Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Would you buy a car from this person?

From the time Marty bought Betsy, our second-hand LTD station wagon, from a not-so-reputable, car dealership to transport our family of six, we slavishly met all its needs. The brakes needed new shoes; the gas-line leaked; the transmission died; the carburetor, alternator, gaskets, all these things and more had to be replaced. The almost monthly bills from the garage looked like order sheets for a parts department.

At first we looked at the expenses as incidental to maintaining a family station wagon, then we rationalized the expenses as investments, i.e., the more you put into a thing, the more you’ll get out of it. Finally, faced with another $2,000 bill and $8.98 in the savings account, Marty, the accountant, took stock. He went through two years of cheque records and found, as we suspected, Betsy was definitely a bad habit.

The decision was made. We took out a loan and within a week had a compact 4-cylinder K-car wagon in the drive. Betsy was parked out on the street with a “For Sale” sign in one of her windows.

To keep her from seizing up, I would take Betsy out to the grocery store once a week. She idled so high I could drive her all the way there and all the way home, with my foot on the brake. Driven as little as once a week, she was using as much fuel as our zippy little K-car which took us everywhere, apparently running on air.

We listed Betsy in the Auto Trader at $1,800 which seemed to be the going price (in 1989) for 1979 station wagons. After a week and only one call from someone looking for a little Honda, we reduced the price to $1,500. By the third week the price was down to $1,300 or best offer. We started getting calls. Of course, since I happened to be home more than Marty, I, who don’t know much about cars, got most of these.

First caller: “Is it a good body?”
Me (innocently): “Yes, it looks pretty good.”
Caller: “Just looks pretty good, eh?”

Second caller: “Does it have air conditioning?”
Me: “No.” I knew that.

Third caller: “What size is the engine?”
Me (stupidly): “Quite big. It uses a lot of gas.”

Fourth caller: “Could I come look Friday morning?”
Me: “Certainly.”
Fourth caller, again: “Could I come Saturday morning instead?”
Fourth caller, again: “I’m not coming.”

Fifth caller: “Does it have air conditioning?”

Fifteenth caller: “Would you accept $1,000.”
Me (eagerly): “Yes! Do you want it?”
Caller: “I’ll think about it.”

Nobody actually came to look. We decided to put an ad in the local newspaper for a weekend, reducing the price once more to $950 or best offer. Right away a dealer phoned: “I’ll give you $500 for it.” The nerve.

Then on Saturday morning, we got a real customer. He came over. He looked under the hood. He kicked the tires (real customers always do that). He went for test drive. Then he left to look at another car. We knew we’d lost him.

But two hours later he called, “I’ll give you $750.”
Marty: “$800.”
Real customer: “$750, cash.”
Marty: “It’s yours.”

For three days Marty and I held conversations interspersed with: “We sold Betsy.”


“We sold the car.”

Poor buyer; Betsy would eat up his savings; keep him poor; suck up his funds, poor man. How could we have done that? It doesn’t seem Christian.

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