By on August 11, 2009

I’ve crossed swords with before. When the self-professed “automotive advice for women” site asked me to link to a contrived story on autos and the fairer sex (here be trolls), I replied that TTAC does not approve of sexual discrimination. The editor thought I was kidding. I wasn’t. I’m philosophically averse to AskPatty’s “Women Buy Cars, Men Have a Penis” perspective. But it’s the site’s craven kow-towing to carmakers that really sticks in my craw. And vice versa. Carmakers never met a PC website they didn’t like; they especially don’t not like this one. Normally, I’d [continue to] flank the issue. But reports that Midlands Honda in South Carolina has become the Palmetto State’s first’s “Certified Female Friendly Location,” complete with an AskPatty-branded Midlands website. An unspecified number of dealer employees completed some [presumably cumulative] 90 hours of on-line training. So the question must be asked: what did they learn/pay for?

“Up until now, like most dealerships, we thought the obvious goal was to ensure that women were treated the same as men. Through the AskPatty program, we’ve learned that treating women the same as men does not necessarily yield the ideal experience for women. This may not sound profound, but with an increased awareness of what elements women seek in a positive automotive purchasing and servicing experience, our dealership is better prepared to meet and exceed the expectations of our female customers,” testifies Alexis O’Neal, Midlands’ Customer Relations Manager.

And what elements might those be? The article doesn’t say. Any guesses? Absent that information, you might say that this “sensitivity training” smacks of a PC shakedown scheme. But I couldn’t possibly comment, because I believe that all car buyers should be treated with honesty, transparency, dignity and respect—regardless of their gender.

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50 Comments on “Ask Patty: Is Sexual Discrimination A-OK?...”

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I have seen some really horrible treatment of women by car dealers and their salesjerks. For exampleA few years ago I was helping a family friend in her search for the car. At one dealership I made it very clear that I was just along as friendly support and that our female friend was the buyer. The salesman continued to ignore her and focus on me. After three increasingly less subtle hints to the guy, we left.

    I’m not surprised that a group of women is trying to organize a resource for other women to find female friendly places to do their automotive business.

    Along similar lines, if you bother to read Lowes’ annual reports you will often find reference to their corporate strategy to be a more comfortable place for women to shop for home improvement products and services. Compare the lighting, layout, signage and overall feel of a Lowes to a Home Depot and you can see the difference. Personally I much prefer Lowes for those same reasons. As shoppers, women as a whole are more discerning than men are.

    Many in the car business still treat women like crap. Of course, many of them treat men like crap to, but in different ways.

  • avatar

    Would you be so kind as to forward the following link to Ms. Patty:

    Plus, she’s late to the party:

  • avatar

    It’s hard to imagine that dealerships have yet to figure out that women make the decisions, not men. Of course, most sales staff are men, and we (men) are notoriously slow learners. It seems to take years to figure out that all one needs to say is “Yes dear.” Therefore, if us men used our large head at all, we’d know that everything (except auto parts and porn mags) should be directed towards women.

  • avatar

    I don’t know an intelligent woman who would not feel patronized by the very idea of a “Certified Female Friendly Location.”

  • avatar

    The auto reviews put TTAC to shame:

    “2009 Pontiac G3 (Chevy Aveo) Review:

    This little car is a jewel in disguise.I bought with the CASH program and went from a MiniVan to this G3 Pontiac.Although it has a 4 cylinder engine it is full of pep and I have to use the cruise to keep the speed limit on the highway.

    It is remarkably comfortable with a lot of leg room in both the front and the back seats.The cargo space is adequate for a trip to the grocery store and if I have to carry more the back 60/40 seats fold down.The best part is that I can pass a lot of gas stations and the mileage is amazing.

    It was such a good decision and with the Cash for Clunker program it was a good economical program as well.I received a total of $9000 in rebates on a $17800 car.AWESOME

    Best Feature
    I love the sun roof and the gas mileage

    Worst Feature
    The bolt on wheel covers

    Longest Trip
    30 miles (I just bought the car)

    Funny fact
    I used the CASH or Cash for Clunkers to get this car

    What’s in the trunk?
    Not much I try to keep it clean and empty”

    “2003 BMW 3 Series Review:

    Best Feature
    The car is cute and fast!

    Worst Feature
    I love it but its not as good on gas as my moms hybrid.

    Longest Trip
    150 miles to sac [note: hopefully she means Sacramento]

    Funny fact
    Hm…. not sure

    What’s in the trunk?
    My gym bag”

    How come TTAC never says what’s in the trunk? It should be part of full disclosure.

