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Sunday 7 October 2012

The Sorry Saga of the Royal Standard 1 Typewriter

Naturally I was delighted with Scott Kernaghan’s flattering post on his blog The Filthy Platen, describing his visit to Canberra and his detailed review (with many great images) of the typewriter exhibition. Scott’s post can be seen here
I cringed, however, when I later read about the work I have given Scott with the chrome Royal portable. And I cringed, too, when I read Scott’s tribute (“the machine that took my heart the most … [its] style lept out at you as you looked at it”) to the Royal Standard 1 flatbed that was part of the exhibition – but for entirely different reasons.
As much as I was pleased if surprised that Scott had been so taken by the Standard 1, his words brought back some very painful memories.
The Standard 1 represents by far the worst, most distressing experience I have ever had in 10 years of buying typewriters on eBay – and that probably adds up to more than 1300 purchases by now. It even outranks the ludicrous affair a year ago, of me committing to pay a “Buy it Now” price to a Melbourne dealer, Bill Balatli (no longer trading under that name on eBay, surprise, surprise), for an Optima P1 portable that was actually sitting in Alan Seaver’s collection in Rochester, Minnesota. Go figure ...
I have been meaning to post on my Standard 1 for the past seven months now, but going back over the events that led to me acquiring it proved too much to bear. I just kept putting the post off. Now that Scott has highlighted it in his post on the exhibition, however, I should get it off my chest.
The item was listed on eBay in early March by a Melbourne (what is it about Melbourne traders?) eBay seller called Paul Mahjob (aka Ahmed M Nejad  Mahjoub and Neyad Ahmad), using the business name of Mid City TV, 419 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy (eBay sign-on midcity_tv).
The Standard 1 was on a 10-day listing at a Buy it Now price of $900 and a starting price of $300. I was the only bidder and won it for $300.
There was also a postage cost of $60, which I thought ridiculous, so as soon as I won the auction, I contacted the seller and asked if I could organise my own courier to pick up the typewriter.
At this point all was well with the world. I got a quick, helpful, friendly reply from a young man called Graeme Kerr, who was happy to allow me to organise a courier. I paid for the item, booked the courier and paid for the pick-up the following day.
In the meantime, not suspecting for one moment that I’d gotten myself into a “good cop-bad cop” situation, wedged tightly between a “friendly agent” [Kerr] and the alleged actual seller [Mahjob], I was in a relaxed, open frame of mind. I was at my ease, and made the fatal error of admitting to Kerr that I had actually bid far higher and giving him some idea of the true value of the machine.
Expecting to be told the pick-up had gone ahead as scheduled, and that the Standard 1 would be arriving the next day, I suddenly became aware that Mahjob had refunded my payment (for the machine, not for the wasted trip by the courier). Then a message came from Kerr: “I have some distressing news ...  While [Mahjob] had already agreed to sell the typewriter for a minimum of $300, he claims to me now that he would never have sold it for that price. This leaves me in somewhat of a pickle as I've already sold it to you. Not to mention arranged pick-up. I'm sorry but he's not willing to part with it. It will be listed again but he's asking for an unreasonable amount for it, I'm not sure if it's something you would want to enter into.”
Scott's photo of the Royal at the exhibition
The courier had turned up at Mid City TV but was turned away empty-handed. Mahjob had refused to hand over the item.
Mahjob was now asking $1000 for an item he had already legally sold to me. Later, Kerr wrote, “I've explained to Paul that not only is his decision highly unethical but also possibly unlawful.”
All sorts of threats were made, costing me heaps in legal fees. But then I found I had a card on my sleeve: Kerr was “A Scottish boy trying to apply for residency, acting on behalf of a moronic shop owner. I fear if I'm put on this charge sheet that my residency will be refused and pretty much spell the end of my life in Australia.” Kerr took the wise course of action, packing up the typewriter and arranging for a courier to bring it here. Because of the legal and other costs involved in seeing this justice done, everyone involved finished up being out of pocket.
Let me say outright, this was a typewriter well worth fighting for.
I'd like to also be able to say all's well that ends well. But this sort of behaviour by eBay sellers is really quite appalling, and leaves one in a highly distressed state for some considerable time. Whenever I look at the Standard 1, I am reminded of how underhand and nasty some eBayers can be.
Maybe this says something about me. But I was brought up to be fair and honest in all my dealings, and I guess that for the best part of 65 years I've expected everyone else to be fair and honest in return. Life's cruel reality is still hard to accept. I believe I'm a generous person, but I refuse to be blatantly ripped off.
Hopefully, Scott Kernaghan's observations on the Standard 1 will now help me get over all this, and to let me look at it in a more positive light.
Scott was right to comment that the Standard 1 was not displayed to its best advantage in the exhibition, and said his photo of it “doesn't do it justice”.
“But I just took one look at it - and I was in love. A feeling for a machine that I hadn't had since I first clapped my eyes on an Oliver. I'd seen photos of these machines before, but never felt particularly impressed. But now seeing one with my own eyes I have to say - I was impressed.
“Sitting there in the dark, I almost asked it if it had been fed any new paper or ribbons lately. It seemed so lonely …”
Well Scott, I had not only photographed it at home before it went into the exhibition, but also put some fresh ribbon on the spools and fed it some paper, so I could video it in action.
Gone but not forgotten
I already had a model 5 flatbed (above), which had arrived many years ago from the US with the carriage busted. Even Terry Cooksley couldn’t fix it. Of course, once I had a working Standard 1, it took precedence as far as selection for the exhibition went, although the 5 did look gorgeous. But it was great to be able to finally use one of these Hess-Myers machines.
I gave the 5 away to Peter Brill when he came over here from Perth for the exhibition opening, and I am wondering if he had any success getting it working. I suspect he is probably having as much difficulty with it as Scott is having with the chrome Royal portable.


