Jon Burgess reckons the internet is making the car market far more difficult than it used to be – because it’s giving the lazy ‘enthusiast’ an unreasonable sense of entitlement

There is a well-known internet auction site that has caused me more vexation over time than barrel rolling an MG Midget into a piece of North Yorkshire. The latter hurt, but if it was a choice of pinging my skull off the cant rail of an A35 drophead or dealing with yet another cretin who failed advert comprehension because they couldn’t be bothered, bring on the sirens and road closures. I got to ride in an ambulance ‘on shout’.

People have become so used to ordering at the click of a button – and having their items dispatched to their door by unseen toiling minions, that they think delivery ain’t no thing, so long as they’re not getting their hands dirty. Deny them this and you, the seller, are at fault, even if you’re a private individual without staff and tenure to get things done.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who fail to understand that packaging items takes time, money, and effort – and that couriers are brutally stressed. The work performance of your man-in-a-van (yes, gender neutral pronouns are available, click below for Paypal) gets measured on the number of items delivered. So as the quota is met, it doesn’t matter whether it gets drop kicked across a dispatch centre, dumped in a bin which then gets collected by the dust cart or left in a garden to sink into the soil. It arrived at the destination, end of. Someone signed for it.

Whether it actually arrived in one piece is moot; another layer of team bureaucracy deals with that, and that’s for another time. No-one has the time to do a good job any more – taking care is uncompetitive financially. Perhaps that’s where the root of this entitlement culture comes from: they haven’t got time to fully enjoy their hobby, so they need it as quickly as possible to best extract what use value they can twixt getting in late for work, ere failing to meet their financial obligations.

While I empathise with the context, all sense of fairness has gone out of the window. The global village may be global, but manners are still priceless (and all too rare, like using the term ‘global village’ to describe the internet). Clichés abound: in our race to the bottom Black Monday special offer final value fee active on three members’ forums empowered consumer marketplace, people forget that they’re dealing with individuals, not a company with a grievance team or a complaints procedure.

The internet has given a voice to folk you could quite happily and (quite rightly) ignore when they start taking the mickey. This goes for social media, forums and an online gavel bashing service that started out selling a broken laser pen.

If you want [said item] for as little as you can get it for, you have to make sacrifices. People are busy, and distrustful of couriers. You might have to [shock horror] collect it yourself! Where said item happens to be is of no consequence to me, and it baffles me that others struggle with the concept.

If it’s a scarce part that you can’t get from anywhere else, you go to where it is. Paying for the convenience is off the table. Buy a brand new car on PCP if you want ease of parts and servicing; I’m not a charity, I don’t offer instalments and all sales are final.

Provided you’re not desperate for the cash, there’s always someone waiting in the wings. The most reasonable buyers shout the least (they speak in a normal voice).

A friend of mine lost patience with a buyer up North when they refused to collect a one-off stainless steel exhaust in person and didn’t want to fork out for a courier (at their own risk, for obvious reasons). It could be dropped off by a colleague at an unspecified time, said friend explained, if the buyer was prepared to wait. His colleague had family nearby, and was happy to drop the pipes off – but wasn’t going to make a special trip.

Having waited two months, the buyer started to get impatient. He wanted the exhaust, he wanted it NOW, and why couldn’t my friend hurry up? By this point, my friend had received no money from the ‘buyer’, and his colleague wasn’t planning a trip to the land of the black and white rainbow any time soon. The exhaust eventually sold to a delighted local enthusiast who turned up and paid cash within a day of seeing the advert. Hard lines? Not really – you can’t have your cake and eat it if it’s someone’s spare time at stake. Want them to try harder? Pay them a salary.

Without face-to-face interaction, the cult of personality is easy to sow; the notion of the ‘true enthusiast’ easier to promulgate. My favourite ever e-encounter came a couple of years ago when someone of the latter ilk expected me to give him an old Peugeot I was selling online “because it would go to a good home.” He was most offended when I suggested how I, a connoisseur of eating to excess, would be ejected from a supermarket for expecting a trolley full of shopping for free, that his request was denied and that he shouldn’t waste my time.

That he replied on the attack was quite surprising, I admit. He wouldn’t have dared done it in person, or even tried it over the phone. He felt validated by the situation the internet had afforded him; after eight people had tried and failed to buy the car previously, I had it crushed and sent him the aftermath in pictures. The scrap man turns up when prompted and pays cash. At the end of the day, it all comes down to money; words are worthless unless they’re putting money in your bank account.