Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Great Border Caper Part 4 - The Rise and Fall of the Partnership

Now with Raul in the country, he and Frederico could now begin building their car business.

Frederico's plan was to begin doing repairs for the cars of anyone he knew who needed them, as well as to buy old cars, fix them up, and resell them. Raul would be the expert mechanic (with Frederico's helping hand), and Frederico would handle all of the business aspects and front the money for all purchases (since Raul had essentially nothing).

The first thing they needed was to live in a place with space, so Frederico sold the sail boat he was living on, and they rented a house out in Chula Vista (or as Frederico called it, "Little Mexico").

Raul and Frederico were giddy with excitement. They now had a garage, ample space to begin their car business, as well as a couple of customers (acquaintances of Frederico's) already!

Frederico cut his regular hours (he is a diver and cleans boats) by more than half to dedicate time to the car business. The giddyness however was short lived. Once the short list of customers dried up, Frederico and Raul began to venture out and purchase cars that had problems to fix up.

Problems began immediately. First of all, it took days for them to find cars that were a worthy investment; many calls, driving all over the county to personally inspect the cars, and then only if it was a worthwhile investment, pulling the trigger and buying one.

After the first few cars were turned over, Frederico quickly realized that things were not going well. He was losing money. They were not making nearly enough profit on the vehicles based on the hours of work and expense going into fixing each one.

Raul needed to get a job.

He was resistant to try though. Raul insisted that everything was going to work out, and they just needed more time. Frederico however was the one losing money hand over fist, and could not afford more time. They argued about Raul finding a job until finally Frederico had to threaten him with cutting off his financial "loans" and leaving him on his own.

The next day Raul found a job. How much was he making? A whopping FIVE DOLLARS PER HOUR.

As an illegal immigrant, Raul didn't exactly have a lot of bargaining power. Minimum wage laws don't apply to him, but at least he wasn't paying taxes.

Meanwhile, they continued trying to turn over used cars, but Frederico soon realized that Raul's mechanical evaluations of the cars they were buying were not very good.

When questioned by Frederico about potential repairs needed on the cars before purchase, Raul would always reply, "I can Fix it!" But, once they bought the car, they would find new problems that Raul had overlooked, or more frustrating yet, problems they knew about that Raul couldn't really fix. He could however "cover up" the problem so that the car appeared to be fine for the time being only to later breakdown.

While this is common practice in Brazil and Mexico, Frederico, being an incredibly honest guy, wanted absolutely no part of this. Soon another argument spawned, but no resolution was definitively made.

The next night, Raul after having had several beers, left to go pick up a Mexican girl he was dating that he met in his English class. The next morning Frederico got a call from Prison. He had been arrested for DUI.

Goodbye Raul.

Frederico was initially furious, but soon began to sink into a mini-depression for a few weeks. He now had four cars that he didn't know what to do with, rent for a two bedroom place that he now had to pay entirely on his own, and an impounded car that would end up costing him an additional $600 to get out.

He was in a financial mess.

Soon the depression of the mess he felt he had caused wore off, and he got to work. He had get rid of these cars. The first two he sold for a few hundred dollars loss. The third car, an old BMW, proved a major problem though.

They had purchased the car for $8000, but there were NUMEROUS problems. The first guy who came to look at the car found dirt and water in the engine and refused to buy it. Fred subsequently cleaned out the "evidence" of dirt so that, by looking, the problem wasn't apparent.

In his desperation, Frederico realized that he was becoming a scammer!

The next guy came to look at the car, and after revving the engine quite a bit, opened up the hood for a look. While inspecting the radiator though, it literally BLEW UP in his face, and got gunk all over him!

Suffice to say, after some yelling, he didn't purchase the car.

The next day, while inspecting his posted ads on craigslist, Frederico found a new posting.

"Don't buy any cars from a guy named Fred!!! HE IS A SCAM ARTIST!!" The ad had all of his info. Suddenly, all calls about the car stopped and the people who had previously set up appointments to see the car were now "not interested."

Frederico then found another car website where you had to pay to post listings. He figured no one would pay to post a scam alert.

Eventually he set up an appointment with a young guy interested in the car. Frederico told him that the car had numerous problems but they were all fixable. The guy was in love with the car. He came back later that day with his mechanic friend to further inspect the car. The mechanic found every problem that the previous customers had found.

Mechanic: "Dude these repairs will cost another $4,000. Don't buy this car!"
Customer: "But it's sooo cool!"
Mechanic: "Dude it's a terrible investment! There's too many problems."
Customer: "Mmmmm, ok, you're right."
Frederico: "I'll knock off a thousand bucks and sell it for $7,000"
Customer: "Deal!"

Finally, Frederico had rid himself of the nightmare car...or so he thought. Two days later, the buyer called in a panic.

"I just took the car to the dealership to get inspected and they said it's not even safe to drive! They're saying the repairs will cost MORE than the price of the car itself! You gotta do something man! They didn't even want me to drive it off the lot for liability reasons!"

Frederico didn't know what to do, so he did nothing. These were problems he did not know about (since he is not a mechanic) AND the customer brought his own mechanic to inspect the car before purchasing it. Despite his mechanic friend's recommendation to leave the car, he bought it.

Frederico took over a $1500 loss on the car, but was happy to be rid of it.

A week later, he moved out of the place in Chula Vista and back onto a boat, now having a much emptier wallet, but happy that the whole mess was behind him.

Raul, after spending a month in detainment, is now back in Brazil. Frederico has only had brief and abrupt conversations with him. The last one ended with him saying, "Listen man, don't call me anymore. I'll see you in Brazil."

So what's Frederico's plan now? Well, he's going back to Brazil next month for a brief stop before heading to New Castle Australia to attend school for a nutrition degree. He knows Raul will never be able to repay the thousands of dollars he owes him, but he has forgiven the loan.

Frederico, being the ridiculously nice guy that he is does not want Raul to feel broken or defeated (despite the numerous TOTALLY irresponsible things he did), and plans on having a talk with him back in Brazil, basically "forgiving" the entire series of mishaps.

Things may not have worked out as planned, but at least it was a great adventure and a hell of a story.

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