I sold a car

I sold a car

Almost two years ago I bought my first car, a 2004 Renault Scenic. Last week, the time has come to say goodbye to it, as I upgraded to a bigger and newer one.

This isn't really a story about selling the car, but a few interesting interactions I had with strangers over a few dozen hours when the car was available. I set the asking price a bit under the car's market value, as it had some issues and I wanted to get rid of it faster—which probably caused bigger interest in it.

Please give me your stuff

If you are selling things on the Internet more often than me, then this probably will be an everyday experience for you. I definitely purchase more than I sell, and I really appreciate the convenience of clicking the Buy now button and not having to spend time making small talk or haggling over price.

I treat purchasing as service: I give you money, you give me the thing I want. And as with any other service, I will appreciate having time to calmly think about what I'm doing. It would also be great to assume that the listed price is fair, instead of being overblown and waiting to be haggled. Moreover, I will probably do my fair research beforehand and try to answer all the questions on my own, before interacting with a human being.

It was interesting to be on the other side of that stick, and see people in the same situation as I usually am in (wanting to buy something), but behaving completely differently from how I would.

I listed my car in Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace, and I got a few intriguing converations.

Like this one

I mean, I get it that you can use the "my way or the highway" approach... but the ad was listed on Gumtree already. If you simply wanted to buy the car, you would use the fastest method probably.

There is not that small chance that this was simply a failed scam attempt: after providing my email address, I might have gotten a fake bank transfer confirmation as a proof of "payment".

But there were more people like that, which for some reason asked me for my phone number or email, rather than wanting to chat via Gumtree—each of them using a different excuse.

Interestingly, you can reply to Gumtree email notifications and they would be converted to messages in a thread.

Which is probably what happened when this other person was notified that I sold the car (not to them):

On reading and writing

I did a small bit of "A/B testing" and I tried to modify my reply to the first, generic question to see if it would have different effect. Maybe around half of people didn't write anything beyond that initial "Hi, is it still available?", so I thought maybe prompting them to ask questions will have a positive impact.

So I changed my "Hey! Yes, it's available" to something more elaborate. And well, it prompted a question alright:

Hint: look in the top right corner.

The other side of reading is, of course, writing. Which leads to me stating a somehow obvious statement: people can't write. I would really like to know why. Is it their knowledge? Is it lack of effort, or being busy with more important activities?

How hard is it to write a full sentence ended with a question mark, containing at least one verb? You know, like when does the car's rego expire? Nah, there are more important things to focus on:

Car's location was written in the ad.

Another thing is doing your own research

Europe car big risk

There was also some blatant low-balling. I presume those people count on buying something very cheaply only to resell it for a higher price.

This particular argument made me laugh it out loud:


Lastly, we have this guy. I felt uncomfortable with how pushy he was:

There is a lot to unpack here:

  • lowballing
  • wanting to negotiate the price in person, rather than via Gumtree
  • paying in cash
  • coming to pick the car up right now, this very minute
  • "I said I will buy the car, so tell everyone else it's sold" attitude
  • having just $1050, then a few mins later suddenly having the entire amount ready
  • appeal to my conscience with the 3 daughters argument

I'd have totally considered if those were 3 sick daughers, but if they're healthy then it's a completely different story, let me give you a further discount.

/r/ChoosingBeggars is full of stories like that. And OLX, one of Gumtree's competition in Europe, announced they would use specialised medical online bots to determine if buyer's daughter is really sick. (Sadly, it was just an April Fools' campaign.)

Rest of them

Fortunately, these were only 7 out of about 40 conversations I had about the car. Majority of others didn't go beyond the initial "Hi, is this still available?". There were also a few people genuinely interested in the car, and not just looking to buy it cheap and resell it for a higher price. Ultimately, one of those people took the car, and I think we were both happy afterwards.