Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cheap Scooters...too good to be true?

The Scoot! staff has reminded readers over and over again to not be fooled by inexpensive scooters that can be found on the Internet, in auto parts stores or sold through retail chains not authorized to sell motor vehicles.

Here is a story about a Oregon woman who bought a $600 scooter from a liquidation service and discovered that the stated 90-day warranty would not be honored.

To be clear, I believe that if a company advertises a warranty, they should stand by it. A retailer should not be selling products that it is not authorized to sell, and it should be aware of how the manufacturer will service those warranty clams.

But it remains to be said that Americans are so blinded by the prospect of a "deal" that they will throw out all logic and common sense. We are so focused on buying things cheaply that we have no regard for quality manufacture, fair wages or fair mark-up that allows business to stay afloat.

I frequently receive calls from neophytes looking to get into scootering merely because of the cost savings (real or imagined). They are so easy to suspend disbelief in hopes of saving money that they are willing to make really dumb choices. One man called me looking for a restored vintage scooter and said he wanted my opinion on ordering from Asia. I asked why he didn't look closer to home since he lived near a major city on the East Coast. He said they were too expensive. YET he was willing to send thousands of dollars to a company in Asia that he had never heard of, and had no way of verifying. I asked him what he was going to do if it arrived damaged, or was a piece of crap. He had no idea, as he hadn't considered that option. He was probably too busy imagining himself riding down the street (with no helmet and in shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops, no less) basking with pride over his savvy shopping skills.

I then asked him if he would buy a 50 year old car from an unknown restoration company in a foreign country, and have it arrive at his doorstep in a box that he would have to unpack himself. His answer, "Well, I guess not."

Obviously, the woman in Oregon was only thinking about her savings. What do you think the actual cost of manufacture is for a scooter that sells for $600. Does the manufacturer put $300 into making it? How much is a worker paid to assemble a $600 scooter? If you buy the scooter from a liquidator, where will you get tires or a replacement turn signal lens? If I went to Costco and saw some new no-name brand SUVs or minivans in the parking lot selling for $5,000 I would assume that they were crap. And I would wonder what government agency allows a mass market retailer to sell automobiles. The situation should have set-off buzzers and whistles well before she made the purchase.

Am I the only person who feels that America has shot itself in the foot (and the neck) by being a country of self-centered cheapskates?

This past week I saw a news story about a local Chrysler dealership that was auctioning off their remaining inventory before closing at the end of the month. None of the cars sold because those who showed up thought that the reductions weren't good enough. The news reported that one man offered $4,000 for a brand new SUV. Now, anyone with a brain can see the faulty logic and predatory nature in that man's offer. First, Chrysler would not allow the dealer to sell that cheaply. It would make it doubly hard for the remaining dealers to sell cars at regular price if word got out that someone bought the SUV for such a pittance. In addition, the dealer probably paid much more that $4,000 for the SUV.

Do you think the man who made that offer cared anything about the dealership, the people it employed, the plant that made the car and those who worked there? No, he was just a selfish person who wanted to take advantage of the misfortunes of the car dealership,and the local folks that worked there.

People wonder how our country has lost its way, and why manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Maybe the answer is right in our hearts and pocketbooks.

Blog entry soundtrack: "The Gates of Istanbul" Loreena McKennitt

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