In March 2015, we had the grandkids over for the weekend. There was an auction that had a few items that I was interested in, but I could not go due to the responsibility of the taking care of the boys. No matter. I knew the auctioneer and thought I would give a left bid.
The dealers who were there that night had sold from an estate a month before of someone who had a serious interest in Shelby Mustangs. I had wondered if they had any more Shelby items. The pictures came up of the upcoming auction, and I saw a steering wheel.
I had previously purchased a Chevy II Nova steering wheel from a yard sale for 15 dollars. Unfortunately one of the spokes had broken off, but I was still able to get $25 for it. So, I knew that these were desirable even if they were broken.
The small single photo of the steering wheel came up on auctionzip.com. It 3 spokes and some holes through each spoke. I tried to compare it with some Shelby Mustang Steering wheels I had hoped it was. Not quite sure, but it looked pretty close. The values of the Shelby Steering wheels were pretty high.
So, I called Len, the auctioneer and told him I wanted to leave a left bid on the steering wheel. He knew I had an interest in the Shelby items from the previous month. He said, David, I don’t think it is a Shelby steering wheel. It says Made in Italy on the back. I immediately felt deflated.
But then I thought – maybe is was a Fiat or Ferrari or some other fancy Italian car. I thought it was worth the gamble. But not knowing what it was made me put in a low left bid. I told him to put a bid down for $40. Knowing that Len would start the bidding at 60% of my left bid. So, without me there, he started the bidding at $25. No one else bid. I got it.
The next week, I went to pick it up. On the back, it said Made in Italy, EFFPI. Once I brought it home, I started my research and found that it was indeed a steering wheel for a 1967 Shelby Mustang. Only about 3225 were made in 1967.
I had no idea what it was worth, the sales figures were very hard to find. I did find a few 1968 Replica steering wheels that sold for about $1000 restored. The 1968 steering wheel was not as desirable as the 1967 and there were differences. So, I did not have a price to go by.
I thought about getting it restored myself and then selling it. I found a guy in South Carolina and contacted him about restoring it. But he did not return my calls. So, I decided to list it for auction. It was unrestored. It was in bad shape. It did not even have the horn button on it. I started the auction at 99 cents, but put a reserve for $500.
It sold for a little over $1500.
Then the difficulties began.
The buyer wanted me to ship it to California Priority Mail. OK, not a problem – I know it is big package, but I was willing to pay more for shipping to get it there in 2-3 days.
So, I was used to going to a Post Office near my place of work, just before getting to work. I used to come in an drop my packages off at the counter, say my hellos to the guys behind the counter who knew me well and be on my way to work.
As far as I was concerned, once it was on the counter, the Post Office became responsible for the package. It was tracked and insured. It was going to be there in 2-3 days, not a problem. I did this the same whether it was a $1 item, or a $100 item.
But this was a $1500 item.
Now, what they are supposed to do is take these boxes on the counter, scan them, then put them in the right bin to send to the next stop on the way. It is tracked along the way.
So, I did my usual thing, and dropped it on the counter, said my hellos, and went to work.
So, 2 days go by and I get an email from the buyer. “Where is my package? It looked like you haven’t even shipped it yet.”
I started to get worried. It should have been there by now. I checked the tracking and the only tracking that it got was that I printed off the label. As far as the tracking was concerned, it was still at my house. I said to myself, this is not good.
I went back and forth and the buyer telling them that sometimes they miss the scan at the counter. He sent me emails in all caps, said it was fishy. He angrily told me that it is against post office policy to leave it on the counter without it being scanned. The buyer expected me to show a receipt proving that it got scanned at the counter, otherwise he was going to call me a fraud to ebay. It was getting ugly and scary.
Finally, after 4 days, the box gets another scan on a Saturday and the expected delivery date was Monday. So, I emailed the buyer the good news. But he still cursed at me and called me a miserable liar. I was deflated.
Even worse, the post office was wrong, it did not get delivered for another 4 days. So, the package going priority mail took about 8 days to get delivered. Fortunately, I never heard from the buyer again.
I always try to deliver fast and give excellent customer service, but things do happen beyond my control. It is something that you just have to get used to in this business.
Lesson learned – I should have gotten it scanned at the counter or sent it Fedex or UPS – something with better tracking for an expensive item. It turned out that this Post Office had a history of not scanning the packages in. I received other complaints afterwards about not getting scans with items left at the counter. So, I finally stopped going to that Post Office as well.