by Victor Wanchena
Everybody loves a deal. That almost universal maxim is the reason we scan classified ads like birds of prey ready to swoop in and snatch up a deal. I admit that I routinely scan classifieds ads looking for deals. Sometimes I’m actually looking for something I really need. More often than not I’m simply on the hunt. The popularity of the Trader line of periodicals is proof of our ravenous desire to scan the classifieds.
After you’ve read enough classifieds you start to see a couple of patterns emerge. There are well-written ads and poorly written ads. Of course the well-written ad accurately describes the item for sale, but I love the poorly written ads, which provide much unintended comedy. Scan through any classified section and you’ll find examples of these.
Spelling is always the great divider. There are those who paid attention in grade school and those that shot spitballs at the teacher. Bad spelling in the ad means we know what you did during class. Words like helmet, fairing, or dual become helmut, farring, and duel. The number of “duel sport” bikes I see for sale is disturbing and always conjures up images of a pair of matching bikes and swords ready for challenging anyone who questions your honor.
I love the phrase “or best offer”, sometimes shortened to “obo”. What does that really mean? Are they holding an auction? Are they taking bids? Or if I make an offer, will they wait months for a better one? To me it says one thing; please offer me less money than I’m asking. The obo ads have so affected classifieds that some ads now read “firm” on the price. Obviously tired of getting low balled on the price, the firm ad says they’re nervous about a little haggling.
Another fun thing is when the picture with the ad tells a different story. Like the dirt bike that says “never raced”, but its number plate reads 867x. So you’re telling me you just picked that number out of the blue? Or how about the ad that reads “great condition”, but the picture shows a bike leaned against a garage with weeds growing up through it. Similar to that is the ad with contradicting terms. The most common, and my favorite, is the “runs great, but needs some motor work”. Or “great condition” followed by a laundry list of repairs the bike needs.
Then there are the long ads. These are the many lines long descriptions of every nut and bolt on the bike. These Hemingway hopefuls give an account of every time the bike was washed and waxed. They are convinced potential buyers will only call if they cram every detail they can into the ad. Unfortunately most of us skip all the fluff and just look for the model, year, and price.
The opposite of the Hemingway ad are the ones that don’t even know what they have. Almost always these read vague and often include the phrase, “ran when I parked it”. The dead giveaway is the model not matching the maker, i.e. 1964 Harley Goldwing or 1983 Kawasaki Fatboy Custom Special.
My absolute favorite ad though, has to be the angry one. The seller is always bitter about the selling process and that is reflected in the ad. They usually list a bunch of things they won’t do. No trades, no tire kickers, no circus clowns, no joy rides, etc. They hate everyone; include the guy buying their bike. Good luck, and happy ad hunting.