Can a woman buy a car without her husband? In 2016 you wouldn’t think that this was a serious question. However, a couple of days ago I decided to have a trip to Volkswagen in Lancaster. My VW polo is near to the end of its 3 years PCP and I fancied myself in a brand new bright yellow beetle cabriolet, especially now I have my number plate ready for a home on my dream car after some of the milestones I have now reached as a business coach and marketing professional with my Forever business.
I gave the sales lady a budget that I would like to stick to and she said she had the perfect car. Unfortunately it wasn’t the brand new beetle cabriolet but it was a bright yellow and a beetle, so I agreed to test drive it. As I began to test drive I realised immediately I didn’t like it, it was too basic and besides, I had my heart set on a soft top.
As we were test driving she asked me If I would like to show my husband my new car. I imagined the wording was some kind of sales tactic that would make me feel the car was already mine and that if I could show my husband he would get excited and I would want it. I politely told her he had been on nights so he was sleeping. “He would love to be woken up,” she replied. Now I don’t know about you but in my experience, waking a sleeping shift worker three hours into their sleep is never a good idea so I just laughed and replied “definitely not”.
When we returned I told her it wasn’t for me and could we test drive the new car I had asked about in the first instance. When she returned with the keys I was taken to the car I had originally asked to look at but as we sat in it, she told me I couldn’t drive it as it was brand new and not for test driving.
This wasn’t a problem as I knew I loved it and had pretty much made my decision before I got there, as most of us do. After all, 65% of all new cars are bought by women. I asked her to get me the pricing for it. The lovely Eva went on to question whether she should give me the price since it was outside my original budget. I went on to reassure her that if the car was right for me I would happily pay the price for my first choice, to which she replied that she would have to speak to her manager.
I sat at a desk for around 15 minutes. This would be the 3rd time I had upgraded with VW Lancaster, so I was used to the bizarre sales tactics they use whereby you are left waiting in the foyer at a desk for what seems like an eternity, whilst the salesperson is only allowed to get a price from the mythical Shaun the manager, who I begin to imagine sitting in a backroom with the appearance and mannerisms of Ricky Gervais, spinning round on an office chair reading Top Gear magazines and thinking about what his wife is cooking him for tea.
On her return, Eva announced “my manager Shaun has said we won’t give you a price today. It would be better to come back with your husband.” At this point I had been in there for two hours. I began to feel a definite heat rising up from my neck and a noise in my ears that was something like a pressure cooker about to explode. With an increasing firmness of tone, I asked Eva to “please tell Shaun I’m an independent women with an independent mind and I don’t need to get my husband’s permission to get a price!! I make the decisions and I would like a price now!’
Finally, she pops a price in front of me, telling me that it’s a generic price. I don’t let her finish the sentence because I see this as another attempt to fob me off. Why am I being given a generic price and not being allowed the courtesy and my right to thrash out a deal? I rather embarrassingly feel tears springing to my eyes, and the more I tell myself not to cry, the harder it is to control the emotions I’m feeling because I’m so angry, humiliated and mortified that I’m in the position of being an ambitious, hard working, solvent woman who has been reduced to being told, like a child, that I am not capable of making the decisions about how I spend my money. I pay a visit to the bathroom where I mutter a few mantras that are perhaps best not repeated in polite company, and splash water on my face to sort myself out before I have to return.
Upon coming out I am treated to the arrival of Shaun who says confidently: “I’ll tell you where I’m at…”
Without allowing him to patronise me any further, I bark: “I’ll tell you where I’m at! I don’t appreciate being told I can’t have a price until I’ve spoken to my husband!”
He apologises and says I have the wrong end of the stick: he simply doesn’t want me to end up having to come back twice if I need to speak to my husband, which just shows to me his absolute disregard of I’ve what I’ve just said to him. He goes on to say that if I can put a deposit down today and prove that I actually want to buy a car, then we can start looking at the best deal possible!! I’ve always found them to be a little hard sell in their sales style, but never to this extent. I love Volkswagen and the reputation of the product, but if this experience fits in with the company’s brand identity, I think I’ll pass thank you. I ask what I need to do to be able to give my car back at the end of the contracted period as I certainly will not be continuing the 6 years of business I have given the garage so far. Shaun looks genuinely perplexed.
I posted the following post on Facebook,
and the huge response of women saying they had similar experiences proves to me that I wasn’t being oversensitive. After all – this version of customer service just wouldn’t be acceptable in any other commercial or retail arena, where women are unsurprisingly used to being treated as the key players in the economy they have been for decades. An interesting article from Belinda Parmar in the Telegraph back in 2014 states that:
“Dealerships are dying because they’ve failed to make an emotional connection with their customers. In the last 10 years the average number of dealer visits has dropped from 7 visits to 1.5 visits per purchase, according to national Nielsen data.”
The article goes on to say that:
“Fifty per cent of women say they are dissatisfied with their vehicles and are unlikely to buy the same brand again. The sales staff’s desire to force customers into quick choices often leads women to making bad decisions they eventually regret, so that the dissatisfaction that is born in the dealership lives on after the sale.”
Is it time car dealerships started training their staff to speak to women as equals? Have you experienced something similar? Or have you voted with your feet and decided to cut out dealerships all together? Please share your comments below, I would love to hear your views.