When 26-year-old Harley Gambetta tried to sell her Citroën C1 to We Buy Any Car, a UK-based car buying service, she was greeted with a salesman who texted her to offer a trade: He’d give her a better deal on her C1 in exchange for sexual favours. Welcome to life as a woman trying to buy or sell a car.
The salesman was later fired for sending messages like, “It’s me from We Buy Any Car. I’m on a day off if you want to meet?” and “I can do you a better deal if you make it worthwhile for me,” Car Dealer Magazine reports. But that was only after Gambetta received dozens of texts and calls over “three or four days.”
“I just dread to think what might have happened if I was naive enough to go back to meet him thinking I would get a better deal,” she said.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. In March, a woman was denied the purchase of a car because she wouldn’t include sexual favours as part of her deal, the Sun Herald reported. Another woman was bombarded with sexual texts by a salesman when she tried to buy a car at a travelling dealership in Philadelphia. And that’s saying nothing of the countless dealerships involved in litigation over allegedly hostile work environments for women.
Over the weekend, the seller of my 1996 Pontiac Firebird delivered the car to my house. My husband facilitated the deal over the phone and arranged the drop-off, so the Craigslist seller didn’t have my number or email address, nor did he know that he was delivering the car to a woman until the day of. Right now, I’m living alone. My husband is in Canada, and I’m hanging out at our house by myself — and we’re out in the middle of nowhere. As the hour of arrival approached I called my husband.
“Did you tell him I’m here alone?” I asked.
“No, I’m not stupid.”
“Then how did you explain why you’re not coming to pick up the car?”
“I told him I’m away for the week.”
“Then you told him I’m here alone.”
Thankfully, the drop-off went off without a hitch because most people aren’t awful. But because some are, I was prepared. I called my husband while the drop-off took place. I also locked every door in the house except the one I left from and set my home alarm system behind me, staying within a leap of that door. If something had gone wrong, I would have just needed to open that door. The alarm would have been set off, and the police would have come.
The gentleman who sold us the car was wonderfully kind, and the whole exchange went about as flawlessly as you could hope a sight-unseen delivery would go. He did not emit a single bad vibe. But not everyone is like that, and I was still extremely hesitant for the rest of that evening.
Because buying and selling cars might be an annoyance for men, but it can be a matter of personal safety for women.