The stereotype that women don't know cars is weird for a few reasons: For one, roughly half of all drivers in this country are women; for another, most men don't know anything about cars either. But it's a persistent cultural meme that can—among other things—make the car-buying experience especially obnoxious. (Just ask any woman who's been talked down to by a male salesperson.) That's not an issue at Victoria Auto Smart in Victoria, Texas, though. The dealership has made headlines this week because of its all-woman staff.
The Houston Chronicle discovered the dealership after a profile ran in the Victoria Advocate on Monday, and learned that the fact that it's all ladies at the lot came about by accident:
"I don't think it was ever done on purpose ... I think it just worked," said Jessika Peinkofer, sales manager at Victory. "We bring a more positive atmosphere. Women, nine out of 10 times, are a little happier and more enthusiastic."
Admittedly, the staff is small, with just three ladies running the show but Peinkofer says the lack of men does cause a stir with new customers.
"Most of them are amazed. They say, "Oh wow, all women?" Or they come because of that and say they just wanted to see what it was all about," Peinkofer said.
The idea that people in Victoria will stop by a car dealership just because of the novelty that all of the people who work there are women reveals just how strange it is that this should be a cultural curiosity—no one is surprised to walk into a dealership run entirely by men, even though men and women use cars roughly equally—but the women of Victoria Auto Smart don't seem bothered by the attention. In fact, according to the Advocate, they've found that their reputation helps them with customers who may not enjoy the car dealership experience when it involves pushy salesmen.
"We chit-chat, we laugh, and we giggle," she said. "We always try to make sure they're having a good time while they're here."
Building a relationship is just as important as making a sale, Peinkofer said. There's a lot of talk about dogs, babies and families, she said, which is what helps their customers relax and also helps the team find out what the customer is looking for. It's a long process to buy a car and can take more than one visit to the dealership, she said.
"We don't want to be pushy," she said.
For Nichols, of Port Lavaca, this is her first time in a car sales position. She said the experience has been great so far, and she's learning a lot from being a part of an all-women team.
"We can help women feel more comfortable, and they can relate to us a little more," she said.
Hopefully, there'll come a point at which an all-female staff at a business that sells a product that women use in equal number to men will stop being a novelty. But for that to happen, we'll probably first need to recognize the job done by women like those of Victoria Auto Smart, who—if their Facebook page, which is full of customers gushing over how "the girls" took care of them, is to be believed—are excelling at what they do.
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