, that this is NOT a full cord! Why? You see it is the 16" length that would cause you to be short of a cord. In other words, two 16" logs stacked side by side, would not give you the 4 foot wide measurement that a cord dictates. These two 16" logs stacked side by side in two rows would only give you 32" in width as opposed to the 48" it is supposed to be. You would be short by 8" ON EACH LOG or a total of 16" in total width of cord! That is a lot of wood you would be short. So as you can see, due to the varying lengths of the average log, you may have to increase the length or height of that measured stack of wood to get a true cord.

Only logs cut to 24" in length could be stacked in such a way to achieve the 4 foot within a cord. In all other shorter lengths of logs less than 24", you would have to increase the height and length of the total stack to get a cord. So however short (or even long) the logs are cut on average shorter or then 24", you would have to increase the length or the height of the stack to achieve the 128 cubic feet of wood by volume.

Let's talk about this 128 cubic feet in more detail from yet another angle. This is important and that is why I am spending so much time explaining this so that you all understand.
You figure cubic feet of wood by simply multiplying the length of the stack, by the width, and then by the height. For example. A cord measures 8 feet long by 4 feet wide, by 4 feet high. So take 8 times 4, times 4, and you get 128 cubic feet. Got it? So no matter the measurements of the logs if you multiply the length time the width times the height you can always figure you cubic feet no matter how long the logs are cut.

For example, let's say you get a load of wood that is supposed to be a cord. You would simply stack it in such a way to measure the length times the width times the height. It can be stacked for example in one row 16 feet long, or how it is generally done in two rows 8 feet long. Now let's say the average log in this load was cut to 18" in length.
In this case, you could stack two rows of these logs side by side and then see how long and high the stack was when finished. So, with two 18" logs stacked side by side, this makes the width when finished 36" or 3 feet. Now let's say when complete the total stack measured 8 feet long and 4 feet high. If this were the case, then you would multiply the 8 feet length, times the 4 foot height, then times the 3 feet width (two 18" logs side by side stacked in two rows). This only gives you 96 cubic feet, and with logs cut to 18" length, this is what many vendors would call a cord. Not! As you can see you would be 32 cubic feet short of the 128 cubic feet a cord is supposed to be, and this in turn is only 75% of a cord! You would be short by 25%, and that is quite a bit of wood! In this case you would have to increase the height or the length of the total stack to achieve the proper measurements of a cord.

So no matter the length of the logs, or how you stack it, it needs to end up as 128 cubic feet of wood to be a cord, and you need to increase the measurements of the stack to account for the length the average log was cut. As well, there are standards in how wood is stacked. Generally, it is to be stacked tightly, with one log placed neatly on another. There is an old saying that it should be stacked in such a way that a mouse could fit in between the stacked logs, but a cat could not follow it in. This is very general, but you should get the idea. Stacked neatly and tightly within reason!

I would also like to point out that most states have strict laws pertaining to how firewood is sold and even advertised. Upon researching this subject, even I was surprised as to the detail in these laws. So I would suggest that all you firewood vendors read any laws pertaining to firewood in your state, and stop cheating people. Learn your trade for goodness sake!

Now the second vendor I tried on Craigslist is listed below. This was a young man that was intentionally trying to cheat people and it was very obvious. His logs were cut to an average of only 13". This is short by average standards, and would be far less then a cord when stacked in two rows. As well he delivered it in a short bed pickup truck! (This fact will become important later).

When he arrived I immediately said it was far short of his advertised cord. He then stated that he would be bringing too loads in his "baby" pickup truck. I then said even so, I doubt it would end up a cord. He snootily replied that he was sure it would be a cord, and that if it was not, that it would be free.  Well guess what? He was far short a cord. Believe it or not he still had the audacity to argue with me, and was not polite at all. We all most went to blows. He was very rude and disrespectful, and tried all he could to weasel out of his very obvious fraud.

Below is a copy of his listing on Craigslist, so if I were you, I would avoid purchasing wood from this kid. He is absolutely and purposefully cheating people, and is not the least remorseful of it.

Since the ad below was copied and pasted here, he has changed his wording. He thinks it is for the better, but now he is really cheating people. He now also offers what he calls a "pickup truck load of wood for $80. He is implying by price that this is one half cord. Remember he has a very small short bed pickup truck and only piles the woods to the top of the sides of the bed! This is barely even a quarter of a cord! Avoid this guy!

Here is the exact listing #

sale-kzusj-2678363657@craigslist.org
and here is how the add read at the time;
100% OAK ALL SEASONED AND SPLIT READY TO BURN!

DON'T BE FOOLED BY MIXED AND GREEN WOOD SCAMMERS!
OAK BURNS CLEANER AND LAST LONGER!

--PICK UP --

$165 CORD
call for other pricing

--DELIVERY--

$10 per cord based on distance

PICK UP LOCATION IN SPRING GROVE

(Since the time I utilized this person their ad wording has changed some and their price has risen).
Here is his latest listing as of 11/27/11;

FIREWOOD 100% OAK SEASONED/SPLIT -DELIVERY AVAIL- - $185 (YORK)
Date: 2011-11-25, 10:56AM EST
Reply to: sale-kzusj-2678363657@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
100% OAK ALL SEASONED AND SPLIT READY TO BURN!

DON'T BE FOOLED BY MIXED AND GREEN WOOD SCAMMERS!
OAK BURNS CLEANER AND LAST LONGER!

--PICK UP --

$185 CORD
$90 - 8 ft pick up
call for other pricing

--DELIVERY--

$10-25 per cord based on distance

PICK UP LOCATION IN SPRING GROVE

CALL DAN

UPS Sucks! And FEDEX Sucks just as badly if not worse!!

