Monday, May 4, 2015

Women Pay More

For some reason on Saturdays I am often in the car with the radio tuned to MPR when they air The Best of Car Talk. One day I heard one of the Maggliozi brothers describe an experiment conducted by a young woman on whether or not mechanics overcharge women.

Rather than summarize from memory their words from the broadcast, I'll just quote from the written description on their website. It was sent in by a community college professor named Peter Gram, from the department of behavioral sciences at Pensacola Junior College:

I teach an experimental psychology class and ask our ... students to design and run an experiment. One came up with the idea of looking at the effect of gender on car repairs. Tammy disconnected the ground wire for the "check engine light" on her still-under-warranty Kia so the light was on. She then took the car to 10 different repair shops, and then had her 6'4" macho boyfriend Corey take the car a week or two later to the same shops. Here are the results:

Shop Diagnosis for Tammy w/cost
for Corey the Male w/cost
1 alternator $385 wire loose $0
2 O2 sensor & catalytic converter $320* same diagnosis $135
3 fuel injection $565 wire loose $10
4 transmission $2400 wire loose $0
5 wire loose $0 wire loose** $0
6 water pump $765 water hose $25
7 O2 sensor $283 ?? "return to dealer"
8 head gasket $300 loose wire $0
9 faulty exhaust $1345 loose wire $0
10 bad starter $375 loose wire $0

* the mechanic offered to cut her a deal if she would go out with him. When she said she was married the mechanic said "So? You're still good looking."

** the mechanic said he recognized the car from before (which led Tammy to increase the time between visits).

These were the same mechanics/service writers. The first was even a female (no honor among the same sex).
So basically, we have one honest mechanic out of 10, and one who is dishonest to both the man and woman but charges the woman more. Eight out of 10 straight up lie to the woman and want to charge her between $283 and $2,400 only because she's a woman (and assumed to know nothing about cars).

Note that I bolded the words "still-under-warranty." That's almost the most galling thing: that they think a young woman is so stupid that she doesn't know a car under warranty should be fixed at no charge even if it did have one of these more serious problems, rather than a detached wire.

This outcome is the inverse of my general belief about human beings: I have found that 90 percent of people will do the right thing generally, while 10 percent or so have some sociopathic tendencies and will do whatever they can get away with that benefits them. That 10 percent is dominated by men rather than women, in my experience and reading.

Here are some conclusions that could explain these incongruous findings:
  1. 90 percent of people are sociopaths who will take advantage of the unsuspecting at the first opportunity.
  2. Car mechanics are much more likely to be at least mild sociopaths than the general population.
  3. Something about the car repair business makes people act like sociopaths, even though they are not in the rest of their interactions.
  4. The sample of 10 shops is too small to make any conclusions about people or mechanics in general, or was possibly even biased in some way in its selection.
I'm not sure what to think of this still, though I tend to options number 2 or 3.

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