I'm told the new poster boy for entrepreneurs is 26-year old Canadian Kyle MacDonald: he’s the guy who traded a red paperclip for a fish-shaped pen, then traded that for a doorknob, that for a barbeque and so on.
He’s still trading up and some weeks ago looked set to get a house out of his on-line trading skills.
My negotiating abilities are such that the other day I was prepared to swap a car for a car stereo. I guess Kyle would see that as trading down.
By way of explanation let it be said first: I’m not a car guy. I’ve had the same increasingly battle-scarred Japanese import for 16 years and even now still have to check whether it’s a Honda City or a Honda Civic. I know it’s white and the numberplate begins “SI” -- but one of my kids is “Simon“, so that part was easy.
A car doesn’t interest me. All I do with one is get in and drive the damn thing. If the radio works it works -- ours did but only around the central city, and the tape player was broken -- and when it needs petrol I put some in. In the past year I may have opened the Honda Whatever’s bonnet once, when the water in the window washer thing was empty.
But when I clipped off a wing mirror recently I started thinking about getting something a little better.
It was overdue: the hatchback was jammed shut; the driver’s seat was a mass of bum-abusing bare springs; and the rubber around the driver’s window had come away so a howling wind came whistling in.
A month ago we came back to the car one rainy day to find three centimetres of water on the floor -- but worryingly it was on the passenger’s side. We have no idea how that got there.
The wing mirror hanging off was the final indignity.
We did a couple of desultory trips to car yards -- obviously I know so little about these things that an auction was out of the question -- but one Saturday morning we saw something we liked.
It was a Mazda Something and the numberplate was easy to remember. It was out of our range but Blain said he could do a deal.
“And of course,” he added, “we could get it down lower if we do a trade on your car. What have you got?”
I laughed and said not to bother, but he seemed to think our Honda Whatever might even pull another two grand off the price.
I laughed even louder.
When we took the green Mazda Something for a spin he went off with our keys -- “It’s the white one, SI something, without the wing mirror” -- to see what he thought.
By the time we came back he had “good news and not so good news“. The good news was he had an acceptable deal for us and the not so good news was . . .
“You don’t want our car, right?”
“Well, my boss says we could only give you $450 for it.”
“Well, that’s $50 more than I expected, so that’s great.”
He went off to get the paperwork and we watched War of the Worlds on the showroom’s flat screen television.
When he came back he looked crestfallen.
His boss had now seen our Honda Whatever and said, “Actually . . .”
No problem, we would be a two car family until we could flick the surplus somehow.
But then Blain brightened up, he’d had an idea. He’d take the white Honda Whatever off our hands in exchange for putting a decent stereo in the green Mazda Something.
It was such a hilariously stupid exchange that we accepted.
Blain went off to get some more paperwork while Tom Cruise hid in a house surrounded by aliens, and then came back. Actually . . .
Turns out new car already had a pretty good stereo, so . . .
So we now still have the white Honda Whatever and I’m thinking of trading it on the internet.
I’m accepting an initial bid of a red paperclip.