Today’s Daily Prompt says, “Tell us about a time when you flew into a rage. What is it that made you so incredibly angry?”
It was only ten years ago. Not 1952. The importance of that fact will become apparent.
My little car had served me well, but it was 12 years old and reaching the stage where every routine oil change meant another costly surprise, and every surprise meant an intensive cost-benefit analysis. Time to go car shopping.
I went on my own. This was my car. My husband had his van. While there was some occasional swapping of vehicles depending on who was doing what, for the most part I would be driving this car. And paying for it. The importance of those facts will also become apparent.
I had done some research first, and narrowed the field to three mid-size cars that I wanted to test drive. When I finally set out on my shopping expedition, my experience with each of the three dealers I visited was vastly different.
At Dealer #1 I was greeted by a salesman. He was pleasant, but there was no mistaking the fact that he was working hard to sell me a car. He had a lot of carefully rehearsed things to say, and when the time came for me to test drive the vehicle he hopped in beside me and continued his running commentary on the car’s highly desirable features the whole time. By the time I left, I knew everything there was to know about that car except whether or not I really liked it.
At Dealer #2 I was greeted by a young man who was considerably more laid back in his approach. Somehow he managed to be enthusiastic without being pushy. He answered my questions thoroughly, volunteered helpful information without overloading me, and genuinely listened to my thoughts about what I was looking for. When I reached the point in the discussion where I asked to test drive it, he handed me the keys and said, “I’ll be here if you have any questions.”
“You aren’t coming with me?”
“That’s up to you. I can come if you want, but you’re welcome to take it out on your own.”
“Really? Well, yes, I think I would prefer to take it on my own. Are there any limitations on where I take it?”
“Not really. Take it on the highway if you want.”
So off I went, driving where I wanted to drive, thinking my own thoughts and not feeling self conscious about driving with an “audience.” Relaxed. When I returned with the car I asked a few more questions of the easygoing young man before I headed up the road to Dealer #3.
Twelve years earlier, I had made my last car purchase from Dealer #3, and for twelve years I had faithfully frequented Dealer #3’s service department. I was a loyal customer. My twelve years of tune-ups had undoubtedly contributed to university tuition for Dealer #3’s offspring. The service staff always greeted me by name.
Today, however, I needed to talk to someone on the sales floor, which I soon discovered was inhabited by quite a different species.
This guy was a car salesman in an almost stereotypical sense. He was slick and pushy. He chattered excitedly, peppering me with questions. Who would be driving the car? Was it for work or pleasure? Did I do a lot of highway driving? etc. etc.
I told him exactly what I told the other two salesmen. That I was buying the car for my own use. That my husband might drive it occasionally, but that he had his own vehicle.
When the time came for a test drive, I was somewhat taken aback when he insisted that he drive first. I questioned why this was necessary, but he was adamant. He made out as though it was so he could demonstrate certain key features, but it quickly became apparent that he wanted to get the car into a less “traffic-y” area before letting me behind the wheel. Eventually he pulled over on a sleepy residential street and offered me the keys. After my freedom with Dealer #2, I was beginning to feel like I had been demoted.
I puttered cautiously and self-consciously around his strategically selected safe streets, and then he insisted on driving back to the dealership. In the short time I was actually allowed to drive I was already feeling like this wasn’t the car for me, so I bid him farewell and said I would think it over and get back to him if I was interested. As I turned to walk out the door, he cheerily called out after me:
“If your husband wants to drop by and take it for a drive, tell him he can take it out on his own.”
He said WHAT??
My initial reaction was shock. I could barely process what I had heard. I just stared at him dumbfounded for a minute before turning and storming out the door.
As I drove home the initial shock work off and I grew angrier by the second. By the time I walked into the house I was beside myself with fury.
It took me until the next day to calm down enough to phone the Sales Manager at Dealer #3 and repeat the story to him. I made it abundantly clear that a) this kind of blatant sexism was BEYOND INAPPROPRIATE in 2003, b) I expected that the salesman would be severely reprimanded for his insulting behaviour towards me, and c) after twelve years of my loyal business they should not expect to see me ever darken the door of their dealership again. Ever.
I still get angry when I tell this story.
Oh, and I went back to Dealer #2 and bought a car from the nice young man who trusted me. I’m still driving it.