my coworker won’t speak to female customers if they’re with a man

A reader writes:

I work in retail currently, after decades of doing something else. I’ve been doing this for about a year, and I’m finally becoming comfortable in the role.

We have a lot of regulars, and some of them are couples or families who always come in together as a group. I’ve noticed that every time these groups come in, there’s always just one person who interacts with me. The lead speaker/organizer might be the man, it might be the woman, or with one family it’s a frighteningly competent 13-year-old daughter. Regardless, it’s the same person every time within the family. I thought that was interesting! My wife and I do this too, but I hadn’t noticed. I take the lead when we’re shopping, she leads when we go to restaurants. We never discussed this, it happened organically. I think this says something about … something?

I’m not sure what, but I found it interesting and so I talked about it with my coworker, Fergus.

That was when he revealed to me that he never speaks to women if their partner is present. He said that “out of respect,” he would never address a woman in an inappropriate way, so as not to offend her beau.

We have a script. It’s this:
“How are you?”
“Do you need anything else?”
“Have a great day!”

There’s nothing even adjacent to romantic or sexual interest in this exchange. Do people sometimes fly into a jealous rage in this situation? That … has not been my experience. So I pushed back, and he said that if someone asked his girlfriend “how are you?” he would be very upset.

This is bats@#$ crazy, right?

Because I’ve told this story to people in my life, and they agree that he’s wrong but stop short of admitting that it’s deeply strange.

What do I do? He was pleasant when I pushed back and said he would try talking to women “as an experiment.” Is that enough? Should I do more?

As far as standing goes, I’m the most senior employee other than our manager, but I only work weekends so everyone has a stronger working relationship with each other than they have with me. I’m kind of on the outside. So my standing is mostly that I’m a woman and can speak up about misogyny.

Eeewww. Thanks, Fergus, for the big red flag warning us never to date you.

Yes, this is indeed batshit bananapants. And grossly sexist and misogynistic. The underlying belief is that women in relationships are the possessions of their male partners, and other men should not encroach on that ownership by having even incredibly mild, everyday exchanges with them (and in your place of business, of all things!) … and that women should not be assumed to want to speak for themselves, and that of course if a man of suitable age is present, he will speak on their behalf.

This is all “out of respect,” of course. Respect to the man, I guess, because it’s definitely not respectful to the woman.

What is going on with the people in your life that they don’t see this as deeply strange?! Have you checked to see if perhaps you are living in 1742?

As for what to do … approach it as a management and/or professionalism issue, if you have the standing to do that. Women can see when wait staff are ignoring us and speaking only to the men at our table! And treating us as second-class citizens is, for many of us, a huge strike against a restaurant. Also, if your coworker is genuinely concerned about appearing respectful, framing this as rude and disrespectful might rattle him. (Maybe?)

Last, any chance you have a manager who’d think Fergus’s stance is ridiculous, and would be willing to tell him that he needs to treat customers equally regardless of gender? Because this is very much management’s business; lots of managers wouldn’t be okay with an employee using gender to govern how he’ll treat customers.

{ 619 comments… read them below }

    1. Frank Doyle*

      To us! My husband didn’t used to notice at all, until I’d pointed it out a few times. And now he pays attention to it.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        My husband is catching on too. He gets especially annoyed when he explicitly states “My wife knows a lot more about that than I do” and they still proceed to ignore me.

        1. Ellie*

          My husband had an epiphany when we were travelling through Italy together. He said to me how weird it was that he was being ignored in restaurants, as they always took my coat and chair, gave me the menu first, took my order first, addressed all ‘is everything to your satisfaction’ comments to me only, and only interacted with him unless he directly asked them something, or when it came time to pay the bill.

          I explained how except for the bill, that was pretty much the default for me in almost all Australian restaurants, shops and services, and he was completely aghast. But he has been a lot more observant since that trip.

      2. dot*

        Yes! My husband is generally a pretty cognizant person and catches on to stuff similar to this, but even he didn’t notice this was happening at a particular nerdy hobby store. The guy would be chatty and friendly while ringing up my husband’s stuff, and then silent when he got to me. Once I pointed it out to him and we had gone back again, he was very much like “holy crap you’re right.”

      3. House On The Rock*

        My husband has gotten very good at looking confused when salesmen address him by default and saying “why are you talking to be, she’s the one who knows everything?”. It’s telling when the salesman (because it’s always a man) acts like that’s a Very Funny Joke and he and husband are Guys Together Who Are Humoring The Little Lady.

        They realize it’s not a joke when he reiterates “no really she does…but we are both done here”.

        1. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

          There’s a niche electronics parts store that I had been looking forward to going to for a while. Spouse and I took a trip together to the store and I had a field day ogling the many types of everything I needed and even more things I wanted. I went up to the cash register and set my basket down to check out while spouse was off to the side playing on his phone. The cashier (store owner) looked at spouse and says “So what are you building?” Spouse said “You’re going to have to ask her, she’s the one buying.” Cashier responded “Lucky man, having a woman who will buy you all the toys you want.”

          Spouse was totally Done with the owner’s attitude and announced that if they wouldn’t treat me with respect, they didn’t need my money. The owner laughed until he realized spouse was serious as we headed out the door. I guess he didn’t learn his lesson, judging by all the one star reviews from women that I was just reading.

          1. Little Lady, Big Stick*

            I’ve run into this phenomenon a frightening amount with home tradesmen, from a renovation contractor on down. I call it “Little Ladying”: I ask a question about the job (parts/timeline/etc.) and they reply with, “Hey, I’m not trying to start a fight” or the number of years they’ve been in business, rather than answering my question.

            I’m the project manager for all home renovations and repairs, and I ask questions so I can tell the next guy who comes in what was done here. Usually their follow-up defense is, “You wouldn’t believe how many women approve work and then later they say their husbands didn’t agree to it, so they won’t pay.”

            I save them from that worry by not hiring them, and I tell them why. And if they’re an employee, I call the company too. It’s become less of an issue, and when one guy started talking to my husband instead of me and we called him out on it, he immediately and sincerely apologized for his faux pas. He got the job.

            I wish there were a lot more women in the home trades.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          This is really frightening. I thought we had gotten past is in the last six or so decades. If I knew where you are, I would make a mental note never to go there. Ever.

      4. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

        Mine fortunately noticed early on but that is likely because he already had experience trying to buy a car as a couple in previous relationships. Buying a car has always been a special level of hell.

        1. dePizan*

          Or car mechanics. My transmission died while I was on a road trip with my sister and her husband. When we get it to the mechanic, I explain the issue, the noise it was making, and why I thought it was the transmission. The mechanic starts at me blankly. I try explaining again. Same result.

          After several minutes of this, my brother-in-law comes up, explains the issue word for word what I said, only he threw the word “gear” in at one point. The mechanic immediately says oh, I know exactly what you mean, scribbles notes on his paper and goes off to tell the crew.

          And while my brother-in-law had good intentions for backing me up and by using my exact words trying to show their idiocy (and I deeply appreciated it so we could finally get somewhere), the end result was that every time the mechanics came back out, they would only talk to him. No matter how many times he and I told these guys (and it was the two guys every time) that it was my car and I was the sole decision maker.

          1. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

            That’s the kind of thing where sometimes I just give in and let the token man handle it because I am too tired to fight and just want to get whatever resolved as quickly as possible.

            I’ve been in my current location for four and a half years now and I still haven’t found a mechanic. Last time I picked up my car after some service, I asked if they had disconnected the battery. The mechanic chuckled and said not to worry. I was like look, if you did that’s fine, but I need to know so I can perform the computer reset sequence before I drive off, otherwise the car could start shuddering and stall out on the freeway. He just chuckled again and said that sounds like something I learned on the Facebook and to not believe everything I heard. Yeah, the car stalled out on the freeway.

            1. CL*

              I found a great mechanic and recommend him specifically to women. I wonder if his equal treatment of women is in part because his wife is his receptionist/bookkeeper.

              1. Jellyfish Catcher*

                I had a mechanic who was great with women. He had also been a single parent, raised a daughter, and was aware of all the crap girls and women had to manage.

            2. Elitist Semicolon*

              I wonder whether that mechanic is related to the kid at my previous cell carrier a while back who didn’t believe me when I told him my phone was making calls without me and that I’d read multiple reviews on the model at various tech sites stating that this was indeed a common problem. He laughed at me and told me not to believe everything I read on the internet. He wasn’t laughing so much when I told him that I taught in our uni’s engineering department, knew how to assess a source, and would now be switching carriers.

              (A friend told me the next day that his wife just got rid of the same model because HER phone had been calling 911 while she wasn’t even in the same room. So, yeah. Thanks, kid.)

              1. Chirpy*

                I had to explain to the phone salesman that no, I don’t care if the bigger version of the phone I wanted is popular because it has a bigger screen, *it won’t fit in my hand* so I need the smaller one. He apparently had never considered this was even something to think about.

                That place also kept resetting the account into my dad’s name and making him the sole admin. My parents had to go back multiple times to try to get them to change it back to my mom…who opened the account, paid the bills, and is far more knowledgeable about phones than my dad.

                1. iglwif*

                  I had to explain to the phone salesman that no, I don’t care if the bigger version of the phone I wanted is popular because it has a bigger screen, *it won’t fit in my hand* so I need the smaller one. He apparently had never considered this was even something to think about.

                  This drives me absolutely bananas. I have tiny little hands and stubby little fingers, and the absolute last thing I want or need is a BIGGER phone.

              1. Manic Sunday*

                I agree, and also tell the mechanic as you’re doing it, “Thanks for confirming this is yet another establishment that can’t be trusted with my car.”

                1. Little Lady, Big Stick*

                  Word. You can wave the KBB recall notice for your VIN in their face all day long and they’ll tell you “the rear door’s probably getting caught in the trunk mat.”

            3. IamAMechEngIKnowHowMuchNewBrakePadsCost*

              I am a mechanical engineer who literally designed the rear suspension for my university race car team. To say I understand cars is an understatement. I am also a woman.

              I have genuinely given up on taking my car for a service and have to ask a man to do it because there is no-one in my small town who won’t talk down to me, try to rip me off, and then get angry with me when I call them out on it. It’s simply not safe for me to be competent and politely stand up for myself.

              When they get the cold, dead, angry eyes, that’s when you know you need to leave asap or it’s about to escalate.

          2. tinybutfierce*

            I always have a fun time going to mechanics or anything car-related, as apparently being a small, younger-looking woman who comes in solo gives a lot of ding dongs the idea they’ll be able to pull one over on me and bleed me for money; that changes real quick when I call my NASCAR mechanic relative with an engineering degree to ask his opinion before I put any money down. :)

        2. Tired & Confusef*

          Oh, boy, car salesman… I was the one who said who wanted to buy a car and asking all the questions and the guy only talked to my husband! After a while, my husband looked him dead in the eyes and said “it’s her car and her money, why are you talking to me? Also I don’t have a driver’s license so I don’t even care!”

        3. Wolf*

          Same for renting apartments. I’m the one with the higher income. Yet landlords (and even landladies) will only talk to the man in the room.

        4. Merrie*

          I’m still salty that my name was put second on the title. I’m the sole breadwinner. if I were a man and the sole breadwinner, there’s no way they would put my wife’s name first. they claimed it was because we were using a rebate from AEP and the AEP bill is in his name, one of the few things that is. I’m skeptical. I’d have made them redo it, but we had been there for hours and the kids were getting squirrely.

      5. CL*

        My husband notices, especially after being in situations when he’s the one being ignored. He’s super engaged at school events, parent meetings, IEP meetings, etc., but all the questions and notes go to Mom. Now he notices when the mechanic, HVAC tech, etc ignores me.

        1. ThatOtherClare*

          I am aware that the current fashion is for people to roll their eyes at such stories and say “Ugh, I can’t believe he had to go through it himself before he’d believe you!” – however over the years I’ve noticed a trend where the better, more empathetic and respectful type of man often does have to go through it himself, because he simply cannot fathom someone being so much of a bollard in this day and age. Let alone multiple people. It’s like trying to think like a martian for such men.

