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Adorable, Tiny -- and Prone to Being Taken to the Cleaners

What can a "very adorable, tiny young woman" do, to not become the victim of a huge and ugly rip off?

That was the question from Faye, on this week's Car Talk. (Hear the call here..) Faye's daughter is in her early 30's... but looks half her age-- and that's without her blue slicker on.

Her daughter recently had the wisdom to take a pass on a boat-payment-sized brake job from an unscrupulous shop. But, what can she do to dodge the next maurading mechanic who comes in to her life?

Tom and Ray suggested a power suit, flashy jewelry -- and a folded cop's uniform on the back seat, for good measure.

What are your suggestions, serious and otherwise? Share 'em here. We'll be sure to let Faye and her daughter know, too!

I also am adorable and youthful-looking… I would love to know how to avoid being taken to the cleaners as well. The way I deal with it now is to only patronize well-known chains, since they are more likely to have policies and documentation in place. Sometimes I drag all my similarly adorable and perfectly well-behaved children along to inspire an extra twinge of compassion.

“The way I deal with it now is to only patronize well-known chains, since they are more likely to have policies and documentation in place.”

Yup! Those chain operations do have policies in place, and they essentially consist of over-selling and overcharging for their work, which is frequently sub-standard. You would be far better-off finding a well-reputed independent mechanic in your area.

If you think that the well-known chains are compassionate, or honest, or even competent, then you apparently have not been monitoring this forum for very long!

My suggestion is to learn more about your car. Being ripped off has little to do with gender and size, and more to do with ignorance about how your car works. It happens to men and women of all sizes. When you know how much something should cost, what the job involves, and the names of the parts involved, the person at the shop knows you know your stuff, and is less likely to pad the bill.

Personally, I don’t mind when someone tries to rip me off. It lets me know I am at the wrong shop. I wouldn’t want to give my business to a dishonest shop.

Always get a second opinion and never tell them about the first opinion. Be especially suspicious when you have not noticed any problems.

Regarding the policies in place at many of the well-known chains, every shop is run differently by different individuals, but if a chain shop is owned by the corporate office (some are owned by franchisees) and operated and overseen by a corporate or district manager, the policy tends to be to get as much money as possible out of the customer before they walk out the door because they may never be back. Lie, exaggerate, and use fear tactics if necessary to get that money. They also tend to see women and well-dressed men as vulnerable and gullible. I know this all too well because I used to work at one, before and after it was taken over by the corporate office. This was the attitude the district manager tried to instill into everyone who worked there, tech or manager, and it ultimately led to a very high turnover rate and, in my brief observations, loss of a lot of longtime customers who had patronized the shop before corporate had taken it over. This is not the kind of place you want to take your car, unless the chain shop you are taking your car is independently held and you know and trust the people working there.

I Usually Find Myself Agreeing With Whitey And This Time Is No Exception.

Adorable ? What does that have to do with it ? Most mothers describe their daughters as adorable.
Tiny ? That’s not it.
Young ? That’s not it ?
Naive ?

Let’s just say that knowledge is power. Should a car owner (or the owner of practically anything) choose not to be informed then they are vulnerable.

It’s not about stature or age or looks and it’s not just about cars (These people can get ripped-off on lots of things). People tell me that I’m lucky because I understand cars (usually) and know how to work on them (usually), but it isn’t luck. I grew up in a family where nobody knew anything about cars or car repair (by choice and there was no remorse). Sports was the thing.

I observed, I read, I bought tools, I tried to learn. My choice. A person who chooses to remain ignorant (literally, not the bad connotion) has made a choice and it’s not necessarily a bad choice, it’s a choice. My parents weren’t interested in car stuff, made good money, and let people take care of the cars and didn’t sweat over being taken advantage of. They had better things to do. My wife’s family was very similar.

For somebody not liking being taken for a ride, the choice is their’s to make.


Interesting responses. You’re right, VDC, I am new. I am here doing what Whitey suggests, learning. Maybe my local Tires Plus and Tuffy haven’t tried to oversell/overcharge me in spite of my adorableness because I drive a heap. :slight_smile:

When the mechanic told her that he wouldn’t let his daughter drive this car until it had a brake job she should have replied, ‘If you were my Dad you would insist on paying for the brake job.’


Heres a few ideas you might like to try:A tazer gun and some pepper spray under the front seat,pictures of big,strong and tough men in a notebook that says family and friends,plus big coats or something very proper over her clothes maybe even glasses.Also try some self defense tools in the dash-holder.Even try a bunch of mechanic cards with numbers adresses and pictures.

So Far Now, We’ve Got 2 People Of Some Kind, Who Think They’re Adorable And Somehow Believe That It Has Something To Do With Lacking Consumer Skills.

Faye thinks her daughter is adorable and Leajmom thinks she’s adorable (unless she’s just joking). The first problem is that being considered adorable isn’t up to the “adorable” individual or their mothers, but rather others they come into contact with. Not all of those people are going to view them the same way.

The other problem comes from picking out something, like being adorable or being small, and then blaming that for being taken advantage of, rather than looking at the real reason which is ignorance or naivete. It’s possible for one’s ego to get in the way of good judgment.

