It started out simply enough. My teen was offered the opportunity to sell a 2003 X-type Jaguar in near-perfect condition for a commission. Car love combined with money made this the perfect opportunity for my teen.
The first hit was from a Chevy dealership. Cole rehearsed negotiating the sale and drove off in the Jaguar with high hopes. The dealership made an offer, but as those of us with trade-in experience know, dealerships seldom meet our expectations. They did confirm that the Jag was a beauty. The next stop was CarMax for an estimate. They low-balled Cole, offering him half of what the dealership had offered.
Going forward, the goal was to sell the car to an individual buyer. Cole placed an ad on Craigslist and several other car sites. It didn’t take long before the phone started to ring. One of the callers, a young man named Nikolay, had a very heavy Russian accent. He expressed interest in the car and wanted to see it.
In the past, I’ve hired people from Craigslist for yard work and sold a few things through the site and it’s worked out fine. However, Cole was determined to sell the car in a neutral place away from the house. He explained that was how cars were sold and took off in the Jaguar to meet Nikolay in a nearby Walgreens parking lot.
I waited for about an hour before I sent the teen car salesman a text for an update. I’m far from a helicopter mom, but taking a stranger for a ride in the Jaguar did sound a few alarm bells. Naturally, my text and subsequent call went unanswered. Does any kid have his phone on when his mom is worried? I can answer that no. However, before I could work myself up into believing that my kid had been carjacked at gunpoint and begin praying he was forced out of the car unharmed, he walked through the door with a giant grin on his face, announcing, “I sold it.”
After the announcement, he showed me a $1,000 cash deposit, and shared the negotiations details. I expressed surprise that Nikolay did not ask Cole for any identification, an address or a receipt before he gave him the cash deposit. At which point my son said, “I think he’s a part of the Russian mob. He isn’t worried about finding me if I don’t show up with the car and title tomorrow.” Obviously I set my sights too low; I’d been hoping my teen would sell the car to a 20-something, upwardly mobile yuppie. Who knew a Russian cultural component would be included in his car-selling experience?
Nikolay sent Cole a text bright and early the next morning to set a time to meet. However, this time he wanted to meet on the corner of a Chicago city block that is known for gangs and guns—a corner where a white kid driving a Jaguar, to a meet up with a Russian mobster, would stick out like a sore thumb. I told him to tell Nikolay his mother said no. Nikolay then asked if Cole would meet in the same neighborhood, but at a transmission shop.
I reviewed the scenario for my teen. A Russian gangster wants to buy the car you are selling, gives you a $1,000 cash deposit without hesitation, and tells you to meet him at a transmission shop after you declined to meet him on a corner where the likelihood of a stray bullet hitting the Jaguar isn’t all that unlikely. What do you think you should do?
Cole pondered for a minute and then suggested that I follow him in my van with Bert, a fierce-looking, albeit toothless, camper. Clearly, I needed my sweet, gun-toting mom and her Doberman … but alas, I was the best my son had, and you know, he really, really wanted to sell the car. Fine. I put a prong collar on Bert, loaded him into the van and followed Cole to his meet-up with the Russian mobster. Driving behind my teen, I noticed lots of policemen and patrol cars in the neighborhood. I couldn’t decide if this was good news or bad news.
Cole pulled into the transmission shop and got out to meet Nikolay, who was waiting for him. I parked across the street where I could keep an eye on the shop, the Jaguar and my teen. After what seemed like forever, my teen walked over and said the transmission shop told Nikolay he’d made an excellent deal. Next, we had to move the car over to the Dunkin’ Donuts/filling station parking lot down the street and wait for Nikolay’ friend to show up with the rest of the cash. The Russian mob clearly lacks organizational skills.
Picture me sitting in the parking lot, in my van with the panting, toothless Bert looking out the window, drooling for a donut. The Jaguar was parked next to me without plates. My kid and the Russian stood next to the Jaguar. There were hookers working the corner, and a man selling pillows was bumping into people. People filling up their cars yelled obscenities, and we were a stone’s throw away from a corner drug deal. I got out of my car, smiled at Nikolay and told him if his friend did not show up with the cash in 15 minutes, we were leaving. I then went inside Dunkin’ Donuts and bought two donuts—one for Bert and one for me. When I came out, Nikolay was furiously phoning his friend. Russian mob meets American mama.
Nikolay’ friend finally showed, and I was certain that when he handed the cash envelope to Nikolay, everyone in the entire parking lot turned to stare. Cole and Nikolay took the stash inside the car and I stood outside the car, glaring at the friend who had decided to turn checking out the car again into a performance for the entire parking lot. He mumbled something in Russian as he tapped fenders, opened the truck and, yes, even kicked the tires. Inside the car, my son was counting $100 bills a second time. Just to be sure, you know.
Finally, the cash was counted and exchanged for the keys and title to the Jaguar. Cole stepped out of the Jag and into the van. I slid into the driver’s side, locked the doors and took off, police sirens serenading us in the background. In the words of my immortal sweet mother, it was time to get the hell out of Dodge.
Home safely, my teen high on success and with $100 bills in one hand, high-fived me with the other and said, “Mom, you handled that pretty well.” I swapped the high-five out for a hug and returned the compliment. After all, it’s not every day you sell a car to a Russian gangster.
Aren’t you curious about who we’ll sell the June Bug too?
Odd Loves Company,
My grandmother always said, never let the whole truth get in the way of a good story.