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Buyer Beware (long and pathetic, limited q-content)
Some of you know of my efforts to replace a '91 200q lost to accident last
year. Over the past weekend, while pursuing that elusive quattro, I had an
experience that--in some respects--was worse than the wreck that totalled
my car in December. Maybe there is some educational value to my reviewing
for the qlist the experience that I and my wife had last week. I'm sad to
say I realize there are probably similar stories out there.
This has to do with my interaction with the owner of a '91 200q, which was
advertised FS in the Boston Globe this week at $15.5K obo. The owner was
Erhardt Sauberlich of Auburn, New Hampshire. I live in western NY State. I
called the owner on Wednesday, expressing my interest and told him that I
would try to arrange a trip to NH to see him later in the week, if the car
were still available. Then I contacted Chris Miller who kindly agreed to
scout out the situation, before I travelled the approx. 300 miles (each
Below is my note in reply to Rob Winchell and Chris Miller, describing the
events of late last week:
Hi Rob, Chris,
It's all a little bit of a blur.
Chris had done me the favor of looking at the car the evening before
(Friday), and had given me a very positive report. Then I again called the
owner (Erhardt Sauberlich) at about 8 PM the same night (Friday). I told
him that my friend (Chris) gave me a good report, and now I had no
hesitation about driving tomorrow to talk about purchase. "OK", he said. I
asked him if he knew how long the drive would take. He asked "From where,
exactly?" I said "Near Utica, NY." He said 'Oh my god! I really don't
know." I said I thought it would be at least 4, maybe 5 hours, and if we
got an early enough start, maybe I could arrive as early as 1 PM. But in
any event, we'd see him sometime in early afternoon. He said sure, he would
be there. He said it's possible he might need to be away for a short time
to run an errand. I said fine, just leave a note and we'd wait.
I called him back to give him my Utica phone number so he could contact me
in case anything came up before I left.
As we plowed our way through Vermont and New Hampshire, my wife and I
passed the time speculating on what might transpire. How we'd like the car
(or not). Chris certainly gave me the impression that it was close to a 10
out of 10. How much to offer? Would he accept? Would we leave him with an
offer and then take a chance and go on to Burlington Vt to see Dave Flagg's
'91 200q? Would I bite the bullet and pay more than I wanted (or expected)
if I really liked this car? I had all the money available ($15K+) in cash,
just in case.
It was damned hot--for March, and our 2 yr-old Explorer picked last week to
toast the A/C compressor. The traffic on Rt. 9 wasn't too bad, but the
going was frustratingly slow.
And then in an outlandish moment I joked, "Just imagine if we drive up and
the guy says that he just sold the car, har, har." My wife was was appalled
at the thought. "I'd punch him out", I said. I never really seriously
considered that situation a possibility. But something made me uneasy about
this guy. I did think that perhaps someone would show up to _look_ at the
car before I arrived. Why not?
At about 2:30 we pulled in to his driveway. Herr Sauberlich and his wife
were standing outside. (I'm a little late, I thought to myself, and they're
tired of waiting.) I pulled into a turn-around area at the side of the
driveway, and Sauberlich walked up to my car. I rolled down the passenger
window and asked, "Is it OK to park here?"
He replied, "I'm afraid so."
I smiled and said, "Huh? What do you mean?"
He said "I'm afraid that I just sold the car-- a few minutes ago."
I said, "Ha ha"
He said, "No, seriously."
I said, "You are kidding, right?"
He said "No, I'm not. You didn't say you would actually buy the car. I
didn't know what you intended to do. If you were really interested."
I said, "You rotten bastard. You poor excuse for a human being! You thought
I would drive here 275 miles, but maybe I wasn't serious about wanting to
buy the car?!"
He said, "Well..."
I shouted at him (obscentities deleted and/or forgotten), as I rolled the
car in reverse.
At this point I was so livid with rage I was afraid of what I'd do if I got
out of the car. Anyway, it was over. What could I accomplish (except
venting)? Anything further at that point would probably end in a call by
him to the police and satisfaction on his part that he had avoided dealing
with a violent lunatic.
I drove away, trembling with anger. We were hot and hungry (we hadn't
stopped for lunch on the way). I said "Let's eat", as we drove off. My wife
was in shock. I moment later I turned around to go back to the bastard's
house. But realized I was disoriented and couldn't find the place for a
while. I was pretty exhausted from 5 1/2 straight hours behind the wheel
without a break.
I saw a pay phone at a gas station, and I stopped to call Chris. Chris,
somehow didn't sound very surprised to me. "Did he get his asking price?",
Chris asked me. Hell, I said, I didn't ask the guy and didn't care. It was
utterly irrelevant, except from an academic point of view. I really don't
care to know.
Well, that's it. We had a very late lunch and (although we had packed bags
with the expectation of being away a couple of nights) proceeded to drive
straight back to Utica via the Mass Turnpike. Got home about 8:30 PM. I
managed to get to sleep by about 3 AM.
Today I mailed Mr. Sauberlich a little note, expressing my feelings about
him more fully. I may even put him on my Christmas card list. ;-)
Naturally I wonder if the car may have gone to a Qlister.
And so it goes...
P.S. When we got home Saturday night, there was the following message on
our answering machine. "Hello, Erhardt Sauberlich here. It is Saturday,
about 13:40 hours, and I...have...sold...the...car. I hope this message
might get to you so you could avoid making the 4 hour drive. Goodbye."
What's wrong with that picture? Well, at that very moment (13:40 hrs)--as
agreed--we had driven nearly 5 hours and happened to be about 45 minutes
from his house.