          The real test is if they notice and want to work with you to mitigate it (in whatever way you’d like support) after it happens to them. It sounds to me as though this is exactly what your husband is doing, so I give him top marks for husband-ing. Nobody was born knowing everything, but being able to change your behaviour after uncovering a new fact about the world is a marker of being a good person. Please let your husband know that his actions have earned him the respect of this internet stranger.

      6. iglwif*

        My husband is very much the “talk to my wife, she’s the one who Knows Things” type of spouse in almost all situations. I can think of 2 exceptions off the top of my head, things he knows that I don’t know: which medications he takes at which times of day (but he has to check the prescription bottles for their actual names), and what size shoes and trousers he wears. (If for some reason he decided to buy a car, that would also be an exception, since he knows how to drive a car and I do not.)

        This can occasionally be annoying, since it requires me to Always Know Things, including things that it really makes more sense for him to know. If we had to interact with Fergus, though, I can picture my spouse simply staring at him, brow furrowed in puzzlement, until Fergus broke and ran away XD

    2. Justcuz*

      When this happens to me (notice I didn’t say “if”), I leave. I say “goodbye” and a “we are now leaving” to my husband, and I just … leave.

        1. Justcuz*

          YW. People get away with so much playing the nicety games. When I see discrimination, I try to make it uncomfortable as possible for everyone.

      1. Jinni*

        Every. Single. Time. When I was married I did it all. I’m a better negotiator and have always done all the research.

        For anyone who asks why I didn’t choose their service, I flat out told them. They always stuttered while I was WALKING AWAY.

        (It ranged from retail, to a BMW dealership, to of all things a house painter).

        1. Lab Snep*

          Prior to my transition, I went to Store A because they had a drill on sale. I started asking questions. Btw this was when I looked extremely androgynous.

          A sales guy asked “is this for your HUSBAND?” (OF NOTE I HAVE NEVER BEEN MARRIED)

          I put the drill down, stared him in the eyes and said “No, it’s for me.” And walked away as he was trying to get his foot out of his mouth.

          I got a drill at Store B instead.

          1. She*

            You reminded of this: My late husband always had very expensive tools. After he passed away one broke and I went to Big Hardware store to replace it. All the salesmen ignored me as I browsed the tools but as soon as I put the very expensive tool in my cart and headed for the checkout, they fell over themselves to offer me assistance.

            1. Ellie*

              Lol yes the same thing happens to me and my husband. We get totally ignored by most sales assistants, until we grab what we’re looking for and then we’re suddenly inundated with help. We have joked that we both must look like beggars who have wandered in off the street.

              I’ve noticed some of the high end places now work in a question about what you do for a living during their greeting. ‘I’m a software engineer and my husband is a banking analyst’ tends to get their attention, and most (although not all) IT people are willing to talk to me at that point.

        2. RedinSC*

          Yeah, I went to purchase a car in 2020, my partner (male) went with me, because if I bought it, I’d have 2 cars that needed to get home.

          The sales guy kept looking at him when talking about extra insurance, etc. Partner just said, “It’s her car and she’s paying”

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            Car insurance agent after my husband happened to sit in the seat nearest him: Good! That’s where we put the person who make the money.
            Hubs: would you like to talk to the person who owns the car? (Points to me)
            Agent: it’s in both your names?
            Me: No. It’s my car.

            And it went downhill from there.

          2. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

            When I bought my previous car, I walked out of the dealership and instead bought one I saw with a for sale sign in the window in my neighborhood. I would have rather had the one from the dealership but the salesman was nails on the chalkboard aggravating. I’d ask questions about engine specs and he would ignore it and tell me about child safety features instead. When I asked about reliability ratings, salesman took me by the shoulders, sat me in the driver’s seat, pulled down the visor, and showed me the mirror, saying how it was lighted so I could use it to put on makeup. Then salesman asked boyfriend if I was also going to be on the title. Boyfriend said “Obviously, she’s buying it, I’m just the one who gave her a ride.” Salesman then started to take boyfriend into his cubicle to start the paperwork.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              I would’ve gone to the manager and asked him to sell me the car.
              He might have been just as bad, but it would’ve been worth a try.

            2. Little Lady, Big Stick*

              He touched you. He touched you and then he disparaged you.
              Should’ve invited salesman to demonstrate how many bodies the trunk can hold. Made him get inside. Made it a condition of buying the car… and then not bought the car.

            3. Notamanagerijustplayoneontv*

              When I was in my early 20s I went with my mom to buy my first new car. The salesman was so insistent that I should bring my dad in to see if he approved of the car, that I left, walked into another dealership and bought the same exact car. Funny thing is my father has always relied on my mom for all things car related because her father was a mechanic and taught her way more about cars than my father knew.

            4. I Have RBF*

              I’d ask questions about engine specs and he would ignore it and tell me about child safety features instead.

              That’s two strikes in one sentence – ignoring questions about the engine and assume that as a woman you were broody about child safety when you didn’t even have kids with you.

              When I asked about reliability ratings, salesman took me by the shoulders, sat me in the driver’s seat, pulled down the visor, and showed me the mirror, saying how it was lighted so I could use it to put on makeup.

              I would have left then. I don’t even wear makeup, and I sure don’t want some punk pushing me around.

              You have more patience with assholes than I do.

        3. Great Frogs of Literature*

          I don’t usually go places with a man, but for a while we had a neighbor/tenant who would hang around while I was talking to contractors (and he’d lived here for longer than I had, so sometimes he had useful background info).

          I made the appointment. I answered the door/phone when the contractor arrived. I asked the questions. I was clearly the person prepared to write the check. AND YET, there were a nontrivial number of prospective contractors who needed to talk to A Man, and would talk to the random guy in the back yard instead of me.

          I did not hire any of those contractors. If someone did this to me in a store or restaurant, I probably would not go back to that establishment. I find it incredibly rude, like I’m not considered a person in my own right, and people who treat me like that do not need my money.

      2. Strawberry Snarkcake*

        Yes, I started doing this as well. I have no reason to give my money to a place that treats me like a second class citizen.

    3. JP*

      Yep. Just overall bad business practice, too, with the assumption that a sizeable demographic of people with earning power are just going to be cool spending their money here after being treated this way.

    4. ferrina*

      It’s obvious to the one being ignored.

      When my brother and his wife were doing their wedding planning, they found that some vendors would always defer to the woman (I guess because wedding planning is only for women?). In one memorable story, they spend an hour touring a potential venue, and the tour guide is super chummy with his (now)wife and completely ignores my brother. The guide won’t even answer my brother’s questions- his (now)wife has to re-ask the question that he just asked so that the tour guide will actually answer it.

      Obviously they did not go with that venue.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Wow, that’s kind of the opposite of most situations, how weird! Glad they didn’t go with that venue, argh.

        1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

          This happened to me too, regarding a wedding. I think it’s because there’s such a cultural set of assumptions that women are more eager to marry and care more about the wedding itself, and also the “bride’s special day” stuff, and presume that the woman is more invested (and likely easier to upsell) because of it. It’s a real phenomenon with wedding vendors especially.

          It was especially noticeable to me because while I was fine with a ceremony and reception, I would have been just as happy eloping. My husband was the one who wanted the party, and our agreement was that he’d do the lion’s share of the planning because of that. I ultimately had to start saying things like “I’d just as soon have flowers from the farmer’s market” to vendors to get them to talk to me.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          Children and weddings are just about the only places the woman gets prioritized in (bad, inconsiderate) salespeoples’ eyes. So on the one hand, yay, finally the men know what it is to be ignored, on the other, ugh the gendering.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Yeah, I was just thinking that weddings and children are the only things women are perceived to care about (by terrible salespeople, of course). Sigh.

          2. Butterfly Counter*

            When it comes to children, many men are happy to be ignored. (Though, of course, many men also chafe at it.)

            I read something recently where a mom made it a point to try and get contact information from her child’s friends’ fathers for arranging birthday parties or playdates. When seeing them at school pickup or the playground, they all invariably would give their wives’ numbers and emails.

            1. dePizan*

              Schools too. I’ve heard all sorts of stories where the father is listed on all school documents as the primary contact, and the office will ignore it to call the mom instead.
              I’ve even heard where they left the mom’s info off the contact list intentionally (whether because she’s in a field where she can’t have a phone at work or for custody reasons), and they will still try to track her down first.

              1. CowWhisperer*

                *raises hand*

                My husband has been the primary school emergency contact for years and our son’s school cannot remember that without him literally reminding them quarterly.

                I work in a classroom 30-60 minutes away depending on road conditions. I check my phone before school, at lunch and after school.

                My husband manages the technicians of a tire shop. He’s got access to his phone within 5 minutes and can be at the school in 15-20 minutes or coordinates a pickup by a grandparent sooner.

                And yet, I find missed calls for kid illnesses a few times a year.

                1. Xwordmama*

                  When I would get a call from the school, I always asked them if they had tried to contact my kids’ father. It was either a pause before asking why or some rabble about me being listed as the main contact. It irritated me that they thought my schedule was easier to rearrange. It wasn’t – he could work from home and I couldn’t.

            2. Zombeyonce*

              My husband does school drop off and I do pickup, so we see other parents separately. Whenever a parents sees me at pickup and says how they were talking with my husband about a playdate, I give them his number instead of mine to schedule it. I don’t care if they didn’t get his on purpose because “mom usually handles these things”. I’m not here to handle 100% of the family calendar, I already have enough on my plate.

            3. Media Monkey*

              my husband works from home 5 mins walk from my daughters old primary school and 15 min drive from her secondary school. i work 50 miles away. the schools both knew this and had both sets of contact details, guess who they call?

          3. LikesToSwear*

            Medical staff are also bad about this. Friends have a son, and when he was a toddler and they *both* were at the doctor’s appointments, the staff would ask mom a bunch of questions, despite her stating numerous times to ask dad, because *he* is the primary parent.

      2. A Dad*

        I had something similar happen. My wife and I were at the grocery store with our son who was probably between 12 and 18 months at the time. An older woman employee was enamored with him and talking to us, or really to my wife. She offered him a slice of the cheese she was putting out, and asked if it was OK. I said it was, which she didn’t even acknowledge that I had said anything, looking directly at my wife until she said it was OK. Because, everyone knows, dads know nothing about what is and isn’t acceptable for their own child.

        1. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

          My SIL told me she’s being driven bananapants by the school, dentists, and pediatricians who call her first even though her husband is the primary contact and usually the one who is taking the kids for appointments and field trips. She has an hour and a half commute, his office is only a couple miles away so he’s the one who is better equipped to handle these things. Not only do they call her first, if they don’t reach her because she’s in a meeting or whatever, they’ll leave a message for her instead of calling her husband.

          1. Zombeyonce*

            It’s so annoying to give in, but she might consider adding a “if this is about the kids, call HusbandsName” to her voicemail message.

            1. CJ Harris*

              What a great idea!! I want you to know that I’ve just changed my voicemail to refer people to my husband when it’s about the kids.

          2. Eloo*

            This happens to me all the time! Every time we meet a new provider, we ask that a note be put on file that my husband is the primary contact. We explain that he’s a stay at home dad and I work nights. It still takes me missing several calls before they eventually learn to contact my husband first. Even though he’s the one they regularly see at appointments or school events.

            1. Merrie*

              We are in that same situation. Our daughter’s school called me anyway when she wasn’t feeling well and needed to be picked up. I never got a good answer about why. I was off work that day, so maybe I will charitably assume my daughter told them I wasn’t working and they could call me? But he’s around all the time!

      3. StressedButOkay*

        Oh man, my husband got treated like that once during the lead up to our wedding at Best Buy when we went to do a gift registry. The guy ‘helping’ us barely talked to him and, when he did, he acted like I had kidnapped this man and dragged him in unwillingly – I very frostily told the Best Buy employee that my husband would also like to pick out gifts, thank you very much. Like – what?

        1. MigraineMonth*

          …he acted like I had kidnapped this man and dragged him in unwillingly

          Isn’t that how weddings are supposed to work? Groom-nappings?

          1. StressedButOkay*

            lol, if you go according to wedding gift areas and ideas for cakes, pretty much. (Husband and I were equally horrified by that, thankfully, and borrowed the “are straight couples…okay?” attitude)

      4. Ellis Bell*

        So true about wedding vendors deferring to the woman. I found this was true of estate agents as well, which is wild if you think about it.

