POAL: Tales of Sales of Parts to Parts Unknown

Bosch idle air control motor/valve for Volvos, VWs, DeLoreans, etc. Never did sell these; they’re still on my shelf.

Now, separately from general parts for specific cars, I’ve been collecting and selling headlamps and other lighting equipment for (too) many years; it’s a bad habit I picked up from someone in Wisconsin. I’m sick to damn death of car lights.

But groceries aren’t free, and it’s always been car lights, and I still haven’t figured out what could come next, so I carry on. “Specialty technical sales” if I wanna be all fancy about it, though that’s really what it is. There’s a lot of routine, boring order processing, but aside from that there’s a lot of special knowledge required for when a standard off-the-shelf part won’t do, or for off-label combinations of parts no cattledog will suggest. Y’wanna have headlamps that look like this and actually let you see well at night in your ’53 Rolls-Royce? Go see Dan; go see Dan, go see Dan! Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:

Licence plate refers to Dawn. Get it?

There’s been a great deal of collecting involved with this particular strain of »checks notes« specialty technical sales. It has its enjoyable aspects—I could do a show-and-tell on the evolutionary and commercial history of the sealed-beam headlamp, with authentic examples— but it makes me wish my thing were…I donno…birdwatching or whatever; the kind of thing that requires only binoculars and a tablet to take notes on. But noooooooo, it has to be headlamps. Bulky, fragile, supernumerous headlamps:

I still have most of these…


…and these.

In September 2018 I had a customer, a Westerner in Thailand who was rebuilding and upgrading an old Mercedes W123 car with the best of everything. He was starting with used-up, broken European composite headlamps, which weren’t very good even as new genuine parts and now can only be had as poorly-made off-brand imitations. I sold him the top-of-the-heap headlamp system he wanted: U.S.-spec modular fixtures with premium type-approved LED headlamps for use in Thailand’s left-hand traffic and integral daytime running lights, custom-built wiring harness, etc.

That was something like four kilodollars’ worth of parts in three large boxes; far more money than most orders I fill. He didn’t flinch at the big price tag, but insisted the shipment be declared for not more than $300, otherwise he’d get taxed on it. I explained how underdeclaring meant if anything went wrong; if one or more of the boxes got lost or stolen or damaged he’d be outta luck for most of his money. He swore up and down he’d never had a problem, boxes always arrive in perfect condition, this is just the way it works in Thailand, everyone does it this way, etc. Okeh, you’re the fully-informed boss! Parts distributed amongst three carefully-packed boxes, machine-printed address labels inside and out, customs forms completed and properly attached, etc.

Legitimate LED sealed beams that don’t suck…we live in the future!

One of the boxes went missing, because of course it did. It vanished from radar very shortly after its origin scan. National US Postal Service people initiated their traces. Local US Postal Service people tried their best, too (benefit of small towns like the one whence these boxes were sent). Nope, gone. Vanished without a trace. And it was the box, because of course it was, that happened to contain the NOS no-longer-made Mercedes parts, not the readily-replaceable current-production LED headlamps.

Groan. I put in for the minimal insurance, got it, and scrounged up a good used set of the brackets and a set of aftermarket faceplates (no more NOS), boxed them up, declared and insured them properly at full value (with the sheepish agreement of the customer), charged him for the replacement parts less the piddly insurance payout, and sent ’em off. They arrived in his hands 8 days later. And eight months later, he pinged me to advise the missing box from the original shipment had just appeared on his doorstep! Alright, I guess he’s got spares. I would like to have seen pictures of his finished car.

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