I was reminded of this just the other week, when I experienced a timewaster – you know, the kind of person who frequently causes people to relist their over-described sheds on eBay, or who comes to view a used car but decides not to buy it.
Bloody timewaster, says the vendor, despite the fact there’s often a very good reason why they haven’t signed on the dotted line. Often, it’s the vendor who needs a reality check.
As such, I’ve always been sceptical of the ‘timewaster’ moniker, for if someone has actually given up part of their weekend to come and look at a car, surely it’s their own time at stake, too.
Yes, there are some people who have nothing better to do at weekends than trudge around used car lots pretending to be interested, but those with families, social lives or hobbies and interests rarely fit into that category – and thankfully that description befits most of us.
Of course, I’ve had more than a few genuine timewasters on my lot over the years, but if you read my rant last month you’ll know they’re usually very easy to spot. But the one I left out was the one that, in 30 years of trading, I had yet to encounter. Then, three weeks ago, I met him.
Anyone who knows me (despite my attempts to keep my identity at bay) will know that I’m an absolute sucker for an old Mercedes. Anything built before the C and E-Class of the mid-Nineties dragged MB’s reputation for quality down to the level of my socks really gets me going.
I adore their tweedy yet durable interiors (anyone remember MB-Tex?), chunky single-stalk wiper/headlights/indicator lever and steady yet smooth engines and transmissions. There’s a reason why every second taxi in Germany is a Mercedes 190 or 250d, and it’s everything to do with the way in which they’re built.
So when I was flicking through the small ads in my local paper one evening in the pub, and saw a 190E in there for little more than my monthly bar tab, I had to go and have a look. The car was described as one owner from new, with only 50,000 miles and was in the best colour (in my opinion at least) of Metallic Brown. And no, I’m not joking.
A quick chat with the owner confirmed the ad was all correct, so I drove the 40 miles out to his property to have a look. The house was beautiful, with its own stables and paddock, and it was obvious that any car being
offered for sale here would have a textbook service history and be in lovely condition.
I wasn’t disappointed. The car was absolutely pristine, the mileage backed up by the fact that in 21 years he’d owned it, the fella had commuted in and out of London by train, using the Merc for little more than his weekly shop. It was for sale, he said, because he’d decided to retire and treat himself to a brand new Mercedes.
Unusually for me, I didn’t even haggle. I knew the car was worth every penny the bloke wanted (it was well under a grand), so I shook his hand on the spot and agreed to collect it the next day. So I was somewhat aghast when, the following morning, I had a call just before I set off.
‘I’ve decided not to sell it after all,’ he said. ‘You seemed so keen on it, it’s obviously too good to get rid off.’
Thanks mate. Thank you very much. Bloody timewaster…
Big Mike appears in Car Dealer magazine every month – to read his columns before anyone else you need to subscribe (it only costs £17.24 a year!)