    5. Bunny Girl*

      We have this problem frequently when we have people working in our home. They will always address my male partner instead of me. I’m actually the “handy” one out of the relationship and have a better grasp of what’s going on than my boyfriend. He always defers to me when we are both standing there but it’s strange. He is also normally the one that has to call people to come out because if I call, we get ignored, but if he calls, we get service. Major B.S.

      1. Lacey*

        My husband used to handle all our service stuff, because he had the more flexible job to take calls, arrange to be home, etc.

        But now I’m the one with more flexibility & getting our service providers to contacting me has been a nightmare.

        The people who come to our house are completely fine, but the office employees will not stop contacting him first, even though he can’t answer & it just leaves him stressed that I’m not getting the information I need in time!

      2. MM*

        I work from home most days, and when I do travel, typically I’m the one scheduling the travel. So for contractors and repair people, it is almost always me who deals with them.

        Except one company. And unfortunately we are tethered to them. They are so bad with me, a woman, that I insist my husband take a vacation day to be home to deal with them, because I will not anymore.

        We can’t get away from this company without a major expenditure, and we are not ready for that in the near future.

      3. many bells down*

        It’s usually “talk to man, ignore woman” when car shopping, but when my husband decided he wanted an EV they weirdly insisted on talking just to ME. I guess only women buy electric cars?

        1. MigraineMonth*

          In my state, cars are common marital property; when you buy a car the DMV mails your spouse letting them know. Hilariously, the DMV does not check whether you are married before doing this, so I have received official mail addressed to a non-existent spouse.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            This happened the same month I discovered my employer had enrolled my (non-existent) spouse for health coverage; I started to wonder if I’d forgotten something important.

          2. londonedit*

            What?? I mean, what?? I’m just trying to imagine the DVLA writing to my non-existent spouse to notify them (notify them????) that I’ve bought a car.

            1. Little Lady, Big Stick*

              That is certainly a leveling up of the “sending non-profit appeals for money to female employee’s male spouse.”

            2. Humble Schoolmarm*

              I’m imagining the next Hallmark hit, “Love at the DMV”
              Prudence Sneath storms in: Hi, you sent this notice to my “husband” Orville Scooter, but I’m a workaholic land developer and I don’t know any Orvilles.

              Handsome man behind her: Hi, I’m Orville Scooter, local blueberry farmer and fruit artist (though I abandoned my art due to my tragic past).

              90 mins of hi-jinx, flirting and berry-related miscommunication later, they kiss aaaaaand credits.

      4. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

        Same. I work remotely so I’m the one who makes all the arrangements and deals with all the contractors and service workers for anything I’m not doing myself. I also do all of our financials because it’s spouse’s kryptonite. So I’ve got all the money and all the knowledge of what’s supposed to be done and I still get a plumber looking around for the man of the house. In the past year, I’ve had to deal with roofers, HVAC, window installers, plumbers, electricians, handypersons, and arborists. Only one of them treated me like a person. Only one of them was a woman. Spoiler: same person.

        Our kitchen light fixture is in dire need of replacement. We’re using a floor lamp because I haven’t yet decided which is a bigger pain in the butt: replacing the fixture myself knowing the previous owners did some “creative” wiring that will require taking a whole day off work…or hiring an electrician to do it for me knowing I’m going to have to deal with being condescended to.

        1. CL*

          As the one who does electrical work at my house, anything “creative” gets outsourced to someone else. Was actually discussing this with the HVAC tech today as our house has some “creative” ductwork.

          1. Little Lady, Big Stick*

            Hard agree. If it can kill you, get someone from the outside.
            Remember Angie’s List when it was new? I feel like this would’ve come up in the reviews there. Lord knows, I probably put it there myself, because I refer well, but I will also call that shit out far and wide.

    6. BKB*

      It happened to my husband and me when we met with a banker about a mortgage. The banker would only ask my husband questions. I’m in charge of the finances in our relationship, so of course he didn’t know the answer to any of them, and I would answer them. The banker would proceed to ask my husband the next question. I don’t think the banker even looked at me the whole time.

      We went with a different company.

      1. JustaTech*

        What’s really sad is that I most strongly remember the times when stuff like that *didn’t* happen.
        A few years ago I sold my car to a friend, and she got a loan at our credit union. We brought our husbands along, but neither of them were on the accounts or the car titles. So they (reasonably) wandered off to play with their phones. And the guy from the credit union? He said hello to everyone politely, and then focused completely on my friend and I, and did not mention our husbands again.
        I could tell from the way my friend’s shoulders relaxed that she had been fully prepared to fight with this guy about her car, her account, and she was so glad to not have to worry about it!

      2. Jay (no, the other one)*

        Mortgage broker when I called asking about rates: Now, when your husband asked you to make these calls, he probably didn’t tell you there were different kinds of mortgages.

        I hadn’t said anything about a husband.

        1. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

          “You’re a bit too young to be thinking of an IRA. You likely won’t even need it since you can live off your husband’s pension.”

          I also hadn’t said anything about a husband. My girlfriend at the time thought it was hilarious. She said from now on she was Mr. Space bird and expected to be greeted at the door with a martini when she got home from work.

          1. Troubadour*

            I met with reps from a few banks to ask about a mortgage for my first house. Most of the reps were fine and helpful. One man started in with “you’ll need X because when you get married and have children….” I think I attempted pointing out I had no such plans and he persisted with oh well plans change. At which I tuned out and activated polite nodding mode because it was easier than explaining to him about asexuality and, y’know, the 21st century. Got my mortgage with one of the other banks.

      3. iglwif*

        This exact scenario has not happened to me, but an equally annoying one happened the last time we needed to renew our mortgage. Our bank is very big on “you can do your banking from the comfort of your own home!” but it turns out that’s only allowed if you can answer a long series of obscure questions about your accounts … and if it’s a joint account, which our mortgage is, you BOTH have to answer questions, and you’re not allowed to help each other. “I have no idea” is not an acceptable answer — even if the correct answer is “no, I have never done that transaction,” they require you to KNOW — and there’s a specific number of “wrong” responses that requires the bank person to call the whole thing off.

        So there we were, I had eventually answered enough questions to satisfy them, and then I had to put my husband on the phone and he had to answer questions. Since I handle all the mortgage and line of credit stuff for our household (he has another portfolio of household financial stuff he handles, plus of course we each have our own chequing accounts and credit cards), he had no idea. None at all.

        We ended up sprinting to the bus stop, and from the stop at the other end to the bank branch, to get there before they closed so we could finalize the renewal in person before the rate expired, and had to take the dog in with us. The branch just wanted to see his ID.

        Had we realized beforehand that this bank allows dogs, we would’ve just gone in there and done it in person to begin with! At least now we know that for next time.

    7. Dread Pirate Roberts*

      Yes, it’s happened to me when the man who apparently owns me is my brother or my uncle, not just a romantic partner. Because a woman of good purchasing power must be in want of a man.

    8. DameB*

      SO obvious. Especially in certain milieus. My husband would prefer to never ever speak to anyone ever thank you so i take the lead in almost all situations. I’m also the one with the weird hobbies. So when I go into Rockler and try to get a sloyd knife *for my own use* and the salespeople insist on talking to my husband, who doesn’t know what the eff a sloyd knife is, it’s very very obvious. (Because he’s a good guy, he say “talk to her, not me.”)

    9. Ally McBeal*

      SO obvious. Sometimes it can be done well… if my boyfriend and I are out to eat and the female server makes MORE eye contact and conversation with me than with BF (but still acknowledges and is friendly with BF) then I understand it as a gesture of female solidarity – “I promise I’m not trying to pull a Jolene on you” … but the reverse (a male server paying more attention to my BF than me) doesn’t work very well. Such a weird line to walk and it’s just better if we all treat each other equally.

    10. Pumpkin215*

      I’ve lost count of how many times in my adult life this has happened to me.

      Buying a car, scheduling a home inspection, having any type of repair work done, etc. My favorite was the arborist.

      I called up a tree company and the guy that came out would not even look me in the eye. He went as far as to turn his back to me to talk to my husband, whom happened to wander outside. (We had just bought the house and were dividing and conquering on projects. Tree removal was on my to do list).

      I called up that tree company and LOST it. I’m not proud of some of the things I said but in there I know was “MY name was on the top of the paperwork in his hand. I am the one that called. This is MY house and those are MY trees. Your employee didn’t have the decency to shake my hand or address me by name. It was like I did not even exist and by the way, you did NOT get the job”.

      1. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

        We just had to deal with this regarding tree removal. I spent a good bit of time moving things in the back yard and protecting what needed to be protected. I made a point of showing the crew where I had new trees planted. I’d already been ignored by this point but wanted just to get it done. I had arranged everything so they could drive the truck into the back yard on the side where they wouldn’t run over the vegetable gardens. I pointed it out to the first trimmer, who turns to my spouse and says “We’ll have to dismantle the gardens to get the truck in but I’m sure your wife won’t mind a few flowers run over.” He did not get the job.

        Second one was hired because he listened to me during the estimate. I thought it was going to be fine but apparently he’d tuned me out when I was telling him to watch out for the newer trees I planted a few years prior. He dropped the giant pine tree right onto my bald cypress and snapped it in half. When I went out to take pictures he got offended and said there’s no way he could have seen the tree (tall bushy green thing in the midst of a field of brown pine needles that I explicitly pointed out, but okay). Then I later overheard him complain about how women are always “hysterical” about their plants.

        Next time, I’m going back to the original tree trimmer we had, even if it’s a six week wait. Now I know why that one is always booked up.

    11. Toasterstrudel*

      I’ve had this happen to me at a restaurant recently. Husband and I went to an upscale restaurant and the whole experience was just not good. The service was bad. I asked for a refill multiple times and never got it. The food was over salted. The servers were very disorganized. But to put the cherry on top, the server asked my husband if we’d like the bill. I didn’t think much of it because it was kind of loud and maybe easier to ask one person. The bill came. I picked it up and put my card in it and it was sitting in my side of the table when the server came to grab it. When she brought it back she was like “here you go sir” and handed it to my husband. Yeah that just made me mad.

    12. Alshon*

      Had a guy come in to check out our pooped out furnace and AC, I was wfh at the dining table and my husband went down to the basement with the guy. They come back up and I’m like “so what’s the damage?” Dude gives my husband side eye and says “are you sure you want to tell her? Sometimes the wives get a little … ehhhhh” to which I said “Well it’s my house too, so tell me.” Needed the whole thing replaced, so we called someone else for the job that wouldn’t be an ass to me.

    13. La Peregrina*

      Totally obvious, and soo frustrating! One of my “favorite” experiences with this was when I (a middle-aged woman) was selling an aunt’s house in a Bible Belt state. My (male, slightly older) cousin was there to help, but we were both clear up front – and kept repeating – that I was the one legally and financially responsible for the sale. Two salesmen were there making a hard pitch, but barely looked at let alone talked to me. To me it was so obvious it was comical, but I assumed that my Faux News-watching occasionally-misogynistic cousin would miss it. Oh heck no! He read them the riot act and sent them packing. It was great to feel so seen!

  1. CM*

    This isn’t just a Fergus problem, though — he may have a uniquely weird rationale for not talking to women, but I (a woman) routinely notice that when I’m with my husband, even if I walk in and speak to someone first, they will only make eye contact with and respond to my husband. They just assume he’s in charge.

    1. ferrina*

      The worst is in hardware stores. When I would go to the home improvement store with my (now ex)husband, many sales reps would always talk to him, even when we both said “she is the one doing the repairs!” I would ask a question, then they would turn and look at my husband while answering. He doesn’t know a flat-head from a Phillips!

      When I go in by myself, I get much better service.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I am chronically single and have never owned property with a partner, but my understanding is car salespeople and car repair shops are the worst about this. I actually have never gone through the car buying process on my own (thanks Dad!), but I’m pretty mechanically intelligent and even though I don’t know how to repair a car I do know what a lot of the parts are. So I ask a lot of questions of the repair people and they treat me like a smart person, but I think most car people think women aren’t interested in cars at all. To be fair, I’m not that interested either but I like to know what they’re doing to my car so I ask questions.

