Jeff Oberholtzer, a plumber from Texas City, TX, thought he had seen the last of his old pickup truck when he sold it in October 2013. Unfortunately for him, the Ford F-250 he offloaded popped up more than a year later in a place he never would have expected. In mid-December 2014, a terrorist Twitter account from Syria posted a picture of two extremists firing a homemade anti-aircraft gun from the bed of a truck. While the picture normally would have been ignored as propaganda, commentators quickly noticed that the terrorist truck had information for an American plumbing business emblazoned on the driver side door.
The company in question, Oberholtzer’s Mark-1 Plumbing, soon began receiving hundreds of phone calls demanding an explanation. Besides enraged strangers who had seen the picture online, Mark-1 received many calls from dedicated customers who wondered how Oberholtzer could do such a monstrous thing. He replied that he absolutely did not sell the truck to terrorists on purpose. “We have a secretary here, she’s scared to death,” Oberholtzer said. “We all have families. We don’t want no problems.” Still, he couldn’t explain just how a truck that originated in southwest Texas ended up in Syria.
That’s because not even the country’s most dedicated business minds can make much sense out of the international auto resale market. First of all, the cars we think of in the U.S. as busted or out-of-date are actually in high demand in emerging markets with few current cars. What’s more, the fast-paced world of auto auctions and exchanges makes it almost impossible to track how used cars travel from one part of the world to another. Oberholtzer’s truck likely passed through many hands before it landed in a Syrian lot. In the end, the plumber’s only mistake was not scrubbing the business info off of the truck. After all, you never know the places where your company name could end up.
- What’s an important lesson to be learned from Mark-1 Plumbing’s experience?
- Why would out-of-date automobiles be in demand globally?