Sales Talk : Text and Internet time-wasters

Mike Humble

A fair price for a fair car is all anyone wants. Despite careful wording with my 420 iL, which was a minter, never before had I witnessed so many timewasters
A fair price for a fair car is all anyone wants. Despite careful wording when selling my 420 iL, which was a minter selling for a good price, never before had I experienced so many timewasters via text and email

A prospect, in showroom speak, is the term for a customer who is potentially interested in a vehicle for sale. Regardless of this happening in an actual dealership or showroom, it makes no difference – if your phone rings from the result of a small ad or internet listing that still counts as a prospect. Social Media is a double-edged sword, on one hand it opens up a world of information, delight and debate but, on the other, it brings heartache and grief to some people who are trying to sell an honest car to an honest punter. I personally like this whole interweb malarkey (though I doubt it will ever catch on) but I try to avoid some of the posts on be it Facetube or Booktwitt like “I’ve just been to the toilet PMSL” or “Hmmn – cheese on toast or soup for tea?“. Mentioning every pointless action or broadcasting to the whole world about your bowel movements only irritates people and highlights the sad decline of good old-fashioned dialogue and actually getting out into the real world once in a while.

My thoughts for this ramble came via a mate who is selling his car and a Facebook contact who is trying to do the same. The latter was posting up his frustrations at messers, what they were requesting of him and stating that, and I quote “ I still have this for sale” – which is not exactly ideal. It will only encourage more mucking around. Not only that but it weakens your position when negotiating a fair price with all parties as anyone with serious interest will read it as desperation on your part. My own experience had tended to find that GENUINE interest comes through the telephone and not from a tennis rally of text messages and emails – like I hinted at in my opening gambit,  the Internet brings out the best and worst of people.

Personally, I like to avoid putting my email address on any car advert and there is a simple reason for this. The Internet is the stalking ground for the dreaded messer – that breed of person who wastes your time by constantly asking for more information, pictures and, quite often, the lowest price you will take for the car. They sit there in a squalid one-room bedsit in front of the PC in a world lit by an unshaded 40 watt bulb complete with a tap dripping into a dirty saucepan dreaming of cars they often cannot even legally drive, let alone afford to buy. Sounds harsh maybe but they are the dregs of society for those trying to make a living or simply sell an unwanted car. Of course, we get frustrated with rage and many a time I have personally wanted reach into my LG Flatron monitor and drag them out to kick their lungs in, but there are ways you can reduce your chance of being messed around.

Myself and former Site Editor Keith showing the right way to buy a car - Face to face and over a brew!
The author and former AROnline Editor Keith Adams showing the right way to buy or sell a car – good old-fashioned face-to-face dialogue over a steaming hot brew

If you are doing the online advert, DON’T put your email address in the advert unless you really have to and, if you do, be wary of people asking you for more pictures – especially if you have already posted up a comprehensive selection. Unless you are selling a high-value prestige motor, something fruity or your posted images are rubbish, requests for endless pictures tend to come from dreamers, timewasters or the kind of over-fussy punter who is never happy regardless of the bargain and it’s the same with text messages, too. When I have received texts, I respond at first and then invite them to real-time dialogue to gauge their seriousness. If they don’t play ball try to call them – I’ll bet it goes to answerphone or you get a text back saying “*sorry… I dropped my ‘phone down the loo and it only works though texting” – either way you are wasting your breath or fingertips and dealing with a messer.

* = Other tried and tested excuses are available including: “will call L8R M8 when I top my credit up.

I went through this on the ‘phone with my aforementioned friend, who suffering the same aggro, and then suggested it would possibly narrow his chances of anyone being interested. My retort pointed towards the quality of interest he had gleened thus so far, there was a pregnant pause and he took my point. You see it’s like this… messers normally avoid effort on their part, dialogue petrifies them but you do get the odd brave one. If a prospect turns up to view the car but declines the offer of a spin round the block and yet still wants to talk money? 3-1 on messer. If out on a test drive the prospect twitters like a Budgie or chats like a toddler rather than keeping a keen eye and ear open for something awry? 4-1 on favourite he’s also a messer. Of course, I can be and have been wrong but, with a little forethought and planning when virally selling your car, the risk of being taken up the garden path and mucked about is amazingly reduced.

The messer actually get his/her kicks from pi**ing you off and wasting your time and they do it in the showrooms as well by either collecting brochures or requesting test drives with no intention of buying – it makes them feel important but makes them look impotent as an old Sales Manager of mine once quipped. Venting your frustration online helps no one so avoid it on the open forums – not only that, it could make you come across like a moaning Minnie and hinder your chances of a genuine enquiry from a genuine punter.

And to close – how do you know that some of the time-wasters aren’t on your so-called Friends’ list? Worth a thought that one!

Mike Humble


  1. Facebook selling has its good but mostly down side, just taking a look at cars for sale in(insert town or area) and you will see mainly knackerd motors going for peanut’s, but there will be people who ask ‘what’s the lowest you’ll take mate” on £250 car with 12months mot or ‘will you take 150 and I’ll pick it up later or can you deliver’. Total time wasters.

