A boon, or too good to be true

Several years ago printed media worldwide reported a story about how a German woman sold a very expensive second-hand Mercedes for the equivalent of about R500. She put an ad in a newspaper classified section (the story took place in the pre-Internet era).  And for days did not get a single reply. Everybody who saw the ad thought it was a waste of time to respond, assuming the price was a typing error. Since the ad continued to appear day after day with the same ridiculous price, a prospective buyer did contact the woman finally. He fully expected to go away empty-handed, but instead got the surprise of his life: a luxurious Mercedes for R500.

When the local newspaper decided to investigate, it transpired that the woman was of sane mind and really did want to sell the car for a pittance. Why? Because the car was a part of her recently deceased husband’s estate. While the late husband left the bulk of his effects to his wife and children, the sentimental soul decided to remember the mistress too. He named her in his will as the recipient of his beloved Mercedes – or the money realised by the sale of the Mercedes.

The wife who survived him was quick to recognise the possibilities of the wording of the will and act upon them. The mistress did receive the amount realised by the sale of the car: the whole of R500.

Now let’s fast-forward to present time and an ad that appeared in the bidorbuy classified section. The seller listed a 2005 Ford Ka, with the mileage of just under 26,000 kilometres, at R15,000. In six days it spent on the site, the ad got 34 responses, after which the seller was blacklisted (alas, he was unreachable at the contact details supplied).

Was the ad just a hoax, or did it have a more sinister objective? Since so far no one came forward to complain, hopefully no harm was done – except to our dreams of getting something for next to nothing (the prices of similar Ford Kas in the bidorbuy classified section range between R59,900 and R75,300).

But still… if that guy had a windfall in Germany all those years ago, isn’t it about time the stars aligned to grant a similar boon to you or me right here in South Africa?!

Joking aside, you know how buyers are always cautioned to look twice at listings that seem to be too good to be true, because they always are (all right, with that German exception in mind, we have to say – almost always).

The fact that this holiday season did not generate a spike in frauds on the site was really heart-gladdening. Good, we thought, the users are becoming savvier!

And then we got a call from a buyer asking bidorbuy to un-blacklist a seller. You know the sort: not verified and lists expensive gadgets at about fifth of the price the day after registering on bidorbuy. The buyer’s reasoning went like this: “I talked to him, he seems nice, I would like to conclude the transaction with him safely on the site”.

Huh?!

It goes without saying that we could not comply with this buyer’s wish.