Three stories I will remember about the buying and selling of cars during our years in Qatar.
Arriving in May of 1999 with three little kids in tow making our way around in a rented car in an unfamiliar city, in need of one with more room and better air conditioning. As one of many stops during those first days we entered the JEEP showroom over by the airport. We were shown to some seats, asked to sit down and offered tea.
Tea? I didn’t want tea. I wanted to be shown cars, given prices and make a quick deal. Who had time to sit with some used car sales rep and drink tea, talking nothing at all about cars? Certainly, not me at the time.
We ended up buying a big safe 4×4 through a private sale, from an expat just like us. I recall nothing about the person we bought it from, only the compound where we looked at it, paid for it and picked it up.
We bought our second (used) vehicle from expats again. Colleagues of ours unfortunately needed to head home urgently due to illness of aging parents. A common thread in these parts. We were happy to buy it from them, were given a reasonable price and utilized it for many years.
Our third vehicle purchase was also bought privately about 5 years ago, again second hand. This time through an on-line website. We originally met up with the owner to look at it in the parking lot of a well-known mall as it was easy to find and convenient for both. However, the actual sale and handover of the keys was something different.
My husband, our youngest son and I were given directions and found our way to the home of the owner, a Qatari man. We parked, he came out and asked us all to come in for tea.
I felt somewhat uncomfortable as I had never been in a Qatari home (except for one friend who is a British woman, married to a Qatari). Plus I was wearing knee-length trousers which were not inappropriate for walking around in, but I also felt less at ease as than I would have wearing full-length trousers. But he insisted I come inside, into the majlis. It was a large room. Much as I expected and heard about with sofa-like seating all around the perimeter. He guided us in, offering seats beside him. Then he called one of the household’s waiters who served us tea. We drank together, chatted a little and only then was it time for the business at hand.
First, always, is relationship.
After an hour or so we handed him the check and drove off never to see him again. But I’ll always remember the kindness and hospitality he offered.
Yesterday we sold the car. Again, the initial transaction was done through an on-line website. An Egyptian man with his wife and 5 children, came to have a look. We had about 20 others interested but as per the rules of this particular website, the first person who said they were interested had first option to buy. As the second people in line arrived saying they would hand us cash right now for the vehicle, I think the Egyptian man felt somewhat pressured to make the deal.
I went inside for a moment while my husband was driving around the second couple. The Egyptian man knocked at our door and asked if I had a piece of cardboard he could use. I asked him to come in, not sure of what it was he was really asking. He then followed with the statement that “he wanted to pray”. He was looking for a place to pray in private about his decision. I led him into our living room and said he could do so there. His wife sat with me in our foyer. We both waited. He finished and we went outside, joining my husband and the other couple.
The Egyptian man said he’d take our car. Plans were made and we went down to the traffic department to transfer the vehicle.
Money was exchanged. Cash in hand. It seemed to us while we were conducting the change of ownership at the traffic police that perhaps after buying the car from us, he already had to others waiting to buy it from him. Because of the high interest we received when posting the ad, we figured we’d priced it too low. So maybe he already had some buyers and was immediately going to make a profit by re-selling it to them.
I don’t really care either way. We felt we received a fair price for a car that has served us well over the last 5 years. If the man wanted or needed to make a profit on it, so be it. We don’t need it any more. We don’t need to get the highest possible price; the most from the sale.
It is enough.
I’m not sure these transactions will work in quite the same way when I go to buy our next car. It will likely be back to the usual, manipulating back and forth to see how much we can gain from the exchange, without the extra trimmings.
Without the tea.