November 7, 2020 – Buyer Beware

The meaning of words can be very subjective, depending on who you ask. This is especially true when you’re trying to describe the condition of something. What one person might deem as ‘excellent’ may only qualify as ‘fair’ to someone else. There is one place on the internet where I find this to be a pretty common thing, where opinions can vary widely as to whether something is actually poor, fair, good, excellent or new. Craigslist. I don’t completely understand why so often things end up ‘mislabeled’. I continually come across items that are often placed under the ‘excellent’ category where they clearly don’t belong. And I’m telling you, it really floors me, especially when you go to great efforts to acquire something, only to discover you’d have been better off just staying home and knocking out a few loads of laundry. This happened to my husband and me a couple of years ago.

We had decided to purchase a pull trailer (for camping) and looked at what was available on Craigslist (in our price range). We checked multiple ads in multiple locations, but there was really only one that got my attention. There was only one photo posted (which should have tipped me off), but the ad said the trailer was in excellent condition. And the price was right. Aside from the one photo to go off of, which was a bit concerning, we were also a bit wary of the drive, as the trailer was located at least 3 hours from our home. But the buyer seemed friendly and enthusiastic and quite eager and always responded whenever I texted or called and he assured me that we’d be really pleased once we got a chance to see it with our own eyes. So we decided to go for it. Money in hand and a tankful of gas, we set off in our truck. Three hours later, we arrived at the location where the gentleman I talked to on the phone said the trailer was stored. Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be found. I tried to call him but he didn’t answer; however, I noticed that the gate to the storage lot was wide open, so I told my husband to go ahead and pull in. I figured, that way we’d get a chance to really get a good look at it before the seller arrived.

While we were waiting, we walked around the lot but I only found one trailer that matched the make and model of the one the seller had described, so we went ahead and took a look. And it was very clear as we approached, that this trailer was not in ‘excellent’ condition. In fact, it should have been in a scrap or salvage yard. The first thing I noticed was that all of the rubber on the tires was cracking and the hubs were rusty. The body of the trailer was in tragic condition. It almost looked like it had been underwater. I’m surprised there weren’t mussels and barnacles attached to it. And then there was ‘the smell’. As we stepped closer, we realized that every single window was open and that’s when ‘the smell’ really made its debut. I wasn’t sure whether it was mildewy with a hint of mold or moldy with a hint of mildew but whatever it was, I’m sure it wasn’t sanitary or safe. And when I peered into the windows, not surprisingly, all of the Formica countertops were warped substantially and had curled up from the edges. When we walked around to the rear of the trailer, the last thing that caught my eye was the chain that had been painted with a spray can to cover the rust. The owner didn’t try too hard to disguise it, as several of the rocks under the chain were also sprayed ‘gloss black’.

I was disappointed. I was disappointed in my stupidity for trusting the ‘words of a total stranger’ and for having had us drive all that way for nothing. But there was a problem. We knew we had no intention of buying the trailer, it was a piece of junk. However, you know how I mentioned earlier that I suggested to my husband that we go ahead and ‘pull into the storage lot’ since the gate was open? Well, now we were trapped in the lot. The only way you could get out was if you had the combination to the lock, which we didn’t. And the people that had initially unlocked and opened the gate had left long ago. Great! Fine mess I got us into!! After several attempts at escaping which included trying to figure out the combo to the lock so we could open the gate (never got the right one), calling the number to the storage lot multiple times (no one answered), and attempting to squeeze through a very tiny gap in the fence (didn’t fit), we finally decided to call the seller who hadn’t yet arrived. What was taking him so long anyway? Turns out he had run out of gas on his way to meet us and was waiting for someone to rescue him. He was still going to be at least another 40 minutes. Another 40 minutes?! Another 40 minutes waiting around on some guy that thought he could pull a fast one on us and ask full blue book for a piece-of-garbage-trailer?! No. No way. I didn’t want to meet this person. I didn’t want to make pleasantries with someone like that. I just wanted out of the damn storage lot.

How do I manage to get us into such predicaments? I’ve done it enough times, you’d think I would have learned by now. I think I need to be a bit more observant before I make major decisions. Buying a trailer isn’t like getting a few groceries at the grocery store, it’s a big deal. It’s a lot of money that you’re handing over to someone. A lot of money that’s taken a long time to save. Fortunately, as my husband and I were standing in that storage lot on that fateful day, at the very time the seller was informing me of his ‘conundrum’, one of my brain cells woke up and sent me a message. “Ask for the combo,” it whispered into my ear. “Then you can get the hell out of here. You don’t want to meet this Bozo. He probably got the trailer for free and was trying to make a quick buck off of some unsuspecting, gullible, trusting couple.”

Thank you, ‘Brain’. I don’t give you near enough credit!! That little tidbit of wisdom was all I needed. After providing a lengthy excuse as to why we didn’t feel the trailer was going to work out for us, so there was no point in waiting around for him to arrive, I oh-so-carefully asked for the combo to the lock. I really wanted to tell him that he was a shyster and he was insane if he thought that trailer was in ‘excellent’ condition and that he had some nerve asking full blue book. But I didn’t. I was e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y nice. Why? Don’t you remember? We were trapped in the storage lot for crying out loud! I had to go about this whole thing very delicately because we needed the combo and I knew I wasn’t going to get it if I pissed him off. We were out in the middle of nowhere in a place we were completely unfamiliar with. I didn’t want to spend another minute in that place. Anyway, my plan worked. After he digested the whole, “It’s very nice, but just not quite what we were looking for. We’ve got something else in mind that’ll better fit our needs,” he promptly gave me the combo. And what did we do? We promptly got the heck out of there!

Lesson for today? Buyer beware! Do your homework. Don’t make hasty decisions on large purchases. Buying a candy bar is one thing, buying a trailer is another. Think about the permanence of purchases before you make them. And if you see a gate standing wide open, don’t drive through it willy-nilly. Take a moment to consider the consequences. If you don’t, you might find yourself stranded somewhere, that you hadn’t intended, for an indefinite amount of time. Simply said? Learn from my mistakes. Someone should get some benefit from them.

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