Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Private sellers and the absence of logic

I've run into adamant, intractable private sellers on three different occasions in recent weeks, and I'm finding their mental attitude almost incomprehensible.  In each case the seller argued along the lines that he'd paid X for the article in question, and therefore he wanted to recover as much of that price as possible.  The fact that the same article could be bought, brand-new, for a significantly lower price was irrelevant as far as he was concerned.

One of the sellers posted in a repeat advertisement (the fourth for the same item, after he'd turned down at least three fair-market-price offers, including one from me):

No lowball offers.  Don't tell me what it's worth or what you can get one for.  I know what I paid and I won't give it away.

I just can't understand that attitude.  In each case I provided links to current retail prices for new versions of the same items, to illustrate that they were lower than what the seller was asking for a used one, and that I wasn't trying to low-ball the seller but wanted to buy it at a fair price.  In each case, the response was cold, almost contemptuous.  It seemed to be, "Don't confuse me with the facts - my mind is made up!"  In one particular incident, the seller tried to con me into a manifestly unfair trade (to his advantage, not mine), and wouldn't accept that fairness has to apply both ways.  He, too, is still trying to sell his item, and has re-listed it for what I think is the fifth or sixth time (despite assuring me he wasn't going to accept my final offer "because he had a better one from someone else", which clearly he didn't).

I'm seeing this crop up in more and more areas of the market right now, including housing and vehicles.  Actual market values are ignored as sellers demand unrealistic, unreasonably high prices.  Some of them are just plain greedy.  Others seem to be conflating the price they paid for something with an emotional investment in it. They're trying to recoup that emotional investment, rather than the item's actual present monetary worth.  I can understand someone who needs cash wanting to get the best possible price, but the market sets that price, not the individual.  If he demands too much, he'll get nothing at all.  (On the other hand, those asking fair and reasonable prices seem to be getting them.  If it's something I really want, I don't even haggle - I just buy the thing outright before someone else gets in ahead of me.)

How about you, readers?  Have you run into this sort of irrational attitude in your dealings with private sellers?  Do you find it's becoming more widespread?  Let us know in Comments.

(Shakes head in bewilderment, walks off to seek coffee . . . )



Anonymous said...

Just check the Allstate commercials. They bought a brand new car, drove it for a while, totaled it and they complain because the insurance company won't pay full price.
Now, same people you offer them a car that has 500/1000 miles for the price of a brand new/zero miles and they will scream in disgust and call the cops on you for fraud.
It works only when it is in their favor.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I run into it time to time. I'm a knife collector / accumulator and sometimes run into people like you describe above. I ask them ONCE to come down to price I think its worth to see their commitment to the given. If its a definite "No", I don't bother with trying to convince them any more - just move on, a more motiviated seller is just around the corner. That has been the case in many many buys I've done.

Kentucky Packrat said...

The unstated problem with car loans is that people are making 100% LTV loans on new cars. Without Gap Insurance or "one year newer" programs, people would get stuck with thousands of dollars on their car loan.

I never understood the irrational attachment to a previous price. If you love the item too much to sell at market value, then don't sell it.

OTOH, auctioneers hate me. I am irrationally attached to starting the bidding at $5, even if we all know that a lot will hit hundreds. At one bankruptcy auction, the auctioneer quit taking my bids because it was taking him too long to get to the finish price. That was OK by me, because I sure wasn't paying over retail for that old stuff.

The worst feeling I have had as either a buyer or a seller is making an offer, and having the other party enter warp speed accepting the offer. Even if I'm happy with my offer, you still have that "left money on the table" feeling....

Michael Ankenbrandt said...

I remember an 8 year old Apple II someone wanted over $2000 for just because that's what they paid for it when new. For all I know it's still sitting in his closet.

Aaron said...

Ah, the Tragedy of the Used.

People tend to think an item they own its worth more than its fair market value.

This is partly because they're both convinced as to how good it is - after all they own it, and because they have X invested in it and fear to sell it for X-Y in fear of looking like they overpaid for it themselves. Even worse they may come to realize it is not worth as much as they have convinced themselves that it is worth.

Anonymous said...

