Sales Talk : My problem Pug punter!

It’s a cold hard truth but, the cheaper the car, the higher risk of punter tends to buy it. Mike Humble explains why in the last Sales Talk tale of 2015…

Getting rare now and as worthless as wet tissue paper. Still one of THE best and most comfortable ways to drive 500 miles in one sitting is the Peugeot 406. Subsequent newer model family Pugs have never even come close.
Peugeot’s formidable 406 – one of the finest saloon and estate cars in world of Bangernomics
and subsequent replacement models failed match its success

Many of you all know that my life has not always revolved around BLARG products. Rather like Keith, my car tastes tend to be slightly eclectic and I’m quite partial to the odd French motor, too. The grand total of motors to slip through my hands since that fatal day I passed my driving test in March 1988 is now well into three figures. I’m pleased to say that only a very few have ever gone on to the great pitch in the sky. Most of the transactions of buying and selling them have involved negotiations over some tea and biscuits. Problems with vendors or punters have been pleasingly few, mainly because I tend to be prepared and use the best tool of all to risk assess the next purchase or potential buyer – my gut feeling!

You’ll never, of course, fully erase the risk of being messed around at either end of the used car clunker chain. I will go on record as saying those who tend to get fleeced or messed around on a regular basis buy with their hearts and not with their heads. Something else I’ll let you into – it’s been known for me not to sell a car, especially when I pedalled new metal. There was one customer who wanted to buy a new Rover 25 but clearly couldn’t afford it, clearly had family akin to the Krays, Mad Frankie Fraser or Pol Pot and clearly one of them would have liberated me of my kneecaps in the small hours had anything go awry with the deal afterwards. I engineered the deal to fail in other words, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, a case of risk assessment, do you see?

One such headache came about when I wanted to flip over a 2.0 Peugeot 406 GLX. You see, I went through a phase of French a few years back when ‘er indoors ran a Megane Monaco Cabriolet. The Peugeot 406, to this day, remains one of the finest cruising cars you’ll ever buy for small change – I’ve owned three and everyone was a fine machine to plough along a never ending motorway. The car in question was the only petrol powered Pug we ran, the other two were 1.9 XUD examples. The only reason it was bought was because it was cheap – seriously cheap. Oddly enough, the chap who it was purchased from was an MG Rover employee who had just bought a top of line Streetwise via an employee scheme.

Even though the 406 went like a stabbed rat and ran a lot quieter than the analogue 1.9 diesel engine ever could, it used petrol like it was going out of style just at a time when my personal mileage went skyward. So the silver 406 went onto AutoTrader for a few shillings more that I gave in the hope I might just make a slender profit in the bargain. The incoming enquiries were disappointingly few with plenty saying they would come round to view and plenty of them not turning up. One enquiry came from an African-sounding man who wished to view the car in the dark at around 9.00pm. Despite my concern about the time and the poor light he was adamant that the car was seemingly right for him.

Doing my best to get as much light on the car as possible by switching on the path lamp and opening the garage door the man turned up on the stroke of nine. The sight was like something from the Police Academyfilms – he was as lofty as Moses Hightower and his partner was a short as Officer Cadet Laverne Hooks – it really was an incredible vision. We got straight down to business and he said that the car was for his wife who had just passed the driving test. My mind wondered why such a small, inexperienced woman would want to smoke around in a fairly large powerful saloon car. She never spoke a word, just opting to stand there with all the obedience of a well-trained gun dog despite my rigorous attempts at getting her to join in the banter – you know how it is, win over the wife and the battle is won!

Nearly all used car heartaches are caused by a lack of research by the buyer and preparation of the seller. A nice happy concluded sale is so easily achievable with just a bit of effort and preparation.
Nearly all used car heartaches are caused by a lack of research by the buyer and preparation
of the seller. A nice happy concluded sale is so easily achievable with just a bit of effort
and preparation.

Whenever I tried to get her thoughts he would talk instead, which I found slightly annoying. She clearly didn’t want to be there but he was hot to trot and wanted to talk money. I literally had to force him into the shortest of test drives and afterwards he made an offer which was equally as patronising as his attitude to his wife. Eventually, after listening to his bids, I counter-offered him a price and made it politely clear that was his lot sonny Jim. Before we shook on the deal and counted the poppy it was suggested that maybe the wife ought to drive the car just to be 100 per cent sure, but he point blank refused this, read and signed my receipt, handed over the money and the couple disappeared into the winter darkness.

