Archive for May, 2007

Used Car Saleswoman

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

Last week, Steve and I had the opportunity to make a presentation to the owner of several local car dealerships. We were presenting our strategy for marketing used cars. As we prepared for the meeting, we drew upon our own experience of purchasing three used cars over the last year and a half.

This got me thinking about the used car buying experience in general. And that got me wondering: why have I never met a used car salesperson who is a woman? I think there is a huge opportunity there.

A lot of women find success in careers as real estate agents, but I think the qualities that make them succeed in that field would also make them outstanding used car salespeople. Why are there are so many women are selling houses and so few selling Hondas?

The best real estate agents work at building relationships and getting to know their potential client long before there is actually a need. A savvy woman could use this same strategy to build a clientele in the used car market. If I got regular mailings from a used car saleswoman, like I do from real estate agents, I would certainly contact her first when we were considering buying a new car. And if she did a little research on our family, and sent us a postcard offering her expertise in finding a good car for my daughter shortly before she turned 16, there would be no reason to talk to anyone else.

Another reason I’m puzzled about the lack of women selling cars is because women today make their own decisions about what kind of car they drive. Even though we went car shopping as a couple, the decision was entirely up to me about which car we bought. And what about all the single moms who are entirely on their own when it comes to purchasing a car? Wouldn’t it make sense that a woman would prefer to work with another woman who understands her needs and lifestyle to help her find the perfect car?

I would love it if I walked onto the used car lot, and instead of the typical male salesman with the bad haircut and polyester tie, who makes me think to myself, “I should be carrying a silver cross and some garlic,” there was a woman selling cars. Not a skinny blond with big boobs in a short skirt, but a salesperson who was a mom-type. Basically, someone like myself. I would feel an instant bond of trust. “Here’s someone who’s not going to rip me off and who understands how I use a car and what is important to me.”

For example, if I had been the car salesperson when we were car shopping, I would have told us not to even bother looking at a Honda Element ““ even though we thought it looked like a very practical family car. That’s because it is an immensely impractical car if you have kids to pick up. The rear door can only be opened if the front door is open. I understand now why these are called “suicide doors.” If a family foolishly buys one, that’s what a mom feels like doing after the constant shouting among the kids to “Open the door so I can get in!”

The rationale that cars are a man’s domain just doesn’t hold up anymore. Guys don’t change their own oil or tinker with the timing on their cars. Today, cars are mechanically very dependable. So the features of a car that really matter to me, in addition to safety and appearance, are things that only another woman ““ and not those young bucks hovering by the door of the dealership ““ are going to relate to. I want to know, “Is there a convenient place to set my purse so I can answer my cell phone when I’m on the freeway?” or “Will I develop a hernia trying to get 50 pound bags of cat litter into the trunk?”

Daughters’ Duties

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

I recently got a glimpse into what our 10 year old daughter, Jennifer, envisions her future might be like when I get old ““ I mean falling apart old ““ I’m already old enough that I get regular mailings from the AARP.

Jennifer has seen how her grandmothers have been cared for as their health seriously starts to decline. In my mother’s case, she vaguely remembers flying to a place where there was snow when she was very young. My sister drove us to visit Grandma who was in a wheelchair.

As for her grandmother on her dad’s side, in the past few weeks, Jennifer has been aware of the email updates we get from Steve’s sister, Stephanie, about Grandma’s failing health and living situation. Both Grandma and Aunt Stephanie live in the Seattle area. Stephanie has been working non-stop to find a new place for Grandma because the dementia and Parkinson’s have progressed to a point that she’s “graduated” from her assisted living facility.

So the other night, when Jennifer and I finished saying her prayers together, she immediately asked me, “When I graduate from college can I move to London?” “Well, I guess so,” I said, not really understanding what I was committing to and a bit puzzled about why this popped into her head just as we finished saying “amen.”

It took me about five seconds and then I started laughing because I understood Jennifer’s thought process. I realized that for several weeks, during our prayers, we had thanked God for Aunt Stephanie and all of the love, time, and energy she has put into sorting through the doctors, health issues, and care options to make sure that Grandma is well-taken care of. “I get it now! You’re afraid you’re the one who is going to be stuck taking care of me when I’m old and can’t do anything for myself!”

