|The Quota Story
published in edited form in Motorcyclist Magazine, April 2008
|A Field Guide to Common Internet Motorcycle Wackos
by Ed Milich (A.K.A. The Guy Trying to Sell the Guzzi Quota, item #270193370230, on Ebay)
Nut jobs. They're all over the World Wide Web. Itís obvious that when Al Gore designed the internet, his grand scheme included not only provisions for the new town square and the new marketplace, but also a plush new residence for the village idiot.
In early December, 2007, I placed an ad on Ebay in hopes of selling my functional but homely 2000 Moto Guzzi Quota. The Quota is an Adventure Touring bike. It would be more accurately described as a underpowered, overweight "dirtbike" that you probably don't want to take through any treacherous terrain, lest it fall on you and pin you down until the local species of fire ants carry you off as an offering to their queen, one small painful bite and tiny mouthful at a time. I took advantage of an Ebay insertion fee sale and coughed the $2 to put my Quota up on the block. Someone said that there are no dumb questions. When you place a vehicle ad on Ebay, though, you will receive some monumentally annoying ones. Maybe it's my fault for wading through the shallow end of the motorcycle economy. My latest Ebay experience reinforced the notion that placing an online motorcycle ad is the most effective means of exploring the singular socio-economic behaviors of the online denizens heretofore known as Internet Motorcycle Wackos.
The particular species of internet bike screwballs that I encountered were as follows:
Dreamer. The Dreamer generally spends too much time looking at the spectacular photos on advrider.com. He emails me and says that he wants to ride my Quota to Alaska. He imagines himself with his new ride parked at the top of a twisty mountain road planting a flag with his discussion board avatar emblazoned boldly on it while he gazes off into the distance and as Wagner's "Die Walkure" fills the thin mountain air with song. The Dreamer is classic Mittyan fantasist. In truth, he could not afford more than 2 or 3 days off work in his tech support role at the sewage treatment plant to fulfill this fantasy. To Mr. Dreamer: I am not impressed with the fact that you want to ride this bike to Alaska, mainly because you have never done this ride before and have no idea what this arduous, dangerous trek entails. Naivete' does not impress me.
Time Waster. The Time Waster is another prevalent online species. After a series of emails, the Time Waster will coax you out of your cell phone number. He will talk for at least a half hour, possibly on multiple occasions if he's an alpha male of the species. He may still live with his parents. He may have no visible means of support. He will, however, still boldly lead you to believe that he could conceivably cough up the thousands of dollars for your motorcycle. The Time Waster has lots of time to research and pose questions. Now, if you ask me a question, I'll try to answer it. After the fifth time running back and forth to see if I used 8.8 or 10.9 grade metric bolts for the brake rotors, or checking tires date codes, though, your questions will go unanswered like lonely echoes in the digital aether. Sometimes the Time Waster is looking for the deal of the century on two wheels. "Do you have a place for me to stay for a few days?" "Can you do the 10-hour clutch job to make sure that the clutch is good before I buy it?" So, to Mr. Time Waster: I am very impressed with your potential offer to buy my bike. I will prostrate myself before you. I will pick you up in a golden carriage when you arrive at LAX. You will be my guest and I will dine you on honeydew and sweetmeats. Then I will give you comfort and will offer you my wife to bed down. I'll have your shoes shined and your clothes pressed when you awake from your slumber. As you depart my driveway on your stunning new mount, a string quartet will play fond adieu. All for $4k or best offer. The Time Waster might go for this deal...or he might not. He'll have to get back to you on it.
Cheapskate. The cheapskate is a motorcycle economist. He can recite from memory Kelly blue book numbers. He can quote the mean value and standard deviation of motorcycle selling prices in each region of the US based on his intensive study of online classified ads. When he sees a bike that's priced 20% below mean, he cranks out many enthusiastic emails to the seller. Like a schizophrenic after a successful shock session, though, he eventually returns to reality. He realizes that after a plane ticket and gas, food and shelter for the trip home, he's better off buying that $5000 Quota that's 50 miles away in West Kalamazoo rather than the $4000 Quota that is 1000 miles away. What the Cheapskate also misses is that auction ending prices are not always actual selling prices. He may instead have observed the online work of the Backpeddler [another common species] who won the auction after a frenzied bidding war. In a run of bad luck, this individual had to pay for his dog's emergency hernia operation the same day the auction for your 25k mile 1977 Goldwing ended at $3497, though, so he wont be able to buy it after all. I hope you understand.
Weenies. Weenies are dedicated students of the internet discussion forums. They can expound in detail on the theories behind drive spline lubrication intervals for BMW motorcycles. Weenies can provide critical arguments regarding the use of chain drive versus steel and/or aluminum gear drives in 1970's and 80's Moto Guzzis along with references and footnotes. What they can't do is actually make their own decisions on the matter, or root out poor quality online advice. Weenies instead incessantly repeat innuendo, rumors, and bad information until its taken as testament, hence perpetuating the Weenie species. Weenies will bother a bike seller with pointless questions about the habits of the last three owners' riding, maintenance and bathroom habits in order to draw a conclusion about how many more miles they can go before the rod bearings wear out. Weenies are simply afraid of bikes. To the Weenie, I say: "Stuff breaks". Thatís a corollary of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. What the Weenies want me to tell them is that the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not apply to Weenies. If that were the case, Weenies would be much too busy bringing people back from the dead and making the blind see with their miraculous healing touch to bother with my $4000 Quota.
BMW Riders. Another breed of internet wacko rides BMW Motorcycles exclusively. This species has been frequently observed hovering around BMW Motorcycle classified ads and bothering bike sellers to the point of annoyance. Itís interesting that certain BMW Riders spend more time compiling maintenance service records than they do compiling photo scrapbooks of their kidsí childhood It's also interesting that some BMW groups promote 50 question long bike buying "checklists". So. What kind of state of mind do you think the seller will be in after the 49th question? Yes, certain BMW Riders will have you jumping through at least 50 hoops to ensure that your bikeís records are in proper order before they make you an offer on it. Otherwise, itís "Veeeer are your PAPERS!" and 10 lashes with the leather riding crop for you, Colonel Hogan.
My Ebay experience was a grand experiment in internet sociology. I only half-heartedly wanted to sell the Quota, so itís no big deal that I got lots of attention (10,000 hits and over 100 personal emails) but ZERO bids on it. So here I conclude my treatise on the Sociology of Internet Motorcycle Wackos. Just remember to examine yourself for the characteristics of these scorned species of cyber kooks the next time you bother some poor schmuck who is trying pay to fix his kid's crooked teeth by selling his two wheeled pile on Craigslist. Other wise, the invisible economic hand of the motorcycle market may be winding up to give you a giant bitch-slap.