Friday, October 24, 2008

flashback to selling our van

Well, since it would be very difficult to live without a vehicle in Philly (which we knew firsthand because of our blunders with Nellie Belle, pictured here, left), we decided to hold on to our vehicle until we had chosen a departure date. Yet waiting until the last possible moment to get rid of the van was not easy either. More on that in a minute. But first, you need some perspective to understand our minivan. You see, driving a classic car like Nellie Belle sort of ruined us for normal cars. There were so many people that grew up in these VW buses that it always brought a smile to their lips as we passed them, put-put-putting along. Nellie Belle was not very reliable, never worked quite right, and was exceedingly expensive, but we loved the adventure she brought into our lives. So when we decided to sell her, we couldn't picture ourselves in anything besides some amazing, earth-friendly hybrid-electric vechicle that could seat our carpooling crew...but they weren't available in the States yet. So we settled for an (ugly!) white gas-guzzling, but American-made, mini-van. We couldn't bear to look at it the way it was, so we made some improvements, as all of you Mt Airy-inhabitants already know. The one thing about us Dhondts--you always know if we're around because our vehicle is quite distinguishable:

Now I have to admit I was embarrassed to drive this thing sometimes, but our stickers did serve their purpose well--it was an ice breaker on the streets of Philadelphia and we met many a kindred spirit. It also helped me open the topic of politics with some of my Agile Philly colleagues--it's always fun to find a few more liberals out there.
On the other hand, the stickers, um, affected the resale value of the van. We knew that if we posted the van on craigslist that we'd find out within 2 days whether it was possible to sell it with the stickers on, and figured that if we got no nibbles, we'd peel the stickers off. But why bother attempting to peel them off if some like-minded zealot was hungry to have a modern-day hippy-mobile of their own? One of the for sale signs we tried was "Vans really can be cool!" Well, no nibbles. We dropped the price. Again. Yet again. We were also in the midst of trying to get our kitty a plane ride, move out of Grammie and Grandpa's house, and pack our bags for the planes. Back to the van.
Saturday morning (our flight was scheduled for 6:30pm) instead of having one last run in Mt Airy I went outside and started scraping off stickers. I started to get really good at it. I even had enough time to categorize them--there's the stretchy plasticene kind, the flaky metals, and the forever-acrylics. I like the forever-acrylics best because once I got a straight edge under it, I could get the whole thing off in one peel. Oh, just one problem. We didn't have any straight edges, and the local convenience store didn't either. Or maybe more than one problem. Only about 20% of the stickers were the easy kind. Rebecca came out to help. Someone called about the van--our first prospective customer--and asked whether we thought it would be hard to remove the stickers. I could honestly say no--it's not going to be, because almost all of them are gone already. We picked a time for them to come see the van, and then Greg and 6 munchkins came out to help with the bumper sticker project. Thank you, Greg! He was naturally gifted at removing those accursed flaky metals.
We left the blue "racing stripe" on the van to reduce the amount of work we'd have to do--and everyone was washing and buffing off traces of adhesive when our [only] client came to see the van. We gave them a test drive and they responded with their best and final offer. I tried to bargain with them. And then I said no--they were offering only HALF the kelley blue book value -- $5,600. I thought I'd get more money by selling it to a used car dealer, and I told them so; if not, I told them I'd call them back.
We decided to drop our bags, Rebecca and the kids at the airport, and then go sell the van to someone at the Airport Auto Mall. Seemed like a good plan--but 2 hours and 8 car dealerships later, I realized that what I thought were minor scratches and dents were major problems to retail sellers. Almost none of them would even consider selling this van--regardless of price. It didn't help that the economy was really bad for used vehicles at the time--there were so many dealerships offering 0.0% financing on new cars, why should anyone have to settle with used? Yet, our single interested bidder was willing to live with the scratches and remaining stickers. Even though we were sad to lose so much money on this vehicle, the new owner was a single mom with three kids who really needed a reliable van. She said it was the nicest car she ever owned. They drove out to meet me at the airport auto mall, handed me a wad of cash, we setted affairs with the tag and title shop, and they dropped me off at the airport around 4pm.
I caught up with the family and off we went to customs. Everything went smoothly, so I started to look for a MAC machine to get rid of this cash. Well, guess what? None of the MAC machines at the airport accept deposits.
So, What should I do with this wad of cash? I don't want to get mugged with this kind of money in my pocket! I also didn't think I'd be able to deposit US currency once I got to France. I thought I could use a money changing vendor, but the last couple times we worked with them they gave us horrible exchange rates, stealing upwards of 30% of our money. So ultimately I found a check cashing place that would also give me money orders. The woman was a bit surprised to see so much cash, and had to file all kinds of money laundering paperwork, but she eventually (oh, only 5 minutes before our airplane gate closed) handed over my money orders. I really wanted to drop that in the mail before getting on the plane, but oh well, we were out of time.
That's not the end of the story although it should be. Eventually we get around to endorsing all these money orders, and put them in the mail around the 3rd of October. We wait for them to post to my bank account. And wait. And wait. I learned earlier this summer that some transactions take 10 business days, so I figured I needed to wait some more. Today I contacted the bank to find out that they do not accept money orders! They returned the money orders--to where? My Philadelphia address. What a blunder!!!!

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