Shysters are equal opportunity oversellers/overchargers. It’s up to consumers to become informed.


Since I have been mentioned specifically AGAIN …

Yes, the self-described adorableness is tongue-in-cheek (kinda like the perfectly-well-behaved children part) based on the humorous language that originated from the show and the Car Talk post.

The first step in defending yourself against being swindled is to recognize your vulnerability. Whether it is youth, societal stereotypes of gender, not being physically intimidating, the notion that cute and smart are mutually exclusive, lack of knowledge, or all of the above; the first step toward counteracting the characteristics that make you appear to be an easy target is recognizing that they exist.

It is fun to think of and discuss creative ways to disguise those characteristics, like Click and Clack’s suggestion that she wear a business suit to appear powerful. Those fun and easy fixes may send the shysters off looking for another victim.

The most challenging and time-consuming way to avoid being oversold is to become well-informed. We are putting in the effort to spend time here to become more well-informed about cars, not to become more well-informed about how ignorant and naive we are.

There is another way: finding a reputable place to do your business. Car Talk’s list, your local Better Business Bureau and word of mouth are all good ways to find a reputable shop. I am pleased with the places I go, that just so happen to be chains, because they have a certain way (procedure) they have to walk you through when they explain what you need, and they print it out for you (documentation) so that you know exactly what they recommend and how much it will cost, which also facilitates getting a second opinion (if they make it that easy for you to get a second opinion, they must have nothing to hide).

I think we are just looking for a few quick tips, maybe a top ten list… like “any -fill in the blank- before 30,000 is unnecessary” but like any subject, I suppose experts are loathe to over-simplify their craft.

"I am pleased with the places I go, that just so happen to be chains . . . "

Problem is that most of the regulars here, many are professional mechanics, advise against using “chains”. The printout you refer to that would allow you to get a second opinion is just one of the devices they use to over charge you while you’re feeling good about it " (if they make it that easy for you to get a second opinion, they must have nothing to hide)." Perhaps you are an easy mark.

You again illustrate the need to be informed. I welcome you to continue to read discussions here and continue to become involved in them. You’ll become informed.


Becoming well informed does not necessarily have to be challenging or time consuming. A quick, 20 minute session with your owner’s manual (which includes maintenance schedule) and a little bit of time under the hood learning how to check simple things like oil level, coolant level, etc. can become invaluable assets in avoiding getting taken advantage of, notably if this knowledge can prevent a costly breakdown. If you have a little more time and willingness to learn, try calling your local community college or high school vocational center with an auto repair instructor and see if you can spend some time learning from them. Tell them your situation and they will often gladly spend some time educating you about the basics. A half hour with a knowledgeable person can teach you a lot, as long as you are willing to learn.

Coming to this forum with questions before spending a lot of money can also prevent one from getting ripped off. We have had people come here after they spent five grand more than they should have on a repair and had to tell them they should have consulted us before spending so much. There are also websites that can give you an estimated range for a repair expense, but I can’t think of what any of them are called. By far, though, knowledge and education are your greatest allies, and even a little bit of knowledge, such as you can get from a few minutes with your owner’s manual, can help you out a lot. For an even more informative read, spend $20 on a Haynes repair manual for your car (available at any auto parts store) and spend some time reading that. Those books have a whole chapter devoted to educating the novice about the basics of diagnostics and maintenance, and lots of high quality pictures to walk you through whatever you want to do with your car.

I agree with all the general sentiment. My wife is “tiny” and adorable teacher but feared by every student that treated anyone with disrespect. It’s attitude backed by knowledge that keeps your head above water when dealing with those who might want to take advantage of you. If you ask a question in negotiations you don’t already know the answer to, you can be had.

I have to agree with Dagosa on this point.

During my 3 decades + career in education, I observed that the strictest disciplinarians were almost always female teachers who were “diminutive” in size. Physical size should not be a factor in how one is perceived by others. Instead, it is the way that one “carries” himself/herself that determines how others view them, and this boils down to self-confidence to a great extent.

What should precede one’s air of self-confidence is learning enough about a topic in order to actually be self-confident. Perhaps the OP should take a course in Basic Automotive Maintenance at her local adult evening school program. Most adult schools run these courses at least on an occasional basis and these courses–which are designed for someone who knows almost nothing about the working of an automobile–are very effective at giving someone at least a minimal knowledge of what goes on under the hood of a car, and how to maintain a car properly.

Leajmom, I refuse to see a lack of physical intimidation as a vulnerability in this type of situation. If you need to physically intimidate someone to get what you want, the situation is already beyond all hope of satisfactory resolution.

Besides, we all know some of the arguably smartest people in this world (such as Professor Stephen W. Hawking) are far from physically intimidating. I wouldn’t for a second want to match wits with the man, though.

I too, am very small and look half my age. So my advice is to take a very large male that you trust with you.

You’re setting women’s empowerment back by decades by suggesting small women need a large man to ensure they are treated fairly.

Power doesn’t come from size, it comes from inside. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?