The Hard Lesson I Learned about Contracts

The Hard Lesson I Learned about Contracts
Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Today in the afternoon, I have to deliver a witness report in a local court. The story is quite ridiculous and all the legal effort pretty unnecessary if I just had written a sales contract two-and-a-half years ago.

Some time in 2016, it was about time to get rid of my junk car and get a more roadworthy car. Before getting rid of my old car, I found a great used car for a bargain price. So I bought the car before I got rid of my old junk car. The bad thing: now I had a used, old, unused car standing in front of my garage. By looking at the car, not worth anything and without TÜV (what we Germans call the roadworthy certificate) I decided to simply put it online for a few hundred Euros. Well, that’s what most of us would do, right?

Strangely enough, the guy from whom I previously bought my „new used car“ apparently saw my ad and called me: „Hey Marius, 250€ and I will pick up your car today“. As strange as the situation was, I agreed and he picked up the car later that day.

It is also the time where I did two decisive mistakes. The first mistake, probably the worse mistake, was that I did not cancel the car’s registration beforehand. Why? He also allowed me to drive home with his old license plate with my, at that time, new car. I thought, well he allowed me to drive my car home so let him drive the car to his hobby shop floor. Mistake as I learned later. The second mistake? I didn’t even formulate a sales contract, at least not a written one. At that time I thought: Hand shakes count, right?

As it turned out, other than promised, he never canceled the registration and apparently resold the car – probably for a 50€ gain – to a criminal.

Later that year, my insurance called me and asked me why I didn’t yet cancel my car registration. I thought: „what the fuck?“ but the buyer simply re-assured that he did cancel the registration, obviously a lie. Just days later I forced a cancellation but the story doesn’t stop here. Many letters from local government followed, asking me to pay parking tickets in several cities.

Two more letters followed this time speeding tickets where – fortunately – a speed camera took a photo of the driver. The driver was a person I’ve never seen in my entire life. The next letter I received was from the police because my old car has been involved in an accident and the driver simply hit-and-run. Then, another letter followed from another police station, asking me to provide a testimony in a case of grand theft. I formulated the entire story with all the evidence I had. In total 10 written pages of what had happened to me the recent year. Yes, I kept this story short on purpose as the moral of the story doesn’t require all the details. Later I was even called to provide a DNA sample because the police wanted to identify the suspect’s DNA in my old car.

Today is the day I have to deliver my witness report after the court appearance had already been postponed once.

I learned a lot from this experience. First, tit for tat is never a sustainable solution. Your opponent can always exploit your trust. The second lesson is to always formulate a contract however tiny the sales price or however redundant the issue at hand might be. The third lesson: always cancel your car’s registration officially before selling your car and passing the keys to the buyer.

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