I'm Proud of my Generic Garden Tractor

Hoosier Perspectives

Who would believe it wouldn't have a name?

Published on: July 4, 2011

I once started pricing out a rotary cutter piece by piece at a dealership for a story to show how much more it would cost you to buy an item part by part. Obviously, most companies hope the parts business is a profit center. When I got past the cost of a new cutter and wasn't even halfway through the parts list yet, I gave up and considered it a lost cause- I'd made my point.

I have a garden tractor, an inexpensive one about a dozen years old, I use more as a mini-farm tractor, pulling a good-sized cart to walk sheep tied behind it, to haul hay in it, to haul manure on it when I'm not fortunate enough to con a friend into bringing over his skid-steer. Because what you fork onto the trailer must also be forked off the trailer- it's like double jeopardy.

We took the mowing deck off years ago. The hood assembly broke several years ago, apparently a weakness of that model. Then something fell on top of the hood, and cracked it. Eventually, a giant triangle exposing the top of the engine broke out. It was a pretty 'Kentucky' looking machine, no harm meant to my Kentucky friends. Some of their places look much neater than mine.

So wandering through southern Indiana with a few minutes left before an interview earlier this spring, I stopped in a dealership just to see how much a hood would cost. To my amazement, I found the top part actually could be ordered separately, and replaced by removing four bolts. It was still well over a hundred bucks, but at least the motor would be covered and unless you looked closely, it wouldn't look like quite such a redneck machine.

So my son ordered it for me recently. It came in and I took the box out, got it out, and proceeded to put it on. No. this isn't one of those stories where I screw things up with my mechanical genius. I got it on just fine. Then I realized as I studied my handiwork that there were no decals on the side. I looked at the broken parts I had tossed to the side. Sure enough, they had brand decals on them. But for my hundred dollars and more, I got a generic piece of plastic with no name on it.

Surely not, I thought. I looked in the box. In fact, I turned it upside down. Maybe the decals were stuck inside and I just had to apply them myself. That wouldn't be the most convenient way to sell something, but I could stand it. No decals were to be found in the box- just cardboard, foam packing material and plastic packing wrap.

Then it donned on me- you had to order the decals separately. Cha-ching- the company wanted more money. I've got news for them- I'll drive a generic tractor as I parade my daughter's sheep around the yard. I'm not spending money on decals when the hood plus the decals would possibly exceed what the tractor would bring if I sold it. It's worth more than that to me, but that's not the point.

Are we so greedy today that we have to sell generic parts, from a major manufacturer, not a knock-off producer? Is it really asking too much for the decals to come with it?

I guess the answer is yes. So, what the heck, the sheep couldn't read the brand name anyway. I'll just drive a generic!