And it’s here I get to the rub. Whenever you sell your car always print out or write a receipt stating that the buyer has viewed, driven and inspected the car to the best of their ability. Also make a point of saying that no warranty has been offered (unless you are a trader) or implied. This way you are covering all bases in case the buyer wants to try a fast one after the sale. A similar document is used in the new car game – it’s called a wants and needs disclaimer that gets read out to the customer as a final chance to either back out of the deal and one last chances for the salesman to offer those extra warranty or insurance products. It may seem a tad officious but, for every bent vendor, there’s a bent buyer – trust me on this!

Hindsight is wonderful and maybe on reflection I should have sent them away empty handed owing to the series of events that followed barely two weeks after the sale – events that still haunt me to this day some ten years later. The hassle started when the buyer phoned one evening to say he wasn’t really happy with the car. He stated there was “something wrong with the throttle pedal” – there wasn’t. He was invited to bring the car round for me to have a look at knowing well that he wouldn’t and guess what… he didn’t. Just a few days later another call to me came through claiming they had taken the car to a garage to be checked out for some other problem and they now wanted their money back.

The all important receipt of sale. Omit to writing or printing one of these and a problem punter will be all over you like a rash!
The all-important receipt of sale. Fail to write or print one of these and a problem punter
will be all over you like a rash!

This was a BIG mistake because, when I probed them further the garage mentioned just happened to be one I knew personally – in fact, the on first name terms with the owner and ‘pop in anytime for a coffee’ kind of personal. Taking a drive round there I was told no Peugeot 406 nor indeed similar-sounding customer had even ‘phoned them in the last few weeks. Rather than ‘phone the bloke back, I opted to simply ignore the situation in the hope they would just go away. I thought they had at first, but a couple of days, later the calls came flooding back with a changed tactic of now repeating the phrase ‘I hate the car’. After the sixth or seventh call to my mobile I stopped answering, but then the calls came through to our land line.

In the end, I just got bored with it all and had to give the chap a reality check. After hearing him mention yet another daydream problem with the Pug, I asked him to put his wife on the phone. At first he refused but with me adopting a curt yet calm demeanour he did so and Laverne Hooks came on the phone. “I know he’s listening but just answer yes or no, okay.” A little voice came back with an affirmative u-huh. I then asked a series of questions relating to her and the car and, with her one word replies, what emerged was that he had bought her the car without her input, there was nothing wrong with it, it was too big for her, too powerful for her and, if they told me it was problematic, then I might just give them their money back.

She stuck her husband back on the line and I offered to buy it back less £350 to cover the costs of re-advertising it, having to listen to the rubbish excuses and the fact it would now have another owner’s name on the log book. This went down like a ham bap at a Bar Mitzvah and he bluntly said he could get more money for the car by selling it himself. Then that’s what you need to do sunshine came my retort and, after getting him to speak out the words on the receipt he’d signed word for word, there was a pregnant pause. And that was the last time I heard from the couple – they bought the wrong car, thought they could hoodwink me into a refund by lying and learned the hard way.

A really good couple of top tips I can offer anyone when it comes to selling a car privately are simple ones. Always remember that you are no more obliged to sell someone your car than they are to buy it from you – if you think the punter is going to be trouble, just send them away. An equally important concerns issues with the car – if you know there is a genuine fault that’s either detrimental to the function or overall safety of the car, explain it or mend it beforehand as that saves a right load of hassle or embarrassment when it comes to concluding a deal, or even worse, after they’ve bought it. Most importantly, write or print out a receipt of purchase and make sure everyone reads that before committing.

Remember – for every dodgy dealer or private vendor, there’s always a problematic punter and that’s a fact.

Seasons Greetings to you all!

Mike Humble


    • Update: The words ‘time* and *waster* spring to mind. I wanted £300, but it needed money spent on it! I advised her to keep saving for a perfect car… I will keep driving at 16p per mile. Happy New Year!

  1. As I recall the Peugeot 406 was a popular minicab back in the day, before every single minicab became a Skoda..

  2. An entertaining read Mike. It’s a lot of years since I sold cars privately (due to having company cars and now trading in at dealers every three years). But I used to always type on the sales receipt “as seen, tried & approved by the buyer” with mileage details added etc. As you say, I also experienced potential buyers who never turned up etc. That annoyed and upset me!

