In a classic Maine story, the math teacher asks a boy whose family sells firewood, “If firewood is $100 per cord and someone gives you $200, how much wood do you deliver?”

“About one-and-three-quarter cord,” answers the boy.

“No, that’s not right,” says the teacher.

“I know it ain’t right, but everyone does it,” says the boy.

While most Maine firewood sellers are honest businesspeople, Attorney General Steven Rowe and Agriculture Commissioner Robert W. Spear warn Mainers that firewood shorting is worse than “not right”; it’s illegal.

“There are three basic rules for consumers,” said Spear. “Know who you’re buying from, know what you’re buying and get a delivery ticket.”

Rowe said, “We have received several complaints from consumers this firewood season. While we may go to court on some of those complaints, the best consumer protection results from consumers knowing their rights.”

Under Maine law, firewood must be sold in one of three allowable units: standard cord, cubic foot or loose-thrown cord.

A standard cord is a unit of measure of wood products 4 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long, or its equivalent, containing 128 cubic feet when the wood is well stacked.

For firewood averaging 12 inches long, a standard cord stacks up to be 8 feet high and 16 feet long. For firewood averaging 16 inches long, a standard cord stacks up to be 8 feet high and 12 feet, 10 inches long. A useful standard cord calculator is available for free on the Internet at members.shaw.ca/measurementbc/calc_fire.html. This site is not maintained by the state, but seems to give accurate results.

A cubic foot is simply a unit of volume measuring 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot. A cord of loose, unstacked wood occupies 180 cubic feet if the wood averages 12 or 16 inches in length; 195 cubic feet if the wood averages 24 inches in length.

Maine law requires a delivery of firewood to be accompanied by a ticket that states the name of the seller, the name of the purchaser, the delivery date, the quantity delivered and the quantity upon which the price is based. The delivery ticket must always show whether the firewood is being sold by the standard cord, cubic foot or loose-thrown cord.

The Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Agriculture share responsibility for enforcing the firewood laws. Consumers who believe they have not received the correct measure of firewood may contact the Department of Agriculture at 287-3841 or the Attorney General’s Office Consumer Mediation Program at (800) 436-2131.