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

Feb. 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.”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 [email protected].

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

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.