The Car Sale and how it challenged my Principles for Intercultural Effectiveness

The Triggers

It was a grey October Sunday and I had just returned from a trip to Munich. Driving with the car had been a choice. It was not a good choice. The weekend in Munich had inspired me but driving there and back drained a lot of energy out of me. I realized that having a car made me a victim of possession. If I did not have a car I would force myself to take the train and I would be safer, arrive more relaxed and use my time better.

Yes, I know that we will have self-driving cars one day but by then our roads will be so full that we will stand most of the time anyway. My value as a citizen says that using public transportation, using a train in this case is a better option than driving a car. It is more sustainable and better for the environment. There was another reason though why I wanted to sell my car. I needed money to pay for a course. And this was probably the more urgent trigger. The reason that really made me go online and find a way to sell a used Audi with over 220k kilometers.

I know, don’t ask.

The Sale

Anyway, I found two websites and filled their forms and shortly after received a phone call of a potential buyer. We set up an appointment. The other potential buyer called me as well and I also set up an appointment with him. Both were supposed to look at the car, make an offer and then present me with a nice contract saying they will pay me 5k CHF.

When the first buyer came, I was surprised how fast he looked at the car, how little questions he asked and I was a little suspicious of him because he immediately wanted to pay me money. This seemed strange to me. Clearly, I have no clue about car selling as I should have known that you can sell a car on the spot if you bring enough cash. I did not trust the man’s competence, looks and I did not want his money in cash. He quoted the value at 4’300 CHF.

I told him that I wanted to have the second offer first before I could make a decision. He asked me to let him know as soon as I could and he told me that his uncle would call me. Seems his uncle was better at buying but he made me relax a bit and made me promise that I would call him if I received a higher offer. I said that I would only sell under certain conditions including a contract, advance payment into my company account and that my price was higher. I cancelled the second viewing and thought I could be saving time by just giving the second quote.

The Bargain

A few hours later, I called “the uncle” again and told him that the other buyer would be 5’200 CHF. Then the uncle offered 5’300 CHF and I agreed verbally. All normally business transactions work like this. At least this is how it used to be done pre-Internet. But I had gone online already and read about every scam that you can find in car sales and I was so worried that I could not think straight anymore.

The Sale

I was close to tears when I finally closed the transaction two weeks later. In the meantime I had stalked the buyer on LinkedIn, called a common contact about him, asked him to come to my house again with a copy of his passport, drafted a contract and made him sign it. When I picked up my tires from the garage I was so nervous that one of their staff members had to drive the car out for me. And for weeks after the sale I had been expecting someone telling me that I did something wrong. I was expecting that the money would be pulled back out of my account, the insurance company would call me to tell me that my insurance was abused.

And then?

Nothing happened.

Everything went well.

The Morale

The only one who suffered in this (apart from my man) was me and probably the buyer. Let’s call him Sam. Sam probably did not fully enjoy his client experience with me, because he could feel and I even told him that I did not trust him several times. I could have trusted him though if I had listened to my heart instead of my monkey brain.

We have processes and laws for reasons. We do not live in the Wild West. There are ways to get things done around here in Switzerland. Poor Sam, even had to show me his Swiss pass.

I should not claim that I know everything just because I have access to Twitter. I know quite a lot about contracts and while I was freaking out about a car sale, I negotiated a contract with a client in English, according to international law and without a big fuss for several months because I fully trusted the person behind the deal.

As I am not an expert in cars, I need to trust a car expert’s judgement. I cannot solely rely on hearsay and rumors. Do you notice that nowadays everyone mistrusts their doctor? Are we not taking this all a bit too far?

And just because I have a degree I am not entitled to treat others as if they are stupid just because they do not wear a suit to work. The guy who bought my car has a degree in business, is also a web designer, runs a company that sounds amazing and the only reason why he buys cars for his uncle is probably similar to my reason for selling the car. Sometimes we just need money, or the experience or we need to help our family members out.

I want to be careful not to judge someone based on looks. Our interactions were professional and even kind and because I told him that I was paranoid we built trust over the sale. I really wish Sam would come and see me as a client so I could show him that I have a kind heart. If you read this Sam please come in for a free coffee.



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