I’m excited to share my first-ever guest post on And Possibly Dinosaurs today!
I went to college with Kelsey, and we bonded over our mutual love of journalism, reading, comic books, and crafting. While we now live on opposite sides of the state, we still chat often.
She recently told me about the frustrations she was having while trying to buy a car, which I thought it would be a great topic for Feminist Friday. Enjoy!
“You’re lucky your dad was there with you. In that situation, people try to take advantage of women,” my mother said two days after I bought my car.
The sad part is, she’s completely right.
Like Caitlin, I never considered myself a feminist but, based on the Merriam-Webster definition, it appears I always have been one as well. I’ve always wanted to have the same role my male counterparts did whether it was working construction at the state park or covering stories in the male-dominated field of journalism.
Shopping for a new car, however, was not something I expected to be riddled with inequalities and present a limited number of opportunities for women. My experiences buying a car, I think, will offer insights not only to other women looking to buy a car but also to dealerships and salesmen alike.
Over the past two months, I visited five different car dealerships in the Metro Detroit area. I was accompanied by my dad on each trip. The first dealership we visited had exemplary customer service for two main reasons: 1) The salesman talked specifically to me on almost every aspect of the potential purchase, and 2) He insisted on showing me each model and having me test drive the different trim options. We would test drive one model and as soon as we brought it back, the salesman was out the door walking toward us with another set of keys to test drive another car. Our salesman was polite, not overly-pushy and he stuck to his word when it came to looking for a car that would meet our criteria and be within our price range.
A man’s world
Unfortunately, our experiences after that first outing did not have very high levels of customer service or interaction and an unexpected trend emerged. At every dealership after the initial one, the salesmen began addressing only my dad about the car whether or not we explicitly told them the car was for me. This was extremely frustrating on multiple levels and truly showed me that car sales is still male-dominated both in marketing tactics and sales positions.
We spoke to only salesmen. Inside the dealership salesrooms there were only men. If women were present, they were in traditional gender roles, as a secretary or administrative assistant with the exception of the financial counselor we spoke to at the last dealership.
Even when they were talking to us about the cars, the salesmen gendered their topics, meaning they talked to me about the interior fabrics, back-up camera and heated seats while they talked to my dad about the engine, tires and any items that needed to be fixed like dents or stains.
As a feminist, this is something that needs to changed and soon. Here are two important facts that are going unnoticed:
- The number of women drivers surpassed men in 2012.
- The percentage of women car buyers has been steadily increasing as well.
While there are resources available such as women-drivers.com and askpatty.com, the change we really need to see is inside the dealerships themselves.
To be fair, dealerships are trying. Recently, one of the Lincoln dealerships in the area made a commercial that shows only a woman shopping for a car. However, the depiction of the woman is skewed, to say the least, but it is a good step in market more for women.
Fight the man
I’ve found that one of the best ways to combat unfair treatment at dealerships is to educate yourself.
- Learn everything you can about the car you’re going to look at and then research further. Look into the trim, engine and body options.
- It was also immensely helpful to print out the original window stickers (available on the Ford website if you’re buying a used car) and the listings from Autotrader or the dealership’s website.
- Be sure to check out every part of the car, we ended up finding a chip on the top of my car by the sunroof when we went to look at the luggage rack.
- Be direct with the salesperson and if you don’t feel as though you are having the best experience you could be having, ask for a different one. There’s no reason you should not have top notch customer service for one of the biggest decisions you will ever make.
Most importantly: read everything twice!
I must, must stress the importance of reading over every piece of paper that passes in front of you. While my case was an extreme one where nearly every document was incorrect and is not typical, it is important to know your facts and to be able to spot mistakes and address them immediately.
Kelsey Whing is a Journalism graduate of Central Michigan University. She enjoys spending her time writing, reading, and crafting.
Jennifer Robbins says
Ugh, car buying is rough!! I had an awful experience at the first dealership I went to. Pushy salesman who talked mostly to my husband. But the other dealership I went to where I ultimately ended up buying a vehicle was pretty great. The salesperson was a woman and not pushy at all. I think it was about three weeks between my first visit there and actually buying the vehicle, but she was patient and answered all my questions. The only problem I had there was the finance guy who was a jerk!
That’s so frustrating! I’m glad you were able to find a decent car salesperson, though. I find it odd that we see so few female salespeople, especially in the automotive industry.
Allison Keltner says
Apparently saleswomen have a tough time getting taken seriously by and selling to guys. So stupid.
Our first dealership visit was by far the best one. The salesman answered all my questions and made sure to show me every vehicle with every different option (re: 6 cylinder engine with leathers and w/o leather seats, 4 cylinder engine with leather seats and w/o leather seats).
At the dealership we bought my car from we had the opposite experience you did in regard to gender. The salesman wasn’t pushy but did call and leave a few very “clingy” messages about our visits later in the day. The finance lady was pretty unpleasant. She made it known to us that she did not like her job but she especially did not like working with the salesman that took care of us. Quite a few eye rolls and heavy sighs were let out. She was also pretty pushy about the extended warranties and became offended when we said we didn’t want them.
Allison Keltner says
It’s nearly the same with buying a house. I actually had a decent experience when I bought my car (my dad came with me, but for the most part he stayed back and let me do the talking), but my husband and I have started talking to realtors and going to open houses and without fail, every single realtor directs all his (or her!) questions to my husband, while I just stand there like a houseplant. It sucks.
I would hate that! I’m surprised you’ve found that with both female and male realtors. Does your husband do most of the talking, or do you think it’s because of gender stereotypes?
Allison Keltner says
Haha, can Houseplant Syndrome be a thing?
Caitlin — I think it’s both gender stereotypes and because my husband is an architect (i.e. he definitely knows his shit about houses) and tends to speak up, and in a very authoritative voice. I’m naturally more soft-spoken, but it doesn’t mean I don’t also know what I’m talking about or have opinions. And it’s less common with female realtors, but still happens. I think it might also be that people assume that the man has more control of the finances, so he’ll be the one making the ultimate buying decision.
Houseplant syndrome is the worst! Even though I tried to do most of the talking and we explicitly told all the dealers the car was for me, they still focused their attention on my dad. It’s unfortunate to find out that house shopping is the same way. I think part of the problem is traditional gender roles and the stereotypes associated with them. Cars are an area of expertise for men, same can be thought of for houses. They might assume that a man will pick out and buy the house, whereas a woman is expected to decorate it and make it their “home.”
Ali Potter says
I have always dreaded going to car dealership. I luckily had a good experience when buying/leasing my car. The salesman made sure to talk to my about every aspect of my vehicle and answered all the questions that I had about the different cars I was looking at. When we found out that I was still terrified to get behind the wheel after my car accident, he made sure that I took one for a test drive around the parking lot. As much as I was scared, I appreciated that he went the extra mile.
I will say that the gentlemen in the service center are not as pleasant. I have taken my car in multiple times now and each time leave feeling like an idiot. They always treat me like I am inferior and as dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to issues with my car. I have yet to have a good experience with them, and try to avoid taking my car in as much as I possibly can.