The John Deere Story

I promised I'd tell this story in yesterday's post.  So here goes... We needed a riding lawn mower.  Our new property is an acre.  Our old property is a third of an acre.  I mowed the old property with a non-self-propelled push mower, which was just fine for a small lawn, and it only took 45 minutes or so to cut the front and back lawns.

But there was no freaking way I'm cutting an acre with a push mower every week.  And the situation is such that we closed on the new house before selling our old house.  So I'm mowing two lawns until at least the end of next month.

I love John Deere tractors.  My mom, sister and brother-in-law all live together and they have one.  It's bulletproof.  And it cuts the lawn pretty quickly.  I'm not the kind of person who scrimps on things that have motors.  You do that and you end up frustrating yourself to no end by having to replace your motorized tools almost constantly.  I tend to spend a little extra to get things that will last in that regard.  So when you look in my shed, there's a mower, a generator, a pressure washer, a rototiller and a bunch of other motorized tools that are all name brands (usually with Honda motors) and everything starts on the first or second pull.

So we needed a tractor and I started doing the research a couple weeks ago.  It turns out that both Lowe's and Home Depot sell John Deere and they get the same prices the local dealer offers.  They also stock the tractors, so provided they're not out of stock on a particular model, you can walk in, plunk your credit card down and walk out with a new tractor.  Lowe's seemed to have the most in stock, so I figured I would buy from them.  I talked to the manager of the seasonal department at Lowe's and he gave me a brochure, explaining some things about the different models and how I might use one of the John Deeres for plowing.

About plowing...  Our new place is at the end of a short private road.  It's not a big deal, but the town doesn't plow it after snowstorms.  So I wanted a tractor I could put a plow on, just in case I need to plow the road this coming winter.  As it turns out, any of the 100-series John Deeres accept the plow attachment, but really only the LA145 and the LA175 have the horsepower to push significant snow.  So my choice was down to those two models.

When I got to Lowe's this past Sunday, the seasonal department was a zoo.  Say what you want about this economy, but the Lowe's I went to had dozens of people milling around the seasonal department, buying grills, stuff for their gardens, lawn mowers, pressure washers - you name it.  It was 15 minutes before the right person in seasonal could even talk to me.  And then it took him another 15 minutes to help out another customer before he could get to me.  When I told him which models I was interested in, he had me wait again while he checked stock.

While he was checking, I mentally sold myself on the LA175.  I had looked online prior to coming to the store and I really wanted the extra horsepower and the wider deck (54").  I had also looked at the dimensions and it fit on a 5X8' trailer.  So when the guy came back from the computer and told me that the only one in stock was the one on the floor, I was a little dismayed.

So I negotiated.  I told him I'd take the one on the floor, but they had to give me a discount.  Ten minutes later, after a discussion with his manager, they offered no discount.  At that point, I was ready to walk, but then I asked about any promotions that were running.  The seasonal guy told me I could get a free dump cart or spreader with purchase.  I told him I wanted the dump cart, and once again, I was told the only one they could offer me was the one on the floor.

I didn't mind taking the floor models, but again, I wanted a discount, so we negotiated again.  Their final offer was thus:

  • $100 off the tractor
  • Free dump cart
  • $89 canopy that was on the machine for $25 (because they didn't feel like taking it off)

I thought this was a reasonable deal, so I had them write up the invoice for me to take to the front.  At this point, I had been in the store for over two hours and I could just picture my wife impatiently tapping her toe in my head while she waited for me to come back home and resume packing for the move.

Up to the counter I went.  They rung me up.  The cashier made a mistake, which I spotted right as I was about to sign the credit card authorization.  I did the numbers in my head and something wasn't right, so I had the cashier re-do the numbers.  She had to call a manager over, which clogged up the line for another 10 minutes.  Again, my wife was tapping her toe in my head.

Everything was rung up again and I signed off.  As the cashier handed me my receipt, I noticed that she screwed up again.  She actually charged me for the dump cart I was supposed to get for free.  Cue the manager again, who came back and then had to get a store manager to credit my card the $219 (plus tax) extra they had charged me.  That took another 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, the store manager told me that I wasn't supposed to get the dump cart for free because the promotion covered only the LA145 and the next model down, not the LA175.  True to their word, though, they honored the deal.

It took another 15 for the seasonal folks to push the mower out front to my waiting truck.  That's when the real trouble started.

Yes, that's right.  The tractor wouldn't fit on the trailer.  Rather, the tractor would but the wide deck wouldn't.  The deck didn't raise up high enough to clear the short sides of the trailer.  So now I'm stuck in a parking lot with a $3,000 lawn tractor and dump cart that I have no way of getting home.  (There was also the notion that I really had a 4'X8' trailer, not a 5'X8'.  In the back of my brain, I knew it was a 4'X8', but when I was calculating the width in inches, for some reason I had thought it was 5' wide, not 4'.)

The Lowe's guys were really helpful, even though we had just spent a lot of time getting the deal done and everyone was clearly frustrated.  The solution?  I took the trailer home and dropped it off at the house.  The mower fits in the back of my full-size pickup, but I have to leave the tailgate down and strap it in.  So the Lowe's guys got some metal ramps from inside the store and put the mower in my truck.  I strapped it in and took it back to the house.  By then, I had killed nearly 5 hours.  I thought Lauren was going to kill me for taking 5 hours away from the house while we had so much packing to do.

But that's not the end of the saga...

I got my ramps out of the garage and my father-in-law helped me get the tractor off the back of the truck.  I put some gas in it, turned the key and... nothing.

No problem, I figured.  The tractor was a floor model.  Somebody probably left the key on and drained the battery.  So I hooked up a battery charger and went to go do some work for a while.  A couple hours later I came back and tried the key.  Nothing.  Completely dead.  It didn't even crank.  I looked at the charger - 12.7 volts in the battery.  Hmm...

At this point, I popped the hood to try to see if I could find an obvious problem.  I traced the ignition wires back to a funny-looking little plastic box that looked like it might be some sort of safety switch.  Hmm...

Everything else looked intact, but there was something about that little switch that didn't look right.  I got the owner's manual out.  I was right - that little plastic box wasn't a safety switch - it was a fuse holder.  There was supposed to be a 20-amp blade fuse there, but it was missing.  The guys at the store probably popped it out to keep little kids from accidentally starting it up in the store aisle.  I ran out to Sears to get a new fuse, came back to the house, popped it in and the tractor started right up.

Whew!  All that work finally paid off.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I commenced cutting the lawn and the whole operation took about 4 minutes.