Women and Repeat Business: Make Sure you Shake Gender Bias Once and For All

Bob Ulrich
Posted on February 27, 2018

My wife, Tris, likes cars. Always has. As a kid she used to help her father work on his vehicles because, as she says, “I had little hands and could get into spaces he couldn’t.”

When she turned 18, she purchased her first car, a used Pontiac Ventura, for $600. She kept it together with Bondo body filler. According to the 3M Co., Bondo can be used “for repairing dents, dings, holes, large rusted areas and scratches in vehicles.” Tris took the “large rusted areas” claim literally, which is why she refers to that car as the Bondomobile. She has never bought or wanted a used car since (with one exception).

As a car enthusiast, she knows what she wants when she buys a car or needs when she takes it in for service. Unfortunately, when doing so she has experienced some gender bias, a reputation both car dealers and automotive repair shops have had a tough time shaking. When she bought her first new car, a 1984 Pontiac Firebird, she thought the salesman was condescending. She bought the car because she really wanted it, but never returned to the dealership.

She reacts the same way when getting her vehicles fixed, something I hope all of you will keep in mind when women come in for service. According to BrightLine Marketing LLC, women decide which tire brand to purchase and which retailer to frequent 44.5% of the time.

The first time she took her car to an independent tire dealer, Rick, the salesman at the counter, treated her with the utmost respect. He gave her options on tires, and she bought the set he recommended. She walked out the door a satisfied customer.

She continued to go to that dealership for all her vehicle maintenance until Rick moved to another dealership. Tris followed him to the new store, even though she had to drive out of her way to do so.

Eventually Rick retired. Recently Tris took her 2016 Ford Escape to a new independent dealership for an oil change and tire rotation because it was more convenient. “I hear a rattling noise in the rear end of the passenger side when I’m driving about 30 mph,” she told Blake. “But I don’t hear it when I drive faster. I also would like an alignment.”

Tris modeled as a technician for our 2001 Performance Handbook.
Tris modeled as a technician for our 2001 Performance Handbook.
She told me the people at the dealership treated her well. They changed the oil and oil filter, lubricated the chassis, checked all the fluid levels and measured the tire tread depths. They also made sure the tire pressures were set to vehicle specifications. And they performed a thrust alignment.

As for the rattle, it turned out to be the passenger side rear upper shock mount, which was loose. That part was still under warranty by the Ford dealership.

After she picked up her SUV, I asked her to describe the experience. “Blake was friendly and informative,” she said. “He seemed sincere. And the place was comfortable and clean.” The next time she needs help with her Escape, she will take it back there without hesitation.

She also has a 2001 Pontiac Firebird, which she bought in 2013. That’s her baby, and she will continue to take that car to the previous tire dealership. Why? Because when she use to take it to Rick, one of the technicians told her how much he liked her car. He, too, had a Firebird, and they would talk about them when she would bring it in for maintenance. He also personally worked on the car.

Rick may have retired, but the tech didn’t. Until he moves on or retires, Tris will be taking her Firebird to him, because she knows he knows what he is doing and will take care of it, just like she does.

The moral of this story is simple: Make sure your employees don’t patronize your female customers, because they are only fooling themselves if they do. Face-to-face interaction still determines whether or not you will earn repeat business, which is the ultimate goal of every retail tire dealer. ■

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at

To read more of Bob Ulrich's editorials, see:

Legislative Issues in 2018: Here are the Top 5, Healthcare Among Them

It Is Your Business: Don't be Apolitical When it Comes to President Trump

MTD's 25th Tire Dealer of the Year Winners Fit the Profile

You've Got Mail: It's Still the Way to Go to Market, Digitally Speaking

Related Topics: Bob Ulrich, Bob Ulrich editorial, Editorial

Bob Ulrich Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Jennifer

     | about 7 months ago

    Sadly this is true. I decided to buy a pick-up about 18 years ago; I did the research and made the decision. My husband came with me to the dealership, and although I initiated the discussion with the salesman he would only direct his comments and questions to my husband (who had no care about any of it). Needless to say we did not purchase from that dealership, nor will I ever consider it. Just recently I took my car to be serviced at a local dealership (recall work + basic maintenance). The service advisor came to talk to me and, as expected, gave me a huge list of things that I should pay them to do (change my wiper blades? Come on!). This is why I don't trust auto repair places -- I looked at what they said they checked, and the tech had noted that all 5 tires had been checked and were at proper tread depth, air pressure, etc. The catch? My Mustang doesn't have a spare tire. That is the type of thing that makes me wonder if they are trying to fool me because I'm a woman, or if they are just trying to get everyone to believe them and spend more money.

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