        But yeah, this is all very very gross on the part of the car and repair industries. Or the retail industry as a whole. But I really don’t understand why a service employee would respond to a different person other than the one who asked a question, that’s just so weird.

        1. Pizza Rat*

          I’ve had it happen with more than one car dealer. When I was the one buying the car.

          For mechanics, I found the best one using the CarTalk website. Their reviews include ratings whether they treat women and men the same.

          So glad I live in an area with good transit and don’t have to deal with that anymore.

          1. Anonym*

            Thank you for sharing about the CarTalk site! I had no idea they had reviews. Miss those guys.

            1. Forrest Rhodes*

              +1 to Pizza Rat and Anonym about Car Talk. My Saturday mornings just haven’t been the same without Click and Clack.

              1. David*

                Fortunately NPR still publishes a Car Talk podcast! I think each podcast episode is a slightly cut-down version of an original episode of the show, and they go in order, so all the callbacks to previous episodes make sense. It feels almost just like listening to the show again, except I can pause and rewind.

                Just yesterday I was listening to the legendary episode where Andy from Vermont wrote in about whether two people who don’t know what they’re talking about know more or less than one person who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. It’s wonderful, I’m looking forward to the guys referencing this letter for weeks :-)

            2. Slow Gin Lizz*

              I live in MA and used to work in Cambridge. I happened to be free after work the evening they had a ceremony to dedicate to Tom the bench they were sitting on when they came up with the idea for CarTalk. Doug Berman (Bongo Boy) and Ray both gave speeches. It was fun.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                I am an avid Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! listener, and I can no longer hear (read) “Doug Berman” without automatically adding “Benevolent Overlord” onto the end of it.

                (I loved Car Talk. I don’t even like cars, and I listened to Car Talk religiously.)

                1. Pita Chips*

                  You mean that’s not all one word? :D

                  I’m a big fan, even been to a few live shows when they come to my town.

                  Car Talk was always fabulous. Fun, accessible, and the guys didn’t take themselves too seriously, always treating their listeners well.

          2. Nonanon*

            Oooh, thanks for that! My Corolla is relatively low maintenance and I pretty much need to go to a mechanic once a year for an oil change, but I do appreciate that it IS a metric that is being looked at.

        2. Anonym*

          Yep, that’s a pretty common category of offenders. My male partner hates driving and has zero interest in cars; I (female) used to work on them professionally. Most people adjust just fine once I take over the discussion, but a few will keep addressing him until he explicitly says he has no interest and I’m the expert. Me pointing out that I’m the car person in our house doesn’t seem to penetrate with those individuals.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I remember a comment either here or on FB on a similar topic where some guy brought a female friend with him when he was looking for a new car. Of course the salespeople kept talking to him directly and he was like, uh, I don’t know anything about cars, can you talk to my friend about it? And she was *extremely* knowledgeable about cars and totally wowed the salespeople with her know-how, because she had worked on pit crews for car racing.

        3. Lacey*

          Yes, car mechanics can be some of the worst.
          I don’t know a lot about cars, my dad was always the one who would do my repairs or tell me what I needed to ask for at the mechanic.

          And most of the time, it truly was fine.

          But I’ve had people lie to me about what the problem was, claim they fixed it when it very obviously was not (it was the ac, if the air isn’t cold, you didn’t fix it), claimed the problem couldn’t be fixed (a tire puncture?!), and my favorite – claiming I needed huge repairs that I had actually just had done.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            Oh yeah I had mechanics argue with me about what I told them the problem was. “Oh no that can’t be happening.” Um, it did.

            I don’t know cars so I get dumbing it down for me but when I tell you the problem I’m experiencing, I know what I’m talking about!

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            My friend had a mechanic tell her she needed $5k worth of work on her car, which is around 10 years old. Then he said if she didn’t want to do the work he would buy the car from her. Totally dishonest. She went to a couple of other places for 2nd and 3rd opinions and both of them told her the 1st mechanic was BSing and she only needed maybe $800 of work. But wow, claiming you needed big repairs that you had just done? That’s totally ridiculous!

            1. Lacey*

              It’s wild what they think they can get away with! Another time they told me I needed all 4 tires replaced. I said, “Um, the front two are brand new from a month ago, what are you talking about?” and they back peddled REAL hard, but you know they would have sold me 4 new tires without a qualm.

              1. Llama lamma workplace drama*

                I went into a place with a flat tire to buy a replacement. They called me to the back to show me my dirty air filter. I looked at the guy and said ‘my car doesn’t have a square air filter and WTF are you doing under the hood. I’m here for a flat tire!’

                1. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

                  We must have gone to the same place for a flat tire. They triumphantly showed me the dirty air filter and I knew it wasn’t mine because I had put a new one in a week prior and mine was an entirely different brand and color.

              2. tinybutfierce*

                I had a tire shop try and pull a smiliar thing with me. I had one flat tire and another on the same side was worn down enough that it wasn’t a bad idea to go ahead and get it replaced. The salesman told me I should really get a whole new set while I was at it, because having two new tires on the same side would do ~something~ to throw off how the car drove based on the treads being different. I asked if there was a reason they couldn’t just swap the tires around so there was only one new one on each side. There was not, and judging by the guy’s face, he hadn’t been expecting me to know that.

                I made it VERY clear I only wanted the two tires within X price range, and the dude still spent the next FIVE MINUTES going down the list of tires starting with the most expensive and trying to convince me to get a whole set. Every single time, I just looked him straight in the eye and said “I only want two tires, not above X price”.

                Absolutely never went back there, and last I checked, the store was no longer open.

            2. Sasha*

              Yep, I had a car repair shop tell me my cambelt needed replacing, and it would cost $2000 (twenty years ago, when that was a fair amount of cash). I queried it, because the car was only worth about $1200. No, definitely $2000, got it in writing and everything. It hadn’t snapped (which I know would cause a tonne of engine damage), it was just on the maintenance schedule that it needed replacement when the car was ten years old.

              Went around the corner, and they replaced it for $50.

          3. Quill*

            Yeah, my dad vets mechanics for me still. I’m in my 30’s.

            Last time I had a repair guy try to cheat me because I’m a woman, we could have had an electrical fire.

            1. inksmith*

              One place I took my car to set it on fire (they were welding and assumed the clear liquid was water – it was petrol) and didn’t bother to tell me because the damage wasn’t visible. When I went back because my windscreen wipers were no longer working, they ‘fessed up – and then were surprised when I said I was going to take it elsewhere to get the passenger seatbelt replaced (which they’d burned through) and the car checked over, and that they’d be paying for it.

              I found a different garage; my parents, who’d recommended it in the first place, inexplicably get going there.

        4. Turquoisecow*

          I let my husband handle the service for my car after a few times when the techs treated me like I was an absolute idiot.

        5. Perpetually Cranky*

          I brought my dad car shopping with me too.

          To my dad: “cylinders…displacement…horsepower”

          To me: “upgrade to fancier rims!”

          1. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

            “Multifaceted headlights so you have some bling!” – actual salesman trying to sell me a car

        6. Moo*

          Weird situation happened to me recently. I had dropped my car in for a service and, I think, so had someone else with the same surname. I went to collect it and the guy kept talking about Frank who owns my car (I am single ladyish personage- only I own my car). When I said it was my car, he said “well Frank dropped it in for you”. It took an oddly long time for him to understand it was my car, and I did not have any connection to Frank. I even went as far to say “There is no Frank. There is only me!” Eventually he let go of the idea of Frank and my life together long enough to check what car we were talking about.

      2. Hush42*

        Uhg, I am single and have never had a partner but as a single women I can attest that hardware stores are the worst for this kind of thing. I vividly remember when I purchased my home in 2020 I had to replace all the appliances in the house. I went to Lowes to get a new water line for my new dishwasher. I couldn’t figure out where they were (and wasn’t aware of the app which I now use every time) so I had to ask someone. He proceeded to tell me that I needed a kit to install a whole new dishwasher when I tried to explain that I just needed the water line as I’m replacing an existing one, he basically told me that I was wrong and insisted that I needed the kit. I ended up just waiting for him to leave and going back to the aisle and grabbing what I actually needed. It was a very unpleasant experience, and not the only one of it’s kind unfortunately. It probably doesn’t help that I am in my early thirties but look more like I’m in my early 20s. I have recently discovered that I get slightly less of that condescension if I have my 3 year old niece with me, perhaps she makes me seem older?

        1. Turquoisecow*

          Once you’ve become a mom you automatically are assumed to be ultra competent. I get this, too, I’m 42 but I look young but if I have my kid with me service people definitely treat me more like a competent adult than a kid just starting out on their own.

      3. Cat Tree*

        When I bought my house, I wanted to buy a drill for home repairs. I went into a hardware store and asked a salesperson for a drill. The question did not compute in his mind and he said, “oh, like an electric screwdriver?” I clarified that I needed and actual drill. He said, “we have some pink ones over here” and showed me a display of pink *electric screwdrivers*. I left and just ordered one online from their competitor.

        This is one of the reasons that I shop online as much as possible.

        1. Space Needlepoint*

          While I have no objection to slightly smaller tools to fit my smaller hands, the pink ones always seem to be shoddily made.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            I worked in various hardware stores for about 5 years total up until about 10 years ago and still get that kind of treatment when I go. But FYI, Black & Decker usually have smaller grips and are better for smaller hands.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              Is *that* why my late father — a man with size 13 feet and hands to match — disliked Black & Decker tools? Huh. The more you know!

          2. I Have RBF*

            The pink shit is both more expensive and less well made. I will not buy pinkified tools.

            I liked pink when I was a kid – it was bright and cheery. Then it became a girl stereotype thing, and I came to hate it. Now pink just looks like misogyny.

      4. ImprobableSpork*

        I (a cis male) stopped shopping at a certain yarn store in Northern VA because of this – the salespeople would always address my wife and ignore me when we went in together. My wife does not know how to knit.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          I would have assumed that most of the staff would fawn over a man who knows how to deal with yarn. (Says me, a woman who thinks of yarn as an undecipherable code that will never be cracked.)

        2. Not All Yarn*

          I have no doubt this was irksome in the moment. However I hope you can realize that this is different from women being talked down to/ignored when trying to conduct business and get services.

          Also consider that the yarn store employees could have been either consciously or subconsciously trying to protect a traditionally female space. Also consider why, in particular, it was irksome that your wife was addressed instead of you. It happens to women so frequently as to be uneventful, that it was eventful for you is telling.

          1. Admin Lackey*

            Good lord, I don’t think ImprobableSpork thinks this is “eventful” or as bad as what women put up with, this seems like an uncharitable reading.

            “Woman = knitter” is still gender stereotyping and I can’t imagine his wife was thrilled about it. There’s nothing here that’s telling and there’s no need for a lecture.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            No, sorry, people assuming only one gender can do knitting is not a safe female space; it’s just another stereotype. Also, it’s irksome for anyone to be ignored.

            1. Allonge*

              This. A man knitting does not encroach upon a safe space for women and does not need defending against. Certainly not by talking to ‘his’ woman about things she may not care about at all.

              Yes, there is a lot more of an ick behind women being ignored in these situations, but that does not make ignoring a man in any way heroic or ok.

            2. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

              “Women must be interested in traditionally female crafts (and men must not)” is just more patriarchy!

            3. Little Lady, Big Stick*

              Agreed x1000.

              The conversation was about when people decide to use outdated gender assumptions in professional interactions. Please keep up.

            4. GythaOgden*

              Yup. As a crafter myself I would be really excited that a man was interested in knitting. One British TV presenter knitted his own jumpers and has published pattern books. And good for him for setting an example, but there are a lot of other male designers with knitting backgrounds such as Kaffe Fassett.

              The more we get men interested in traditionally female things the more we even things out and liquidate traditional gender roles on both sides. Things shouldn’t be seen as ‘girly’ just as much as women should have traditionally masculine activities opened to them.

