What follows below is a recap of an event that happened to me a month or so ago: I decided to sell my boat, had one guy offer to buy it, took a high offer, and then had to deal with guy number 1 being quite upset that there was a higher bidder. It’s kind of long, but if nothing else, scroll down to the italicized section to read the email he sent me. Enjoy!
With the transition from rowing to triathlon, I knew at some point it would serve me well to sell my single. I love that boat, but money talks, and fortunately for me, the value of Empachers has continued to rise over the year. A couple months ago, I finally decided that letting my boat depreciate + $400 a year in rack space was simply not smart. I didn’t see myself getting back into elite training, and if I ever wanted to row again, I’d probably be rowing in a masters group, or I’d be able to buy a single less suited for high performance racing and more suited for a casual stroll up and down the river.
I listed it on row2k for “$5500 OBO.” That was the amount I had paid for it 2 years ago, and I figured that 2 year of depreciation on it would cancel out the ~$1k worth of upgrades I had put into it over the years. Immediately after posting it, I was bombarded with inquiries, and a couple texts from friends as well saying I had posted it too low.
Within 24 hours (Friday) I had begun communicating back and forth, first by email, then by phone, with a man located about 6 hours away. We’ll call him Tim. We spoke on the phone a couple times, and he said he was happy with the description/pictures/etc, and asked if we could agree to him purchasing at 5500. I said that sounded fair, but I didn’t not want to accept any sort of down payment/deposit until I had checked it over one last time to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I had taken the photos a couple months back, and I’m glad I said this to him because I had actually glossed over some small dings and dents, and only discovered them when I looked more closely. I didn’t want to accept his money, only to find out I had misrepresented the boat, and upset him.
I continued to get inquires, and I answered questions but told all buyers I was in conversation with a potential buyer. A gentleman (we’ll call him Jon) that I actually know of, through my college coach, called on Saturday afternoon, and offered $6500 for it. He works in the rowing industry, and knew that this was very much the exact boat he wanted. I was pretty blown away by that. I did some background searches and found that he was a real person with an outstanding reputation, whereas I could not find anything online about Tim, except that there is a white pages name that matches his name and city. I called my college coach and asked him what he suggested I do. I obviously wanted more money, but I didn’t want to be unfair to Tim. I guess my Jesuit education was at war with my economics education.
After a lot of deliberating back and forth, I decided that as much as I want to be a good person, money is money and an extra $1000 for me is a big amount. I explained to Jon that I was going to give Tim the opportunity to match this offer, and if he did, I would sell it to Tim, in an attempt to not create a bidding war. He felt that was very fair.
I got on the phone with Tim Monday AM. I first told him about the blemish that I had missed, and he appreciated me telling him about it. I told him about the offer for $6500, and he got very upset with me. The phrases “verbal contract,” “agreement” etc etc were thrown around a lot. I was being greedy, and a bad person, and I cannot back out of an oral contract, which he explained that we had, and that was as binding as a signed contract.
I had expected him to be upset, but I thought I was being reasonable in giving him final offer to match, as well as knowledge that he was going to have the final chance to match the bid – no going back and forth. Later in the phone call, Tim told me that he is in a family of 4 lawyers and he would make it much more costly to me by getting summons sent for me and taking me to small claims, and me having to get a lawyer, etc etc. I told him this is not the type of person I want to deal with, and frankly this really pissed me off, and probably ultimately sealed the deal for him. He ultimately offered to split the difference at $6000. I told him I would think it over. A couple of thoughts were going through my mind: how did I know he’d pay that full amount, how did I know he wouldn’t try and attack me when he picked up the boat, or try and take me to court anyway, did he have anything to stand on…
We then got off the phone, with me telling him I’d think over his offer and get back to him later that afternoon. I talked to a couple of friends who are lawyers, all of whom overwhelmingly told me to tell Tim to go fuck himself. I certainly wasn’t trying to dick him over, and honestly, if he had just been upset, calmed down, and offered to split the distance, I may have accepted that. But I was pretty pissed that his first response was to threaten a lawsuit.
I was busy most of the rest of the day and didn’t have a chance to follow up with Tim, but I had made up my mind I would simply email him to say I was rejecting his offer (advised from lawyers to limit contact and be clean and concise that I was acknowledging his offer of $6k but rejecting his offer. Before I could, however, he sent me this email:
It is with deep disappoint that I write to you regarding the sale of the Empacher Single Scull Racing Shell. Your decision to cancel our “Oral Contract” is reprehensible, thus making your word untrustworthy and your reputation that of a scoundrel. To make matters worse, you decision to renege on our agreement was made for nothing more than greed!
For you information, an “Oral Contract” is a contract- the terms of which have been agreed by spoken communication. There may be written or other physical evidence, of an oral contract – for example where the parties write down what they have agreed – but the contract itself is not a written one. Oral contracts are just as valid as written ones where real property is being conveyed; a contract is evidenced in writing (though it may be oral). At the same time, under most circumstances, if the terms of an oral contract can be proved or are admitted by the other party, an oral contract is every bit as enforceable as one that is in writing.
Furthermore, I could make a phone call to one (of four) attorneys in my immediate family to request a “NOTICE OF LAWSUIT AND REQUEST FOR WAIVER OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS” – Form AO 398 (Attachment 7) and AO 399 (Attachment 8) to be sent to you. I could do this at little or no cost on my part.
Once you received the notice, your next step would be to obtain legal counsel to respond with a legal “ANSWER” to the “LETTER OF COMPLAINT AND SUMMONS.” Most Law Firms will require a Retention Fee to start the legal proceedings and respond with a formal “ANSWER.” Depending on the Law Firm the retention fee could range from $500-$2500. As a result your un-ethical decision could cost you much more that you gained by selling the boat for a higher price than agreed upon.
At your stage of life one makes many mistakes. I hope you learn from your mistake and later in your life you come to realize that you must think before you commit to something- or don’t commit at all. It takes a lifetime to build an admirable reputation, but only a short moment to ruin one.
May the extra thousand dollars serve you well, and may your conscious be cleared for what you have done…..
And that was the last I heard from Tim. I sold it to Jon, who was a pleasure to deal with, and it was nice knowing that my boat was going to someone with an expertise in boats, as well as someone who had once helped out my college program while I was rowing there. The boat was actually just delivered last week to Jon, and we’ve talked a couple times since and he is very excited about it.