By Guest Poster Jody DeVere - Ask Patty -- Automotive Advice for Women
Do male employees at the car lot strike out with women consumers because they are not trained better or is it the 'nature of the beast'? Is the remark 'boys will be boys' an excuse for behavior no gentleman would dare or does the male dominant environment at car dealers breed and condone sexist misconduct?
Recently I spent the day training 200 + dealership employees on improving communication skills with women consumers. At the end of the day-long meetings I went around to pick up the extra literature and found several inappropriate notes written by the dealership employees referencing crude remarks about the presentation, a few rather bizarre sexist cartoon drawings of myself, and my favorite, a note with www.manhater.com written on it.
At first I felt angry, then laughed. This was just like back in high school with the same group of 'boys' sitting at the back of the class passing notes and making fun of the teacher.....only now I was the teacher! Boys will be boys?
A survey from Power Information Network, a division of J.D. Power and Associates, found that of about 800 female buyers in the U.S. market, roughly 40 percent believe their gender hurt the way they were treated in their most recent visit to an auto dealer.
One of the top drivers of traffic to Ask Patty is discomfort with dealers -- inappropriate sexual comments, a "bring your husband back when you're ready to buy" attitude, and the suspicion of being ripped off, get mentioned often.
Here are a few quotes from women consumers :
"A salesman dangled the keys of a sporty little number in front of my eyes, asking pityingly:"You sure you know how to drive this?" I replied pointedly,"Were I a man you wouldn't dream of asking that question. Naturally he didn't get the sale."
"Being a woman, I realize that I'm already at a disadvantage when it comes to buying a car. Not that I'm a woman, but that the approach car dealers use towards women and their attitudes towards women are so uncalled for, so disrespectful and so not acceptable. They assume just because I'm a woman that I don't know what I'm doing or that I need the help of a man to buy a car."
"I had a terrible experience at a dealership when I took my car in for repair. I dropped the car off at 12:30pm and the work was to be finished by 4pm, when I arrived back at the dealership at 4pm it was just being washed. One hour and forty five minutes later (after several gentlemen in suits had brought their cars in and got their cars back already) it was finally ready and they brought it out half cleaned and with a few big scratches on the side of the car. I was not pleased and we had a bit of an argument about it. Needless to say...I never received a survey about customer satisfaction for that visit."
There is Good News: AskPatty provides extensive training and certification for dealerships to become 'female friendly'. We are working with committed dealership owners who are making a concerted effort at resolving this problem, including the one mentioned. I applaud dealer owners who recognize the issue, make a commitment and take action. We just need more dealerships around the country to step up to the plate and make the commitment.
Strong leadership at the dealership and effective ongoing training will begin the process to solve the problem of women who still have issues with this and won't set foot on a dealer's lot without a man in tow because they're afraid they'll be taken advantage of or refuse to deal with these same pervasive crude attitudes.
The stakes are high for dealerships as women purchase more than half of all new cars sold in the US and represent billions of dollars in annual revenues.
Ask Patty.com, Inc.