              Also in day to day life, you’re dealing with individuals. What goes around comes around. It might feel like a blow to the general social order and patriarchy to give as good as you get — to try to preserve a perceived female space from men just as some men try to preserve their fiefdoms from change. But if you’re really serious about convincing individuals to continue a path that opens them up to new experiences or makes them want to share their hobbies with others, being welcoming and respectful is the way to go. Creating arbitrary boundaries towards individuals (who by the way didn’t ask to be born male any more than we asked to be born female) will only intensify the boundaries they set with you, and that’s the LAST thing ANYONE needs.

          3. AngryOctopus*

            Your second paragraph is complete and utter BS. I go to an amazing craft/yarn store run by an absolutely amazing woman and her staff of 90% women, and they give every person who walks through the door equal consideration as a crafter. The only priority they give is to pet dogs immediately. It’s still wrong to assume a woman is the crafter in a yarn store.

            1. ferrina*

              Exactly this. Gatekeeping hobbies based on gender is messed up.

              I don’t go to my knitting shop because I want to be in a woman-only space; when I want a women-only space, I go to events that are explicitly women-only. When I go to a knitting shop, it’s because I want to connect with people that love knitting (or crocheting or other fiber arts). When people dilute that Knitting Love with gatekeeping or Gender Hate, it makes the experience less enjoyable for me. That’s true for any of my hobbies.
              And as a side note, I’ve found that men who join majority-women spaces often leave having learned a lot about women and become stronger allies. So win-win.

            2. I Have RBF*

              I’m an AFAB enby who sews, crochets and makes soap. I enjoy it when men participate it what are often stereotyped as “women’s” crafts. Before I became disabled I did my own car work, too.

          4. wordswords*

            Sure, it’s not part of an overall pattern in which women are privileged over men in the sense of societal/institutional sexism. There ARE real differences. And, of course, part and parcel of that is that the things that are assumed to be male activities are often more respected than things assumed to be female activities.

            But it IS part of a sexist society in which certain spaces, tasks, and hobbies are assumed to be for men, and others are assumed to be for women, and the gatekeeping about that persists even in the face of evidence like someone going “excuse me, I’m planning a project, can you answer a question about this yarn I would like to purchase,” and that part cuts both ways and harms everyone. (Including folks whose gender doesn’t fit into the societal binary that leads to stuff like this.)

            A) yarn stores are not and should not be gender-segregated spaces (speaking as a woman who knits). I like working with textiles for a lot of reasons, but none of them are wanting it to be a walled-off Traditionally Female Space — I want knitting and crocheting to be open to anyone who wants to do them! (And both of these have, in some times and cultures, been specifically men’s work, in fact.) Gatekeeping it doesn’t protect anyone; it only makes people in that institutionally sexist society think of it as girly stuff, not an art form or useful skill, and makes men and masc-leaning people who want to do it feel like they can’t without compromising themselves. B) it’s not actually all that infrequent for this to happen in certain spaces considered to be female-dominated. (Others have spoken above about grooms being ignored in wedding planning and dads being ignored in parenting-specific spaces; for a more personal anecdote, when my niece was a baby in the NICU, my BIL was driven up a wall by how the nurses continually assumed that he didn’t know how to feed his kid even though he’d been coming daily for weeks, and directed all questions and comments to his wife no matter how involved a co-parent he was, because subconsciously Babies Are Woman Business I guess.) C) I’m a woman and I don’t consider it uneventful when I’m ignored in favor of a man! I might expect it in a certain context, but it’s a frustrating and noticeable event every time. And D) ImprobableSpork was, in fact, being ignored when trying to conduct business and get services! That’s literally what happened.

            1. Humble Schoolmarm*

              It’s an issue in healthcare spaces. I have the same autoimmune disorder as my dad (thanks genetics!) but as a kid, he found that most of the questions, information etc. was directed to my mom. He felt like some of the staff seemed surprised that he was actually interested in his kid’s medical needs.

          5. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            There’s a comment section full of women explaining how it happened to them and was irksome. It’s just irksome. Men are also allowed to have feelings.

            1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

              And as a genderqueer person the idea that an entire hobby could be a Safe Space for either traditionally binary gender where others simply don’t belong and are actually dangerous seems really, really ridic.

          6. We’re Six*

            Whoooosh goes the sound of the whole point of the original letter flying over Not All Yarn’s head.

          7. iglwif*

            Does this happen to women much more often? Of course. Does that mean that making assumptions about customers based on gender stereotypes is not a problem when it happens to dudes? Of course not!

            Also, this isn’t a different pattern from the one the LW and other commenters are describing, just the flip side of the same pattern. “Only women knit” is from the exact same sexist catalogue as “Only men use power tools.”

      5. Garblesnark*

        This still happened at hardware stores when I (woman) ran a construction company and my husband (man) was working primarily as a musician and we introduced ourselves that way.

      6. dawbs*

        shared this before, but once upon a time, i worked at the small town hardware store.

        Some of the customers didn’t want to talk to me. the guys i worked with took immense pleasure in watching me be ignored, then asking the same customer if they could help them, listening to the problem then saying “hm, I am not sure, let me grab my colleague who really knows this problem better….dawbs, hey dawbs!”

        If i knew NOTHING about the subject and telegraphed that through my panicked look, they’d lay down breadcrumbs for me… “…I was thinking a 1/4” carriage bolt might be able to be worked trig and then a locknut, you think? “.
        I’d agree and they’d crack up when the customer left.

        (fwiw, it was an incredibly educational job-o learned so much! and i know the names of the weird tools!)

          1. dawbs*

            the ones who took the most joy were the boss’s sons.
            They’d dealt with “what does this KID know” issues. (ftr, they knew a lot!) and took you in poking windbags.

        1. tinybutfierce*

          I had similar fun times at a previous job, lol. I was manager of a small local retail store, but everyone assumed one of my two older male employees was the boss, not my younger, shorter self.

          I once spent about ten minutes helping a man find specific things he needed and answering a bunch of questions, then took him back to the register for an employee to check out while I did something else I needed to do right nearby. The customer told my employee that he should “tell the boss what a good job [I] did helping him”; my employee told him I WAS the boss. The guy at least had the decency to be VISIBLY embarrassed and he didn’t say a single word the entire rest of the transaction.

    2. KaciHall*

      I bought a car in my 20s. Went in myself, picked out the car. Went in myself to submit the paperwork for financing. The day I was going to pick up the car, I dropped off my rental car and my boyfriend drive me to the dealership. He came in with me solely because it was snowing and he didn’t want to leave in case there was an issue and I couldn’t pick up the car.

      The salesperson proceeded to give him all the information about the loan, the car, the registration, everything. Even asked for his signature. Didn’t matter how much he tried to say he was just my ride, I was immediately irrelevant. If I didn’t absolutely need the car and had any other options I would’ve walked out.

      1. anotherfan*

        I don’t know when you were in your 20s, but if it was a while ago, things might have changed since them. I walked into a dealership last weekend to test drive a used car and had my husband in tow. When someone walked up to us, I said I was looking to buy a used car — he looked at my husband who said ‘it’s her car’ and then he spoke to me and barely looked at my husband, and it was the same with agent they called (a woman, by the way) who talked to me about the car without looking much at my husband unless he asked a question, and then they answered the question in a friendly way and then went back to me for any decision. it does happen.

        1. MsM*

          Why the look at your husband to confirm, though? Why not just reply directly to you?

          1. David*

            I guess the charitable interpretation is that it’s a check to see whether the random person standing around expects to be involved or not, and if so, to give them an opportunity to jump in and introduce themselves. (I also do this when someone starts up a conversation with me; if they’re in a group, I instinctively look around and try to acknowledge the rest of the group before focusing on the person I’m talking to.)

            The non-charitable interpretation is, of course, obvious.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

      Went car shopping with my husband – the sellers insisted on speaking to him. The one who’s never learnt to drive.

      For added fun go shopping for computer hardware components. The amount of times I’ve been spoken over because obviously a woman doesn’t know anything about technology..

      1. Csethiro Ceredin*

        Tech salespeople can be so annoying with this!

        My dad is experiencing this now that he is visibly ‘old’ and he just told me he now sees what I’ve been complaining about. He’s a retired radio astronomer with a ton of tech-y interests, and has been building everything from radio equipment to computers to seismographs since he was a kid… and now he has some 20 year old patronizingly (and erroneously) saying no no, that’s not how technology works, you don’t want THAT, we have some nice premade ones over here, and look, it comes with an instruction booklet!

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I once went into a BestBuy to see if there were any keyboards that would work with my older iPad, and the salesman helpfully explained to me that my tablet was not actually an iPad.

        I took it out of the case and held it up so he could see the Apple logo. He broke some speed records backtracking.

        1. Wired Wolf*

          I’m female and have become my mom’s in-house IT department. I’ve built two computers and at various points upgraded everything electronic in the apartment (and whined about what I’m not allowed to mess with!).

          I haven’t set foot in a Best Buy since sometime in the mid 2000s. I was looking for some part (RAM upgrade I think). When the salesman asked what I was using he was expecting me to reply with an OEM name like HP, not a list of parts brands…and then tried to tell me that different brands weren’t compatible so I couldn’t use Samsung RAM on an Asus board (um…I am and it’s been working fine).

          Now I’m realizing that I can’t let my mom come with me when buying anything computer-related; she will proceed to confuse herself, the sales associate and me. Confusing an associate at Micro Center takes some bizarre sort of special talent.

      3. Frieda*

        I had a car salesman ask my then-husband, in front of me, if my name was also on the title of the car. Um, yes, it is, and no, we will not be leasing a car at your godawful rates (or any rates) or doing any further business with you, thanks.

      4. Deejay*

        Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr and Admiral Grace Hopper have entered the chat.

        And those are just the three that leaped immediately to mind.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      I’m now imagining this happening to my parents, given that…my dad would always defer to my mother in such situations. To a bizarre degree. Like even if he were at the doctor’s and the doctor asked him where the pain was, he’d reply with something like, “I think it’s in my stomach” and then turn to my mother and ask, “is it my stomach?”

      It wouldn’t have arisen with DIY stuff because my mum went to those shops by herself, just because my dad wasn’t into that kind of stuff.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Well OP doesn’t exactly have the power to change all of society but they do have the power to speak up about Fergus.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, this is a well-studied and observed (often unconscious) bias. What’s surprising here is the dude openly admitting he’s doing it intentional, not just due to conditioning and without realizing. I mean, I know icky dudes like this exist, but they’re less common than the one’s who do it but if you asked them they’d think they do nothing of the sort.

    7. Zeus*

      I found the same happening with a male friend I often go out with – people would default to speaking to him first, and expecting him to pay. It took us a while to notice but we turned it into a game, to see how many people we can each get to speak to us first.

      The funniest exception was when I tagged along with him picking up his car from the mechanic. For context, I’m a butch lesbian, he’s an effeminate gay man (the exact words he uses for himself btw). The mechanic sized us both up, and decided to tell *me* about the fixes he’d done to the car (again, not my car)! I nodded along sagely, then when he left we both went to look up the terms he’d used (neither of us are car people).

  2. Pterodactyls are under-cited in the psychological literature*

    I can 100% tell when people are only addressing my husband and it ticks me off every time. Here to co-sign you talking to Fergus directly again if you’re comfortable doing so and your manager either way. This is complete nonsense. Thank you for the advocacy work you’ve already done and for being willing to do more! I hope Fergus gets his head out of his rear.

    1. Melicious*

      This is something management should address. Fergus is 100% pissing off women and making their store look bad.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Also, as you’ve noticed, this is something people talk about. “Oh, no, don’t got there. I went there once and the salesperson wouldn’t even talk to me, just my boyfriend. Now I drive across town just to go to their competitor.”

        There’s that old saw about a happy customer telling one person and an unhappy customer telling everyone.

      2. Pretty as a Princess*

        Right – and potentially causing them to lose repeat business from that same woman/family.

        Anytime Mr Pretty and I go somewhere and we get the “Only talk to the man/answer the man when the woman asks questions” – that is absolutely the last time we patronize that business and we make sure our whisper network knows about it.

  3. Siege*

    I mean, you probably don’t need the flood of women saying this, but: I’m a woman, my partner is a man, and I take the lead in all retail interactions. If I went to a business where a worker did this, I would leave that business and never go back and I would tell people about it. The vast majority of my friends are (a shocking twist) women who would not want to be treated this way either.

