*A collaborative post*
There’s no disputing that the world of car mechanics is a male dominated domain, with a female mechanic the proverbial needle in the haystack across the industry. At least once a year, whether it’s for a service or MOT, every driver will set foot in their local garage, but is this more of a problem for women?
Your average garage isn’t the most welcoming place, typically cramped, dirty and built for function over comfort, but the perceived problems for women run deeper than a lack of aesthetics. So, what are the potential issues women face in garages, and what should they do about them?
A macho environment
Appearances do matter, and the issues of the typical garage layout mentioned above do play their part, but the almost always 100% male makeup of the garage environment creates a traditionally “macho” environment that, coupled with the physical appearance, make garages a fairly intimidating place for women to visit.
Just like a visit to the “free weights” section of your average gym, women are often put off by the typically testosterone fuelled atmosphere, to the extent they might just stay away altogether. However, when MOT time comes around, simply steering clear isn’t an option.
Assumptions on both sides?
Most people stepping into a garage for a yearly service or MOT haven’t the foggiest clue about the technical elements of car mechanics, but do long standing stereotypes make this more of a problem for women? The answer is probably yes, as traditional ways of thinking on both sides can lead to assumptions that can make things worse.
The average female customer, wary of her lack of knowledge, heads in with her guard up and assumes she’ll be treated differently than a man. On the other side, the garage may indeed assume her lack of knowledge also and see this as an opportunity to be anything from mildly patronising to dishonest about the amount and price of work required.
Such stereotypes and assumptions are not healthy or productive for a positive business relationship, but they undoubtedly exist in some parts of the market.
There are wheeler dealers in every industry, but some would argue that there are more than usual in the car repair market. This worry exists especially amongst smaller independents, where some mechanics will bank on their customers not knowing enough to challenge them on what work is required and the relevant costs.
The biggest issues women face are high-pressure tactics – jargon loaded explanations that the customer feels incapable of arguing against – that demand work and payment. The changes in MOT test rules last year – dictating that a car with a ‘dangerous fault’ cannot be driven away without repair – have not helped this situation. Those willing to take advantage can do, fabricating or exaggerating issues that require immediate attention.
So, what’s the best approach?
It’s incredibly important to say that it’s not all doom and gloom, and not every local independent, indeed not the majority, will look to instigate some sort of grand swindle every time a woman walks into the shop. In fact, the problems mentioned above are by no means exclusive to female customers, but perhaps simply more likely to affect a demographic perceived to be easier targets.
As for getting around these problems, much of the challenge lies in finding and sticking with a reliable vendor. For many women, that means going with the larger providers like Allied Autocare, who pride themselves on their reputation in the market. Of course, that isn’t to say you can’t find a great independent out there, it’s just a matter of establishing a trustful relationship.
If you’re worried about your next garage trip, approach the situation with as much confidence as possible. You’ll probably receive decent service, but if something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to walk away. If you have one bad experience, chances are the next one will be better, so don’t let it put you off visiting somewhere else. Read reviews, and do your research ahead of time to boost your confidence heading in.
Once you’ve found a good place, stick with it. From then on, you needn’t worry about any old-fashioned stereotypes getting in the way of good service.