We got our last seasonal position like we get most of our jobs these days, by talking to other full time RVers we meet and sharing information about our past jobs we enjoyed or would recommend. We met a couple this past summer at our Jellystone job who travel down to Florida every year to sell Christmas Trees. We had heard of RVers doing this but rarely met anyone so we had so many questions and were lucky enough to have Burt and Dori to give us first hand experience and reassure us that the company they work for in Florida was legit.
When we called Kathy for our first interview she was so laid back, kind and easy to talk to, it was hard to believe she was the owner of this huge outfit. Hart-T-Tree Farms is a family run Christmas Tree farm out of Grassy Creek, North Carolina. Every year Kathy and her team come together down in south Florida and put together 17 lots…literally something from nothing. She and her team makes sure the lots run smoothly in Florida while her husband John runs the farm in North Carolina and for the six weeks before the holiday he ships down trees and décor to all the lots for the farm as needed. It surprisingly runs really smoothly, well they have been doing it for almost 35 years so I guess they have it down to a science.
Our experience with Hart-T-Trees started when we pulled int our spot for our week long training to prepare us for the Christmas tree selling business. We found out we were going to be managers at a lot in Boca Raton for the season and since the only experience I had had was watching my dad sell Christmas trees growing up at our nursery in New York I was excited we were going to be attending the training. It prepared us for everything from the computer system to tree pricing to hiring our staff. The week was intense, a ton of information, but it was organized and very helpful! I took a lot of notes and even drew some charts and sketches…in the end I actually felt like I was ready to take on the job.
Luckily the first week you are on the lot is the week before Thanksgiving so you start slow. It is not busy and you have time to get the lay of the land, price your trees, rearrange your lot, and inventory all your…well inventory. It is actually really nice because when Thanksgiving comes the flood gates break and there is no going back! As soon as it does get busy it is a long day with no breaks. You become so busy on some weekends you don’t even have time to run inside your RV, parked 10ft away, to make food so a another lot manager gave me the idea to get out the handy dandy crock pot and serve up lunch for all the guys on those days…which I did and it saved me!
Each lot is able to hire their own staff (you are given a list from the past years recommend hired help) and Hart-T-Tree pays them from a percentage of what your lot makes. It is very fair, if your busy, your lot is making money and you will need the extra help. They even give you a chart to help you decide how many guys to hire and bring in each of the busy weekends. Our lot help was a mix of guys from previous years and some new help. The benefit of the experienced help is you didn’t have to train them but they also had expectations of what the lot looked like and ran like last year which was sometimes hard when you had new ideas of how you wanted to run your lot. New guys were great if they were quick learners! The lot was open every single day from usually about 9am-9pm give or take on busy days or weekends and one of us had to be there at all times. So on slow mornings usually Mondays I would run out to go do laundry and grab groceries. Other than that we never left the lot. Our life was Christmas trees.
The art of selling the tree was interesting and Boca Raton was an interesting place to sell a tree. We noticed early on that some people in Boca Raton were not like people we were used to…they were one of three types either indifferent about what they paid for there tree, walking in, pointing to the $550 15ft Frasier and asking if we had anything more expensive or they came in wanting someone to walk around with them for an hour or more sometimes coming back 2,3 maybe 4 times waiting for that “perfect” tree or the third and most common was our favorite customer the one that just wanted a great tree and a great experience and we were willing to give them both! Overall we truly enjoyed our experience working with the people in Boca Raton and the crew at Hart-T-Tree actually became family by the end of our 6 weeks together. Someone from the staff was on our lot everyday and they always helped and supported us in every way the possibly could, we never felt we were alone on our lot doing it by ourselves. It was a wonderful experience that we look forward to doing again!
Financially we made so much more money than we had the previous year at Amazon in about the same amount of time. We started our week long training on November 11th and selling Christmas trees on our lot November 18th- December 24th. For the 2016 season (and this might change for next year) our base salary was $3000 when our tree lot hit $60,000 in sales our base salary went up to $4000 and we got 5% of sales after that. Overall we made out really well for just 6 weeks but other lots do make less money and some make more. Most lot managers don’t get too many tips because they don’t do too much heavy lifting, they leave that for the hired help, so it is based on how you want to run your lot and how much work you want to do.
Oh and I totally forgot to mention that the weather in Florida is was not bad either.