    This is strange, offensive, and sexist. I’d say something is wrong with Fergus, but we all know what it is: he’s a sexist asshat.

    1. The Rafters*

      Same here. I’m the lead. Mostly, I’ll say something to the salesperson about making sure both spouse and I understand what they’re saying. If they start right off speaking to him only and including me in SFS (stupid f-ng sh-t) such as, “isn’t this a nice color?” I’m outta there, and you just lost s a sale.

    2. SnowyRose*

      I agree Fergus’ reasoning sucks, but I’m not surprised that people don’t find it strange. In my experiences, it’s pretty common that men will generally address men and women will generally address women. Doesn’t make it right, but I think a lot of people have a similar unconscious bias.

      1. Observer*

        This goes way beyond that, though. It’s one thing to start off by primarily addressing the person of your gender. But does anyone do that because “How are you?” is “inappropriate” and “disrespectful to her boyfriend”? How is this remotely normal?

        1. ferrina*

          This. It’s one thing to talk a little more to the person that is your own gender (still not great, but not horrific).
          But to not address the person of the opposite gender at all? Even when that person is the one asking the questions/leading the interaction? That’s basically saying “you don’t exist to me, because you are not of my gender.” It’s a really weird application of the silent treatment.

          1. Siege*

            Yeah, I have to say, addressing one of a couple in this context is the same behavior Fergus is displaying, just with a possibly less gross reason behind it. Maybe.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I’ve worked retail. You talk to the person who: addresses you first; is actively looking at an item; has an I-have-a-question face; etc. Just like your cash transaction is with whomever initiated it (this includes small children, who are great at the register – very attentive to what’s going on).

      2. Siege*

        Since OP noted her surprise that people she’d talked to did not find it strange, I opted to validate her belief, because it is strange (that Fergus would have the utter gall to do that and then announce that he did that, which is perhaps more than she wanted validation on). And I don’t find it common to address one person of a pair; if they don’t indicate who’s leading, I address both with eye contact to each during my opening interaction. I don’t do this with families because children are rarely the lead, but with a pair of adults you can address both and wait to see who picks up the thread.

          1. Lizzo*

            Kids can also be the lead if the parents are not native speakers of the language required for transactional conversations at the store.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              That, too. Or if they’re CODA, and their parents use ASL.

              But anyone who’s worked in a kid-focused store knows that the kids are often the leads.

          2. Allonge*

            Or just to do an ‘adult thing’. For some ages / development stages it’s fun to be in charge.

            1. BubbleTea*

              My two year old bought all our fruit and veg for a while. We were getting the UK equivalent of SNAP and he had his own little card to pay with. Most cashiers interacted with him but some did ask me if I wanted a receipt. I turned the question to him, and he always said yes and proudly carried it to the car.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        I still think most people would find it strange that he does it deliberately and has a principle of not doing otherwise. I can see people not thinking it strange that his default is to address the man first, just because…well, I think most people have experience of people who do that, but I would expect most people find it strange that he says he would never speak to the woman “out of respect”.

      4. Anne Elliot*

        “In my experiences, it’s pretty common that men will generally address men and women will generally address women.”

        Generally, maybe, and I’ll give you that as far as opening the conversation goes. Heck, I’ll give Fergus that for the opener. If they don’t want the man to think they’re hitting on his woman with the ultra-sexy “Hi, may I help you?”, they can direct that opener at the person of their own gender. BUT once the person of the opposite gender asks questions or otherwise just joins the conversation, to persist in only addressing the person of your own gender only — ignoring the other person — would immediately come across as bizarre and rude. So speaking only for myself, I don’t actually even object to the unconscious bias or practice of opening the conversation with the person of the same gender; to me, it’s Fergus saying he NEVER speaks to a women if a man is present that makes the situation ridiculous, and ridiculously sexist.

        I wouldn’t care if my male partner was a world-ranked unicyclist (a subject of which I know nothing) and we were at the world’s best unicycle store, on his birthday — any salesman serves that ish up, we’re leaving, and at least one of us (though preferably both) is never coming back.

      5. MigraineMonth*

        Except what he’s describing isn’t unconscious bias. It’s a decision to not speak to women when their male partners are present out of respect for those men. He also says he would be angry if a salesman were to ask his girlfriend “Can I help you?”

        That isn’t an unconscious tendency to speak to someone of the same gender. That’s treating women like men’s possessions and as if that level of jealousy and controlling behavior (seriously, his girlfriend just talking with a salesman while he’s present is too much for him?) is normal.

      6. Allonge*

        To be honest I find it weird, not just about the sexism part but in general.

        If you have two customers that come as a set, would you not 1. greet both and 2. address both with the first ‘how can I help you’ approach? If only one of them is responding, then sure, engage further with that person, but – what exactly is gained by talking just to one?

    3. Her name was Lola, she was an intern*

      When my husband and I are at a restaurant, if the waitperson drops off the check in front of him, I’ll often take it and pay, on principle. It’s the same credit card, but I don’t like when folks assume he’ll pay.

      1. StressedButOkay*

        My parents have been married for 44 years and my father rarely pays (same cards, same accounts – he just likes joking that he’s a kept man). And without fail, the bill is almost always put right in front of him.

        We ate a fancy restaurant years ago and the waitress (after arguing with my mom that her steak was, in fact, medium-well when it could still sprint across the table) dropped the bill in front of my dad. She SAW my mom pick it up and my mom was the one who handed it back to her with the card in it. She STILL dropped it back in front of my dad after she ran it…

      2. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

        I’ve often had cashiers hand spouse the receipt and change or debit/credit cards even when I’m the one that handed payment to the cashier. He always pointedly looks at the cashier while handing it back to me. It happens less often now that POS readers are in stores, even more so since the pandemic. But it still happens in restaurants.

        1. notscarlettohara*

          Once had this happen in a really funny way while buying furniture with my partner. Background: I kept my name when I got married (and this might have even been before we actually were married). I give my card to pay, dude hands it back to my partner saying “Thanks for your business Mr. MyLastName!” I laughed all the way home.

    4. Forest Hag*

      Same here. This was especially noticeable during car shopping. My husband absolutely hates interacting with car dealerships, whereas I actually kind of enjoy it. We buy our cars from the places that treat me with respect. We’ve walked out of places where the salesperson won’t stop ignoring me and speaking only to my husband (though it is fun to watch my husband just stand there with his arms crossed and keep saying, “Talk to her, she’s the negotiator.”) And you bet I tell all my friends and family about dealerships/businesses that don’t treat me with basic respect. Fergus is impacting the business with this stance.

      1. Sharon*

        I have so many car dealerships on my “never go there again” list due to blatant sexism. Men, you have no idea what a problem this is. I just want to buy a vehicle! I have money! How hard is it to spend an hour doing business with me without being a jerk?

        1. MigraineMonth*

          The amount of money businesses are willing to flush away to uphold racist and patriarchal systems is astonishing. Do they not realize that treating a large part of their potential customer base and their employees like trash while promoting incompetents is going to come back to bite them?

      2. Lauren19*

        Yep! I had one GLARING car shopping incident that I still think about. We were trading in MY car (owned prior to meeting hubby and it was in my name only) and the down payment was coming from MY account. And yet, it was like I wasn’t even there. I was visibly pregnant at the time so there was also a ‘guy’s gotta get his woman new wheels’ vibes that were disgusting. The sales guy would ask my husband a question, I would answer, and the sales guy never even turned his head my way. The whole thing was so off putting. And, obviously I did not buy a car there.

    5. Legally Brunette*

      Same here, I take the lead for retail, because I enjoy negotiations/fact finding, and my husband absolutely does not. Most male salespeople are cool with that, but on one memorable occasion – *by email* with my very female-gendered first name – a male sales associate asked me if I was even capable of driving the manual transmission car I specifically asked about. I flagged his response for his management and promptly bought that car from another dealer that was delighted to see someone drive manual.

      1. Pom Mom*

        I too drive stick as a retired woman….and will apparently have to drive my old Subaru forever as I can’t even find new manuals to look at. May I ask what car you are looking at?

        1. anotherfan*

          oh! I adore driving manual! but there aren’t any where I can find them unless I want some high-end sports car, so for the first time in about 40 years, I have to look at automatics for the replacement for my stick because they don’t make parts for it any more.

        2. Indolent Libertine*

          We have always driven stick shift cars, and honestly probably been more than a little obnoxious about our preference ( like, cracks about liking to actually drive our car, not just aim it). But it’s been harder and harder to get them, and we had to replace both cars this year and now have zero manual transmissions. One electric, and one gasoline car (likely the last gas-only one we’ll own?) that’s only available as automatic. Sigh. No more “thrill of a perfectly timed downshift on a winding mountain road.“

        3. callmeheavenly*

          The 2024 Honda Civic hatchback in “sport touring” trim is available in a six-speed stick. If you’re looking. :)

        4. Hroethvitnir*

          In Aotearoa (NZ) basically the only manuals the dealer doesn’t have to order from overseas if buying new are utes (um, trucks with a flatbed) and some marketed as sporty. Happily that includes the Suzuki Swift Sport, and I love it very much. The second hand market of manuals is shrinking too (my 2020 Swift is the only car I’ll probably ever buy new).

          I know I’m going to have to surrender to automatic with the rise of electric vehicles, but not yet!

        5. Legally Brunette*

          I bought a 2019 Honda Accord in stick (and it’s a fantastically well-balanced and grounded vehicle to drive). Unfortunately, they stopped making the Accord in stick after the 2020 model, so used is the only option there. Everyone is doing away with manual models! Sadly, the list keeps dwindling year after year at Road and Track (.com).

          It’s probably smaller than your Subaru, but the Civic Type R comes in manual, although I’m not sure about the regular models. And if you’ve got money for it, you can order a manual BMW through a dealer in any of the sedan models, I believe, so long you take European delivery.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Side note anecdote: My mom’s BFF had a brother who was a mechanic. He once said that he noticed that women were more likely to drive manual transmission (if they knew how – neither of my parents did). He assumed it was because you have better control of the car. (He also generally considered women better drivers and did not display any of those gross male mechanic stereotypes.)

      3. Manual Transmission*

        I know how to drive stick! I grew up on a farm and asked my dad to teach me. Honestly, because as a teenaged girl I thought guys would think it/I was cool. I’m glad I know how so if there was ever a situation where that was the only option I wouldn’t be stuck/stranded. But I’m not great at it and much prefer automatic.

      4. A perfectly normal-size space bird*

        I’ve had the same issue. I’ve always driven stick, which I freely admit my reasons for doing so are entirely because I like to pretend I’m in a race car, even when I’m going at a snail’s pace (though curse be upon people driving at a speed right between second and third gears). The last time I got ushered away from the manual transmissions to automatics was because “automatic is much easier for ladies.”

        And that’s how I bought my Mazda3 from a different dealership.

      5. londonedit*

        ‘Driving stick’ (we don’t call it that here) is completely normal in the UK. Automatic cars are becoming more common, especially with new EVs all being automatic, but manual cars have been the norm for decades and if you take your driving test in an automatic, you can’t then drive a manual (whereas if you pass in a manual, you can drive either). It’s not seen as some sort of special and rare skill here – it’s just driving a car!

    6. Jackalope*

      Agreeing with the others who are saying that you need to do something about this because he’s certainly costing the company clients. My “favorite” story about this was when I went to an outdoorsy store to buy a new tent. I was middle-aged and the young man who helped me looked to be early 20s. He was… surprised that I knew my way around camping and around a tent. I wanted to say to him, “Look, kiddo, I started camping decades before you were born! I’ve got this.” (I didn’t, since I feel that “kiddo” is more condescending than I wanted to be, but I sure thought it.) This was a store I’ve mostly had good experiences with, and so I did go back, but now I’m careful who I will let sell me tents and other big-ticket items.

    7. GlassofMilk*

      This is definitely something that can be hurting the business. my husband and I stopped going to a store (well actually it was a chain and we stopped going to any of them) because a sales person wouldn’t acknowledge me at all when we were buying a mattress. it was a queen size mattress and my husband was asking me my opinion about it so it was pretty obvious I was going to be sleeping in it too. the kicker was when he went to hand my husband his business card and my husband was looking away or something so I reached for it instead and he pulled it away and made sure he gave it to my husband. that happened over 15 years ago and it still sticks with me.

