Would You Buy Off the Back of a Truck?
Have you ever bought something off the back of a truck? I have. In retrospect, it wasn't always the brightest move. While you can get some great deals, you may also be getting involved in a shady transaction — or worse. Here are some examples of "back of the truck" sales I've entertained or decided to pass on.
(Please note I'm simply sharing my experience and I'm not recommending this as a viable shopping strategy. When you buy off a truck you might be evading legitimate taxes or getting stolen or subpar merchandise.)
Apparently, it's not uncommon for trucks to drive up from the furniture outlets in North Carolina and unload large quantities of furniture in other states. We happened to be driving by a gas station that had a large semi parked out front with a full showcase of furniture displayed nicely in the parking lot. My wife had been asking for a dining room hutch for years, and I'd always had some sort of excuse as to why we couldn't afford it. But seeing as how we'd eventually have to spring for this (seemingly useless) item eventually, I figured I might as well entertain buying one at a significant discount rather than paying thousands more at some point in the future. So we stopped in and found a piece
we she liked. They were able to drive it up to our home at the end of the day and sell it to us for a significant discount.
I felt comfortable with this transaction because I was able to inspect the furniture myself, and frankly (guys, you'll appreciate this), it's a completely useless item. It just sits there without ever being touched. While a dining room hutch looks nice, it's not exactly something that undergoes a lot of wear and tear. Additionally, I was able to look up the furniture company online before they got to our house to confirm the authenticity of the company, and compare our quoted cost to what I would have paid at local retail outlets. It seemed like a huge win. A few years later, so far, so good. We've eaten in the dining room all of two times in the subsequent years, the hutch still looks nice, and the wife is happy. Remember, happy wife = happy life.
I had a family member approach me with an opportunity to buy a new LCD monitor a few years back. It was retailing for over $200, and he said I could have it for $100. He said it "came off a truck," and he'd already tested it out. He had snagged one for himself and said he bought an extra one figuring I'd want it. I didn't really consider what the implications were in buying electronics that came from a truck, but seeing as how I was still using a massive old-school monitor and it seemed like a great deal, I sprung for it. I'm still using the monitor today. It's only now that I'm writing this article that I'm actually wondering where it came from — more on that below.
Seriously — meat. This sounds nasty, and this is the one truck opportunity I didn't partake in. Our neighbor called my wife raving about a truck in the neighborhood selling meat. Typical of my wife, who finds a "deal" nearly irresistible no matter how absurd the situation, she entertained the notion of purchasing meat in bulk based on the neighbor's endorsement. So the truck rolled down to our house and the driver started in with a typical hard sell technique. My wife called me at work to explain what kind of deal was being offered, and it was something along the lines of filet mignon at more than half off a typical store price. Apparently, the driver was becoming so impatient that she felt the need to call me (scammers with an exploding offer HATE when their victims have access to additional information and opinions).
Aside from the fact that I abhor ultimatums and hard sell tactics, it just didn't seem legitimate at all. I questioned why someone would need to drive meat around in a truck instead of just advertising a great deal and selling it from a legitimate store or selling it to restaurants and other larger outlets. I had no insight into the storage conditions, the source, how old the meat was or whether this even complied with local health laws. I was thinking it was probably rejected meat from some other source and they were trying to unload it in bulk at bargain prices since they couldn't sell it through legitimate channels. The driver had explained it all away to to my wife initially, but it just didn't smell right to me (over the phone). So, I told her to pass. Unsurprisingly, he had some choice words for her for wasting his time. I was so annoyed and disturbed by the encounter that I considered calling the local health authorities to see if this was even legal or legitimate, but he was long gone by the time she called me back to relay the rest of the encounter.
I was somewhat annoyed and shocked that my wife would even entertain the notion of subjecting our family to meat from who knows where. I take my chances every time I eat out, but there's a tort system and health code laws providing at least a strong deterrent and legal remedy for shady practices. The guy on the truck was bound by no such constraints. Upon talking to other neighbors about the situation, I learned that they'd done these purchases before and just couldn't get enough of these deals from the meat trucks. While this seemed completely foreign and bizarre to me, it was commonplace for them. I'm really curious if this meat truck thing is a broader phenomena because it seems very strange.
How'd It Actually GET in the Truck?
If you've ever watched an episode of The Sopranos, you've probably witnessed merchandise being stolen, laundered, or otherwise involved in some sort of criminal activity. Depending on what you're buying and who you're buying it from, you should certainly consider both the legal consequences you're subjecting yourself to, as well as your moral obligation. Looking back, I can see that the monitor was a bad purchase. While I had no direct knowledge of a crime being committed, upon reflection, I'd probably have to wonder if I was about to be the recipient of stolen property. That's drama I just don't need. And the meat? Well, that's one discount I don't need.
Have you ever bought anything off the back of a truck?