Sigh. I’m one of the most introverted people most people ever meet. I’m also an INTJ which occurs statistically in less than 3% of women, and means that not only will I typically kick your ass in a game of strategy (if you can get me to sit still long enough to play), but that I will also go into any situation that involves dealing professionally with other humans wearing protective gear – like makeup and nice clothes – and armed with spreadsheets and paperwork.
In other words, the “compliment” that pops up the most often is that I’m “intimidating”.
Buying a vehicle isn’t something I do often (thank goodness) but it’s seemingly so fraught with stereotypical interactions that I walk in loaded for metaphorical bear. In other words, the car dealer thinks about me long after the papers are signed. Which is tricky, because I’m trying to be a person who doesn’t generally behave like an asshole.
But I drive a vagina model of human being and, in the world of car buying – wherein every car salesperson I’ve ever dealt with has been a white dude, with 80% of that group being older white dudes… well, let’s just say that collectively, their generalized behavior makes it tough to walk the line between being heard quickly and efficiently, thereby getting what I want… or behaving like a jerk.
The first hurdle I have to cross is the internet hurdle. That’s easy, I generally know what model I’m looking for, I have a price range in mind, I’ve double checked that it’s not a crap car over on Consumer Reports, I’ve run my own credit, Googled the current interest rates, looked at the Carfax, and made an annotated list of questions for each vehicle I’m looking at. And then the fun begins. I actually have to call people, an action that uses up all of my people-ing spoons for the day, because I begin to interact with people who are desperately trying to make commission by selling me something.
I have a voice that sounds a little like Kathleen Turner, except not quite as deep, and I drive a full sized pickup truck, often with a trailer in tow. The truck makes hauling my glass crap around the country easier. I mean, who really wants a bunch of art glass nestled quaintly next to them in their SUV while driving down the road? That seems like a decision best left to potential Darwin award winners. So when I call in my Kathleen Turner-esque voice about the “2014 full sized Make Model pickup truck you’ve got sitting on your lot”, it’s rare to not have a moment of… silence. I jump into that silence and say, “I have a list of 4 questions about the truck. Does it have an 8 foot bed?”
“Was it used for snowplowing? If the answer is yes, I’m not interested.”
“Why is it still on your lot at this price? Is there something wrong with it?” (This is a reverse psychology question because it culls the really neurotic ones. The ones who don’t take life too seriously usually laugh at this point, and calmly answer my question. And the calmer they are in answering this question, the easier they’ll be to deal with in person. I’m empathic and being around neurotic people is like having someone constantly needle you with static electricity.)
And then the last question, “Does it have a tow package installed on it?”
There’s always a moment of silence here too. Followed by either an “I’m not sure, let me go check” or a “yes”. (It’s never “no” because they want to sell me the car, and I’ve not indicated which is preferable: Is a tow package a positive or a negative?)
When they get back on the line with their answer, then I ask about the particulars. (Or if my particulars can be installed.)
“I’m looking for a Class 3 or Class 4 frame mounted hitch with a 4-pin wiring harness.” Rarely do I get a simple affirmative or “We can install that for you.” Instead, this is the Moment Where Every Freaking Stereotype Plays Out. They ask: “What are you planning to haul with it?”
It’s hard not to imagine that this question has some bearing on the fact that I drive a vagina model of human being. Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe everyone gets asked this question. I definitely need a sample size bigger than 5, but for now, anecdotal evidence suggests that boys who buy trucks don’t get asked this question.
So I channel my inner Wednesday Addams, because I love serving up deadpan as an alternative to getting pissed off about everyday sexism.
“I’m driving a 10 ft. cargo trailer with a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of just under 3000 lbs, and I have another 800-1000 lbs of cargo in it. It doesn’t have a braking system on it, hence the 4-pin. According to your website, I should be well within the tolerances for the ____________ (make, model) I’m looking at.”
After this point, if we aren’t talking shop like two dudes over a beer, I thank them and hang up.
