Revised Fable: The Used Car Salesman

I noticed all kinds of verb tense, grammar and punctuation errors from the previous posting of this story.  I cleaned it up tonight after my weekly game of D&D.  Here is a revised version of my fable The Used Car Salesman.




Consider a car that won’t pass inspection. Vacuum it out, spray some new car smell. Put a coat of paint on it. Add a racing stripe. Reset the Check Engine light. Pre-tune the radio to something with a lot of bass and crank the volume to add to the excitement. The dash board looks pretty with the vinyl polished up. The door handles work. The wheels roll on the axles.

Now sell it.

It won’t just get you here to there but it will get you there in style. It’s sexy. It’s fun! That grinding in the wheel bearing is a feature. It has character and so will you! It’s been around and you can now be around as well! Picture yourself, burning up the highway in this hot, sexy car, the wind in your hair, the stereo blaring. That blast of oily smoke from the exhaust is to let the world know that you’re there! In this car, you are a person to be reckoned with.

And it sells. Time and time again, people buy similar cars, because the sale is so good. That first day driving it, the second day, or maybe the first couple of weeks are fabulous. They feel stylish. They feel sexy. That grinding wheel bearing really is character! That blast of oily smoke from the exhaust let’s the world know that they’re there! In this car, they are a person to be reckoned with.

Then the check engine light comes on, and its too expensive to fix. So they buy another one.

Used car salesmen are ready to sell them another one, because it’s all they have to sell. And people are buying because they’re not buying the car, but the sales pitch itself It becomes the norm…

A man named Fred was curious about selling cars, and had a few decent cars to sell. They cars were not perfect. But he changed the oil every 5,000 miles, and fixed those things he could fix. He even upgraded the fuel systems to make them more efficient, and installed good struts to absorb the shock of traveling, and the wheels were always aligned. The cars had manufacturer defects, and occasionally he neglected to check the tire pressure, because he was not perfect. The basic paint was sufficient, and he saw no need to upgrade the less important features. On the whole, he took good care of the cars, so by any objective measurement they were worth buying. He was acutely aware that the cars had some problems, and he was honest about their flaws, so who would want to buy them?

Nonetheless, with great difficulty, Fred sold a few cars. He thought he was happy to sell his good quality used cars. Then he fell prey to a few scams. Then someone wrote a bad check. They kept bringing the cars in on the pretense of warranty service when the warranty didn’t apply. The finance company downgraded his business’ credit rating. All who bought his cars drove them into the ground. They didn’t change the oil, or failed to shift before red-lining, or aligned the wheels, or repair the struts. They picked the manufacturer’s defects he tried to correct, posted about in all the newspapers, and made it a miserable task for him to sell cars. Each of his customers tried to ruin him, and he despaired of selling cars. Not all customers, said his friends, would try to harm him. But in his experience, they did.

Fred got out of the used car business for a while. He ran a plant nursery and bred dogs. These things brought him joy. He could have bred plants and dogs for the rest of his life, but a small part of him missed selling cars.

Then in time Fred made the acquaintance of some used car salesmen. They met at a gentleman’s club every Tuesday to drink Martinis and boast of their sales. He saw the joy they got from selling their cars, and others in buying them. And he talked about how difficult it was for him to sell his cars.

So the used car salesmen checked out Fred’s cars, and they were amazed he wasn’t selling them. They were good, reliable cars. He just needed to make a good sales pitch. After many months of frustration, he realized that its often the case that folks with the least to sell were the best at selling. He was accused by a few of feeling entitled to other people’s money, but he wasn’t. On occasion he figured it would make sense, if he sold quality cars, to be doing better than folks who do not. But life wasn’t fair, and the reality was that people bought the sales pitch and not the cars themselves.

Fred eventually learned the sales pitch. No longer did he give a fair and polite introduction to the cars he had for sale. He learned to speak lies and believe them: It won’t just get you here to there but it will get you there in style. It’s sexy. It’s fun! That grinding in the wheel bearing is a feature. It has character! It’s been around and you can now be around as well! That blast of oily smoke from the exhaust is to let the world know that you’re there! In this car, you are a person to be reckoned with.

Fred sold the good cars. He was sad to find that his customers continued to write bad checks, and drove the cars into the ground, and trashed his reputation with the car finance company, and brought the car back on bogus warranty claims.

In despair, he took the remaining profits from those cars and invested in junk cars that do not pass inspection. He put a coat of paint on them, and sprayed some new car smell, and vacuumed the interior, and reset the Check Engine Light. He stopped maintaining them: no more struts for the bumpy road, to hell with the alignment that keeps the tires from wearing, and it mattered not if the fuel system was efficient. And he sold them.

Since Fred had not sold anything of value, nobody felt the need to sue him or run him down on warranty claims (for there was no warranty). Since what he sold required no credit, his credit was not downgraded. He could just sell more junk cars. Customers would sometimes gripe about his cars, go to another used car salesman, and then come back when he made a sweet sales pitch.

In fact, as long as Fred got a little cash from the sale, he didn’t care much about anything at all. It didn’t matter if he sold cars, or who got hurt driving the bad ones. He got a buzz from the sale. He didn’t really feel that good, and he didn’t really feel bad. Nothing got him up much, but nothing got him down either. In time, to amuse himself, he figured he could sell turd sandwiches, and occasionally he did. His friends he met on Tuesdays snickered when he told them this, because they were selling turd sandwiches with their cars for years.

Fred realized all the hard work and maintenance he put into his used cars in the past was a waste of time, and settled into a life of clever sales pitches. He sold the sale, and not the cars, for there was nothing about the cars worth selling.

One day he sold a junk car and a turd sandwich to someone who had been screwed over one too many times, and that person caved in his skull with the rusty tire iron from the trunk of the car. The other salesmen discussed this over Martinis on Tuesdays, and thought not much of it. Each of them had known fellow used car salesmen who were killed in the same way and for same reason. As nothing really got them up or down, it was just passing news, and they went on discussing the sales they made the previous week.

The End