If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when other people get involved with a trade I’m conducting. Nothing is worse than having friends or other busy bodies poking their noses in pending deals that are the result of lots of time, effort, and negotiation. Situations like this usually end in no deal occurring or me walking away with my ass in my hands. On rare occasion, however, things actually work out in spite of the intrusion.
Case in point: Some time ago, I got tired of my N64 (no, really!) and went looking for some poor soul unto whom I could unload my still minty load of cartridge-toting next gen goodness. I had sold off my original model 1 Genesis to raise funds for the Saturn’s all-too-expensive launch (one of my bigger goofs) and anyone who remembers that cold day in May will recall how you practically had to hock a kidney for a console and a copy of Panzer Dragoon. Now, I was itching to get another Genny and rebuild my library.
So there I was, asking around for a buyer or trader, and as luck would have it, I stumbled upon a friend of mine named Miguel who knew of someone who was interested.
“You want to trade off your N64?” He asked, not in the least bit surprised.
“Yeah,” I replied, not really expecting anyone to take me up on my offer. The initial high of Mario 64 and Blast Corps had worn off and I wasn’t to keen on spending my evenings with Pilot Wings 64. “Do you know of anyone who might be interested?”
He mulled it over for a few seconds and came up with the one answer I was hoping he’d avoid. “Juan wants one.”
I cringed. Juan, or “Razor Ramon” as we called him, due to his slicked-back hair and toothpick chewing habit, was the one fellow you didn’t want to trade with. See, Juan wasn’t the brightest of people. He had once gone into a Chinese buffet and ordered his meal to go. He also had no business sense and relied heavily on advice from others. Most trades ended with his mother getting involved in the proceedings.
That’s right, his mother.
See, whereas Juan was a feeble negotiator, his mother was a shrewd, calculating bitch. A stern disciplinarian, she knew everything her son did and could take the shirt right off your back when she wanted to. Most of our bunch had at one time or another fallen victim to her evil ways, barely leaving her home with their dignity. I was loathe to deal with Juan, for fear of his old lady, as well as the fact that he lived clear across town.
“Nah,” I told Miguel. “Trading with him is always a pain.
“I hear he’s looking to get rid of his Genesis.” Miguel replied, knowing full well the dilemma he was putting me in. I think he may have actually been enjoying himself. “…and he’s got about 10 games, including a copy of Monster World IV with a Mega Key.”
Damn! I suddenly remembered that my copy of Monster World IV had passed through several hands before ending up with him. I’d regretted trading it off after completing it and really wanted to get it back. This was enough to put me over the edge. My fate was sealed. I was going to have to trade with Juan. I would have to toss my wares in the backseat (hatchback’s are a pain) and head on over to see him.
So there I found myself later that afternoon, standing at his front gate and calling up to his second floor home. I nearly bit my lower lip as the door opened, but was relieved to see only Juan emerge.
“What’s up?” He asked, as he closed the door and made his way down the spiral staircase that stood next to the garage. He was busily chewing on a toothpick and I had half a mind to yell out “hey, yo!” as he approached me.
“I hear you’ve got a Genesis for trade.” I said. I could feel myself getting antsy, and seeing his mother’s car parked in the garage didn’t help matters. “I have a near-mint N64 here in the box for trade.”
“Any games for it?” He glanced up at the front door, which was still closed. So far so good.
“None,” I answered, “but its got the box, a memory card, and a second controller.”
He nodded with interest. The N64 had only recently been released and he was eager for the new system. Here I was dropping a new one in his lap. This was my main advantage and I had to play it up quick.
He folded one arm under the other and rested his chin on his hand. “I don’t know. A system without games doesn’t really do me any good.”
What? Why was he so picky all of a sudden? It would appear that the boy was being home schooled in the arts of negotiation.
“Well,” I shot back, “the video store rents out all the latest releases and Miguel has some games for trade.”
He thought about it for a minute, then nodded again. “Ok, bring it upstairs and I’ll show you what I’ve got.”
Upstairs? UPSTAIRS? The situation was starting to get out of hand. If I went up those stairs, I’d be right in the lion’s den. “Umm, just let me know now. That way, if things don’t pan out, I don’t have to lug all this stuff back down to my car.”
“That’s not a problem. “I’d help you with it.”
And there it was. I sighed heavily and gathered the console and controller. I had come here with the upper hand and was now on the verge of losing it all. As we made our way slowly up the staircase, I tried to think happy thoughts. Maybe his mom was using the other car. Maybe she was taking a shower. Maybe she had been deported to Burma. I had almost convinced myself of her absence when my little dream was shattered by a strong, commanding voice.
“What’s going on Juan?”
That was it. Game over! I had no other recourse than to just ride things out and hope to get away without being chastised for making yet another “unfair offer” to her innocent son.
“Ken’s got a N64 to trade. I’m thinking of giving him the Genesis for it.”
