I’ve been dealing with vintage Mac hardware since 1997, more or less. That means dealing with a lot of different people. With the exception of a few acquaintances I met in person and sometimes more than once, in most cases I’ve dealt with people living quite far away and therefore only via electronic communication. In almost 15 years I can say I’ve collected some peculiar anecdotes. And there’s something I need to get out of my system right away: I don’t know if it has been just a matter of bad luck, but my statistical sample of vintage Mac hardware sellers is largely composed of the most unpredictable, unfathomable array of imbeciles I’ve ever met.
Here are some of the most egregious cases: you’ll be the judge of their behaviour, and who knows, maybe you can even explain it to me.
1. Recycled before sale
One of my first forays into the used Apple hardware market was rather disastrous. My favourite Apple II system is the //c — and I never got the chance to own one. My first attempt at acquiring it was in the late 1990s, answering an ad in the Classified section of a computer magazine. The seller described the item as a complete Apple //c system, with 9-inch monitor and assorted diskettes and was selling it at a rather low price, roughly equivalent to today’s 70-80 Euros. The only way to contact him was via phone, so I called. I didn’t expect much: an ad in a well-known computer magazine probably catches the attention of hundreds of readers. But when I enquired about the Apple //c, the seller told me it was still available, that I was only the second person calling about it.
“Do you have any problems with the price?”, he asked me (a young voice, probably a guy around 20).
“No, that’s fine”, I replied.
“Are you from around here?”
“Not really, you’ll have to mail me the package. I hope it’s not an issue.”
“No, of course. You’ll have to add the shipping costs to the price I wrote in the ad, you understand.”
“Yes, I imagined.”
“And it’s okay with you?”
“Good! But I’m afraid I can’t send it to you until early next week.”
“I’m in no hurry. Here’s my number. When you’ve prepared the package, just give me a call and your banking information. I’ll wire you the money and when you have confirmation from your bank, you can send me the package.”
“Good. Let’s do this, then.”
This is roughly what happened on the phone upon first contact. Nothing really strange: the guy sounded a bit antsy but I got the feeling he’d never dealt with a sale before, so I attributed his way of handling the conversation to inexperience, mostly. During that weekend I heard from a long-time friend who happened to live close to the seller. I told him about the Apple //c and he suggested I went to visit him by train, stop by the seller to pick up the hardware on the way, spend the day with him (my friend) and then he would give me a ride home in his car, so that I didn’t have to carry the package around myself. That seemed a good plan and a happy coincidence, so I called the seller to explain the change of plan. After a couple of attempts, I finally could talk with him. He kept sounding a bit nervous and for a moment I thought that perhaps my change of plan had sounded suspicious to him in some way, or maybe he didn’t want to have strangers showing up at his (or his parents’) house. Therefore I tried to be as open and friendly as possible, telling him that it was a good thing for both, because I wouldn’t have to pay for shipping, and he would avoid the hassle of carefully packaging the hardware and going to the post office; plus, I would pay him directly, cash at hand, so no unnecessary waits for both of us. In the end he agreed it was a good idea and gave me his home address. We then established a time for the pickup.
I was already on the train when the seller called me, telling me he was very sorry but the Apple //c system was not available anymore. I was surprised and angry, and what was making me even angrier was his being vague about the reasons of that sudden unavailability. I raised my voice and told him that I was already on the train and it was going to be a two-hour trip for nothing, so I demanded an explanation. He finally caved in and sheepishly said: “Well… the fact is that I can’t find it anymore”.
“What? What does it mean you can’t find it anymore? It’s not a small thing one loses.”
“It was in a box in the garage. Maybe my dad threw it away when he went to the recycler yesterday.”
“You agreed to sell that system with someone, and you didn’t even bother to separate it from other stuff or put a ‘Don’t touch’ sign on the box!?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. I have to go now.”
“Yeah, you go now, you miserable idiot!”
Every time I find an ad with an Apple //c system for sale, I can’t help recalling this episode.
(To be continued)