Seen & Heard: Christmas Tree Price-Gouging

••• From Hudson River Park: “The Indoor Recreation Field at Pier 40 is now open and open to the general public and all Winter Season permit holders.”

••• The never-open Gallery Viet Nam—one of the mysteries of Tribeca—appears to be leaving 345 Greenwich. There’s a “for rent” sign in the window.

••• Speaking of signs in windows: Annelore’s says it’ll open in January (at 18 Jay).

••• From Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center: “A new 32-story hotel is being built at 30 Fletcher Street, at the northeast corner of Front Street. Planned to be a Fairfield Marriott, the building will add another high-rise hotel to the South Street Seaport area. Developer Rinaldi Group mobilized initial foundation work in early December through approximately May 2012. Superstructure and faade work will follow, with the entire project slated for completion in late 2013. Fletcher Street between Front and South Streets will be closed for the projects duration.” I believe that makes 93 new hotels set to open in FiDi in the next two years.

••• The Maseratis have disappeared from Maserati of Manhattan because the showroom is undergoing some construction; it’ll be back open Monday. And I was going to buy one today!

••• My partner and I didn’t buy a Christmas tree this year, but we considered it, and for a while he said he was going to get one at Whole Foods, because he remembered a post on this site—I can’t find the link!—where someone explained what a rip-off the vendor at Chambers and Greenwich is. But I was wishy-washy on the idea, because going to the supermarket to get a tree just doesn’t have the same poetry to it, and I generally feel for the little guy. If you agree with me, this email I just received might change your mind:

This is regarding the Christmas tree stand that takes over the corner of Greenwich and Chambers every year. I was in a rush on the morning of Dec. 6 when I bought a 5-foot(ish) tree for $185. I paid that price assuming that the owner was honest and their pricing was on par with the other tree stands in the area. I have come to learn this is not the case.

Over time, I have witnessed the stand sell bigger, more robust trees at a much lesser price. I’ve also engaged salespeople in offering me the same tree for different prices depending on the time of day. Additionally, having started to speak to other parents and residents in the area (I am a ten-year resident of Tribeca with two children at P.S. 234). I also realize that they price according to how much they think they can get out of you. (I must have looked very very rich that day!!!)

I have tried numerous times to take this up with the management and all employees abdicate responsibility to the owner, George. They will not give me a last name. I have left him notes to call me, explained what my concerns are.  To no avail. Also, the employees will tell me that he will be there at a specific time and when I show up, he conveniently “just left.”

I’m not sure what you can do about this, but I feel it’s time that the citizens of Tribeca are aware of this stand’s bad business practices and also that trees are half the price at all the other stands (I canvassed the neighborhood), and this type of price-gouging should be shunned in our neighborhood (and everywhere else for that matter). For the holiday season, this is ugly behavior.



  1. Thanks for the post on the greenwhich street tree vendor. We last bought a tree from them four years ago. We stopped going because I felt Iike I was getting ripped off. When walking around the city we would inquire on trees and the greenwhich street guys we significantly higher. We have been going to tree farm and paid around $100 for an 8′ tree. The same size tree at wf was $50, but since we put our tree up early I am willing to pay a little more for fresh cut.

    It would be great to better understand who permits the greenwhich guys and how that process works. While I will never buy a tree from them again (I recognize the same woman who seems to run it year in and year out), the smell of the trees is pretty nice when walking by. So I would be fine if they continued. Or better yet, bring a non profit in to sell trees there.

  2. In general, I too root for the little guy, but in the case, I keep hoping he will go under. It is astounding to me that the tree-grinch at the corner of Chambers and Greenwich is still in business. I’ve heard him regularly quote close to $200 for a tree, of varying heights. All of the trees at Whole Foods are $50 and are anywhere from 7′-9′. They turn so quickly that they are very fresh, and for those who want to get their tree up early, they start selling the weekend after Thanksgiving. They also offer delivery. This year and last, our WF tree will be up for at least 4 weeks with minimal needle mess. So WF won’t make a fresh cut on the tree for you, but their trees have a hole drilled in the bottom which seems to work just as well for water consumption. Plus, they source their Fraser Firs from a reputable tree farm, who knows where Greenwich dude gets his.