    I really don’t see a problem with an auto website directed toward women. It’s not like it’s a government quota system (like Chicago uses to pick city contractors). The “certification” system sounds a bit dubious, if anything it will just teach sleazy dealers how to better fast talk women, not to actually be honest with them.

  • avatar

    I really couldn’t care less.

    If women don’t feel that they are able to take care of themselves and that they need special protection, fine with me.

    Of course that reinforces the stereo-type of women-as-the-weaker-sex… but you can’t have it both ways and also claim that men and women should be treated equally then-
    I used to have an office staff that was all female except for one guy….. who only had one complaint about the stituation –

    “Why is it when it’s time to clean up the breakroom men and women are equal, but when there’s something heavy to lift, I’m the only guy in the office?”

  • avatar

    I’m married to a litigator. The downside of that arrangement is that should we ever divorce, I’m likely to walk away with only a dirty set of boxer shorts… IF I’m lucky. The upside however is getting up from the car salesman’s desk and looking at more cars, leaving my wife behind when the subject of pricing comes up.

    I loathe car salesmen, so I figure this is just desserts. The poor bastards have no idea what’s about to hit them.


  • avatar

    The concept of certified “women friendly” dealerships is a little absurd – I think customer friendly would be a better aim as there are enough horror stories to go around from both genders.

    What does, however, reek of arrogance is the assumption that they speak for all women. That does sort of insinuate that women are homogeneous group with little individualism who all are in desperate need for to tell them what to think.

    But I guess its no different from most women’s (and men’s) magazines. After all, why put up with people telling you that you’re an ugly, overweight underachiever when you can buy a glossy magazine that will do it much better?

  • avatar

    90 hours of training? I will not dispute that salesjerks ignore or condescend to women, I’ve been car shopping with my wife. However, this program reeks of the extortion that the Rainbow Coalition engages in, make a donation or we will boycott your company and slander you in the press.

  • avatar

    Perhaps I’m cynical, but I assume that this program basically represents a new method for dealerships to put the screws to their customers, just like similar programs that aren’t about women per se.

    The ultimate goal would be to take any advantage they can — whether focused on women, men, families, fleet purchase managers, whomever — to maximize their profit. That some of those methods might be focused on women, and might take the form of a program that appears to be about protecting women from these methods, is not even a little bit revolutionary.

  • avatar

    Ultimately, dealerships take any advantage they can to maximize their profit. That some of those efforts are focused on a particular demographic and/or are wrapped in the guise of protecting people from more offensive efforts is not at all revolutionary.

    Witness the no-haggle policy: ostensibly it is to protect customers from a dealer’s efforts to negotiate a higher profit on the car. In reality, it does no such thing; it merely institutionalizes that profit so that the customer can walk out feeling that they didn’t get a worse deal than anyone else and didn’t have to deal with odious negotiating tactics. In short, it protected the customer from the dealership’s own offensive profit-maximizing efforts in a way that renders those efforts unnecessary for maximizing profit.

    This program, at some level, is the same thing for a female demographic; some set of rules and behaviors (or even just a feel-good sticker) that make the customers feel as if their experience is improved, while getting the dealerships their maximum profit without the offensive tactics.

    Is this a good or bad thing? Depends on your perspective, I suppose.

  • avatar

    There’s a Volkswagen dealership in DFW that advertises itself as “The only Certified Female Friendly in ___.” I heard the once or twice while listening to the radio. I pictured in my head a pink VW bug and figured that sounded about right.

  • avatar

    @Chuck: good story, thanks for the laugh.

  • avatar

    …dealer employees completed some [presumably cumulative] 90 hours of on-line training

    90 hours? Of training? That’s 2 full work weeks.

    Dealer sales people – and I’ve met hundreds in my job over the years – don’t take 90 hours of product specific training… in 5 years! (They may go to a half day factory-sponsored new model ride and drive twice a year if they’re lucky.)

    90 hours of sensitivity training? …maybe all the salespeople in the country added together. IMO Patty is makin’ stuff up.

  • avatar

    American “something for nothing” BS

    Patty is playing women for suckers and making a profit from selling them a virtual colored bow they can stick to their forehead and feel better when they get get screwed by the finance department.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t call it discrimination. I would call it shameless pandering and/or perhaps a light shakedown at worst, but it’s not really that bad. Not when you compare it, to, say, the shakedown you get for ISO certification.

    What’s doubly shameful is that it actually could make sense for some of the more, ah, problematic salespeople and dealers out there. Pandering marketing drivel is better than the outright abuse that women (and many men) can expect from high-pressure sales.