Is this becoming widespread? Absolutely.

Irrational behavior is no longer discouraged, mocked or scorned; we have accept that everyone has a right to believe (and charge) what they want.

It isn't just in sales transactions; several years ago I was hiring for warehouse positions. Too many times to count someone wanted more money than we were paying because 'that was what they were making in their last job'.

I think several factors, besides the ant-rights cultists constant attempts to limit our rights, are at play here. We have the 'everyone is a winner mentality' - leading everyone to think they should never lose; not a competition, not in getting a return on their investment.
We have the instant expert mentality going on also. Everyone can do a little research and find a gun selling for that much. Never mind that was an auction and was 2 years ago, etc.

Lastly I think people are really scared of the economy; so they are scrambling to keep as much of their wealth as they can.

The run up in prices during the recent years of paranoia/gun control scares really caused people to over inflate the value of firearms -- that is a huge contributory in my opinion.

Bob S.

Larry said...

I remember an 8 year old Apple II someone wanted over $2000 for just because that's what they paid for it when new. For all I know it's still sitting in his closet.

If you didn't take inflation into account, this might be rational over the long term. Even with inflation, if the silly thing still ran, it might be a stel nowadays. But that's very much the exception, and not really relevant to Peter's point, so I'll just slink away now...

Well Seasoned Fool said...

During three decades in the car business, I can't begin to total the number of times some customer stated, "I have $XXX INVESTED in my trade." Unspoken was, "I'm a fool, and I want you to be a bigger fool".

Rusty Gunner said...

Computers in general are like that on the used market. People just don't get how fast the hardware depreciates.

STxRynn said...

I've been buying some parts and pieces for my retirement job. I've found the same thing, rusted stuff for nearly new prices. I always make offers on what I think I need, and will mess around a bit for it. If there is no movement, I'll wait. Patience yields a deal, everytime. Haste makes waste.

My limit is 30% of new value. If it's lower that's great. Case in point: industrial drill press - new $2K, I got it for $150. Needs about $200 worth of work, so 18% of new price. Not bad at all.

Starik Igolkin said...

I occasionally buy used photo gear on craigslist (more often than on eBay or Amazon, because I want to try the equipment before parting with money), and run into this too. My way of dealing with this is very simple: I will make one attempt to offer a fair price and will show a couple of examples of same item selling at or below this price on eBay. If they decline, I leave and let the market take care of them, rather than waste more of my time.

The Raving Prophet said...

I'm also of the "make a fair offer, if rejected, don't bother with it again" school of thought.

I was looking at some used ham radios- while in decent condition, they were only being put up for sale for about a 7% discount... on a unit that goes for $500 after rebate (with free shipping), a $35 discount for something with no warranty for me nor any sort of certain knowledge it is in good shape isn't going to get me interested. I made an offer at a little lower price (a 10% discount), the seller rejected it.

He managed to get his price. I just bought a new one. Everybody's happy. If their price isn't realistic, let them sit on the thing. Trying to change their mind is pointless. Either they want to sell it or not. If they re-list something several times without a sale, they're just showing their own ignorance to the world.

Anonymous said...

I ran into to this just recently, while looking for a home - this property has been on the market for 269 days - I initially offered $120,000 for it. That was rejected, so when I went back for a second walk-around, with a plumber, I offered $100,000 {needed a LOT of plumbing/septic work} - THAT was rejected, I was told the seller wouldn't accept less than $125,000, if I didn't take it, they had a 'back-up'. That was over 6 weeks ago ..... bear in mind, please, I was offering to PAY CASH.
So, that was a no-go - no problem, I found my home - almost 3.5 acres, with a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house, 3 good sized sheds, completely fenced property, for $95,000 - and the first property is STILL for sale.
Life can be rough, it's even rougher when one is STUPID.
Semper Fi'

Mrs. S. said...

Has anyone considered that these folks may be hoarders and just can't manage to let go of anything, ever? I would not be surprised if the first one was only posting the item for sale because a spouse insisted on it.

Angus McThag said...

A member of the car club I was in used to own an r/c model shop.

He still rented the store space, but hadn't been open for years by the time I met him.

