The Used Parts Salesman

Would you try to sell a customer a used chain? Bill gets beat at his own game . . .

Would you try to sell a customer a used chain? Bill gets beat at his own game…

Look, Bill," my orthopedic surgeon said, "there is absolutely nothing wrong with a cadaver part. There is a one-in-one-million chance of contracting hepatitis. And in the millions of these that have been done, there has never been a case of HIV transfer that I am aware of. It’s safe. And, let’s be honest with one another here … you’re running out of spare parts."

The conversation had started when I went in complaining that my knee was getting loose again and hurting constantly. An MRI later, the surgeon was talking about what would happen if he couldn’t fix my failing ACL by arthroscopic means. I was finding out that, when you initially replace an ACL, you can use other parts of your body, (which I had opted for the first time around). The second time, however, there is nothing else that you can take. I was getting nervous.

"So, why can’t you steal some more of the same ligament that you used the first time? Doesn’t it grow back?"

"No. Once we take it, its gone."

"Damn." I had hoped it was like a lizard’s tail or something. "What about the one from the right leg?"

My surgeon looked at me for a moment, apparently trying to see if there was actually the brain of a five-year-old inside my big, misshapen head. "What do you have against using cadaver parts anyway?"

How do you answer that? I mean, many of you in our industry have been through this or similar situations. I’m sure that many of you decided to use the cadaver part and never thought twice about it. Me, however … well, I’m a little weird. So I answered the surgeon in the best way that I knew how: Honestly.

"Okay Dave," I said, "aside from the obvious ‘ugh’ factor, the slim chance of catching something doesn’t really scare me. I mean, I’ve actually got a naive faith in the medical community. But look, it all boils down to mileage and wear and tear. Your job and mine are not all that dissimilar, except for the hourly rate." (At this, Surgeon Dave shot me a humbling glance, but I went on). "Look, people come to you and say, ‘this is broke … fix it.’ Likewise, they do the same thing to me. Only when they come to my place they are pointing at an ATV, not a body part.

"Like you, Dave" (using his first name I think brings the big doctor down to my level. You should try this with your doctors … they secretly hate it), "I offer my customers the option of used parts. I can find a salvaged piston and rings, even cylinders for half the price of new. Most people won’t do it. The new part is just too important. Likewise, I don’t know what condition this dead guy’s ACL is in. What if he was into yoga or something and stretched it all out?"

"Well, there’s a difference between pistons and what we’re looking at," Surgeon Dave replied with an all too self-empowering chuckle.

"You know what … you’re right. The piston is like the heart of the engine and we’re only talking a limb here. So really, this is more like replacing a chain with another used one. Hell, I’d never suggest someone use a stretched-out old chain. It would cause the sprockets to wear funny."

"But Bill, this isn’t the same thing. I mean, after all, we check these things out thoroughly. If there is a tear or abnormality, the ligament is not offered. We check the elasticity, the overall strength, we check it through and through."

"Do you offer a 100% replacement guarantee?"

"No. There are far too many variables involved here."

"Can I purchase an extended warranty?"

"No." The former chuckle seemed to have subsided.

"Can you provide me with detailed information about the donor? Can you give me the guy’s name, his habits, medical history, arrest report, things like that?"

"Now you’re just being silly."

"No, I’m not. Can’t you see that? Let me ask you, Dave, have you ever bought a used car that you’ve never seen, just on description only?"

"I get your point, but …"

"This is different only in that it is something that you want to put into my body with no warranty and no knowledge of where it came from. You want me to run this used part and trust that its going to hold up to motocross and hare scrambles, not to mention my clumsy walking habits or my Friday night-had-a-little-too-much-to-drink escapades without worry that it might fail me? All the while, I’m supposed to believe that this thing will hold up better than the OEM part that you originally took out of my leg?"


"Original Equipment Manufacturer, Dave."

"Oh. Well, you’re going to have to ease up on this thing regardless, Bill. I can’t promise you that anything is going to last with the way that you treat your body. And remember, we might not have to replace it anyway."

"Well, I still don’t like that option. Can’t you take a ligament out of the other leg?"

"And do what when you toast the one on that side?"

"I get your point."

"Let me put it to you this way, Bill. If I gave you a brand new dirtbike and said look, the government has forced every dirtbike off of the market except for this one right here. It’s the only bike left for you to ride, period. It checks out well … the suspension is good, the compression is high, but the top two gears have been removed so you can never shift beyond third gear. You’ll still be able to clear smaller doubles and climb hills, trail ride and whatever else … you just won’t be able to get above third to really hit the big stuff. But again, it’s the last dirtbike on the face of the earth. Now, do you want to ride it, or should I give it to someone else and you’ll never ride again as long as you live?"

I looked at surgeon Dave with my jaw opened wide. For a brief second, I started to speak, but then the words left my mind, and I only sat and stared some more, my jaw still dropped and the look of a comatose patient on my face. There was absolutely nothing I could say in rebuttal. He read me like a book and hit me with the single-most critical scenario to shut me up. After a few minutes of drooling on my shirt, I finally was able to gather my thoughts enough to ask a single question:

"Dave, if this doctor thing ever dries up … would you consider a job selling motorcycles?"

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