    Were I AskPatty and I wanted to do this right, I’d advertise a list Female Unfriendly Low-Lifes (FULLs) and see how quickly the situation improves.

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    A squirt of Febreeze in the Ladies Room and “Patty” will certify your facility.

    If your check clears first.

    Nice shakedown ya got there, “Patty”.

  • avatar

    re: Hippo:

    +1, I need to come up with a certification scam. “Patti” is the only person whose face isn’t shown on the website ( ), I’m guessing he’s a fat guy in Jersey.

  • avatar

    I’d like to hear from women car sales people on this.


  • avatar

    This should be a no-brainer…..if I was a dealer I’d staff the floor exclusively with poised, knowledgeable, well-dressed women (don’t necessarily have to be young or “hot”) .

    Presumably women would be disarmed and more comfortable dealing with another woman and….

    Men really do think with their pants and can be convinced to eat dog poop given the prodding from the right woman.

    Only downside, I’ve heard that many attractive women in sales handle failure/rejection very personally and poorly…..thus diminishing their sales ability and self-esteem.

  • avatar

    This dealership is just trying to increase their demographic. In these tough economic times, wouldn’t you?

  • avatar
    Brian E

    But I couldn’t possibly comment, because I believe that all car buyers should be treated with honesty, transparency, dignity and respect—regardless of their gender.

    I completely agree. But to play devil’s advocate, if it takes hitting people over the head with the PC stick to make this actually happen, is that a bad thing?

    How come TTAC never says what’s in the trunk? It should be part of full disclosure.

    This sounds like a great “ask the B&B” question.

  • avatar

    Re: no_slushbox –

    What’s in the trunk?
    My gym bag”

    How come TTAC never says what’s in the trunk? It should be part of full disclosure.

    A better question should be “just how much junk in the truck? Baby.”

  • avatar

    Obviously this is patently ridiculous and a scam designed to frighten people with the PC police (and I say that not as some wingnut).

    But you know what? It isn’t like the dealers didn’t have this coming (some of them, not all, of course).

    A few years back my wife went to buy a new BMW. Went to the big dealer here in San Diego. Without me, as it was to be her car not mine. Helped by a female sales person. Wife, I should hasten to add, is a professional with a high-ish income, director of her department etc. Not the “clueless housewife” type at all (if there is such a type). And definitely not trolling for test drives.

    Aforementioned salesperson wouldn’t even let her test drive a car without “hubby” there. Not making this up.

    Needless to say another dealer/make got our business.

  • avatar

    Some dealership needs to grab the moniker “certified male friendly” right away. They’ll sell cars like beer and peanuts at Fenway.

  • avatar


    God forbid you ever get divorced – it sucks.

    But, if you do, let me know and I’ll “disappear” the Jag for you until it is safe to bring it out of hiding. ;-}



  • avatar

    In general, Feminists are bad sports with no sense of humor.

    That being said, the way salesmen treat people in general is outrageous. If I were a woman, I would be pissed at dealers even more, perhaps justifiably.


    The only problem is, a scorpion is still just a scorpion. He may use a different variety of bullshit that day for Patty’s Approved Estrogen Shock Troops… But they’ll still be dealing with the same quantity and toxicity of crap everyone else gets.

    -Best of luck.

  • avatar

    If you look closely at that logo, Patty has a pretty decent rack under that sweater.

  • avatar

    I’m with WetWilly, Patty’s hot.

  • avatar

    As shoppers, women as a whole are more discerning than men are.

    Got any data to back that up?

    My guess is that mean and women are equally discerning, they just discern differently.

    The simple truth is that outside of a few anachronistic car salespersons, most business if anything pander to women consumers. Women make about 80% of the consumer purchase decisions in this market so outside of beer, most things are advertised to women. Hence the numerous mindless men-are-stupid-dolts commercials.

    Speaking of commercials and it’s a bit off topic but since we’re on the subject of marketing and gender, has anyone noticed that Merck’s commercials for Gardisil, the HPV vaccine that prevents cervical cancer, act as though young women have only female parents. I guess fathers are not capable of discussing health issues with their daughters. Even the Gardisil website’s “information for parents” section acts as though only women are parents.

    With the current “mancession” going on, women’s relative purchasing power will increase, particularly since women are on the brink of being a majority of the workforce.

    I’m just as bad as anyone. I have to go to New Jersey later this week because I have been given an opportunity to pitch Telebrands with an idea I have for a consumer product. A.J. Khubani owns Telebrands and his wife, a former Bollywood actress, often sits in on the inventor pitches. As a matter of fact the last product Telebrands picked up from one of their inventors days was a hair clip that Mrs. K. really liked. You can be sure that part of my pitch on Thursday will be aimed at her.

