Why Car Salesmen Hate Dealing With Women


"Are these ice cubes made of filtered water?"

“Now is this cooked in a teflon-coated skillet?”

It has nothing to do with sexism. Nor does it have anything to do with thinking, rightly or wrongly, that women are bad at negotiating. Besides, if that were true, car salesmen would prefer to deal with women.

Your humble (male) blogger recently ordered food at the Mexican greasy spoon across the street:

Clerk: What can I get you?

YH(M)B: Beef quesadilla and a drink.

Clerk: That’ll be $10.81.

Total time elapsed, 6 seconds.


Here was the Clerk’s conversation with the next person in line, a woman:

Clerk: What can I get you?

NPIL: Um…(stares at menu)…let me see.

I’ll have…the…

(turns to 9-year-old daughter)

Trista? They have tacos. Do you want a taco? Trista, do you want a taco?

(returns to menu)

The ono fish taco platter. What does that come with?

(Note: The menu states that all platters come with beans and rice.)

Clerk: Beans and rice.

NPIL: (pause) I’ll have the…uh, what is ono?

Clerk: It’s wahoo.

NPIL: Then why doesn’t it say “wahoo”?

(Note: “Ono” is the Hawai’ian word for wahoo.)

Clerk: (blank stare)

NPIL: Um, the chicken. Is that marinated?

Clerk: Uh…I believe so, yes.

NPIL: What is it marinated in?

Clerk: (turns to cook) ¿Qué adobo usamos?

(to NPIL) It’s a, uh, Mexican marinade. Spices.

NPIL: (looks at menu, the same menu that would have told her what the ono fish taco platter comes with, if only she’d read it) Um, I’ll have the…so is the chicken marinade, like, super spicy?

Clerk: No ma’am.

NPIL: So like, how spicy?

Clerk: What, you want me to quantify that? You mean how many Scoville units? Look, you dopey tourist, I make minimum wage. In fact, I’m paid under the table. My parents own this place. Just freaking order something.

(Sorry, we were putting words in the clerk’s mouth.)

Clerk: Uh…(smiles) Not too spicy.

NPIL: So I won’t burn myself or anything. (phrased as half-question, half-statement.) Okay, I’ll have the, uh, ono fish taco platter. That’s probably not too spicy. Trista, do you know what you want?

Trista: I want tacos!

NPIL: What kind of tacos do you want? Do you know what kind of tacos you want? Tell him what kind of tacos you want. (to Clerk) She’ll have the beef tacos. Now how many tacos does that come with, one or two?

Clerk: 2.

NPIL: Trista, can you eat 2 tacos? Can you eat 2 tacos, Trista? (to Clerk) Are they, like, big tacos? Can you show me?

Clerk: (holds hands a few inches apart)

NPIL: Okay, I’ll have the ono fish taco platter and she’ll have the beef tacos. Not the platter, just the tacos.

Clerk: That’ll be $21.98.

NPIL: Do you take American Express?

Clerk: No. Cash only.

NPIL: (fumbles around in purse for wallet, something she could have done upon entering the restaurant)

(pays, walks over to salsa bar)

(to Clerk) Now are these Maui onions?

(doesn’t wait for answer) I don’t think so! (Said in sing-song voice.)

And…scene. Total time elapsed, 3 minutes and 46 seconds.


All that for dinner. A car costs 1000 times that, and is easily 1000 times more complex. With 1000 times as many possible questions. For the time invested in such a transaction, it’s hardly worth it for a salesman (and there’s a reason why they’re almost exclusively men) to attempt to bargain with a female customer. Is it better for the salesman to sell a listed $25,000 car to a man for $24,500, or to a woman for $24,200 if the negotiation takes a week longer?

There are fussy fellas, too, but not enough of them to warrant a blog post. Plus the clerks can afford to be a little shorter with them than they can with ladies. But the important thing to remember is that we’ve each got only a finite amount of time on this planet. Is it worth it to spend it asking pointless questions that will have zero impact on your life? Eating – and for that matter, driving a car – is one of life’s great pleasures. Why not minimize the time that precedes eating, and then you can eat all the earlier? If the clerk gives an inaccurate assessment of the spiciness of his restaurant’s marinade, remember that there are kids in Burkina Faso eating unflavored breadfruit paste tonight and chasing it with tepid water.

