Sexism is Alive and Well in the American Auto Industry

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Jon’s car began to sputter and cough “Uncle.” Which, of course, was communicated via mechanic bills becoming exponentially higher than the entirety of the vehicle’s worth.

So the decision was made to go car shopping.

My prior car history involves running a vehicle until it is ready to return to its origins of fossil fuel in a fiery blaze of glory – sometimes quite literally. This is not due to emotional attachment; this is because of my distaste for the car purchasing process.

But since I am the family member with the typical rush hour commute, we agreed that we would purchase a more fuel-efficient commuter car for me to drive. Jon would take over day-to-day operations of the MomMobile. (I guess we can’t call it that anymore.)

We’ve all heard the stereotypes of women being talked down to – so make sure to bring your big strong husband with you – but, it’s 2015. That’s not really a thing anymore is it?

Allow me to enlighten you.

It is very much still a thing. So much so, that when we began our negotiations today, it was as though the Chevy dealership opened their showroom doors and proclaimed, “Come TechMom! Allow us to dictate several blogs for you!”

Lest you think I’m simply picking on General Motors, I survived dealership torture only 4.5 years ago – 11 days after the muppets made their grand entrance. When we first began investigating stroller capacity for the MomMobile, we stopped by a Honda dealership where we met a delightful salesman who never even acknowledged my existence with something so simple as eye contact.

It does not appear that half a decade has changed the status quo in the American auto industry.

It started off innocuously enough. A jovial middle-aged man welcomed us. We chatted about what we were looking for and what options were currently sitting around on the lot. No one asked me about my preference for “pretty colors.” (An actual event in the MomMobile acquisition. NB: I did not get the color I wanted.)

Of course, up until this time, I’d let my big strong husband do all the conversating.

We were close enough to a deal that it was time to go inside and haggle. This is another concept that I strongly feel needs to die a quick death in the 21st century. Because Internet.

For several hours I sat politely. I am not exaggerating. Jon and I had previously gone spelunking into the swaths of research that lie within the interwebs. We knew what we were willing to spend.

Smarminess began oozing out of the jovial salesman. Homeboy WANTED a sale. And given the added pushiness, he wanted a high commission out of it. He said a number. We said a number. He said another number.

Finally I replied, “No thank you. We are not interested in playing a game. We will pay X dollars. Is that feasible?

He repeated his number.

I repeated myself, “No thank you.”

He chuckled and said, “Well yes, you said that. But I haven’t heard your husband say no yet.”

Jon replied calmly, “I didn’t realize you couldn’t hear her clearly.” I stared daggers at the salesman’s poorly coiffed head. (I have spent the previous three decades perfecting “the look.”)

Listen scooter, in the incident command system that is our family, I own the planning and finance pieces.

  • Planning: decision to acquire a vehicle.
  • Finance: paying for said vehicle.

Shall I say “No” again or turn the logistics and operations components over to my husband as he implements our imminent departure?

The salesman departed for “the back room” to discuss our proposal. We heard the required shouting and theatrics required with the car purchase performance. I was not impressed.

He returned. “Well, they said no. But let’s go ahead and get the paperwork started and maybe we’ll see if we can work something out,” he instructed pushing a finance application form at me.

I laughed. And not just because lunchtime had long since come and gone during such obnoxious negotiations. “No. We are not going to start providing our information for a price we haven’t agreed to on the maybe chance someone in your management is going to feel a whim to lower the price. Either we have a deal or we do not.”

Without batting an eye at me, he looked at Jon. “Wow. She’s tough. How do you live with her?”

Seriously? “You know I can hear you right?” I asked pointedly. Jon did not even dignify the comment with a response of any kind.

Several backroom shouting matches later, we reached a deal. Our salesman returned with a list of numbers.

Unfortunately for him, I am not only a hardass bitch of a wife, but I am also mathematically literate. “This is not the starting price we agreed upon. These amounts don’t add up, either.”

