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Bye-Bye, Car And Buy, Buy Car

We live in a global marketplace. Politicians are fond of saying that, and I do not doubt it. It is the local marketplace that sometimes puzzles me.

I recently sold a car that I drove for 13 years. You would think that after 34 years of driving, a motorist would know how to sell a car. But times change.

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In 1983, I took my '65 Ford to a car lot and asked for $275. I closed my eyes and held my breath while the salesman drove it. There were no compliments from him about this car. He paid me $200. I took the money and ran.

In 1997, I took my 1980 Chevrolet to the same car lot and asked for $500. I didn't have to close my eyes or hold my breath. The maintenance was up to date. I had confidence. "That $500 is pretty high," said the salesman. Was he thinking straight? When $500 is too high for a used car that runs, something is wrong in the marketplace. Thirty feet away was a pickup truck with rust and mushy tires, and they were asking $3,000 for it. In front of the salesman was a car running like a Swiss watch, and I couldn't get my $500.

So I went to a second car lot. The man scratched his head and walked around the car. "Gee, I don't know about this...." he said. "That car is kinda old...."

The third car lot was the worst. There were cars with parts missing, cars that had been run into. There was a 1960 Mercedes that looked as though it had been there since 1960. For fun I looked at it. The salesman smiled, "That's a collector's item," he said.

That may be true, but this collector's item would not start if world peace depended on it. I was getting nowhere fast.

A college student had advertised in the paper that he wanted a car for under $800. I called him and said I had a car for $500. But my car was not good enough for him. This kid was thinking Mustang, Camaro, or snappy import. But you don't buy those cars for $500. He will have to return to college so he can learn that.

The next day the car was nearly sold. A man drove it up and down the street. The compliments flowed like a river: nice shape ... runs quietly ... no dents ... good tires ... but it is so doggone old. Here was another chap who expected to get a Lincoln Town Car for $500.

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My neighbor across the street had a wrecked Chevy Monte Carlo in his driveway. He wanted $500 for a car that would not even run. That is what you call great expectations.

I thought about advertising, but remembered how expensive it was. But there was nothing left to do. I had run out of phone numbers and ungrateful car lots.

Since I was asking less than $750, I got a price break on the ad rates, $3.75 a week. That was a diamond in the sand pile, but I hoped my little car would not sit out in the yard until the 21st century.

The ad had been in for four hours when the phone rang. A man came from the next town with his own license plate and a fistful of dollars. "I have to have a car for my work, that's the bottom line," the new owner said with grateful haste. That was the customer to have, the "bottom line" type. I signed the title, he fastened on his plate, and drove away.

The calls kept coming. "About that car in the paper...." they began. I wished I had another car to sell. I was sorry to see the car go, but now I have a newer car and another chapter begins. I went over to do some lawn work for one of my customers. She thought I was a trespassing stranger. She didn't recognize my new car.

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