I purchased a second-hand car this week. It’s very exciting and it’s my birthday present to myself. I’ve been driving a tiny city run-around for ages, but it’s just too small for life with children, so I’ve bought myself a station wagon – a Mazda 6 in fact. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds; it was downright fraught, to be honest. I felt like I’d stepped back in time.
About fifteen years ago, I went with my then husband to buy a small car. He had a motorbike and we co-owned a very nifty Peugeot 206 fuel injected ‘too fast bloody thing’, if memory serves correctly. We needed a second car because work was taking us in different directions each day, and he was getting fed up with riding his motorbike on cold winter mornings.
As we looked around the used car lot at Peugeot, back in the UK, a car jumped out at us as being ideal – a smaller version of the fast one we already owned, even down to the colour.
The salesman swooped, but instead of talking to US, the salesman just talked to HIM, my husband. The only time he addressed me was when he said, ‘and it would be perfect for the lady to take the kids to school and then go off to the supermarket.’ You what?
At that time, I didn’t walk away. I couldn’t. It wasn’t just up to me. We bought the car, and who ended up in the small one most mornings? The lady, for pity’s sake.
I’m hugely relieved that it’s a different world for women now, and a lot of young women probably wouldn’t believe that that sort of thing went on, but it went on all the time. I suspect that was especially true if you were blonde, and especially true if you were even remotely attractive. I’ve had men, in my much younger days, slow down their speech when speaking to me. Let’s get this clear: my IQ sits at 155 and I qualify for MENSA apparently (fuck knows how – I don’t feel that clever – in fact, I think I’m an idiot much of the time, but there you go). They didn’t know me; they simply presumed I was thick because they were sexist pigs.
The first salesperson I dealt with was an extremely attractive and able young woman. She was professional, personable, knowledgeable, helpful, everything you’d want in someone assisting you in making a choice about a car. But her boss couldn’t help himself, could he? She was soon consigned to sitting at the side of the desk while he took over talking turkey.
Thing is, as a blonde in my forties, I’ve heard more bullshit come out of men in my lifetime than your average bull could produce in the equivalent amount of time, and I’m pretty good at spotting it. I don’t always let on, mind you, because that would spoil the fun. Anyway, I could tell very quickly that this guy wasn’t just trying to rip me off. He was lying to me and he was being incredibly patronising. I soon lost my temper (a very rare occurrence), told him where to stick his car and I walked out. If I do say so myself, I was magnificent.
When I think about his figures, they weren’t that far off, but it was the way he spoke to me that made me furious. I love negotiating over a new car – the banter, the pauses, the grimaces, the handshake at the end, but I couldn’t do any of that with this guy. My only option, I felt at the time, was to walk away.
I went to Mazda; got myself a beauty from a couple of guys who knew how to play the game in the year 2014 and who treated me with respect.
I bloody love my new car, and so do the girls.
(Would I ruin the feminist vibe of this post by admitting that the main reason we love it so much is because the paint work is a little bit ‘sparkly’. Yeah, probably should delete that bit before posting, eh?)