The response was immediate. “With all those games you have? You can’t trade them all away. You know how I love Ms. Pac-Man.”
Wait. She actually played video games? This was too much. Not only was she trading them, but now she was playing them as well?
“The system’s new and quite expensive.” I interjected.
“Does it have any games?”
“No, but it’s mint and has a memory card and a second controller.”
“What good is all that if he has no games to play?”
“The video store rents all of them and Miguel said he would trade him a couple.”
“Miguel? I don’t like him. Every time he comes by he takes my poor son to the cleaners. I don’t think Juan should trade if there aren’t any games included.”
Nosey fucking bitch.
Here was my worst case scenario come true. instead of just dealing with the toothpick cruncher (who once got two copies of Popful Mail, so his dad could save his game too), I now had to trade with Leona Helmsley. You would think I would by this point cut my losses and run, but I suddenly felt a strange calm overcome me. I was getting tired of running offers through a mediator. This would end here, now.
Juan’s mom was going down.
I looked right at him, ignoring the sinister, robe-wearing presence that loomed in the background. “You do know that a new N64 will run you about $200, right? You won’t get half that in trade-in credit for all these games you have.” Hopefully, he wouldn’t call my bluff. I started to look through his collection, which was strewn all over the sofa: T2: The Arcade Game, Landstalker, Ms. Pac-Man, Might & Magic, Streets of Rage 2, Columns, Shadow Dancer, Thunder Force II; and the holy grail: Monster World IV, with not one but two Mega Keys!
I glanced over to my right. Juan was kneeling, eyeing the N64 box in his hands with what was obviously a strong interest. He was the key. If I could convince him, we could double team the Dark Lord and out gun her.
“So, what do you want to do?” I now stared dead at him, though I could feel his mother’s gaze burn into the flesh on my face. “No one else I know wants a Genesis and you don’t have enough trade-in material here to pay for a new one.” It was an old tactic of Miguel’s: downplay what you want to make it look less appealing, then go for the juggler when their guard is down.
“I really do want to play Mario, mom.” He was turning. I almost had him.
“But it has no games, Juan. What are you going to play?”
This was it, the crucial moment. I would have to get out of there pretty quick if he decided against me.
He was still unsure, but relented. “Well, I guess I can rent. Besides, my birthday is next month.”
Yes! His birthday! One look at her face told me that she had forgotten this one, tiny detail. It seemed that Lady Luck had finally decided to favor me..
His mother exhaled sharply. So much for siding with family. This new development had caught her by surprise, and she had no counter attack. After a long and drawn out silence, she finally accepted defeat. “Do what you want, but he’s not getting Ms. Pac-Man. I still want that.” Spiteful hag. What good was it without the console?
She turned and went down the hall to the bedroom. I had done it! I had scared off the mother bear, and now her defenseless cub was at my mercy.
“I guess you’d need all the games to balance things out,” Juan said, his voice still a bit tainted with uncertainty.
I wasn’t going to let up now. “Yeah, that other controller alone is worth $30.”
He walked over to the sofa and look at the games. “I’d have to give you that other Mega Key, though.” One was in a ziplock bag. He pointed to a second, which was mixed in among the carts. “It’s cracked along the case near the connectors. I think Miguel dropped it before he traded it to me. It still works though.”
He had indeed dropped it. I remembered walking in on him tightening the connectors and gluing the casing back into place. The converter was iffy, at best. This was no good. The whole key to this deal was Monster World IV, which was useless to me without a working Mega Key. I had to think of something.
“Hmm, he never mentioned anything about that,” I fibbed. “How do I know that it works?”
“Sure it does,” Juan argued. “It works just fine. I tried it out myself.
He was lying but didn’t know that I was aware of the Mega Key’s history. I decided to play along for the moment. “Ok, I guess we can do that.”
“Good!” Juan was elated. “I’ll go tell my mom.”
As he walked to the bedroom, I had a daring idea. I waited until he had disappeared from view and then promptly proceeded to switch Mega Keys in the ziplock bag. The working converter had luckily been resting face down, so he wouldn’t see the change until I was gone. By the time he came back, the switch was complete. An underhanded thing to do, but no less underhanded than having his mom try to screw me over or attempting to dump a broken converter off on me.
“I have to keep Ms. Pac-Man,” he said. I handed it over to him. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
I gathered up the Genny games and console and placed them in the grocery bag in which I had brought up the N64. A few quick comments between us and I was on my way down that spiral staircase to my car. I was gone in a flash and never looked back. Juan never brought up the converter, and since he no longer had a Genesis, he either didn’t care or never noticed. I, on the other hand, now had a nice model 2 console and eight games. Best of all, I had beaten his mom at her own game. I never traded with Juan (or his mother) again but was impressed to later find out that she laid off on interfering in his trades after that. I had broken her that day, and it felt good.
It felt even better to go to EB Games and trade in a few of the other titles he had given me for some decent store credit. I went home with a new copy of Crusader of Centy.