International Women's Day
It's funny that one of the most misogynistic experiences I've had in a long time happened just two days before International Women's Day this year. Except that it's not funny. It was coincidental, and a reminder that the fight for equity is far from over.
There are times when femme-identifying individuals like myself experience sexism to our faces. My response to this type of oppression is usually loud, angry, and full-on Chicago [read: swearing + sarcasm]. It's easy to come up with a retort to something so brazenly oppressive. But then there are times that leave us stupefied in the moment, the situation so nuanced that we lack the immediate language and expression to describe the impact of what just occurred. Instead the fury rises within us in the hours after, as we stew on the gross insidious nature of the patriarchy.
This is but a glimpse into what the insidiousness can look like, from my point of view as a white middle-class woman. This is something that no doubt happens more frequently to those that have different backgrounds or socio-economic status than me. I wrote this email to start a conversation about what happened, to help shed light on how the business practices of this car dealership could improve to be more equitable for not just me, but for everyone after me. I sent it 5 days ago, and I have yet to hear a response. I will not be going back to this dealership.
Saturday March 6, 2021
I'm not sure if you are aware of this situation yet, but I thought I would bring to your attention how disappointed and infuriated I was after my experience at Kendall Toyota in Bend yesterday.
First of all though, I want you to know that the salesperson that I worked with (a woman) was fantastic. She was kind, knowledgeable, efficient- everything that someone wants in a salesperson. As a woman myself, going into a dealership can often be like gearing yourself up for some type of combat because it is such a male-dominated scene. There will inevitably be someone that makes an unwelcome comment about your body (this happened at your dealership) and the salesmen will use any tactic they can to make you feel like you don't know anything. Working with another woman was like a breath of fresh air. After all, women have money and buy cars, why can't we be represented by salespeople more frequently?
I'm writing to you today because I need you to know that the selling practices you seem to support (or at least condone) at your dealership are discriminatory and sexist. Yesterday, which I'm sure is not the only time this has happened, the dealership prioritized chauvinistic and predatory salesmanship.
Long story short: I had an appointment set up to look at a pre-owned truck. As I was going out for my test drive (my name was hanging in the window on a big tag) another salesman and another buyer were leaning on the truck and talking about it. They begrudgingly got out of the way when I said I was test driving it- after all, didn't they see my name?
I test drove, I liked it. I looked at a couple others briefly but wanted to pursue this one. I went in with the saleswoman to start offers. I was ready to buy. We negotiated a bit, she went back and forth a couple of times to the finance desk. One of the times she went back to the desk, I had set the keys to the new truck in front of me on the desk I was sitting at. I was texting when someone came over and grabbed the keys.
Honestly, I didn't think anything of it. I thought it was probably her or someone doing something for this sale. When my salesperson came back, she said, "Did that guy take the keys?" Because the other salesman, the one that had been leaning on the truck before I test drove, had taken the keys and was showing the vehicle I was about to buy to the other person. We started working faster, but the next time my salesperson returned to the desk, it was to tell me that the other salesman had sold the car to the man that looked at it after me because he was able to come through with money right away. Pardon my French, but what the ****?
At the time I was so stupefied that I responded a little heated, but with grace. Obviously I'll find another car. That's not the issue. The issue is I wanted that one, and I was going to buy it. The issue is that in a situation that involves a woman selling another woman a car, and a man stealing the keys to subversively sell that car to another man--- is sexism. If you ever wonder why the gender pay gap still exists, it is because of situations like this. A woman is doing her job and she should have gotten commission on that vehicle, and instead a man was freely allowed to sell it out from under her nose.
Even more stupefying, is that no manager intervened. It is your job to stop situations like this. Your absence of action allows women to be underpaid. You are also allowing women like me to leave your dealership infuriated and disappointed. Your understanding of women seems to be: If I let this man buy the car, I know this female employee will just continue to do her job, and this customer will just come back to buy another car. Your absence admits that you know that women shove this kind of oppression under the rug all the time, and you expect it to happen again here. By continuing to allow this kind of predtory sale you are saying, "It isn't my problem that we discriminate, it's just the industry."
I want you to seriously consider how this situation is discriminatory based on both gender and socio-economic status. My credit score is excellent. I don't have the cash to pay up front for a vehicle, so I have to use a bank. Does that mean I'm not worthy of buying the truck I want to buy?
This experience showed me once again how cutthroat capitalism leaves nothing for those of us that put so much time and effort into the work that we do. Nothing will ever be enough. When the new sales manager came to talk to me, he apologized for what happened. I said to him, "This is the story of this whole [boom] town. This is the story of why my husband and I will never be able to own a home here. For people like me, it doesn't matter if we are first in line. There is always someone sweeping in with their big wallet and cutting the line." Those big-walleted individuals cut the line in front of people that are the backbone of this town: healthcare workers, restaurant workers, social workers, mill workers, brewers, baristas, grocery store clerks, librarians, small business owners. If people with the power to make a difference- the real estate agents, car salespeople, and city government- continue to let this style of predatory sales win, there won't be anyone left in this town to do your work. I don't know the person that bought the car, and I'm not mad at him. I'm furious about how the salesman navigated the situation. My wish is for you, as a company, to address how gender, race, and socio-economic status play a role in the work that you do, and how you can adapt your services to be more equitable. I would also like half the commission from that sale to go to my saleswoman. She was wonderful, answered all my questions, and she deserves to be compensated for the 3 hours we worked together toward what would have been a sale. I hope you do something about this.
I think I may have gone off the rails a little bit on the capitalism point- but I can't help but see how connected oppression and mistreatment based on gender, race, ethnicity, disability and social standing plays a role in how our towns and cities profit. This was just one little experience, but there are so many of these little experiences every damn day in every damn place in this country.