Jennifer had absorbed what she knew about how my sister had borne the burden of caring for my mother and added it to the current experience with Steve’s mom and arrived at a conclusion: a female offspring living in proximity to her feeble mother equals a huge responsibility. She has decided the best way to make sure that this doesn’t happen to her is to be living on a different continent if continence becomes an issue for me.

I have no idea how she arrived at this number, but she figures I’ve got about 12 more good years ““ that’s enough to see her through college. Apparently once they hand her the diploma, it won’t be long before my mind and body start deteriorating so she had better be ready to get out of Dodge fast. I must say I’m always impressed with Jennifer’s ability to think ahead, whether it’s deciding about what to be for Halloween six months from now or figuring out a plan to avoid being stuck with Mom a decade from now.

I jokingly asked her if it would help her get to sleep and not worry if I put it in writing, signed, and dated it, that her older sister, Valerie, would be the child who would have to figure out what to do with me when I’m old and infirm. Then we laughed that it would guarantee that Valerie would to head straight for Paris following high school graduation.

Jennifer thinks sons don’t really play a part in caring for aging parents. But she is sure that her plan to be thousands of miles away is more humane than what she imagines her 18 year old brother would do, “He’d leave you by the side of the road.” And with that thought, we kissed goodnight.

The Check is in the FedEx

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

There’s an envelope with our return address on it lost in the bowels of a 37-story office building in San Francisco. I’m almost positive that it has slipped into a crevice or is sitting overlooked in the bottom of a locker in the huge mail room that serves this building. I mailed this particular envelope a week ago to our client’s office 40 miles away and it still hasn’t arrived on their desk 19 floors up.

More than once, I’ve had the thought that if I could go there, I could use my mom intuition and root it out like a bomb sniffing dog. After all, I’ve been finding misplaced stuff like library books, articles of clothing, and keys for years.

But unlike when my daughter loses a sweatshirt ““ in which case we go over to the school, rummage through the lost and found, retrace her steps, and we don’t leave until it’s found, there is no way I can track down the whereabouts of this envelope. Why? Because that slot at the post office”¦it’s a black hole.

Sure, the client said that they weren’t in a hurry to get the CDs of photos returned to them so just send them by regular mail. “OK, fine, I’ll just make a stop at the post office while I’m doing my afternoon rounds of school pickups.” But that little voice said, “Think about what you’re sending.” Even when I was working 20 years ago, anything that was really important was sent by courier or Federal Express, as it was called back in the pre-Internet, dark ages of communication.

Still, I didn’t think about how I would feel when they called to say, “We never received those photos back from you,” Gulp. “I mailed them a week ago and I don’t have any way of tracking the package.” That sinking feeling is the price I’m paying for not trusting my own intuition. I now vow never to send anything more than paper that comes out of our ink jet printer by ir-regular mail.

Two days after my “why did I trust the post office” experience, I had a demonstration of why FedEx will henceforth have my undying loyalty. We had instructed a vendor to ship DVDs by FedEx Priority Overnight service which means delivery by 10:30 the next morning. Their shipping department didn’t read the instructions closely and shipped them by Overnight service for delivery by 3:00 pm.

When our client called us at 10:35 asking where the DVDs were, I called FedEx and in 15 minutes I had a call back from them telling me they had notified the driver of our situation and requesting delivery ASAP. I imagined a FedEx truck driving down Market Street when he gets an urgent call from the FedEx hub, “Marketing company in Petaluma needs you to save their ass. Make an immediate u-turn and head to California Street.”

Our client got the DVDs by 11:15. That FedEx driver is my hero.

Although the resting place of the envelope full of the client’s CDs is still a mystery, in the end, we were able to make our client a copy of all the photos we had used. And thankfully, the client was happy with that solution. And getting it to them? The only question is, “Do you want that to go Priority Overnight, Overnight or Ground?”