Time is money. Time spent wearing down the collective sanity of the retail workforce (to say nothing of the people in line behind you) could be put to better use.

We repeatedly encourage people to embrace entrepreneurship here at CYC, arguing that doing so offers you greater self-determination than a random salaried position would. (Also, we practice what we preach.) That being said, if you’re going to start a retail business, save your sanity and deal in a product that only men buy. Golf equipment. Axes. Styptic pencils. Math textbooks.

The Ultimate Christmas Gift

Last year, American Express created a website that concentrated on personal finance: GetCurrency.com. They solicited writers from among the most prominent personal finance bloggers. We offered our talents, and the GetCurrency.com editors found our submissions wanting. Meanwhile, they’d run posts from that earnest imbecile at The Simple Dollar who tells blatant lies about how his 4-year-old has started a college fund.

As 2011 enters the home stretch, guess what? Control Your Cash is going better than ever. As for GetCurrency.com, here’s a recent screenshot:

Schadenfreude, and it feels so good…

So here it is again, our annual post about the best possible Christmas gift. We recommend this gift as suitable for giving to just about any individual or business. Except for GetCurrency.com; for them we’d go with a cemetery plot and a gravestone. Season’s freaking Greetings. 

From a utilitarian perspective, giving gifts makes no sense. Generally speaking, you buy gifts for people who are likely to buy you gifts – hence the term “exchanging”. Receive a gift from someone you had no intention of buying anything for, and you’re selfish and inconsiderate. Do the opposite and you’re a sucker. And if you do buy something for someone who buys something for you, custom dictates that the gifts can’t be of disparate value: hence the ludicrous practice of removing price labels. After all, nothing ruins the joy of receiving a thoughtful and apposite gift than finding out the donor spent too little on it.

Think about it: you spend money to get people things that you hope they’ll like. If they don’t, you’ve wasted your time and resources. Thus the most useful possible gift is the one perfectly adaptable one: cash. But again, the suitability of cash runs into the brick wall of decorum. ‘Tis the season to be gauche. And again, if the recipient adopts the same logic about gift-giving, you end up exchanging cash for cash. Reduced to its fundamentals, the transaction is easy if quotidian: instead of you buying me a $150 gift and me buying you a $160 one, I should just give you $10. Then we can spend the next year discussing how I’m tacky and you’re cheap.

If you’re the parent of a young adult, or otherwise have someone in your life whose net worth isn’t yet where yours is, here’s a mutually beneficial idea for a decidedly American gift that isn’t cash: the next best thing, credit.

The average college graduate receives that bachelor’s degree with a 5-digit Sallie Mae obligation. As for the prudent and responsible students who manage to graduate with no or minimal student loans, doing so usually means there’s hardly enough money remaining to create any kind of nest egg. The wealth-building years have begun in earnest, but there’s almost nothing to lay a foundation with. Renting an apartment for the next few years (an investment with a guaranteed rate of return of -100%) wipes away much of the equity a young person could be building.

If you can afford it, lend your upwardly mobile kid enough to cover the down payment on a modest little domicile. Even buying the tiniest of townhomes gives him or her the opportunity to build equity, and to exercise the care and consideration for one’s things that renters have no incentive to.

Say you find an $80,000 condo that requires a 20% down payment to avoid private mortgage insurance costs. Financing the remaining $64,000 at today’s 3.40% 15-year rates means your kid would write monthly checks for $454.39, which makes far more sense than spending $800 on a larger rental house in a fancier part of town.

Remember, this isn’t a gift in the traditional sense. As the giver, you’re expecting something in return – regular payments, with interest. If you can give your kid a 100-basis point break on market rates, she could pay back that $16,000 loan back to you in $105.93 monthly installments. Which should be pretty easy to do, especially if she’s collecting rent from a roommate. Of course, we’re assuming she’ll be making gradually more money throughout the life of her concurrent loans.

