Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Pan Player+. This entry in the "Aunt Sophie" series covers pan (or panguingue), which is a multi-player form of rummy, often played for money.
Aunt Sophie sells a car, and buys another
“I found a buyer for Max’s car,” announced Aunt Sophie, joining me in the health food bar of the Anaheim Club. I signaled the waitress, and pointed at my empty glass, and indicated the same for my aunt.
“Not the Eldorado!” I gasped. “It’s been on blocks for fifteen years. You know how proud Uncle Max was of it. There were only a few four-door Cadillac Eldorados made in 1957, and his is one of the best-restored. I used to love to just sit in a corner of the garage and watch him work on it for hours.”
The waitress arrived with another glass and a pitcher of carrot juice, refilling my glass and pouring a fresh one for Aunt Sophie.
“Yah, I know,” she rasped. “It’s been cluttering up my garage for long enough now, and it’s time I got something out of it. And I’ve had a nice offer on it.”
“Hmm,” I mused, “how did you get this great offer?”
“Well, Dollink,” she responded, “I hate to be taking advantage of you and my friends all the time and always bumming rides, and sometimes there isn’t anyone to even give me a ride, so a taxi I gotta take, and they ain’t cheap. So I’m now in the mocket for a car, and I went to Cheerful Charlie’s Car Corral, and such respect I get, Charlie himself helped me pick out just the car for me, and when I told him about Max’s car, he made an offer on it right then and there without ever even seeing the car.”
I knew this Cheerful Charlie. One of the biggest live ones in the high-stakes poker games. He used to lose a bundle regularly in the $100/$200 limit lowball. Now that the new games came along, he cheerfully lost even more at razz, seven-stud, and his current favorite, no-limit five-card stud. Live at poker, he was just the opposite on the car lot. He had long been the best salesman at the Hispano Suiza/Lagonda lot, regularly making over a million a year in commissions. His name was on the plaque every month as salesman of the month. He had won the trip to Hawaii so many times, that the other salesman practically gave up trying for it until the owner of the lot increased the incentive to three trips a month. Charlie had earned so much that he bought his own lot, and was now bringing in ten times as much. He loved taking advantage of naive buyers so much that he just couldn’t keep away from the selling end of the business, and regularly outsold most of his employees, even without any more sales incentives. I often wondered if deep inside he didn’t feel sorry for the suckers he took advantage of, and that to assuage some of the guilt, he had to be a sucker at the card tables. Whatever the reason, he regularly lost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and single-handedly practically supported several rounders.
“Nick the Greek, you have a call on line 37,” announced the loudspeaker.
“How much was his munificent offer?” I asked suspiciously.
“Well, Tsatskeleh,” she responded defensively, “I know he paid less than $200 for that car originally…”
“Of course he paid under $200,” I interrupted. “He bought it from a farmer, who had left it sitting out in a field for several years. It was not in very good shape, but it had all its parts. Uncle Max painstakingly restored that car. He loved it. So did I. I was always fascinated how the Eldorado each year had the appearance of what the regular Cadillac would look like the following year. That car was the first with regulation-size double headlights. It wasn’t until the ’58 models that the other manufacturers had headlights like that. And a four-door Eldorado; you don’t see many of those. That was really a priceless car. Anyway, how much did he offer you?”
“Look,” she continued, just as defensively, “I got tired of that old thing sitting around taking up space in the garage. And anyway, it was just another reminder of a lost past I can’t recapture. I got enough sad memories without that old hulk sitting there completely undrivable.”
“‘Undrivable’?” I echoed. “No, not at all undrivable. It needs tires, true, but he took those off so the rubber wouldn’t rot. He also drained all the fluids, but with water and oil put back in, and the tires put on, which, by the way, are packed in airtight containers in the storage at the back of the garage, the car could be driven in any Concours d’Elegance.”
“Well,” she retorted, “I couldn’t drive it. What use was it to me?”
“If it was no use to you,” I answered, “you could always sell it to someone who would appreciate it.”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, you exasperating boy!” she exploded. “I’m selling it to Cheerful Charlie.”
“For how much?” I icily inquired.
“A great offer he’s made me,” she returned. “Five hundred dollars. Of course, I have to pay to get it towed to his lot.”
“Five hundred dollars?” I shouted. And then a bit more calmly, “And what kind of car are you buying from him?”
“A Yugo,” she replied. “And such a deal. Only $8000. And I can use the $500 for the Eldorado as down payment.”