  4. Paint N Drip*

    Based on the affable response, seems like he is ACTUALLY trying to be respectful. I genuinely can’t imagine where he got his socializing (like Alison said, perhaps 150-200 years ago) to think his perspective is correct BUT I do think that gives you opportunity to say hey, you’re trying to be respectful, here is an actually good way to do it. Because OP is a self-described outsider to the team dynamic, I have a hope that OP might actually have some solid leverage of ‘I’m a woman, I’ve done other jobs too, please learn from my life experience’

    1. Yorick*

      He’s not trying to be respectful of the female customer, only of the male customer who owns her

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        This. How many times have we had the intent doesn’t matter the affect does.

        It’s not respectful in any way shape or form. Its sexist bs.

      2. Nobby Nobbs*

        I give it 50/50 odds that he could rationalize it as respect for the woman too on some twisted “protecting her from the indignity of having to talk to The Help” basis, not that that’s a mindset you can usually talk a man out of, either. The ones who think women should be treated as “queens” instead of equals are usually pretty entrenched.

        1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          I’m pretty sure thats why Yorick used that phrase, to point out the absurdity of thinking that way.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Exactly! Hopefully someone will get this guy to stop thinking of women as property.

      1. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

        I don’t think Paint N Drip is saying the behavior is actually respectful. I think Paint N Drip is suggesting that Fergus may just be thoughtlessly adhering to the customs they were taught and would therefore be more open to correction than, say, a redpilled incel.

        1. Helen B*

          Thank you for being thoughtful and nuanced! Yes, there may (may) yet be hope for Fergus. (Bananapants. Totes bananapants.)

          1. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

            Equally likely there is no hope for Fergus because it’s a lot easier to carry on as you always have thinking that the way you’re already behaving is correct and good than it is to rethink your whole existence.

            Still easier than trying to convince someone who’s made misogyny part of their identity!

    2. NotYourMom*

      Respectful involves respecting both parties, not just one. He is writing the woman off as a non-entity. if that’s respect, I don’t want it.

      1. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

        I think they are more speaking to how the source of this behavior may make it actually possible to change. Someone who is just not examining their own privilege or putting thought into the social customs they were raised with is a lot more persuadable than Joe Rogan’s number one fan.

        They didn’t say this was respectful. Only that it’s easier to redefine what you think respectful behavior is than to convince someone that women are worthy of it.

        1. Observer*

          Only that it’s easier to redefine what you think respectful behavior is than to convince someone that women are worthy of it.

          Yes. But his baseline is that women are not worthy of respect. *If* they are worthy of respect, that level of respect is by definition lesser than that given to men, and in any situation where there might be the least possibility of apparent loss of respect to a guy, and woman’s claim is about the level of a box.

          It doesn’t matter where it’s coming from. His whole explanation of being “respectful” is ONLY about the “respect” he wants to give a guy. The woman? Oh, you mean the accessory that the guy brought in? Who talks to the pet?

        2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          But it seems to me that Fergus *doesn’t* think women are worthy of respect – note that he talks about how HE would respond if a man said “how are you” to a hypothetical girlfriend, not about how SHE would feel, and that his concern is how the male partner will react, not about the woman’s reaction.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Yeah, that’s the biggest red flag for Fergus’ behavior. He’s normalized an alarming level of jealousy and controlling behavior if he would be angered by a salesman talking to his girlfriend while he’s present.

    3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*


      He’s trying to be respectful to people who he sees as worthy of respect, or as a potential threat if he is not respectful – note that he’s not worried about being disrespectful to women, but to their male partners.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, it’s interesting that he thinks that not acknowledging someone is respectful. Like….if he’s going to claim to have old fashioned respect, can’t he at least tip his hat and say “Ma’am” to acknowledge the lady? There is no form of old-fashioned behavior where ignoring a lady was acceptable.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          There’s this thing that happens, where people have reactions to things unthinkingly (like, perhaps, only speaking to the man in a mixed-sex pair), and then when you ask them about it they come up with something that feels reasonable to them, even if they’ve never thought it thru before at all. And then, of course, there’s this other thing people do, where they don’t like to acknowledge that maybe they’re wrong, so they double-down on that thing they came up with on the fly when you ask clarifying questions.

          I truly do believe that more people are like this than otherwise. OTOH, some men do teach their sons appalling things. I wonder how old Fergus is. I wonder what part of retail the OP is working in.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          Honestly, my guess is that he is thinking he’d feel disrespected if a retail worker addressed his wife instead of him, whether because he considers himself the “head of the household” and thinks he should be acknowledged as such or because he doesn’t want any man even talking to his wife. And he assumes all men feel the same way (after all, we do tend to see ourselves as normal). He may even assume that many men would feel more strongly than he does, as we often see ourselves as “the average”.

          So he thinks “the safest and most respectful thing to do is to speak only to the man. That way he cannot think that I am flirting with his wife/treating her as his equal/ignoring his position as “head of the family”/whatever it is I would worry about if somebody spoke to my wife rather than, or even as well as, to me.”

          He’s putting himself in the man’s position and thinking “what would make me feel good?” and isn’t even thinking about the woman having any sort of opinion on the matter.

          I’m not saying it’s in any way reasonable, because it’s not, but I suspect he is thinking only in terms of “how can I show I respect the man’s position as ‘head of the family’?”

          1. ferrina*

            You put this so well, and this makes so much sense. He’s empathizing with the person that reminds him of himself. When someone doesn’t remind him of himself, he may follow prescribed societal rules, but won’t apply empathy.

            I hate how much this reminds me of certain people I know.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            He specifically says he would be “very upset” if a salesman asked his girlfriend “How can I help you?” while he was present.

            Let’s take a step back and let that sink in. He thinks that it’s normal to get “very upset” by his girlfriend having a completely innocuous conversation with a man right in front of him.

    4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      He’s not trying to be respectful. He just thinks that is the best excuse that won’t get him in trouble.

      Its assumptions that of course the man must be in charge that is the basis of his action. Which is not respectful in any way shape or form.

      Trying to see his point of view only enables him. He needs to hear loud and clear — knock it off, its rude and condescending. Knock it off means forever, not just for as long as he feels like experimenting.

      1. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

        Trying to see what’s motivating his behavior is how you know what method will be the best way to persuade Fergus into different behavior.

        Should it be our job to persuade people who are harming us to stop doing that? No. But if your interest is in genuinely influencing someone to change their mind, you kind of have to think about their interests and motives to know what will work.

        1. Observer*

          Trying to see what’s motivating his behavior is how you know what method will be the best way to persuade Fergus into different behavior

          That only works if you are actually being honest *and* realistic about what is actually going on. And the thesis at the top of this thread is definitely not realistic.

        2. Boof*

          Honestly, at the end of the day the behavior just needs to stop and there’s no point in tying oneself in knots to figure it out beyond our own curiosity. It’s promising that Fergus didn’t super irate about being questioned on this, but they still doubled down. I think OP needs to go to their boss and hopefully their boss can make it clear it’s not acceptable to ignore/refuse to address / offer service to anyone because of protected characteristics

      1. Observer*

        Correct. Nor does ha care. Because the only one who is entitled to respect is your husband.

      2. duinath*

        Anyone else feeling concerned for Fergus’ girlfriend? I’m feeling concerned for her.

          1. duinath*

            Ohhh. His *hypothetical* girlfriend who’s not allowed to make small talk when she’s buying stuff.

            Well. Beats the alternative. And may she remain hypothetical.

        1. OP here*

          They’re broken up. She’s safe from him, but I don’t know much else about her current situation.

          1. David*

            Maybe (hopefully) I’m off base here, but the fact that you chose to mention that she’s safe from him seems to add a whole other dimension of “yikes” that I did not pick up from the original story. Like, it wouldn’t have occurred to me before to think that Fergus would actually be dangerous.

            Anyway, regardless of the circumstances, it’s great that she is safe!

            1. David*

              Actually on second thought I did pick up a bit of it, given what Fergus said about his extreme overreaction to a salesperson talking to his girlfriend. I guess it’s just that the comment you made here makes it seem so much more scary.

        2. Sunshine*

          Fergus and his girlfriend went to a store, and the store employee greeted her, so she immediately abandoned Fergus and ran off with the store employee. Y’know, like ALWAYS happens. /s

    5. Lizzay*

      You may be right, but Fergus has it in his head that he needs to defer to *men*, not to women. *That’s* what needs to be pointed out to him.

    6. Observer*

      I genuinely can’t imagine where he got his socializing (like Alison said, perhaps 150-200 years ago) to think his perspective is correct

      You can’t imagine it, because even 200 years ago, this made no sense. To not greet a woman in the presence of her husband would be considered an insult – not just to her, but her husband.

      seems like he is ACTUALLY trying to be respectful.

      Maybe. But his idea of “respect” and “appropriate” is soooo out of line that it doesn’t matter. This goes well beyond the typical “intent is not magic.” To the extent that if you are right, it makes things worse. Because he has this idea that about what normal interactions look like and how reasonable men think and act that is toxic.

    7. Reebee*

      I really appreciate comments like yours, Paint N Drip. Change takes time, and to automatically, fingers-in-ears write off someone as a misogynist on this is nuts.

      Yeah, they’re out there, and we have more work to do – much more – but much better to be instructive in the moment than to just stomp off in a huff. We *all* have some sort of bias that offends and that is disrespectful to someone or other.

      All of us.

      1. Andromeda*

        I would be more inclined to take the “at least he’s trying” tack here, though, if OP hadn’t included that detail about him being upset if someone addressed his girlfriend. I do agree that everyone has unconscious bias! But often I think people try to rationalise really bizarre or bigoted behaviour and they minimise it in the process.

        OP’s right, this is very weird and, while Fergus may not be doing it out of malice, there are evidently some harmful prejudices involved that go beyond normal unconscious bias levels. I don’t think people are being sanctimonious in their outrage here, especially since a lot of the responses are people who have experienced similar things!

      2. Wow*

        Give me a break. I am tired of instructing men on how not to be misogynistic pigs, of instructing white people how not be racist twits, of instructing Christians to not be fanatical zealots that would burn me at the stake (quite literally). Tired! Of! It! It is 20fucking24, if you still need to be taught this stuff you can get in the sea.

        1. jasmine*

          I don’t think anyone’s saying that marginalized folks are obligated to change minds. But people who want to make change or identify as activists- yes, this is absolutely in the job description. It’s tiring to always hear pushback on how we can do that. No one is insisting OP *has* to do it or that you have to do it, just having a discussion on how it can (or cannot) be done. If the suggestion is unrealistic, sure, point it out, but can we at least not shut down the conversation?

          Signed another woman who’s not white and not Christian (and honestly… I’m also tired of having to leverage identity in leftist circles when I’m not sharing the “correct” perspective. Like I really wish I didn’t have to leave this last paragraph lest I be accused of being a privileged white man. Minorities aren’t a monolith, we can also have different opinions.)

      3. Dek*

        “to automatically, fingers-in-ears write off someone as a misogynist on this is nuts”

        He straight up said that he would be upset if a service worker asked his girlfriend how she was as a pleasantry.

        I don’t know how else to read that except as misogynistic.

        Like yeah, change takes time, and maybe he can change. But right now his behaviors and attitudes are misogynistic.

      4. Val*

        I totally agree with Rebee’s comment because I’ve actually had success changing coworkers (all men) minds about similar misogynist scenarios. We were talking about the Mike Pence rule of never dining alone with a woman who wasn’t his wife. All of them could only see it initially through the “man’s eyes” in that situation and basically said, “yeah it’s a bit over the top, but if it makes his wife happy and works for their relationship, what’s the harm?” I had to spell it out that while it might not harm the man in that scenario it absolutely would harm the women who would be missing out on opportunities that their male counterparts would get professionally instead. After I said it, it was like I could see the light bulb turning on for each of them and they understood it. I even heard one of them explaining it to a different coworker later who had the same initial mindset.
        So yes, I think as tiring as they can be, these conversations are worth having.

