Donald MacInnes: Garage mechanics are enough to drive women (and me) to distraction


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The Independent Online

If you are a woman and you have passed the Government's test to ascertain whether or not you have sufficient motor skills and spatial awareness to be left in charge of a moving motor vehicle, first, good for you, love! Second, there is a fair chance you will have encountered some of the nonsense about which I wish to ruminate.

Not that this will come as much of a surprise to many women, but despite accounting for almost 50 per cent of all licence-holders in the UK, a recent survey by shows that women still feel they are treated differently to men by their garages and car mechanics. More than half of the 1,330 women surveyed admitted to asking a male friend or family member to go along with them to a garage when their car needed a service or repair work, in an attempt to be treated more fairly. The survey also showed that nearly 50 per cent of women have mentioned a partner or husband when booking their car into a garage, in an attempt to avoid getting ripped off.

The survey targeted female drivers throughout the UK between the ages of 18 to 60-plus and asked if they believed that the car industry had become more female-friendly in recent years. No, really. The good news for the industry is that almost half of the women stated they did believe that the industry had improved slightly and was becoming less male-orientated. However, most of the women polled still believed they were being over-charged and felt intimidated, with 34 per cent of the respondents admitting to having had an unpleasant experience while dealing with a garage.

One 37-year-old woman said: "When I dropped my car off I was told to put the kettle on! I didn't get a proper response when I asked what work had been done on my car and was treated like an imbecile." Another angry female driver said: "One garage tried to tell me that I needed £1,000 of work doing when in fact there was nothing wrong. I think they thought I wouldn't question it or ask for a second opinion and I would just pay."

Depressing, isn't it? That there are still mechanics out there who would delight in ripping off a female customer and would happily snigger to their colleagues as they watch her leave the garage, no doubt passing comment on whichever part of her anatomy they felt worthwhile, even though - to them - her brain clearly wasn't.

I know absolutely bugger all about the mechanical workings of a car. By a terrifying coincidence, our car is due for its MOT in a couple of weeks. This means that I will have to run a similar gauntlet of disdain from whichever grease monkey realises that my initial bravado in the workshop masks a real lack of knowledge. I just hope they treat me well; do not overcharge; do not make me feel silly.

Above all, I just hope they don't treat me like a woman.

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