    Then there are sellers who post up only 1 pic or rubbish night time photos, and 1 line description but are asking top money and sometimes with the wording “grab yourself a bargain getting rare now not many around no mot £20000 no offers” .

  2. Love the time Mike, that a chap came round to look at a car you were selling….you popped indoors to put the kettle on, by which time they had used the opportunity to F off

  3. Speaking of Facebook, of which I was a member, the most banal posting I ever read was someone saying” been to Morrisons for a loaf”. Hardly scintillating stuff to read.

  4. On the other hand car dealers sometimes have to deal with punters like me. I saw the 2015 Mustang on last November and was so impressed I went straight to my local Ford Dealer (this is in US) and had him bring up the same web page. “That car looks brilliant” I remember telling him as my negotiation skills were taxed to the limit “I want to buy one right now”!! And I did, but it took 8 weeks to be delivered!

  5. Wholeheartedly agree. A large number of people that emailed me regarding online adverts seemed to be of the same ilk as those who place incomprehensible, punctuation free ads on eBay.

    Regarding a 216 GTi placed on Car & Classic some years ago, I was asked a series of bizarre questions ranging from, “how does it compare 0-60 with a B18 Honda Civic?’, to whether I wanted to swap it for a Mercedes 190E without any MOT…

    Selling another car I received an email enquiry asking if I’d deliver it to Leeds (some 200 miles away, the location of the car being South London was clear in the ad) for the full price on delivery. What planet to these lunatics live on?!

    • Reminds me of a colleague trying to sell a Mercedes 190 Cosworth for 5 grand. No takers, so he took it for an MoT. He heard the examiner say that his car was in flawless condition – what he actually said was FLOORless. He got 500 for spares.

  6. That reminds me of Top Gear in the 1990s doing a feature on future classics, mentioning that while some 1970s cars were beginning to become classic, an Avenger with a borderline MOT pass isn’t one.

  7. Easiest thing is to never get rid of a car!!

    Seriously though, online selling isn’t a pleasant experience. Gumtree tends to yield crooks and money launderers. Ebay punters will bid with no intention of buying (once I a guy said “my 3 year old daughter bid on it while I was asleep.” Oh she’s into Mk3 Escorts is she?). All very well, but not when Ebay charge you £30 for the privilege and the buyer doesn’t pay up.

    And so I return to my first point, just don’t bother!

  8. Gumtree are full of chancers.

    Sick of texts and emails


    “SWOP 4 PS3?”


    I tend to ignore them, I stated in the ad that I wouldn’t respond to emails / texts. One phoned up and was genuinely aggrevied that I didn’t respond.

    When I did respond to the “Lowest you’d take” query, I replied that it was on for £(amount), and they should come and have a look and make an offer. No reply.

    Then the ones that do turn up, give a sob story that they only have £(half the amount), or who nitpick at it and say “I’ll take it off your hands, sold as seen, no comeback, for £(half the amount)”. I wouldn’t expect comeback on a cheap private sale!!

    Best experiences of selling were from the old fashioned style classifieds (AutoTrader, UTVDrive, UsedCarsNI) even if it takes a little longer to sell.

  9. @ Richard 16378, but ironically cars like the Hillman Avenger, a useful four door saloon and estate with good engines( Rootes rather than Simca), does have a classic following now, but wouldn’t have 25 years ago. I suppose like Morris Marinas, Austin Allegros, Vauxhall Vivas and Ford Cortinas people want to preserve cars that were familiar sights when they were younger.

    • It’s just the passage of time, isn’t it? A 1970s Avenger wasn’t a classic when it was 20 years old, the same way that a poorly-maintained Mk1 Mondeo (gaffer tape bumper edition) isn’t a classic right now. Sports cars and genuinely iconic or era-defining cars usually achieve classic status more quickly, but anything will become a classic if you give it long enough!

    • Well , I’ve read them. The questions seemed to me to be reasonable given the state of the car and the hurry to have it moved. The answers were little short of stupid . You seem, if I may say so, to have got it the wrong way round – it is the seller who is the messer in this case

      • I suppose we all have different perceptions, mine was that someone apparently interested very in buying a1984 Rover SD1 in spares or repair condition ought to have some idea about what he’d want to bid before starting any discussions. As the seller states in his first answer, it is an auction.

  10. From my experience, most smalltime car dealers don’t really “do” email or the internet at all, probably for the reasons that Mike outlined above.

    I’m selling a 10 year old CRV on eBay/Gumtree right now, and while there are plenty of messers out there, these platforms remain the best way to reach a wide audience.

  11. Not sure about the condition of the SD1 but there was a tempting P5B on one of the other adverts for just shy of a grand…..

  12. I have just put my 1999 Saab 93 up for sale. As it is low mileage (for a Saab) I have already had a pile of emails and texts saying “Can you prove the mileage?” Well yes I can or I wouldn’t have put full service history on the ad. More pictures? There are 12 good quality ones online, how many do you need?
    And yes what is the lowest price I will take, along with will I deliver an under £1000 car 100 miles away for free…

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