Six months ago I wrote an article about buying a pink car by mistake. It was embarrassing, hilarious and something that got a lot of attention. I bid on a car that I didn't want, in order to get knowledge on how to buy a car that I did want. I ended up getting experience with a lot more than that - and plenty more than I bargained for.
The beginning of the end
For starters, when I went to pick up the car from the auction house, the man who gave me the keys just handed them to me very unenthusiastically - almost as if to say, "You poor bugger". If this was my first ever car, it would not have matched the joy of my newfound purchase. "Perhaps," I thought, "he found out my decision was an accident." I didn't think too much of it, but he seemed to know something I didn't.
However, within five minutes of driving the car I came to see what he knew all along: this car was in need of some work. Not because it was pink, or because there was duct tape holding the dashboard in place, or the fact that it was missing an internal side door - no, not because of any of that. I hadn't even driven two residential blocks when there was a bellowing of smoke coming from under the bonnet. This thing hadn't been watered or oiled - it seemed - since it first hit the road.
I called up the auction house and they said that the car was available to buy on an as-is where-is basis - and that I should have checked out the car ahead of time. This was not the moment to tell them that I didn't mean to win the auction.
Lesson #1: Always see Pink Cars before you buy them. Get to know their good things and bad things - and weigh that up with a rational mind.
Seeing this was the only one I had, I felt like I needed to keep using it while I got the means to get another one. The problem was that it was not warranted or registered - aka completely illegal. The very first thing I did was to take it to a mechanics to see what it would need done to make it road-worthy. Sometimes Pink Cars need a little touch up, but - not being an expert in them - I wasn't sure what was 'under the hood' - so to speak.
I took it to the mechanics and decided to go and grab a coffee while I waited, but I may as well have not bothered. The mechanic - the expert in assessments - put the car up on a hoist and then almost immediately took it down again.
"Bent chassis" he said, as if this was supposed to mean something to me. "Your car's a write off."
Ahh. Now we're getting closer.
"What does that mean?" I prompted him, knowing what a 'write off' was, but not sure what my options were now.
"Get rid of it. It's been in a crash and it'll cost you more money than it's worth."
Lesson #2: Even if you think you know a Pink Car, get a professional to spend time with one. They have good perspectives (and lots of wisdom).
So, what to do? I felt stuck! Well, the only thing you can do when you feel like you've got a dud - let someone else deal with it (he says only half seriously).
I put it up for auction, along with the story and everything that was wrong with it. I felt like I was completely upfront and communicated the reasons why I was getting rid of it. But before the auction closed I received a fine when it was parked on the street, for it not being registered. A $200 fine! A financial fine, sure, but also an emotional one. My lesson for not handling the departure properly.
But the good news was that the car sold at auction! And you know what?! For the exact price that I had bought the car for plus the fine plus the petrol that had been used up to this point. Almost exactly! I was rapt! This was going to be a seamless transition from me who didn't want this situation to someone who did!
Lesson #3: Other people can work with what you can't!
.....oops. Not quite.
It turns out that the "winner" of the auction was a 15 year old boy who didn't have the money, and was using his parents login without their permission. After being cooperative at first we ended up never meeting in person or going through with the deal. Why? Because of the bent chassis ("that car's worthless", said his dad).
Lesson #3.5: Other people aren't always equipped to deal with Pink Cars either. They think they are, but they might not be.
The final countdown
So I ended up putting it back up for auction again. In the words of the mother: "You can take us to court and get $5 a week for two years, or you can save yourself the hassle and relist the auction."
I wish I hadn't listened to her. I wish I had gone ahead with court action - or at least got the parents to fork up the money - and then make the son pay them back over time. That 15-year old needed to learn that life has consequences, and that decisions made over the internet still affect other human beings.
But I didn't.
I was soft.
I relisted the auction during which time the car had received another $200 fine.
Grrrrr. Sometimes holding on can be costly.
The car ended up selling, making about a $500 loss on the original price with fines added on top. I was shattered. I didn't want to see another Pink Car again, and was very keen for the saga to end. The man who bought it was a professional haggler and got the price right down to the bottom, knowing that I didn't want that bad smell lingering any longer.
The lessons were learned and the bank balance took a beating, but the emotional scars are slowly recovering....
So, last and final lesson: If you know of a Pink Car that still has a bent chassis, make sure it gets fixed. It makes for a much smoother journey both now and forever more.
And remember: sometimes Pink Cars can be people, too.
Matt Browning is a storyteller and lover of ideas. He is currently setting up a social enterprise for youth unemployment in Rotorua, New Zealand – taking youth who are dropping out of high school or coming out of youth prison, and hiring them full time so that they can get the experience needed to be hired in the future.
Matt Browning's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/matt-browning.html