L Casey said...

I have dealt with some shady eBay sellers, but never something THIS disgusting! In the end, though, I am glad that it (sort of) worked out for you.

And that video! Two finger champ! I could not believe the speed you were achieving, honestly. Also, I have never seen someone use a finger instead of a thumb for the space bar. Good show!

Robert Messenger said...

You've already cheered me about this, Ken, made me chuckle. Best medicine ever. Thank you.

Robert Messenger said...

PS: It's so long since I filmed this I can't now find the typecast to scan it in!

Scott K said...

Oh Robert! So sorry to bring back bad memories. I really am. But I did really love the machine, and I'm glad it is now in your possession.

I should have known there was something about that machine, by the dark pawl that was over it.

And can I just reinforce - that while the Royal is going to be a hell of a challenge, I'm still extremely grateful that you gave it to me. Thank you so very much.

However, I'm going to thicken the plot for you - just a little bit more. As you may recall, I'm an ex Melbourne boy myself. And incidentally you are not the only person to have had a run in with Ahmed.

Oh no. I used to work at the Queen Victoria Market with a chap who was creatively named 'Cactus Pete'. Pete and I used to hang out on Brunswick street after work, and knock about the place a fair bit. Pete later managed to get some work with your 'delightful' seller in his shop for a while. The shop has been there for quite a long time.

Ahmed, like a quite a few people, used to employ guys on a cash only basis who had come in from overseas. From what I am told, he used to run them down and abuse them. They were usually students, and he often found them when they had been looking for work around the QVM. I think he even started out working there himself.

The guy is charismatic - but he's also an arsehole. I don't wish to publicly air the stories I have heard of him, but there's a lot of people who don't have a lot of nice things to say about him.

Sure, he's had some hard knocks too. But it isn't an excuse for being the prick that he is.

Anyway. Again, thanks for the Bijou and the Royal. The Bijou is working beautifully now, and I'll be doing a post on it in the near future. So I sincerely thank you.

