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Q I PURCHASED A blue-spruce Christmas tree from a nursery on Dec. 16 at a cost of $40 plus tax.

After having the tree indoors for only two days it began to lose a large quantity of its needles. By Monday, Dec. 18, it was losing them at an alarming rate.

The next day, I took time off work to go back to the nursery at 11 a.m. to resolve the problem. However, I was told I'd have to come back after 5 p.m. After carrying the tree around on the roof of my car all day, I finally returned only to be told there was nothing wrong with the tree so there was nothing they could do. They refused to give me a refund and acted as though I fabricated the problem.

They finally agreed to exchange the tree for a Scotch pine, worth about half of what I had paid for the other, so I lost money because of their defective merchandise. Also, the return trip I had to make as well as the setting up and taking down the blue spruce cost me many valued hours.

I feel cheated by the nursery. The original tree was definitely not holding its needles at room temperatures and I felt accused and belittled in making the complaint, as though I was making it up.

Also, as a professional, the time I lost trying to settle this problem was worth money.

I originally bought the tree there because of the referral given by a relative.

They can't expect me to recommend them to anyone else after this experience and I expect them to do more for me than the partial compensation they provided.

-- D.B., Kenmore
A "I BELIEVE THAT he did not understand the difference between the difference species of trees," says the operator of the nursery.

"On his initial visit to our nursery, there was an abundance of all species of Christmas trees, giving him the pick of the lot. He decided on the blue spruce. I explained to him at that time that there would be some needle loss. He was told the shorter-needle trees would fall faster than a long-needle tree.

"We certainly back up our merchandise. This is not a matter of money, but a matter of his not knowing what he wanted at the time of purchase. When he returned with the tree a few days later, he mentioned to our employee that his wife wanted a Frazer fir tree.

"By this time, the Frazer fir trees were picked over, as it was only a few days before Christmas. Looking at the trees that we did have left, he couldn't decide on a Frazer fir that he liked so he took a Scotch pine, which was worth $40 plus tax.

"I do not feel that it was our fault that he had wasted trips to and from the nursery. He could have called in advance, which would have eliminated the double trips.

"I still contend that there was nothing wrong with the tree.

"This was the only complaint I received over any of the trees that we sold. "As a matter of fact, we placed this tree back on the lot and sold it the next day to a customer who has been purchasing trees from us for 25 years.

"I called him to see if there had been a problem with the tree and he advised me that it was the bluest and nicest blue spruce he has put up in years, with only a minor needle loss, which he expected with that type of tree.

"Consequently, I feel this exchange was the customer's decision and we handled the problem properly."

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