    Buying your tree from a supermarket sounds strange, but it’s actually pretty fun. Any given weekend there are a lot of people at WF looking for the “perfect tree” and happy to give you advice on whether your pick suits you. For me, that beats haggling with a grinch any day!

  3. I have gotten my tree at the corner of West Broadway and Leonard for the last few years from the French Canadians that come down every year to sell them. I usually get an 8 – 10 footer and they usually charge me anywhere from $200 – $250. I go there for convenience while knowing deep down inside that I am getting completely ripped off. Last year, as they were packing it up another guy was there trying to get the same size tree for $40 to which they refused and said $200. This back and forth went on for some time until the “buyer” finally admitted that he sells trees in Harlem and that he knows how much they cost and he can’t believe that they are getting $200 for the tree. The French Canadian quietly told him that this was Tribeca, and that these people are all rich and pay it – that all the trees down here are priced that way.

    Well I haven’t gotten a tree this year, but I think it goes without saying that I won’t be going back to the West Broadway and Leonard crew the next time I do… perhaps I’ll head all the way up to Harlem.

  4. Friends of ours were gouged by these guys this year and it’s just disgusting that these people would rip off families to make a quick buck! …Regardless of neighborhood, it’s just bad karma….

    We didn’t get a tree this year but we are getting an Eco friendly tree from Posibilitrees for next year! They are super cool, and come in a table version and a suspended 6’….it’s our way of giving to those jerks! Oh yeah and they cost less than those poor dead trees from the jerk store!

  5. Also, the ornaments they sell for $20 can be found at the lot less on Chambers for $4.99. The EXACT same ornaments.

  6. OMG!! They are charging more $ in Tribeca than elsewhere? I’ve never experienced that before!! I am appalled!!! Is that the only business in Tribeca that is price-gouging? What about paying $2.70 for a large coffee at Pecan compared to $1.75 at Jin Market, $17 for pancakes at Bubby’s, $100+ for pillows at Stella, any Duane Park Patisserie cookie, or any apartment or rental in Tribeca, etc., etc., etc.? Naaah, it’s easier if we just direct all of our outrage at the seasonal price-gouging tree guy on the corner and not the “neighborly” price-gougers that take us on a daily basis.

  7. Well said, Mr. Smithers, well said….

  8. When I lived uptown, we always bought our trees from the Convent of the Sacred Heart. The trees were beautiful, and the money went to the school. A win-win all around.

  9. Are you people serious? Complaining about people selling over-priced Christmas trees to willing Tribeca bankers? And how do you rich Tribecans make your money? By offering discounted investment banking advice?

    Get real. These people have every right — even an obligation as capitalists of the same sort as most of you — to charge as much as the market will bear. You just don’t like getting even this small taste of your own medicine.

  10. Yes, that’s right, we all have an “obligation” as human beings to continue to overcharge each other – whether it’s christmas trees, investment banking advice, pancakes, movie theater concessions, parking, clothing, food or coffee. Let’s keep screwing each other in 2012!

  11. I have always thought of price gouging as the action that takes place for necessary items ( food, water, medicine ) in a time of crisis. This flexible pricing is more akin to price elasticity–ask for the highest price you think a customer will pay and be willing to lose the customer should they decide to get it elsewhere. If enough people stop buying trees there, they will change their pricing strategy. I am hoping that the tree sidewalk has to pay some sort of tax for setting up shop on the sidewalk.

  12. Wow. I agree that they can charge whatever they want (or should we regulate tree sales?…. Kidding of course). I just thought it was a good idea to let our fellow TriBeCa citizens know that the trees are over priced relative to alternatives. Trees are a once a year purchase. Unlike Bubby’s or coffee which people can price shop their on own throughout the year.