I had officially poked the bear. The salesman stormed back toward the negotiation stage while Jon politely called after him, “We really don’t appreciate you trying to manipulate the numbers.”

Perhaps the salesman thought he was letting us sit and fret about possibly losing our beloved new family member. In reality, I was just getting hangry and more inclined to find the nearest train station. (One can read lots of books commuting on a train to work.)

Jon suggested perhaps we should forgo the search for a sensible commuter car in favor of the spicier Camero. I laughed at his joke. Obviously we should forgo the search for a sensible commuter car and the Chevy make entirely and go find a yellow Mustang. (Way sexier muscle car, clearly.)

When the salesman returned, it took approximately 47 nanoseconds to realize the new price total was $1,000 MORE than the prior proposal.

Nope.

You have got to be kidding me. I am relatively certain the rumbling noise that followed was not my stomach but rather my great-grandfather, a former controller of Chevrolet, rolling in his grave.

“No, no, no,” the salesman waved off my indignant exclamations. “Forget that other one. He made a mistake.”

“No, no, no,” I parroted. “You don’t get to present a customer with one number and then raise the offer. At least not if you expect them to take you seriously. Please return the keys to our car.” (The dealership was currently assessing a trade-in value for Jon’s car.)

Instead of honorably exiting this brewing shitstorm, the salesman chose to argue what a great deal we’d be getting. No matter. One does not live with twin preschoolers without learning how to handle a tantrum. And one does not learn how to handle major muppet meltdowns without having first passed on the genes to throw such magnificent hissy fits.

You want to see a hysterical female? I was ready, aimed and willing to put my theatre arts degree to good (and loud) use right there, right then.

Thankfully, shortly before such histrionics became necessary, the salesman scurried off in a huff of his own to retrieve our keys. “Fine. I’ll get your things and you can be done with this.”

My butt had not even cleared the seat by an inch when the sales manager returned in place of the salesman. I’ll give them this – the smoke and mirrors of dealing was well choreographed.

I sat back and let Jon use his well-honed verbal judo to cut the perpetrators of my new nightmare down to size. Meanwhile I wondered who the salesman’s slimy tactics actually worked on. Minutes, possibly hours, passed while I dreamed of a voodoo doll and a Snickers bar equally.

My reveries were interrupted only when the finance manager materialized. “Hi Jon, I’m Finance Manager,” he introduced himself. “Why don’t you come on back to my office and take a look at some paperwork.”

“Good to know you have a name too,” Jon muttered at me.

I stepped in front of the finance manager, blocking his path. “Hi. I’m Tricia,” I extended my hand in introduction.

Fucker, I thought.

Seated in the three-walled office, decorated with such homey touches as posters notifying us of our legal right to have a contract executed in the language of our choice, Jon spoke up. “You know what, we’ll come back tomorrow and sign a contract if we decide to proceed.” Then he realized, “Oh, but we’d need your signature. How would we do that?”

The finance manager looked up, slightly confused. “Only need one signature.”

Well, that didn’t sound right. We asked for clarification. (Note: they had taken both of our driver’s licenses for verification at this point.)

“You want me to put both names on the paperwork? I’ll have to go reprint everything.”

What?! I had been completely erased from the purchase scenario.

“Eh,” shrugged the finance manager. “Don’t need both. California is a 50/50 state.” Although I’m sure the finance manager and all other involved felt their momentum fading quickly.

As we left, it occurred to me that I had not seen a single female employee anywhere. It was quite clear the pervasive attitude at this dealership thought my talents would be far better served back in the kitchen than dealing with such complexities as a technological new age machine.

Joke’s on them though. Because we all know nothing good comes from my culinary attempts.

I’m known for dishes en flambé. (Shit goes boom.)

1 Comment

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One Response to Sexism is Alive and Well in the American Auto Industry

  1. Joanne Hamann

    OMG – talk about the dinosaur age! And, for the record, I will NEVER buy another car without Tricia by my side:)

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