Money and Appearance, or What I Would Really Like to Say to My Mechanic

In college I had a friend who dressed in her Sunday best every time she went shopping. She said the salespeople treated well-dressed customers better. When you look like you have money, they will try harder to make a sale. Since then, every time I am going to make a big purchase that will involve perky, overzealous salespeople, in the back of my mind I ask myself, “Should I dress up for this?” I usually don’t, just because I dress up every day for work and just want to wear jeans when I’m not at work. But I always wonder if I could have gotten a better price or better service if I’d been dressed better.

That said, on Thursday I took my car in for an oil change. (I was wearing jeans and a red T-shirt.) Of course, they found some other stuff that needed repairing. Out of the three things that they wanted to fix, we (“we” meaning my husband Steven) decided to have them replace a cracked belt and clean the corrosion of the battery, which took my $35 bill for an oil change up to $199. When I picked it up (at that point I was wearing dress slacks and a nice blouse because I had come from teaching my community college class) there was a small mix-up because they had charged my Firestone card, but I had wanted to pay for it with my debit card. They politely worked it all out for me. I noticed that in addition to the third item we had opted not to have fixed that day, there were three “recommendations” for services to be done.

On Friday, we took Steven’s car in for an oil change at 8 AM. (Steven was wearing shorts, a sweatshirt, and a ball cap.) We told them we wanted it back as soon as possible. At 2 PM, they had not even started on our car. We were going to my in-laws’ for the weekend, and we needed to get going, so we just went back and picked up the car and told them we’d have to bring it back. They apologized and gave us a free oil change when we bring it back. In addition, the manager noticed that my car was still making a bit of a noise and told me to pull into a bay and they would tighten that belt a little more. (By the way, I was wearing a casual V-neck shirt and jeans.) I noticed the mechanic looked like he was about 20. It took him 10 minutes to fix the belt, then he came to my window and said, “You have a small radiator leak. You probably won’t have the money to get it fixed.”

EXCUSE ME??? Just because I have no make-up on and my hair’s in a ponytail and I’m wearing and old shirt and old jeans and driving a 10 year old car that may or may not have had all of its recommended maintenance over the years doesn’t mean that I am poor!! And maybe if you hadn’t wheedled 200 dollars out of me just YESTERDAY, I WOULD have the money to fix the small radiator leak, you 20-year-old punk! And you should know better than to make a comment like that to anyone, you rude **&# !!! I am not poor!

In the end, of course, the guy was right, but it bothers me. I mean, I’ll get it fixed eventually, but not the day after dropping $200 on my car. And it bothers me that by looking at me he made the assessment that I don’t have much money. Can’t help but wonder . . . if I’d been dressed up with my hair done and make-up on, would he have said that? I’d still have been in the 10 year old banged up Altima, but I don’t know. Guess appearance counts for more than I realize.

Or maybe that kid was just a schmuck.

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