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Penn State Student Gets a Truck With Just the Power of the Pen

Need a new ride? Forget about heading down to the dealership and trading in your old car. Instead, take a page out of Joseph Marcus’ book and trade a $1.25 pen for a 4×4 pickup truck.

After being told he was required to take part in Penn State’s Trader Challenge for his entrepreneurial leadership class ENGR 310, Marcus’ professor told him to have high goals.

“At the start of the challenge he said be unrealistic with your goals,” said Marcus. Still, it was a shock to everyone when Marcus, whose goal was to find a more reliable winter ride for his father, succeeded. While the next best accomplishment was a 34-inch TV, Marcus’ truck blew the competition out of the water.

“I’d say he was definitely surprised,” said Marcus.

The challenge took plenty of planning, but Marcus pulled off a series of trades that make the typical broke college student trading in old text books look downright lazy. While he was on break over Martin Luther King Day weekend, Marcus was at a friend’s house when he heard the friend’s parents telling him to get rid of a broken guitar. When Marcus returned to school and the challenge started, he realized he had a valuable opportunity.

“I knew he had to get rid of it anyways, so I called him and asked if he wanted to trade it for a pen,” said Marcus.

From there the trading frenzy was on. Marcus traded the broken fake fender stratocaster for a brand new Cajon drum. The drum was traded for an abstract painting, the painting for a 2-burner charcoal grill, the grill for an antique fishing rod and arrows, the fishing rod and arrows for first-generation Soviet night vision binoculars, the night vision binoculars for a Toshiba LCD projector, the projector for a Bowflex home gym, and finally the Bowflex for his end goal: a 4×4 Ford F-250 pickup truck.

Joseph Marcus poses with his newly acquired Ford F150 pickup truck.
Joseph Marcus poses with his newly acquired Ford F250 pickup truck.

Trades like that don’t come easy. Marcus learned quickly that he had to employ all of the tricks he had to keep the process moving.

“I used Craigslist a lot. I would ask people what they wanted and trade up to that item so that I could get what they were offering,” he explained.

Take the grill for example. When Marcus got two offers for it on Craigslist, he didn’t just pick one and hope to find someone that would be interested, he shopped both items around and then accepted the bamboo fishing rod after he had already found someone who wanted it.

“I developed great networking skills,” said Marcus, and those skills are already paying off in other areas of his life. “I’m using the skills I learned in this challenge for a project I’m working on in a club. With a lot of networking I’ve lined up a potential $10,000 grant for the club.”

As can be expected with Craigslist, every deal didn’t go exactly as planned. After getting the Bowflex, Marcus thought that he had a trade lined up for a 14-foot john boat. The trader soon admitted that he didn’t actually have the boat, but wondered if Marcus would want a gasoline powered moped that was in his garage. Ten phone calls and twenty emails later, the trader wasn’t heard from again.

“The Bowflex was the hardest to get rid of,” Marcus admitted. “It turns out everyone and their uncle owns a Bowflex.”

After sitting on it for two weeks, a trade finally emerged. “I found a truck that was just sitting in a garage in New Jersey. All the parts were there, it just needed to be put together.” he said. After a brief inquiry the owner of the truck agreed to trade the truck for the Bowflex, despite the price difference. “I went and looked at it and he will be trailering it to my house when I go home in April,” said Marcus.

When he first told his parents that he had gotten them a new car, their first reaction was that they didn’t want to pay for more car insurance but now “they are really excited about getting a new car,” said Marcus. If getting a truck from a pen weren’t enough, Marcus also received a Kindle Fire HD for winning the challenge.

With the experience under his belt, Marcus says it’s something he’d definitely consider doing again. You know, whenever he feels like getting another truck.

“I would recommend for everyone to try it at least once. Definitely try it and don’t be discouraged by trades falling through. When you set a goal, have a reason behind it. The reason I wanted the truck was because my dad is using a minivan at home in bad weather conditions. I drove it in high school and the brake lines snapped on me twice. He needed a truck,” said Marcus.

Next time you head to the bookstore to trade in 400 dollars worth of books for fifty bucks, hang your head in shame. Think to yourself, “What would Joseph Marcus do?” With a little ambition and the right reasons, you could be the next yellow lambo guy on campus.

About the Author

Mitchell Wilston

I apologize in advance.



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