Sexism, Still Alive and Well at Dealership
By Dennis Nolasco
Aug 18, 2015, 11:20
As a middle aged man, I have seen the many sides of car dealerships. I remember the first time I stepped onto a dealership lot to purchase my first car. I felt slightly overwhelmed by the attention provided by the over eager sales people. Almost every aspect of a dealership down to the service department is about selling, which is part of what makes a dealership successful. A male and never married, I had never experienced what it was like for a woman to deal with a car dealership until recently. Frankly it was quite an eye opener and made me feel ashamed to be a man.
My girlfriend Monika, is a Promotional Model and has worked in the automotive industry for several years. She has told me stories about how “men will be men”. Especially when it comes to how they react to a beautiful woman who is paid to attract consumer's attention for the sake of the product or service they are representing.
I wanted to share an incident that I was present for that caused me to understand just how rough it can be for women in the automotive world. Monika had to have her brand new Lexus (which she purchased from the fine people of Lexus of Westminster in Los Angeles) brought in for its first complimentary service. She decided to take it to Lexus of Santa Monica, even though she had had negative experiences with harassment there in the past. A decision reached due to it's proximity to our home. While we were waiting for the service writer to enter her information, she mentioned to me that another service writer had made some unsavory remarks toward her in the past which prompted her to purchase her Lexus from a different dealership rather than Lexus of Santa Monica. The service writer overheard our conversation and said snidely “Yea well, you’re probably used to that kind of thing”. She ignored the comment for the interim as she was going to reach out to a manager later. Looking for the manager, we found ourselves on the used car lot of the dealership. A salesman asked what she needed, offered to take us to a manager and also made a comment that was tasteless...while I was there, no less! We finally got in front of the sales manager for Santa Monica Lexus, who’s name is Matthew Unger. She informed him of all the sexual harassment issues she had run in to that day, and in the past. She expressed her disappointment and distress. He promised up and down that he would address these issues and get back to her, but did so in a dismissive, patronizing manner.
Unger did follow up later on. His staff denied any and all accusations of inappropriate behavior. He further stated that he believed their word over ours. He then continued on, raising his voice to her stating that she was,“spreading untruths about his staff!” She had very calmly and politely went to him for help upon being harassed, and he turned around and called her a liar! Being a first hand witness to such deplorable behavior, I was shocked at their response.
Monika then contacted Lexus Corporate and informed them of the situation. She was hoping that a major company of this caliber would not allow this sort of behavior to go unpunished. They simply said “because it wasn’t an automobile related incident, the best they could do was mediate a conversation between both parties. All of the Lexus branches are independently owned and sexual harassment liability lies with each branch itself, not corporate”.
The automotive industry is still very much a male dominated world. But, the reality is, most men can't explain how a modern automobile works. Despite the leaps women have made in the battle of equality, blatant sexism and unsolicited advances seam to be unfortunately alive and well. Men need to realize that women are just as capable understanding automotive technology. More women need to prove this by breaking the stereotype and doing very minimal research so they won't be intimidated. The 80's called, they want their sexism back.
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