“Yeah, I don’t doubt it,” I sighed. “Aunt Sophie, you are shamelessly, mercilessly being taken advantage of. I can’t believe the chutzpah of that guy. No, on second thought, I can. And I can see how he makes over a million a year in commissions. He’s got you on both fronts. It’s a typical car dealer’s trick, just I’ve never heard of it being done to this large an extent on the trade-in. Aunt Sophie…”
“I know my name!” she snapped.
“Yes, my dear,” I supplied, “you do. Aunt Sophie, my dear Aunt Sophie, let me gently inform you that that Eldorado is worth a minimum of $10,000. Undoubtedly you told Charlie what good shape it was in, and he should know that any antique dealer would be willing to offer that much sight unseen. If you sold it to the proper party, you would more likely get twice that. And $8000 for a Yugo? They don’t have limited editions! What are you getting for that price?”
“M-max Bedpan, you have a call on line 4545,” announced the loudspeaker.
“He showed me the list of options,” she furnished. “They would bring the price up to nearly $10,000, but he’s giving me a special deal since he knows we play at the same club. Pinstriping, underseal, factory air, custom fenders, and I don’t remember what all else. I’m saving $2000 right there. And he’s arranged special low monthly payments, too.”
“Mm hmm,” I murmured, “paying over five years, I suppose.”
“Yes, of course,” she agreed, “to bring down the payments.”
“And I suppose he mentioned something about the `Rule of 78s’?” I queried.
“Why yes,” she assented. “I do seem to recall seeing something about that in the agreement.”
“Well,” I said, “at least you read the agreement. You probably also noticed that there was no explanation of what the Rule of 78s is. It’s another ripoff to aid lenders. What it boils down to is that for about the first two years most of your payments go towards interest. So, over the life of the loan you end up paying more than a comparable loan at the exact same interest rate figured the usual way. I hope you didn’t sign anything.”
“Oh no,” she stated, “I said I wouldn’t sign anything till I talked to my financial adviser. I didn’t tell him that was you, because I didn’t think he’d approve of someone who takes money from him in those high-rolling card games being my financial adviser. I just left a small good-faith deposit.”
“`Good-faith deposit’!” I groaned. “How much?”
“Five hundred dollars,” she whispered, “and it’s completely refundable. He wanted to make that my down payment, but finally agreed I could use the money from the Eldorado for that, and he’d give me back my check when I returned.”
“That’s just a trick to guarantee you’ll come back,” I explained. “And if you do go back, you’re not going by yourself. I’m going with you. Only I don’t think you should bother going back. Just put a stop payment on the check. That’ll cost you $5, which is cheaper than the gas to get there and back, plus the value of the time we’d both be wasting. You want to buy a car, I’ll help you. You want to take $500 for the Eldorado, I’ll give it to you. Except I’d never take advantage of you like that. I’ll help you get what the car’s worth. And I guarantee you I can get at least $15,000. I know a couple of antique dealers. Or better, I could have a little fun. Take it to the next Concours d’Elegance. I’d have a grand old time showing off the car, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I got ten offers to buy it right on the spot. Most exhibitors don’t sell their prizes at such shows, but they all get plenty of offers. But I’d sell it if you wanted. Then you could afford to buy a real car, not a hunk of tin that one consumers’ group rated as the most expensive to repair in 1986. After a five-mile-per hour rear-ender, repairs that cost as little as $15 on some cars cost over $200 on the Yugo. And $8000 for a car that shouldn’t cost over $6000? Crazy. You should get a nice Mercedes 190 or a BMW 318i. A nice, safe, comfortable car, that’s what you need. Or a Sterling, if you want. Made in England with a Honda engine. They’re as good as the Acura, only not as expensive, because they haven’t become trendy yet. And get your financing through a bank, with no prepayment penalties, and for no more than four years. Or, if you want, I’ll get the loan for you from my credit union.”
“How can you belong to a credit union,” she questioned, “when you don’t hold a regular job?”
“Because,” I came back with, “I had a real job once. Worst day of my life, as the old joke goes. No, I’m only kidding. I loved it. And when I left, I continued on with the credit union. Once you’re in, you’re in for life if you don’t quit. And it’s come in handy for all sorts of things, such as helping you save enough money to play pan for a long, long time.”
“Where did you learn all this stuff?” she wanted to know. “About buying and selling cars, and car loans, and all that.”
“From a wonderful book called Don’t Get Taken Every Time, by Remar Sutton,” I concluded. “It’s published by Penguin Books. Ought to be required reading for everyone buying a car. Except most people are not willing to do even the least little bit of work when it comes to doing something like buying a car. They’re willing to rely on the advice of what is generally the least trustworthy source of all, namely the person from whom they’re buying. And a lot of the principles in the book could easily be adapted to winning at poker, and even at pan.”