Harper Grey: Women Are People Too


The Savvy Shopper - Harper Grey

Yeah, I know . . . the title of this article seems like one of those head-slapping, “Well… duh!” statements, doesn’t it? After all, didn’t our mothers all march in the streets and burn their bras so we could have equality? And didn’t we (kind of) get it? Well, we’re still working on getting our pay rates up there near those of our male counterparts. And sometimes those older men still call us, “honey.” But overall, we don’t usually feel like second-class citizens while shopping, right? Right. Unless we’re dealing with our cars.

Oil Change Angst

I normally take my car to the dealership to have the oil changed. And I do like the place quite a bit; while they change my oil, I sit in a clean, air-conditioned room with comfy leather chairs. I enjoy a warm chocolate-chip cookie and an espresso, read a magazine and relax.

Last week, I drove to the dealership over my lunch hour to get an oil change, only to find that everyone else had the same idea. There was a two hour wait. So, instead I headed off to the nearest Quick Lube (no, that’s not really the name of the place. Though it strikes me that there may, in fact, be a company called Quick Lube. If so . . . it wasn’t them).

I pulled into the bay and walked over to the computer area where the quick lube technician (fancy title, huh?) was talking to another employee. I stood there for a moment and waited for him to finish his conversation about the baseball game. Then I stood there for a few more minutes. Finally I cleared my throat and he looked over with an exasperated sigh. “Need an oil change?” Um . . . yeah. The place only does oil changes! Why else would I be there?

“What kinda oil ya want?” he asked. Well, I don’t know. The kind the car takes, I suppose. My dealership never asks me this . . . they just give me the right kind. “Well, there’s this kind here for $44. Or you can get the super-duper, upgraded, exclusive oil for $65.” Ahhh . . . I see. Well, since I have in fact added oil to my car, I know that I don’t need the super-duper kind. I tell him to give me the standard stuff, and he shakes his head, “You really should go with the better quality stuff, lady,” he says. Right. I’ll pass.

I head off to the waiting room, brush the sunflower seed husks off one of the orange vinyl chairs and have a seat. ESPN is blasting on the television and there’s no way to turn it down. The coffee pot is empty and the magazines look grimy. Clearly, I’m not going to enjoy the typical pampering I get at the dealership.

A few minutes later, in walks my “technician,” holding an air filter. “This here filter really needs to be changed out,” he says. He shoves a filthy, ring-style filter at me and proceeds to lecture me about replacing my filter every few thousand miles. Hmm . . . really? Well, first of all, my air filter is the square, panel-style. Second of all, my car manufacturer recommends that I change the filter every 12,000 miles. And finally, I changed the filter less than six months ago. I tell him all of this and snaps at me, “Well fine. I guess you think you know best,” and skulks out.

Would he have tried that crap with a male customer? I’m guessing not. He seemed surprised that I knew anything at all about my car. And frankly, he was pretty rude both before and after I called him on his unethical behavior.

Buying a Car

I bought my car a year ago. I had saved my money for several years in anticipation of buying it and I had done a lot of research. I was pretty sure I wanted the Subaru Forester, but I still needed to test drive the competitors just to be positive. So I headed to the dealerships.

In all, I visited six different dealerships and drove ten different makes/models of cars. Out of those six places, I had bad experiences at four. One salesman pretty much refused to let me test drive a car until I had my husband with me. He kept saying, “Well, shouldn’t you wait until your husband is here so he can see the car, too?” I reassured him that this was my decision and that I would be buying the car. And he kept reiterating that I should really have my husband with me. I ended up driving that make of car at another dealership.

Some of the other salesmen I came across weren’t quite as rude, but it was obvious that they didn’t want to spend much time with me. Which is too bad. I was, after all, a customer armed with cash to buy a car. And I was ready to buy. In fact, women purchase 65% of new cars sold every year. So car salesmen shouldn’t be so antsy to move on to the young couple across the lot (just because she has her husband with her). I’m 15% more likely to buy the car.

The Numbers Might Surprise You

78% of women report that they feel misunderstood by automotive marketers. And, this ain’t the 1950s anymore. Women make more than 80% of all consumer purchasing decisions.

While I don’t personally have quite as much spending power as my husband, women 10 years older than me do: “Once the college bills are out of the way and children launch their own households, the discretionary spending power of 50-plus women soars. They spend 2.5 times what the average person spends. Women are the primary buyers for computers, cars, banking, financial services and a lot of other big-ticket categories.” Marti Barletta, Primetime Women