    Have to say,though, I prefer dealing with car sales persons than other Tradesmen like Builders & Roofers… I just seem to be unlucky in that area of trade.

  3. Once had a 406 just like the one in the picture. A comfortable big smoker for a run from Belfast to Silverstone…

    Only got rid of it as the door rust was starting to become terminal, and obtaining doors in the same colour was difficult, and despite the lower engine mount being replaced it jumped about at low speeds like a kangaroo – to which the garage said was “normal”.

  4. I had one ‘buyer’ last January who bought an old school Ford off me, my gut told me not to sell it to him, but I proceeded anyway as I needed a quick sale… After an hour of him tyre kicking and coming up with imaginary faults he bought it, signed my receipt and buggered off back to the Midlands, or so I thought…

    Half way home he calls me, i’ve just put petrol in and some has spewed out and a dashlight bulb isn’t lit (one that lit up the rev counter I think) I put the phone down on him in the end.

    It was a 25 year old car, he’d inspected it and signed the receipt, barring a 5 year parts and labour warranty I don’t know what more I could have done 😀

    Great story Mike and a Merry Christmas everyone!

    • Similar story with my wife, coincidentally it was a Ford – a Fiesta in this case. Good condition, few minor niggles (does any private used car not?) one of which was that the 12v power socket had fallen into the centre console. No biggie and would be a trivial job to get it out, but for whatever reason we didn’t bother and had actually forgotten about it as there was a little cover on it (and as it wasn’t my daily driver it wasn’t even on my radar to fix it), the biggest job was replacing the passenger side kickplate interior trim which had broken a clip and fallen off, which we had done.

      Guy with a midlands England accent (same guy?…) arrives, views and buys it. We get an angry call the next day giving off about the 12v socket as he wanted his satnav plugged in as he had bought it to get the ferry and drive back to Birmingham.

      On the flip side, ever heard of the seller contacting the buyer?

      Acquaintance bought a nice big 407 in mint condition from a high ranking member in the forces who was getting shipped off on tour and didn’t need to have it parked up. He bought it and got it back, only to get a phone call from the seller – his pass for entering MoD property was still in the sun visor and he needed it ASAP!

  5. Could the 406 be the best looking car in its class, and one of the most comfortable and relaxing on a long journey? Also diesel versions could quite easily do 55 mpg on a long journey and were excellent motorway cars. I don’t think Peugeot or Citroen( except possibly the C6) have brought out such an attractive car since.

    • I particularly liked the 406 in facelift form, it almost paid homage to the big Peugeots of old, 505s and the likes.

      I didn’t take to the 607, the 407 at the time I didn’t like, though time has been kind to it, and the Ferrari style grille grants it entry into the “mainstream 4 door supercar” club alongside the SD1 and the new Mondeo.

      The 508 facelift is actually a bit of a looker too, I reckon, though nobody buys them – the fleets have wandered off towards Germany and families want Tonka trucks.

    • Lots of 508’s on the M1, a vast improvement on the”style over substance” 407. A lot less Pugs around Coventry since they flattened Ryton – which now hosts JLR SVO and a RAILPART warehouse, among others.

  6. Mike’s comment about dubious punters rings a bell. A former Rover colleague of mine left the company to take over a Rover dealership. After leaving him a few months to settle in. I went to interview him for the company’s dealer magazine, thinking that he would have an interesting perspective. He certainly did!
    His first impression was that running a dealership was much more complicated and harder than he had ever imagined.He pointed out the we in Rover tended to think that the bulk of the dealer’s workload was that associated with selling and servicing our cars. Not so, quoth he – there were hundreds of other interfaces that he had to deal with, from local planning authorities to fuel suppliers. But the one single biggest shock to him was how awful the great steaming British Public were. He couldn’t believe just how rude, inconsiderate and downright dishonest the people who came into his showroom were. The mythology is that dealers are the villains ripping off the poor consumer, but my friend begged to differ!

    • That reminds me of a fella I used to know who was trading in his old Cavalier Mk3 for a Rover 400 (’98)… He’d been having problems with it and one of them was the ignition switch not releasing the key, it finally refused to release just as he pulled into the dealership and he told the salesman that he’d ‘left the key in the ignition’ for them, how kind 😀

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