August 12, 2014 — Car shopping: you either love it or hate it. I happen to love it—I absolutely love the game of negotiation and even took classes on negotiating in grad school. My husband, on the other hand, cannot stand car shopping. Negotiation is ultra-painful for him; he won’t even try to haggle. Whenever we’re making a big purchase, we know that I’ll be the one negotiating and my husband will pretty much stay silent.
I also manage our finances, draw up our budgets, pay the bills, and know how much we can spend. My husband keeps me grounded and practical with our spending. In short, we make a great team!
So imagine my reaction when we walked into the car dealership the other day:
Salesman [to my husband]: Hello. How can I help you today?
Me [extending my hand]: Hi. We’re here to buy a car.
Salesman [again addressing my husband]: And what type of cars are you considering? New or used?
My husband [gesturing toward me] Well, she’s in charge of this decision.
Salesman [confused and addressing my husband]: And what is your wife looking for?
My husband [silent and looking at me]
Salesman [once again to my husband]: Does she want something safe for the family, even better if it has good horsepower for you?
My husband has never once cared about the horsepower of a car; for him, it’s all about whether it is safe for our kids, reliable, and environmentally friendly. I am the one who wants a flashy car. And, even though I was doing all of the talking and all of the negotiating, the salesman kept addressing my husband as if he were the only one with the authority to make a decision.
Coming face-to-face with these stereotyped views about women, men, relationships, and gender roles eventually tired us out. I was exhausted and frustrated from insisting on having a voice in the negotiation process, and we eventually gave up.
In the end, we left without the car we needed, the salesman lost a commission, and the dealership lost us as customers. Relying on gender stereotypes about customers and family decision-making is terrible for business—and diversity matters in the marketplace.
How differently would that scene have played out if the salesperson had had some diversity training? In our case, it would have been as simple as acknowledging me as the decision-maker for that purchase.
Had that happened, I’d be driving the flashy new car of my dreams today.
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