06/15/2013 11:29 am ET

Auto-Repair Shops Tend to Overcharge Women, Except When They Don't


My auto-repair guy knows that I maintain my old minivan well and always ask for a discount. Because I'm a woman, I still may be paying too much for repairs, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management teamed up with AutoMD to find out why customers receive different price quotes when they call an auto-repair shop. In 2012 Meghan Busse, Ayelet Israeli, and Florian Zettelmeyer conducted an experiment where AutoMD's agents called 4,603 auto-repair shops to price a radiator replacement for a 2003 Toyota Camry. The experiment compared three conditions: one where customers indicate they have done research online and know the market rate to replace the radiator; another where customers have no idea how much it should cost; and a third where customers have a too-high price in mind. Not surprisingly, those who thought the repair should cost more than the actual market rate were quoted higher prices than other people. But customers who had done their homework were not offered a lower price than customers who had no clue about what it should cost. Both were offered approximately the market price—at least when the customers were male.

Read more on The Atlantic