The real “gift” in this situation is something intangible but vital: an introduction to real-world finance, and a chance to exercise responsibility. It’s the ideal meeting of a recipient whose ambitions outweigh her wherewithal, and a donor with the ability to make the recipient’s transition into the world of commerce run a little more smoothly.

So for a close loved one who’d stand to benefit from the gesture, don’t “give” a gift. Lend something instead. That way you can help foster a sense of ownership and responsibility, which beats a trinket or a consumable any day of the week.

**This article is featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance #341: Christmas in Australia Edition**

Break Your Appliances, Not the Bank

Here, this looks like an easy fix

Rather than obsess on how to save money, at CYC we focus on creating, building, maintaining and protecting wealth – regardless of how much you’ve already accumulated. We maintain that few measures that purport to save money are worth the time. (If you don’t believe us, go visit the simpleton who cans his own preserves and then calculates the savings to the second decimal place. He’s easy to find.)

Easy Street, here comes Trent

That doesn’t mean we can’t write about saving money. But as usual, we prefer to drop anchor where the big fish are. Given the choice between pocketing .07¢ on every serving of peach compote or saving thousands with a couple of keystrokes, we’ll take the latter every time. (And then, of course, invest the savings.)

Do you own a house? You should, given that the combination of prices and financing is at a historical nadir.

Once you’ve got a house, get a home protection plan. It’s not quite insurance, but the differences are inconsequential. For a nominal yearly fee, a plan will cover you if something breaks. It will.

NOTE: This is not an infomercial. American Home Shield isn’t paying us for this. We should probably charge them, but they don’t know we’re writing about this and we didn’t tell them. We’re just trying to sell you on the concept of spending a few bucks today to avoid spending a ton later.

CYC World Headquarters has a policy that costs less than $54 a month. Every time something breaks – something that requires a professional – there’s a $60 service fee.

There’s NO LIMIT to the number of calls we can make. It says so right there in the company literature. Practically speaking, even if everything you own breaks, that wouldn’t amount to more than 20 items in a year. And presumably, every warranty replacement would remain in good condition throughout the remainder of the year.

The policy covers easily repairable stuff that isn’t worth the price of a service call (e.g. smoke detectors, doorbells), but also covers other items that a lay person can spend the better part of a week toiling over before admitting defeat (e.g. water heaters; stupid fancy Swedish dishwashers that we bought because they looked so alluring on the retailer’s showroom floor, but not alluring enough to save the retailer from receivership, and which no one in the six-state area seemed to know how to fix.)

On average, a heating unit costs almost $2700 to repair; or more than 4 years’ worth of payments to the warrantor.  An air conditioning unit costs over 3 years’ worth. Even a water heater can cost 11 months’ worth.

How does our warranty company make money? Who cares? Not our problem.

Wait, that’s not a fair nor satisfactory answer. We preach throughout the book that you should look at every transaction from the other party’s perspective. Determine if they’re screwing you over, or if they’re merely getting a fair price for a good service. In AHS’s case, the company profits by spreading out risk. AHS can almost guarantee its network of electrician and plumber affiliates a certain amount of work in each region where it has policyholders.

There’s an ancillary benefit too, which AHS doesn’t even publicize all that much. They give us non-obvious advice about how to maintain our things. (Non-obvious advice is the only kind we have any use for here at Control Your Cash, which you know if you’ve read us for any length.) For instance, who knew that a few pounds of lemon juice ice cubes will remove debris buildup on the sharp edges of a garbage disposal and put an end to that cacophonous whirring metal sound? It works in seconds, and it saves a visit from a plumber who’d rather be doing something challenging like a main line replacement or a boiler conversion.

That’s a win-win for both AHS and us: it reduces the likelihood that AHS will have to pay a technician, and it reduces the likelihood that we’ll require one in the first place. AHS would just as soon collect our money without having to do anything, and we’d just as soon not have stuff break. Plus we’re getting free, actionable knowledge: put into practice, that’s the very foundation of a worthwhile and productive life.

AHS doesn’t cover everything, but it covers enough. Fine, so we have to pay for own electrical face plates. Big deal. The peace of mind of knowing that we’ll never have to fix a well pump ourselves is more than worth the monthly fees.

 **This article is featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance 329: California Dreaming Edition**