He was paying something like $165 a month for the space. And complaining about it.

The stock was seriously out of date and would only have value to someone with an ancient RC car who wanted to keep THAT car running.

Selling the parts slowly on ebay was "too much work".

Suggesting that he accept the stock was now worthless and get a dumpster to clear out the shop and stop paying $165 a month got a reply that the stock was WORTH $5000!

He never did accept that paying the rent for the next three years was the same as throwing the stock away and letting the landlord have the space back.

At six years I told him he'd spent ten grand so he wouldn't lose five...

tweell said...

A neighboring house hasn't been lived in for six years now, and had a hoarder/cat lady before then. It needs serious work to become habitable. I offered $120k, the owner wants $200k, which is what mine is worth. I pointed that out and that it needs $80k to fix it up, but he wouldn't budge, saying he had other offers. It's been almost a year since then, the house still sits there.

Sherm said...

Don't limit it to private sellers. There is some commercial space that was built about eight years ago. It has sat empty ever since with a For Rent sign prominently displayed. Apparently, filling the space for less money is not in the cards.

The guy who built it used to live around the corner from me (and built my house). When real estate collapsed a few years ago the bank foreclosed on much of what he had, his trophy wife left him, and he fled to run a bar in Mexico. I can't figure out what he (or the bank) is holding out for.

Joe in PNG said...

The old Sunk Cost fallacy. I used to deal with this back when I was the mechanic for a missions organization. People with a $800 beater car would constantly keep paying for expensive repairs to keep that beater barely humming along. And I would frequently tell them that if they needed to pay half value of the car for a repair, the vehicle is effectively totaled. Spending $700 on a $800 vehicle does not a $1500 vehicle make. It just means you don't have $700 anymore, and an $800 vehicle that may have another expensive thing go wrong with it.
Some folks would listen, others would cling to their clunkers, paying large amounts of money on a regular basis to keep a crappy car on the road.

TGreen said...


If you can buy new for less (including the inconvenience of
going to that store) rather the fellow in front of you, buy from
that store and be done with it.

If he wants a premium price if you want to save the trip, you're
just haggling over the price of convenience. If that premium is
too high ::shrugs:: the free market will offer the fellow a clue as
you drive to the store and be done with it.

Bazaar rules, no? :)

Will said...

The only time that attitude makes sense is if the new version of the item is of lower quality. But, that needs to be made plain by the seller.

BTW, this is quite often the case, nowadays. Most every manufacturer is in a rush to the bottom of quality. This is happening due to the rate of inflation, for the most part. The easiest way to lower the price of almost any product is to quit paying for quality controls. It's also one of the quickest ways to put your company out of business.

I've stopped buying a number of products over the last few years due to the obvious loss of quality. When the brand name product is indistinguishable from the store brand, or even worse, they can kiss their sales goodby, if people are paying attention. Historically, attempts to recover from that sort of stupidity are rarely fully successful.

Will said...

I've seen this situation before.

Part of the problem you are seeing is that most people don't do much in the way of selling of used items. Without sufficient experience, they don't have the logic patterns to understand the dynamics of the situation. The last time I saw this sort of atmosphere was in the early 80's. Prices would be all over the place for used items. Swap meets/flea markets were crazy. You could find the exact same item on different isles for radical differences in price. Garage sales were just as wild.

Anonymous said...

Another side of this is offering something at a fair price, getting a lower offer, accepting it, and then the would-be buyer never follows through. Why does a "buyer" waste my time and theirs making an offer they had no intention of honoring?

riverrider said...

its terrible with guns and harleys. folks pay too much, then add chrome or scopes or custom stuff that has no intrinsic value to another and they want what they paid plus custom stuff, plus anything else they can think up. give me a break.i tell them i can't help that they got screwed, sorry.

Dad29 said...

Want to see that 3 times/day, Peter?

Get into the car business, like the commenter above. It's actually funny after a while.

Chris said...

Anyone can see the same attitude on every episode of "Pawn Stars". And the disgruntled seller will disrespect the experts brought in by the shop because the seller saw a higher (asking) price on the Internet.