Study: Women get higher quotes from repair shops
When it comes to auto repairs, women are likely to get quoted a higher price than men, but women are better at negotiating a discounted price, according to a study conducted by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
The study, "Repairing the Damage: The Effect of Price Expectations on Auto-Repair Price Quotes," looked at how gender and knowledge of prices affect the quote that an auto repair shop gives a customer.
The study was conducted in collaboration with AutoMD, an online automotive repair information site.
Agents from AutoMD, who routinely ask for price quotes, asked repair shops for a price quote for a six-cylinder 2003 Toyota Camry LE radiator replacement. The researchers chose this model because it is one of the vehicles most frequently requested for repair cost information from AutoMD.
The callers were given a script and either seemed well informed of the market price, $365; misinformed and indicating they had heard that the price was about $510; or uninformed with no expectation of a price. Market values for the part replacement were taken from AutoMD.
The calls were made to independent repair shops across the country for 16 weeks in summer and fall 2012. No dealership service departments were involved.
Most repair shops were not willing to negotiate the price. But when they did, women were more likely to receive the discount. Female callers who requested a lower price obtained it about 35 percent of the time, compared with 25 percent for men.Most of the repair shop employees whom the callers spoke to were male, according to the research.
"It may be that men are more likely because of social or cultural conditioning to respond positively to requests made by women," the study said.
According to the study, women who appeared uninformed and gave no price were usually quoted a price 6 percent higher than what a man was told, and women who seemed informed were given prices close to their expectations.
Men were usually quoted a price lower than the market price after saying they had no idea of the average cost.
Both men and women were quoted $25 to $35 higher than market prices when they seemed misinformed and gave a higher price, according to the study.
'Stereotypes and assumptions'
"This comes down to stereotypes and assumptions," Meghan Busse, associate professor of management and strategy at the Kellogg School, said in a statement. "Our findings suggest that auto shops may assume men know the market price for a given repair, so they automatically grant it. However, they may not expect women to be knowledgeable in this area, so the perception is they can charge them more."
The study suggests that women should do their research before going to a repair shop so they know what they're talking about, and ask for a discount. The study says that men are assumed to have a better understanding of the average price, but they should still look up prices before going to a repair shop so they don't seem misinformed.
According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Customer Service Index Study, overall customer satisfaction with dealership and independent services is improving. Dealership service received a score 797 out of 1,000 in 2013 compared with 787 in 2012, and independent service was given a score of 753, compared with 749 in 2012.
A National Automobile Dealers Association spokesman said in an e-mailed statement that the research stresses the importance of choice when looking for service and repair, since the study does not include dealer repair shops.
"The NADA believes all customers should be treated fairly and equitably," the NADA spokesman said. "New car dealers try to establish customers for life. To do so, they strive to provide exceptional customer service throughout the entire car buying and owning experience from sales to routine maintenance and repair."
Florian Zettelmeyer, Nancy L. Ertle professor of marketing in the Kellogg School of Management and one of the lead researchers, said the dealers might be affected by this study because they are competing with independent shops for service revenue.
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