    # panzerfaust :
    August 11th, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Some dealership needs to grab the moniker “certified male friendly” right away. They’ll sell cars like beer and peanuts at Fenway.

    Nah. The feminists will whine about that. Girls only clubs are just fine with them. I do a lot of cycling. Because men and women have different body proportions, women can need gender specific bike frames and components. There’s an entire bike company, Terry Cycles that makes bikes, seats and components designed to fit women. A few years back when companies first started coming out with male specific saddles that alleviate pressure on blood vessels that supply the genitals, there were actually letters to the editor of Velonews from harpies upset that stuff was made just for men.

    Good thing that JB has gone to his reward because it sure ain’t a man’s world anymore.

  • avatar

    … Women make about 80% of the consumer purchase decisions in this market so outside of beer, most things are advertised to women.

    Marketing studies in the ’50s found that when women bought beer (usually for hubby) they tended to buy tall thin (phallic) shaped bottles, rather than short stubby bottles. Some breweries increased sales simply by changing their bottles.

    You’ve raised an interesting point with respect to car ads. Are they mostly aimed at women? Is this why they leave me completely unmoved?

  • avatar

    90 hours to learn the PROPER way to kiss the female ass???

    I didn’t think even salesmen were that slow…

  • avatar

    When I bought my Buick (previous car), it was Crystal who sold it to me. Only because she treated me with truth, honesty and respect and the same way she treated my wife. I think she’s retired now.

    My wife has taken automotive courses and knows her cars and what makes them work a lot better than most men/boys. She knows when she is being treated like a “woman” and refuses to set foot into dealerships or service departments that do that. Hence I get to deal with all the car purchases and maintenance.

    I would just as soon recommend a good honest and respectful sales person to a woman than have her deal with somebody who has gone to a sensitivity course and certified a good actor.

  • avatar

    Maybe women don’t want to be treated like idiots.
    Who runs your household? If you do, your single.

  • avatar

    $5 Trillion

    Women spend over half the US GDP – About $5 Trillion. Make sure she is buying from your company and YOUR brand.

    Read the facts about the purchasing power of women. Some may surprise you from the M2W® Marketing To Women Conference website which is the premier national marketing conference designed to help businesses learn how to increase their emotional, cognitive and financial share of the powerful, dominant women’s market.

    Link to data sources:

    Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases including everything from autos to health care:

    91% of New Homes
    66% PCs
    92% Vacations
    80% Healthcare
    65% New Cars
    89% Bank Accounts
    93% Food
    93 % OTC Pharmaceuticals

    American women spend about $5 trillion annually… Over half the U.S. GDP

    Women represent the majority of the online market, *3

    Women process information and make purchasing decisions differently than men:

    59% of women feel misunderstood by food marketers
    66% feel misunderstood by health care marketers
    74% feel misunderstood by automotive marketers
    84% feel misunderstood by investment marketers;*2a
    91% of women in one survey said that advertisers don’t understand them;*2b
    70% of new businesses are started by women

    Women influence $90 billion dollars worth of consumer electronic purchases in 2007, *5

    61% of women influence household consumer electronic buying decisions

    When women are aware you support women owned businesses: *7

    79% would try your product or service
    80% would solidify their brand loyalty
    51% would give a company a second chance if a product or service missed the mark the first time

    Women make more than 80% of all consumer purchasing decisions, *8

    Consulting firm A.T. Kearney estimates that women determine 80% of consumption, purchase 60% of all cars and own 40% of all stocks

    Single women are becoming a more influential category versus 10 years ago, *10

    Over the past 10 years, the number of women 25-34 who were single or living with a significant other* increased 8% to 38%, *11

    And they are more educated: the percentage of women who had an undergraduate or graduate degree increased, from 28% to 41%, over those 10 years. *(as opposed to being married, divorced or widowed)

    Best Regards,

    Jody DeVere
    President & CEO, Inc.

  • avatar

    A local Pontiac dealer had this good lookin’ cookie of a sales woman who broke all kinds of sales records. She would pull the Dumb Blonde act with her male customers right up until said male customer victim would make a super-low offer on the car, where upon she’d focus her baby blues on the poor guy and ask sweetly- but loud enough so everybody on the sales floor could hear- “Where do you think you are- f**king Fantasy Island?”

