When I grow up, I want to be a used car salesman. Has any teacher ever heard an 8 year old stand up in class and declare that intent to the world? I doubt it. Somehow though, I have been drawn into the desire to become a successful used car seller. By any means possible.
My relationship with used cars is shaky. My step father traded cars for a used-car dealership. I grew up working for them as a driver, payroll system developer, car detailer, and occasional sales helper. Shudder.
Cars were treated like the royal family during my childhood. And by that I mean more Lady Diana before she started having her toes sucking by non-royals, rather than Prince Charles after he married that horse-looking frau.
My step father would come home in a random car every week, and as kids we had to leave cars spotlessly tidy after use.Â Each one was a golden goose to be nurtured and cherished. Not driven and used. My friend Jan de Rijk always maintained that the rich could afford to put out cigars on their cars’ upholstery, which meant that we must have been super poor.
My childhood experiences have impressed on me a code of conduct when it comes to cars. Hire-cars are to be driven mercilessly, new cars are to be avoided for the depreciation, cars are to be kept somewhat clean, and you should always try to sell a car for more than you paid for it. Car loans are for morons – getting a loan to buy a depreciating asset (make that a liability) is not the true route to enlightenment.
Most people think it’s odd to sell a car for more than you bought it for. Me, I think it’s normal. When I first came to live in this automobile mecca called Texas, I bought and sold 9 cars in 3 years. All of them for a profit, except for the trusty Saab whom I loved so much I had to set free. To oxidation.
Unwittingly, I had become a part-time car trader. Buying Police Crown Vics from auctions, driving them around for a few months and then selling them for profit. I should have written a book, “How to make money and get free transport”. That’s what I did.
I yearn for the Crown Vic P71s a little – their brute power and boat-like dimensions were quite alien to my European ways. They were rugged and fearsome – a V8 missile wrapped in no-frills steel. Sporting little mementos of their cops and robbers past – the hand operated spot light on the driver’s side and the shotgun strap in the trunk.
However, I don’t yearn to be a used car salesman.Â But I am selling my wife’s car right now on craigslist. And I mean selling rather than “trying to sell”, or “advertising”. My name is Ron, and I am selling. There’s a tyranny of sales patter trying to force itself from my mouth. I’m gagging on little phrases like “one careful lady owner” and “first to see will buy” which are threatening to spew forth from my childhood.
I met a salesman called Winthrop last week at a Honda used car dealer where I naively went to get my car valued for their “promise to buy my car for cash” scheme. Presumably the marketing team had vetoed the idea of calling said scheme, “Bend owner over hood and remove pants and get the splintered baseball bat”. I really should have seen it coming, the ball so low that it had to spend two hours in a decompression chamber before it could bowl me over and leave me speechless.
Winthrop seemed genuinely nice. Everyone likes to see themselves as a good judge of character, and I’m no different. He seemed so genuinely nice and earnest, even describing himself as a people person not a car person at one point, that I couldn’t help asking him,
“Why the flipping flip did you get into used car sales?”
Surely you only sell cars when you’ve got a gambling debt you need to work off to a car trading magnate, I thought to myself. Good old Winthrop (real name though I didn’t ask to see government issued ID), he even had a believable answer for that one too. He really liked his Honda, and when he showed up to get it serviced, his enthusiasm earned him a job interview.
Part of me just wants to save my precious time and sell my wife’s car cheap to a dealer. The larger, more sinister part that grew during my childhood wants to sell the car for as much as possible to some craigslist punter. To win at used car sales.
Even if you win a urine drinking contest, you’re still full of pee pee.