So, having just gone through the truck buying process this week, everything flowed as expected and within normal tolerances until I sat down and tried to negotiate a cap for said truck. Getting a cap on a pickup before I walk out of the dealership is one of two hills I’m willing to die on. (The other hill being a way to hook up my phone to the radio.) Why? I can’t do long drives without GPS and audiobooks. Luckily this truck came with a radio friendly connector thingy, so logically, I started girding my loins for “the battle of the truck cap.”
Why is this even a thing? Well, the best place to find a used cap is on Craigslist. And assuming I find one at all for my make and model, I then have no idea if it’s going to actually fit my truck or not until I get there, and we try it on the truck, because I swear, older caps settle a little and never quite fit a second truck like they did the first truck they were put on. And they’re heavy as hell. (I haul glass for a living, and run half marathons for fun, so consider the context of that statement.)
It occurred to me after the salesman and his manager said, “No way, a cap is way too much money to include in the price we are advertising” that maybe I had no idea of what a new truck cap goes for. I got up to leave, thanked them for their time, and informed them I was going to look at the second vehicle on my list, “which I believe comes with a cap.”
“Wait! Wait” Both of them said in unison. The manager then cut in with, “We’d really like to sell you this truck. What’ll it take?”
A cap. Obviously. Or were you distracted by the voice that sounds like I should be working a call center talking dirty to strange men? Sigh.
So they offered me “dealer pricing” on the cap, and I said, “I’ll at least look”, because truthfully, none of the trucks I was looking at came with caps, (HA!) so I would need that information regardless of where I ended up buying the truck. And to be able to walk into dealership #2 quoting dealer pricing for caps, and with a vehicle I’m already seriously thinking about at dealership #1 would likely help me really negotiate…
The salesman began by showing me a list of Very Nice Truck Caps, with the manager popping in and out to “help”. Every single cap was well out of my league if I was going to stay on budget with this truck. I asked, “Isn’t there anything cheaper? It doesn’t have to be fancy. I need it to keep my stuff dry, I need it to be a regular cap height, like you can not-quite-stand-up-in-it when loading and unloading, and I need it to be cheaper than even the ‘dealer pricing’ of $1600.”
I reiterated these 3 points several times over the next 45 minutes, with zero effect until the salesman explained that “there is just nothing out there with blah blah blah lifts blah blah lighting blah blah…for less than $1600…blah blah blah” (Okay, so I wasn’t doing such a great job listening by this point either. We had been there nearly 2 hours, 1 of which was trying to negotiate on what sort of cap could be found for less than $1000, and how much of it I could get them to pay for.) I held up a hand in the universal “wait a sec” gesture, and asked, “Lifts? Lights? No.” I then ticked off the points (again!) on my fingers.
“I need a truck cap that is (tap) cheap, (tap) dry, and (tap) tall. I do NOT need lift assists or any fancy lighting in it. In fact, I’m perfectly happy if you call a used place and buy one there for me. If they have a used one in glittery purple with flaming skulls all over it in the back of the lot for a wickedly good price, so much the better. BUY THAT ONE.”
Both the salesman and his manager actually stopped in their tracks. And the manager made eye contact for the first time since I started listing my 3 points. He pulled a face that was fraught with confusion and incomprehension. “Skulls?!? Why?”
I replied in my best Wednesday Addams voice with a perfectly arched eyebrow, “It certainly would make it easier to find in a parking lot with all those white and black pickups at Faire sites, now wouldn’t it? And it’s likely to be priced accordingly. Who the hell wants flaming skulls on their pickup? Other than an artist?”
They found me one. (Sans skulls, and in some wretchedly boring color.) They will drive my truck there and have the cap installed for me. And they are paying for half of it, plus the install. So lest they forget the lady who drives both a vagina and a pickup, when I stood up to go I asked, “Now do you see why I tried to walk out when you said you couldn’t work on a cap for me?”
Nods all around.
In the meantime, Imma gonna go research how exactly one paints flaming skulls on their pickup truck cap.