  • avatar

    in ’87 my younger brother bought his first brand new car, a 87 olds firenza. I know, I was a bad brother. it depreciated 90% in 4 years. The “cute” sales woman saw my 23 y/o brothers gaze from a mile away. Needless to say she played him like a fiddle, paint sealant and all! I told him bad car, bad deal, bad rate. He bought it and still thought she “liked” him. A month later when he realized the car had been painted and steered bad, she still hadnt called. If she had, I doubt he would have brought up that he had been swindled on a new car that had undisclosed damage. Works both ways, I guess.

  • avatar

    My cute and seemingly innocuous girlfriend is ruthless when it comes to haggling– probably a salesperson’s worst nightmare. I’d never take anyone but her when I go shopping again. She got the 2-year extended warranty on her last car for one dollar. Obviously she’s not the type of woman that site caters to.

  • avatar

    The best (most financially successful) dealers in an urban market have to treat custoners with respect or they will lose their place at the top of the food chain. Stores like Galpin Ford in LA understand that every customer is potentally a 500K revenue stream over a lifetime, and each one must be fought for and maintained. Pissing off over half of the potential customert base is truly bad for business. Women should look at sales volume as an indicator of a good experience, not some logo gotten via shakedown from a websites owner.

  • avatar

    Did a little sales work here and there.

    Lots of hemming and hawing among the wimmenfolk’.

    I tried various sales methods but finally just used what worked for me despite the apparent bias in the method…

    I would listen to the female for a bit, ask what sounded like pertinent questions, would ponder a little then….

    tell the female what she wanted.

    What I decided was best for the female was partially based on what she communicated to me but only partially.

    Basically, I made the decision and told the female what to buy.

    The method worked well.

    So many females appeared to be relieved when I took away their need to make a decision.

  • avatar

    Ms. DeVere:

    I appreciate your coming here to discuss your program with TTAC’s Best and Brightest. The data you provided on the impact women have on consumer spending is quite interesting.

    One thing in your post that caught my eye was the following section:

    Women process information and make purchasing decisions differently than men [emphasis added]:

    59% of women feel misunderstood by food marketers
    66% feel misunderstood by health care marketers
    74% feel misunderstood by automotive marketers
    84% feel misunderstood by investment marketers;*2a
    91% of women in one survey said that advertisers don’t understand them;*2b
    70% of new businesses are started by women

    The issue that Mr. Farago raised (“So the question must be asked: what did [the dealer employees] learn/pay for?”) still stands. How, in general terms, does the training you offer help dealers provide an optimal consumer experience for women? On what differences between how men and women process information does your training focus?

  • avatar

    AskPatty: “Women process information and make purchasing decisions differently than men”

    Um, Jody, do women also process grammar differently from men, because you use ‘than’ when ‘from’ is correct.

    Also, your figures are bogus. Women do not buy 91% of homes or 93% of pharmaceuticals. That’s just absurd and anyone with common sense would know that.

    We get it; you figured out how to make a buck fleecing carmakers (AKA US taxpayers) by playing the chick angle. Enjoy the cash; but don’t gloat.

  • avatar

    The AskPatty female purchasing data has been so thoroughly refuted it should embarrass Jody to even be caught spouting it, but clearly it does not.

    That some dealers are apparently buying into this underscores the widely-held opinion that dealers are NOT someone you would have over for BBQ.

  • avatar

    At my dealership we generally try to treat everyone with respect and listen to their situation to make sure they are comfortable with the car buying process. Certain customers sometimes feel more comfortable with one salesperson than another, and in the case that they just aren’t clicking with the original person to talk with them, we have no problem handing someone off to someone they feel more relaxed with.

    We have had customers who don’t want to work with a man, who don’t want to work with a woman, who don’t want to work with someone black, or who only want to work with someone hispanic. In the end regardless if the customer is shy, bigotted, or just clueless, we try to cater to what they want because at the end of the day we’d rather have their money than give it up to the dealership down the road.

  • avatar

    So where are my certified stevenm friendly dealerships? I demand my cars be sold by scantly clad, giggling women. Otherwise you’re a bigot!

  • avatar

    “Ask Patty -dot- com”

    After I ask Patty though, I think I will go ask her husband too, just to be sure.



  • avatar

    Ask Patty “dot-com”, not “dot-org”.

    ‘Nuff said.

  • avatar

    My wife became a Realtor just about the time that office owners and managers were discovering that women could sell houses. And why not? For most couples it is the female who drives the house-buying decision. But in all her years in the business I don’t remember her saying anything about treating women any differently from men; just paying attention to them.

    She’s gotten the brushoff from car salespeople too, and doesn’t like it one bit. Having been in sales herself, she understands concepts like loyalty and being paid on commission.

  • avatar

    “Whats in the trunk?”
    dead bodies…figuratively speaking

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    AskPatty Death Watch 2.

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