Posted by on Oct 11, 2008 in Palaver | 1 comment

Bummer: The Want Advertiser, a weekly classified-ads mag that I loved and used for decades, has gone under.

My friends and I used to call it the Dollar’s Worth of Dreams as we pawed through the high-ruboff newsprint in search of coveted cars. This was before the Web’s impact, of course, and in particular before Craigslist hit the scene.

One cool thing about the Want Advertiser was that it ran on the honor system. You paid nothing up front for an ad; if you sold the item, you were supposed to send the magazine its cut. If memory serves, the figure was 10% up to a maximum of $70. I always paid, but I imagine the pub took a beating from the dishonorable.

I bought and sold a few cars in the Want Advertiser (including the best car I ever owned, a 1992 Nissan Sentra SE-R that was a fantastic autocross car because it had zero options – not even air-conditioning – and thus weighed barely 2300 pounds). Wheels and tires were another big item; you could always get a killer deal on snow tires by scanning the Want Advertiser in May or June.

The pub offered a lot more than cars, though; you could find Cape Cod real estate, tools, guns, novenas, and just about everything else. The saddest sales were always the no-longer-necessary engagement rings advertised by jilted dudes.

In 2000 I wrote a column about the Want Advertiser for Boston.com. The point (to the extent I had one) was that while upstart dot-com companies (which were all the rage; this was pre-bubble-pop) simply appeared on the scene and announced they had legendary customer service, the Want Advertiser had earned its reputation the hard way, by doing everything right for two generations.

Unfortunately, the pub did at least one thing wrong: like so many businesses that traffic in information, it never successfully made the leap to the online world. I’ll confess I haven’t bought a Want Advertiser for five years. Why pay to strain your eyes at eight-point type and a grainy pic (if you’re lucky) when you can click through free high-resolution images all day long – and click a convenient email link if you’re interested?

Ah, well. RIP.