Oh boy… I’m thinking as the 1967 Mercury drove up into my shop. A very good customer had phoned me earlier to let me know her son was dropping off a ‘cherry’ old Mercury he’d just bought. A quick look at this ‘cherry’ Merc, and I’m thinking although I had seventeen years on this old clunk, it certainly outdistanced me in mileage. When I’m in better shape than the vehicle a customer drives, I always recommend the elephant graveyard for the poor thing, rather than torturing it with stop-gap repairs.
“Hi, Bernie,” the young man said with a big smile. I will call my optimistic customer High Hopes for the remainder of this post. He was really proud. “What do you think?”
I’m thinking you should have let me see it before you bought it, High. High is in his mid-twenties; and he grew up in Oakland, so he didn’t fall off the vegetable truck yesterday. I liked him, and knew he would probably be upset when I rained on his parade. First, I cringed and went right to the basics.
“How much did you pay for it, High?” I asked reluctantly.
“Only a thousand,” young Hopes tells me enthusiastically.
“Good,” I remark, knowing this lesson could have been much more expensive. “Return it to the guy, and see if you can get eight hundred dollars of your money back. He may take it since he can make a quick two hundred, and then scam someone else. If…”
“No way,” High cuts me off in shock. “This is a classic. They’re going for…”
“Easy… easy there, High,” I gesture for calm. I look up at the clock, and make a snap decision. “Go have a seat in the office, and give me forty-five minutes. Keep an open mind, when I explain my reasoning, after I gather some facts. Believe this: I’m not trying to make light of this situation. I’m trying to save you a lot of money and pain.”
Young Hopes looked at me suspiciously, as if I were trying to obtain the vehicle for myself (I’d rather open up one of my major arteries). He finally nods reluctantly and goes into my office. I sigh and pat the poor old Merc sympathetically, and get into the driver’s seat. The Merc bucket seat is now made up of folded over cardboard to keep the seat springs from entering the driver’s body in extremely painful ways. Closer to an hour than forty-five minutes later, I take my list into the office. High looks up from a magazine he was reading almost fearfully. I gesture for young Hopes to follow me out to his gem. For the next half hour, I pointed out all the flaws, which were expensive and fixable. Then, I spent another twenty minutes showing him the flaws, which were non-existent at any price.
“You must think I’m an idiot,” High says dejectedly, the dawn of nuclear winter appearing on the horizon for his plans of cruising on the strip in his ‘cherry’ Merc.
“Nope,” I state without reservation. “Try my earlier advice with the prior owner, and do it with an ingratiating smile on your face. Don’t go the accusation route, or you’ll end up with no money and in jail for assault.”
Young Hopes laughed, and nodded his head.
“If that doesn’t work, start listing pictures of it in every free flea market paper you can find. You might be able to get your money back if you can find someone with this same car, looking for a part this one still has. Try Craig’s List on the computer too. Sometimes…”
“Hey, what if I found someone with this model trying to…” High sees the look of annoyance flooding over my countenance, and pauses. “What…”
“Someone with a showroom condition Merc like this might need something off this one,” I explain patiently. “You don’t buy another one of these in hopes of making this one into showroom condition. If the rust were any thicker on the driver’s side floorboards, you’d be driving this beauty around like Fred Flinstone.”
“Okay… okay,” High takes a deep breath. “I’ll go see if I can get some of my money back.”
“Let me see the next one before you buy it, okay?”
“I will. Thanks… I think.”“You’re welcome… I think,” I reply, getting another laugh out of High before he gets into the Merc and drives away. I go into the office to fill out the paperwork for his Mom. She won’t be happy either. :)