‘Only Girls’ is a new garage designed to make women feel comfortable, especially those who are tired of being shortchanged by deceitful mechanics. It recently opened in the Saint-Ouen-l’Aumone suburb of northwestern Paris.
The garage opened just a month ago and it has already had around 40 customers, two-thirds of which were women. The concept of an all-female garage stands to be a big hit because Only Girls aims to offer women motorists exactly what they need – respect. Many women claim to have a tough time getting their cars fixed at regular garages, because mechanics do not take women seriously and quote higher prices than they would for male customers.
“When you’re a woman, it’s like you’ve got ‘sucker’ tattooed on your forehead,” said Sandrine Hautenne, 42. “One time, I went round to three different garages, and got three different estimates. Since then, I’ve sent my uncle to get estimates and guess what? The prices have dropped!”
Sandrine is now a regular at Only Girls, and she’s quite delighted with their service. Right from the cam belt to brake pads, a female mechanic gave her a 15-minute run down on her car. “If it had been a man, he wouldn’t have explained any of this to me,” she remarked.
Only Girls provides a stress-free experience and a whole lot of entertainment options for women while they wait for their cars to get fixed. The waiting room is a far cry from traditional garages, done up in mauve wallpaper, hardwood floors, velvet sofas and flickering candles. They also have a children’s playroom and a beauty corner where women can get their nails done. “They’re so welcoming here,” said 25-year-old Jennifer Collon.
French public figure Rodolphe Bonnasse pointed out that an increasing number of women are now living alone or taking control of domestic affairs. This makes businesses like Only Girls quite relevant. “The range of goods and services on offer has adapted to societal changes,” he said. For companies, it’s all about ‘opening up new growth channels’.
Bonnasse also said that France is quite behind other countries like England and Japan in the new ‘gender-marketing’ trend. The UK already has its own all-girl garage – Caroline’s Cars – that’s been in business for 10 years. Mother-of-two Caroline Lake opened the garage as an alternative to patronising male mechanics who left her feeling ripped off. She’s so successful now that even male customers insist on having their cars checked by her staff.
While the idea of female-run garages is quite popular, some feminist critics say it’s all a big marketing ploy. “The whole discourse behind this is really pretty old-fashioned, based on stereotypes, suggesting that women are a bit daft,” wrote Sophie Gourian, a feminist blogger.
But these garages provide great job opportunities for female mechanics – a fact that cannot be ignored. Only Girls employee Aurore Dabireau spent three years struggling to find a job after earning a degree in auto mechanics. Garage owners were skeptical about hiring her, and often told her, ‘you’ve got no place here’. Everything changed when she joined the workforce at Only Girls – she’s very happy with her job now.
Only Girls has high aims when it comes to treating its customers and staff right. “We only change what is strictly necessary, and we show our customers the parts and explain what we’re doing,” said Laid Hdachi, the manager. Sandrine agrees; she swears by their ‘transparency’ and ‘less macho style’.
Photos: Only Girls/Facebook
Source: The Local