And I will.... will fix the Royal.

Scott K said...

And I much preferred the livery of the 1 to the 5. Which is why I loved it so, so much.

Dwayne F. said...

Mean people suck. I've had a few run ins with bad sellers on ebay. Your experience is far worse. The encouraging part is that roughly half the sellers I've dealt with go above and beyond by getting stuff shipped fast in bomb proof packaging. Of the other half, just a handful are scumbags in the willful beyond mere negligence department.

As for the U.S. Postal Service, their package handling appears to be in decline. I get more mangled and tossed boxes than not. The fact that the machines survive is a testament to their design and build quality.

Robert Messenger said...

Goodness, Scott, it IS a small world! I'm almost relieved to know I'm not alone in it! Yes, I'm certain he was using and abusing Graeme Kerr, who was probably more the meat in the sandwich than me, and in sticky position re residency. I wonder if it cost him, too.
Anyway, glad to hear the Bijou is performing. I hadn't realised there was a problem with it.
Hi Dwyane - I echo your thoughts on postal services. I haven't gone near Australia Post in yonks. They claim to be making a fightback to "restore" reputation, but I'm not convinced. They were once making an extra $800 million year BECAUSE of eBay, and I'm certain they lost some of it. They're now talking about "security" boxes at home etc. But the horse has bolted ...
I too have have good and bad dealings with sellers lately. A British seller was very prompt in refunding after a badly packed typewriter was busted. Another seller "donated" (refunded) the cost of a machine and postage because of "the service provided by this blog"! Some recent arrivals have been extremely well packed, yet communication was sadly lacking. Ah well, how else can we acquire typewriters?

A.R.M.S. said...

I absolutely adore this machine; wish I too could have seen it in person! I'm sorry it was such a struggle to get hold of it. I'll probably always be partial to the old Royals, as my first typewriter is my Standard No. 5. I'm keeping my eyes out for a 1, though!

That is the fastest I've ever seen someone type with just two fingers! It's awesome beyond words. Hubs mentioned that it seemed as though you were very comfortable with it and had been typing that way for quite some time. Color the whole house impressed!

Robert Messenger said...

First Ken got me chuckling, then Scott got me smirking, now Annalese has me laughing out loud! This is the best medicine I've had in ages. Typospherians are magicians, the doctors of cyberspace, the wizards the world! Thank you one and all!

Robert Messenger said...

Yes, Annalese, it was the first time I had used one of these Royals, but I've been typing this way since 1957, so I few million words later I guess I am comfortable with it. In 1967 a boss told me to go learn to touch type, and I said, "Why? I'm pretty quick doing it this way." Nothing's changed. RM

A.R.M.S. said...

Awww, so glad I could make you laugh!

You actually had an employer try to change your already speedy style? If it ain't broke, don't fix it!' I think it's pretty awesome as is, and good on ya for not caving.

Scott K said...

I'm with Rob. I was kinda surprised that he didn't touch type... but that said, he 2 fingered like a demon. I think I mentioned it in the past, but most of the Journo's that I have known have been two finger typers, so he's in great company. Trying to reverse such learned behaviour would only make Rob's tying slower.

And I also reckon that there's a few more people on the typosphere that are two fingerers... But all I have to say is, type 2 and be proud!

Richard P said...

My "journo" friend Jack Knarr is a ONE-fingered typist! Everything done with his right index finger. And he is fast.

Ahmed is a $#^@. People come in all kinds, don't they?

Unknown said...

Ive just bought one of these for £5.00.
saw it sitting outside at s house clearance place. The paint is flaking in places, I bit of rust. The return cord is snapped but other than that fully working and not missing anything.
Bargain of the year

Stephen B said...

I have a 1911 No. 1 on the way to me now, hopefully it will arrive undamaged. Seems like marking the package for careful handling is an invitation to drop-kick it around the warehouse.