I would say the most annoying part about automobile ownership is the buying and selling process. Unless, of course, you own a British automobile, in which case the most annoying part is trying to keep water out of the passenger compartment.
We all know about annoying car sellers: people who advertise that a car is “perfect,” when in fact there’s a rip in the driver’s seat large enough to fit a regulation volleyball. People who advertise that a car has “no mechanical problems,” when in reality the climate control is broken and the only item providing interior heat is the warm glow of the check engine light. People who are trying to sell a 1990s Jaguar, and they neglect to mention that the trunk collects more annual rainfall than greater Tulsa.
But today, I’ve decided to provide my commentary on the opposite part of the car buying and selling process: annoying buyers.
For those of you who have never dealt with an annoying buyer, please allow me to provide you with some insight on how they operate. The primary thing they do, I think, is they get too obsessed with the vehicle’s condition.
Now, it’s one thing to obsess over a vehicle’s condition when you’re buying a luxury car for $60,000, or an exotic sports car, or a vintage car whose value lies in the fact that there is original 1960s air in the original 1960s tires and the car has an original 1960s radio, and original 1960s seats, and an original 1960s steering column that will impale you if you crash into anything more substantial than a throw pillow. But it’s an entirely different thing to obsess over a vehicle’s condition when you are buying a car on Craigslist for $3,500.
Here’s what these people do. They see a Craigslist ad for a car that costs $3,500. The ad has a few pictures and a good description, noting that the car has some issues, and the air conditioning doesn’t work, and there are a few dents, and it will need new brake pads sometime in the next year. This is when the Annoying Car Buyer pounces.
“How many dents are there?” the Annoying Car Buyer asks. “Do you have all the service records? Can you provide a clean Carfax report? Do the windows work? Does the parking brake work? Has the car ever been in an accident? Is there a sunroof? Does the sunroof work? Can you send me a 4-minute video of the sunroof operation from inside, outside, and from nine feet away with trance music playing in the background? Does the stereo work? Including ALL the buttons? And every radio station? Even the classic rock station from the next town over that sometimes comes in fuzzy?”
The annoying thing about all these questions is the fact that each one can be answered in the exact same way: You are buying a $3,500 car on Craigslist.
Here’s the thing: when you’re buying a cheap car on Craigslist, not everything is going to work. Not everything is going to look good. Not everything is going to be new, or be recently replaced, or be high quality. The car may not last long. If you’re searching for a $3,500 car on Craigslist and you even think of asking whether the seller uses premium fuel, you are probably in the wrong market segment.
Of course, this isn’t the only way the Annoying Car Buyer can present itself. (The Annoying Car Buyer does not deserve personal pronouns.) The Annoying Car Buyer can also rear its ugly head when it comes time for payment. “Just give me another week, man,” it might say. “I’m about to get my paycheck.” Or my personal favorite: after asking dozens of questions, and requesting multiple photographs, and taking a test drive, and negotiating a deal, and getting the car up on a lift to check for problems, the famous line… “OK, I just gotta sell my other car first.”
Although I’m sure there are many other ways you can experience the Annoying Car Buyer, I want to leave a little room here to discuss the solution to the problem. And that solution is… the word “no.”
Yes, ladies and gentlemen: you tell this person “no.”
Here’s the problem: when we’re selling things, we’re conditioned to be as helpful and as generous with our time as possible in order to make a sale. You want the car gone? You have to put up with the crap.
But when you start dealing with certain people trying to buy certain cars in a certain way, there may be a time when you have to just tell them: I’m sorry, I don’t think this car is for you. The guy from Craigslist who says he’ll buy your 1997 Chevy Cavalier for $1,800, but only if you put on new tires? I’m sorry, I don’t think this car is for you. The guy who’s been telling you that he’ll have the money in “just one more week” for the last two months? I’m sorry, I don’t think this car is for you. The guy who wants you to call up previous dealerships where you serviced your 2001 Ford Focus, in order to track down service records? I’m sorry, I don’t think this car is for you.
Yes, I know: telling someone you won’t sell them a car goes against everything we’ve ever learned about selling anything. But saying no the Annoying Car Buyer is satisfying; it’s cathartic; it’s exhilarating. And it’s something you should consider doing if you encounter the Annoying Car Buyer in the wild.
Unless, of course, you’re selling a mid-1990s Jaguar with water in the trunk. Then you should say yes to everything. Including: Will you take one dollar for this car?