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.
(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?
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.