In an old episode of “The Cosby Show,” Cliff (Bill Cosby) agrees that son Theo can tag along when he goes to purchase a new family car.
Before they go, Cliff makes a point to change clothes. “You’re wearing that?” Theo asks him.
“Yes,” Cliff replies. “And whatever you do, don’t let the salesperson know that I’m a doctor.” He explains that if the salesperson concludes that he has a lot of money based either on his appearance or his vocation, he won’t be able to negotiate as good a price as he otherwise would.
It reminded me of my first car-purchasing experience. I knew exactly which car I wanted to buy, down to the color and options.
Once at the dealership, I immediately went and stood by the car most like the one I wanted, waiting for a member of the sales staff to join me. Finally, a man approached and asked if he could help.
“I want to buy a car like this,” I told him.
“Well, honey,” he said, “this one is probably way out of your price range. Why don’t I show you one of our economy models?”
Calling me “honey” was but his first mistake.
“You’re in no position to know what my price range is! I will buy a car like this, but it won’t be from you!” That said, I quickly left.
I subsequently purchased the car at a dealership about 30 miles out of town, but the first salesman’s illogical approach continued to bother me.
Perhaps, I thought, he was using reverse psychology and wanted me to prove that I could purchase that particular car. If that was the case, it didn’t work. I don’t appreciate being a pawn in anyone’s mind games.
What had actually happened, I surmised, is that he took one look at me and made all sorts of inaccurate assumptions. He decided based on my appearance that there was no way I could afford that particular car.
What he saw was a very young woman dressed plainly in jeans and not-so-new athletic shoes. What he didn’t know was that I had a good job and a businessman father who had helped me determine that I could indeed afford that car based on my salary.
Because I did not match his profile of success, he automatically dismissed me. His face-value judgment that day cost him a sale.
I don’t know if he learned a lesson from that experience, but I hope I did. The judgments we make based solely on appearances are always unfair and seldom complete or accurate.
We pay a high price when we judge people based on how we see them rather than how God sees them. But the kingdom of God realizes an even greater loss when our preconceived notions keep people out instead of inviting them in.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.