In 2010, UPS reported an annual profit of about 3.4 billion dollars! I did not say 3.4 thousand, or even 3.4 million....I said 3.4 BILLION dollars in PROFIT! Not total sales mind you, but pure profit! After dealing with them for the past 10 years or so, it is easy to see how they did it. They rip us off repeatedly! They are one of two monopolies in the shipping industry. Their closest competitor is Fedex, but there is a large gap from the number one position UPS holds, to the number two position Fedex holds, when speaking of sheer size and revenues. So in a sense of the word "monopoly" it is my opinion that UPS fits the mold. Let me tell you as few things about how they operate.

Let me start by saying that their actual delivery service operates well, and they do a good job for the most part in delivering packages on time and reliably. I can also say that it is their drivers and not any other reason that cause this reliability. With every position above the drivers, their company starts to fall apart more and more the higher up you go. Their customer service is amongst the worse I have ever experienced!

Firstly let me tell you about their account reps that are supposed to be supplied to every customer they have. They have few, and they are extremely difficult to get a hold of when there is something that needs to be addressed. As well, in my case, my rep (the actual person) would seem to change frequently. This makes it difficult to build any sort of personal relationship with them that would promote them having a good understanding of my needs as a company utilizing their services. As well you can never call your rep directly. The only thing you can do is call and leave a message and maybe they will return your call. On many occasions this took days, and seemed to be totally dependent on the individual rep I was dealing with, as to how long it took them to reply to me.

The next thing that jumps out and screams ridiculous is their billing. They billed WEEKLY. This is almost unheard of in the world of business, and I know of no other companies that bill this frequently.  Most business bill monthly or per transaction as required by each specific industry standards. As well, their terms are net due in ten days from date of invoice. This does not match the billing cycles of many industries as most are net 30 or at minimum, net 15. So as you can see, many business that utilize UPS must pay the UPS bill well before they receive money from their customers for that shipment. Thank God that in my case my customers paid me prior to receipt of whatever it was I was shipping to them.

Now as stated above, their actual delivery reliability I would rate as very good. However, on the occasions that they did screw up, this is where their customer service shines as one of the worst I have ever experienced. Understand that UPS has delivery guarantees. These guarantees are imposed upon any type of service they offer, including Ground service. Each service comes with a time guarantee, that states they will get the package there in that guaranteed time, or the shipping costs will be refunded. Yea right!!!

Understand that the UPS shipping software is very comprehensive, and has many automatic features to help you track a given package from start to finish. Funny though, that in the times that they failed to deliver the package on time, this automatic and comprehensive software had a planned flaw on the part of UPS. You see even though this system was so good, when it was time to put in a claim for a late delivery, I had to physically call them on the phone and request a refund, even though their system allowed them to know fully well the package was delivered late. Tell me why this had to be done this way, as every other part of their system was automatic up until the point of a refund being issued. Then it was my responsibility to put in for it manually by calling them, when they had the full capability to issue a refund automatically! Now remember, they are difficult to reach on the phone, so this added to the frustration as well!

Now their guarantees were such that they would refund you shipping costs if any package was delivered later then the guaranteed time stated. HOWEVER, if it was late due to some sort of weather related issue then the guarantee was void. Well guess what? EVERY SINGLE TIME A PACKAGE WAS DELIVERED LATE, they would say it was weather related, and this simply was not always the true case!! They would lie imagine that! It got to the point that I started pulling weather reports in an attempt to verify and prove that they were fabricating these claims of bad weather, and caught them a few times in these lies to no avail.

One of the final straws with them that caused me to finally cancel their services, was a shipment that happened this past season of 2011. I had five boxes of fish valued at about $3000 going to Montana by their Next Day Air service. With the outrageous shipping rates they charged, this particular shipment cost about $1200 just for shipping! This is in addition to the costs of the fish mind you. Well it was four days later the fish finally arrived, and I am sure you can guess the shape they were in.
So as usual I called to put in a claim for the shipping costs, and guess what they said? You guessed it....the shipment was delayed due to weather! So I immediately went online and pulled the historic weather reports for the area that they had said had the weather and caused the delay. In this weather report the only weather that was reported was a little rain for a period of one hour. I am not talking a downpour here, but a light rain, and it did not last long. So I relayed this information to my rep. He then said he would get back to me. So I get a call the next day, and he stated that light rain was the delay even though he himself could not explain why. I then asked why then it took another three days for the fish to get there. He replied that once there is a delay that it backs up the entire system which can cause further delays. This is a crock! If this were true, they would still be attempting to make up delay time for the very first shipment that was ever late in the history of UPS! Even though I argued the point, it fell to deaf ears, in a company that simply does not care about their customers.

You see, we need them, and they know it. They run their company with this monopolistic attitude, and feel that there is not much we can do about it. Well, I did something about it, and quickly canceled their service. I have now opened an account with Fedex, and I must say I like them better already. Fedex rates are far cheaper then UPS, so this should also allow me to pass this savings on to my customers. I suppose time will tell as to their reliability, but I can say that I am impressed so far when speaking of my original expectations.

So if you would like to help rid UPS of their monopolistic powers use another carrier such as Fedex.

UPDATE:
Fedex is every bit as bad as UPS with their poor customer service, and they are just as monopolitic as UPS! Fedex is far worse however at their delivery service. They constantly damage, and even lose shipments. In 2014 they lost 40% of my shipments of fish for an average of 3 days each time. Luckily my fish are healthy enough and strong enough to withstand their careless handling. I am forced to switch back to UPS because they at least have a better delivery average and don't lose as many packages. Both carriers have gotten too big for their britches, and could care less about customer service. Both carriers as well charge ridiculously high prices for very poor service as well! What is a person to do?