Our family (me , Kath, our daughter Claire and the grandchildren) have all been laid low these past two weeks with some kind of flu like lergy. In fact it hasn’t gone away yet, we keep having relapses. That’ll teach us, Kath and I have been on a weight losing campaign since Christmas –strict healthy eating, exercise and no booze. There’s a lesson there somewhere.
However we haven’t been as bad as my poor old car, now ten years old and 130,000 miles. It nearly had a terminal event last week, a suspected gearbox failure. At that age we were ready to evoke the Do Not Resuscitate rule as the repair would have cost twice what the car is worth. I was qetting quotes from recycling yards to take her away. Then at the last minute I softened, and I sanctioned a short investigative operation at our local garage and it turned out to be just a drive shaft bearing failure, so after a short operation the patient is restored to health. We have however cruelly decided to get another younger model before the old one costs us any more.
Being house bound with the lergy, I have been car shopping on the net. Plenty of cars there, ebay, Autotrader etc. Pretty much like browsing for boats on brokers’ web sites. Then I came across something quite different. OK for cars but not for boats. You see the thing about narrowboats is that almost every one is different. Granted you can get a standard Liverpool boat or a formulaic Polish jobby, but in general narrowboats are bespoke. Contrast with cars where companies like Ford churn out hundreds of thousands of identical Focuses (or should that be Foci?). That’s were Tesco’s come in. (Bear with me I - have not lost the plot.)
Someone at Tesco has realised that one used low mileage Focus Zetec TDCi estate, say, is much like another. So much so that if they could assure the customer of the car’s good condition through independent surveys and money back guarantees, they could sell the car unseen. Try that with a boat. Furthermore, they sell the car before they even receive it! What they do is get the cars from leasing companies at the end of lease. The end of lease date is known in advance, and from the service history, the likely mileage is calculated in advance. The car is advertised on the web at a fixed price(cheaper than forecourts because of the low cost of doing it this way) and the purchaser puts a £99 deposit on the unseen car which is then taken off the site and allocated to the customer. The car eventually arrives and the RAC give it a thorough going over (all in the price). The customer gets the RAC report and if he or she is happy the deal goes ahead, although the customer can first go to inspect the car personally if they like. They can in fact walk away and get their £99 back at any time before they finally commit. Once the customer is happy the fixed price is paid, the customer gets a 7 day money back guarantee and a free short but full warranty to cover any unseens. Simples. The testimonials on the web site all say one thing – a scary way to buy a car, but it works and everyone would do it again.
Is this the future of boats sales? Will Whilton marina advertise a five year old Steve Hudson tug due in shortly and sell it unseen? Hmmm I doubt it somehow.
Hang on though. What about new boats? Well they’re almost all bought unseen aren’t they, because they are built to order and bespoke. Compared with buying a used car unseen, having a new boat built for you must be really scary. Will the builder go broke half way through? Many have. Will the builder produce precisely what you asked for? Many don’t. Will the original price hold good until the end? Hardly ever. (admittedly often the customer’s fault for changing his mind halfway through, or over looking things at the beginning). Or worse still will the builder turn out to be less than trustworthy? A certain Mr BH springs to mind.
No, to me, buying a new boat is more scary than buying an unseen used car from Tescos.