    8. AmuseBouchee*

      “Maybe it’s just how he was raised,” umm gestures widely- we’ve all learned a lot over our lives, there is no way to take this other than totally disrespectful, Mike Pence-like behavior.

    9. OP here*

      Yeah, I think this is where he is. He doesn’t seem malicious, and he responds reasonably when challenged. I don’t know how he picked up this stuff, and it seems crazy to me, but it doesn’t feel like it’s rooted in his identity in any way.

      1. Observer*

        Please don’t allow this to keep your from bringing it to management. Because he clearly does not care about being respectful of women, and he has absolutely no respect for them. Only *men* need to be respected.

        I’d love to watch how he talks to women customers in general. I would be shocked if he were actually respectful to them.

      2. jasmine*

        Do whatever you feel comfortable with here OP. Going to management or talking to him directly both feel like good options from what you’ve shared.

  5. Managing While Female*

    Have you checked to see if perhaps you are living in 1742?

    I literally LOL’d.

    And, yeah, this is super gross for all the reasons Alison mentioned. Can’t believe women still have to deal with this, but I’ve definitely noticed when I’m with my husband, people will default to talking to him. I’ve always assumed it was kind of unconscious on their part, but now I’m not so sure. Thinking about it more, I generally try to chime into the conversation to make my presence known, and I’ve even seen people give me looks like you would give to an interrupting child — wtf??

    1. Esme_Weatherwax*

      Yes. Or they try to redirect me to what they think a female interest is–I am asking, for instance, about mileage on a vehicle, and they say “It comes in blue!”

      Fergus is costing your company sales, guaranteed. Even if people don’t walk out when he behaves like this, lots of women are deciding not to come back.

    2. Goldenrod*

      “Have you checked to see if perhaps you are living in 1742?”

      I know, right? LOL! Alison is the best.

  6. holdonloosely*

    I wouldn’t say it was deeply strange—but only because there seem to be so alarmingly many dudes out there like this. I’m curious about how old Fergus is, but just for my own edification, as men of all ages engage in this bullshit.

    1. doreen*

      It’s not at all strange that he always talks to the men. The part that’s deeply strange is when he gives his rationale and when he says he would be offended if someone asked his girlfriend how she was – I have no idea how many men would be offended but is very strange to say it and I think most men would claim they didn’t realize they were speaking only to men and ignoring the women with them.

      There’s also another issue that Fergus doesn’t understand. He seems to assume that every woman who is with a man is his “partner”. Nope – I don’t know what kind of retail this is, but I’ve been in plenty of retail stores with men who were not my romantic partner and who were completely uninvolved with any purchase I made.

      1. metadata minion*

        “I’ve been in plenty of retail stores with men who were not my romantic partner and who were completely uninvolved with any purchase I made.”

        Are you talking about just being next to someone and them being assumed to be with you, or do you go shopping with friends who are not also shopping at the store?

        1. doreen*

          I’ve been with friends/coworkers/relatives who were not shopping at that store – maybe we went to lunch together and I wanted to stop in a store afterward , maybe we were at a mall and he wasn’t shopping in a particular store where I was shopping. Fergus apparently assumes that if there is a man with me he must be my partner. Either that , or he thinks he should speak to my friend/coworker/brother rather than to me. Fergus may be able to tell if the man standing next to me is with me – but he’s not going to actually know what our relationship just by looking at us.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          I shopped with my brother several times, and with a male friend who’s more of an expert in the computer stuff I needed. (I threw him some “preferred” specs for what a computer needed to have then turned him loose on his ex-coworkers.)

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Also stuff like Christmas shopping with friends/kin for whole lists of folks, or with a group for books, movies, music – where we’re buddies shopping together but have different tastes.

    2. OP here*

      I’m not a great judge on age, but I think early twenties? I would card him if he was a stranger, but I would expect him to be old enough.

      1. Happily Retired*

        He’s in his early twenties?! Mind blown.

        Where was he living in his teens and early 20’s to receive this message?

      2. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

        I used to work with college students. There is a disturbing subculture of young men who are SUPER into some very retrograde views on gender. It’s sort of like they all watched “Mad Men,” missed the social commentary, and decided it was to be emulated.

        1. notscarlettohara*

          Very much this. It’s pretty easy to get accidentally red-pilled when you’re a brand new adult and have no reference for what’s normal and what isn’t. Thanks algorithms!

    3. iglwif*

      For me, “male sales dude only wants to talk to men” is annoying af, but also boringly usual.

      Where Fergus crosses the line into bananapants is (a) in his justification that it’s “respectful” not to speak to women who come in with a dude (respectful to whom, Fergus?!), and (b) in telling LW that he would be upset if a male retail worker asked his girlfriend how she’s doing today when they entered a store together.

  7. Caramel & Cheddar*

    This is rhetorical, but it’s 2024, how are there still people like this. This guy sucks.

    1. holdonloosely*

      Even progressive men tend to treat feminism as a “women’s thing.” Guys don’t call out other guys for sexist behavior or beliefs (and it’s really not because we’re afraid of stepping on women’s toes), which is a real problem, since guys like Fergus only take other men seriously.

      1. tinybutfierce*

        This. Honestly, some of the most vocally self-professed progressive/feminist men I know have turned out to be the same ones who treat women the worst in their personal relationships.

    2. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

      Yeah it’s pretty baffling but I see how it happens. I grew up in a pretty isolated, homogenous community where plenty of folks still thought this way (I’m in my 30s so it wasn’t as long ago as we might like to think) and I can absolutely see how people can continue on thinking they’re doing right with this kind of stuff because they’ve just never examined it and it isn’t challenged by anyone in their daily life.

      Doesn’t make the behavior okay at all. Just sharing that it happens more often than you’d think, even amongst people that don’t venerate Tucker Carlson. A shocking number of people are just out here living their lives completely unexamined and depending on what beliefs and customs you’re raised with… whew can that turn out bad.

    3. not nice, don't care*

      Just give a listen to current song lyrics. So nice to hear misogyny and harassment in so many musical genres, all day err day.

  8. Heather*

    This is bizarre. I”m definitely concerned for his girlfriend, if he has one. This is not the behavior of a stable man.

    1. metadata minion*

      This is the behavior of an obnoxious man who has some old-fashioned sexist ideas about women’s place in the world, and any woman who doesn’t sincerely share those views should definitely not date the dude, but I don’t see any indication that he’s abusive or unstable.

        1. metadata minion*

          Oh, wait, I missed that. Yeah, that *does* concern me; thanks for the correction!

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          Yeah, that’s frighteningly controlling. “I would be offended if another man even acknowledged my wife’s existance.”

      1. Observer*

        but I don’t see any indication that he’s abusive or unstable.

        The fact that he would be “very upset” is someone asked his girlfriend “how are you” is not a red flag to you? That he believes this so strongly, and that it’s so universal, that he’s being actively rude to customers over this?

        1. Ellie*

          Yep, its a red flag alright. I wish OP had thought to ask him why… why would he be offended by someone asking his girlfriend such an innocent question. His reaction could have been telling.

      2. ferrina*

        This isn’t even old-fashioned– in ye olden days, there were etiquette guides on how a gentleman should greet a lady (or if you prefer, how the servants should treat a lady, if we are saying he is in a service position), and not a single one of those says “Ignore the Lady Outright.”

        The extra weird thing is that he doesn’t have a problem with women on their own. Any historic/old-fashioned custom that would prohibit interaction with a married/coupled lady would also prohibit interaction with an unmarried, unchaperoned lady.

        This is plain misogynistic.

        1. Observer*

          The extra weird thing is that he doesn’t have a problem with women on their own. Any historic/old-fashioned custom that would prohibit interaction with a married/coupled lady would also prohibit interaction with an unmarried, unchaperoned lady

          In fact, the reverse would be true. The idea being that even the most hardened libertine womanizer is not going to try to flirt with / seduce a woman when she accompanied by someone who could get him in trouble. And for the most part the same assumption pretty much applied to *public* interactions, with some exceptions. But the typical pleasantries were not a problem.

      3. not nice, don't care*

        You must be one of the lucky ones who haven’t experienced the full spectrum of behavior fkwads like Fergus deal out to ‘their’ women in private. They often enjoy disciplining women physically as well as verbally.

        1. Jellybeans*

          Fergus is clearly a huge sexist, but it’s absolutely not okay to invent hypotheticals and accuse people of physical violence and domestic abuse on absolutely zero grounds at all.

      4. EC*

        If he thinks its disrespectful and would be very upset if someone addressed his female partner in public, how do you think he would react if his female partner did something he felt was disrespectful to him? Why do you think he wouldn’t react badly to his female partner daring to speak to people?

    2. Observer*

      I”m definitely concerned for his girlfriend, if he has one. This is not the behavior of a stable man.

      Agreed. Unfortunate, that’s not something the the LW has any way to address, though.

    3. Trying Out a New Username*

      I am also concerned for any male who speaks to his girlfriend and doesn’t know he feels this way. I hate to say I have seen several reports of violent incidents over the years that started because the victim “talked to the attacker’s girlfriend without permission.”

  9. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    This isn’t just a management and professionalism issue; it’s a marketing and customer service issue. There are plenty of families who will stop coming back if they notice this tendency. The vast majority of them won’t complain about it, they’ll just find somewhere else to shop and you’ll never see them again.

    1. Yorick*

      I will never go back to a restaurant in town because the server never looked at me or spoke to me, even when taking my order. He only spoke to my now husband.

      1. MsM*

        I’ve changed my mind about tipping extra because waiters have handed the check back to my husband, despite having watched me put my card with my name on it in the billfold.

        1. Managing While Female*

          I had a waiter look at me when the bill came and say “You spendin’ all his money?” I paid (my husband was between jobs at the time). We don’t go back there.

        2. Wolf*

          If the waiter hands the bill to my male partner, I tend to make a show of handing my wallet to my partner.

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      There’s a car dealer group near me that is notorious for doing this (along with many other noxious behaviors – if you can think of a bad car dealer story, they do it). It’s also the closest dealership to me for a number of manufacturers.

      The last time I bought a car from a manufacturer they sell, I bought it from a different dealership that is significantly farther from my home. They said they get a lot of business from people who refuse to deal with that group.

      1. LaurCha*

        Came here to mention car dealerships. There are for sure THOUSANDS of stories out there of women trying to shop for a car and the sales-dude refusing to treat her like a human being who is paying for her own car. I won’t even deal with male car salesmen at all. I ask for a woman. If they don’t have one, it’s a sign to go elsewhere. I don’t need to know where the makeup mirror is and I certainly don’t need to ask my daddy or my (non-existent) husband if I can afford it.

          1. LaurCha*

            My mom once had a salesman say how nice it was that the blue car she was looking at matched her eyes. I’m pretty sure I heard her rolling her eyes at him from across town.

        1. ferrina*

          In a more cynical theory, maybe they think that men are worse with money and can be talked into a higher price?
          This was certainly true of my ex-husband– flatter his ego and he will buy anything. Early on in our relationship I would go with him and play bad cop (since I was the cynical one who would ask questions), but after a while he got into his head that he should be able to make these major decisions without me because he was the man/made slightly more than me. It was a problem. I actually became more financially stable after the divorce.

          (and yes, I know, #notallmen. But I’d be curious if there have been studies done on if there is a gender difference in successful sales tactics)

          1. Petty Betty*

            This wouldn’t surprise me at all. In all three of my marriages (and subsequent divorces), I was the higher (or main) earner and every single time my then-husband felt that he should be able to make big purchase decisions on his own and still stick me with the bill (because it was “our” money and the purchase somehow benefited “the family”).
            In my current relationship I keep finances 100% separate and I am so much better financially.

          2. Pescadero*

            “maybe they think that men are worse with money and can be talked into a higher price?”

            Data actually suggests that is true.

            Men are noticeably more brand loyal, and noticeably more likely to buy something that meets the requirements without significant comparison shopping.

          3. iiii*

            Some of the sexist salesmen are true believers in the supremacy of their fellow men. Some of them are making a cynical attempt to get anyone with critical thinking skills off their premises as fast as possible. They *want* the guy whose ego is pumped by a stranger dismissing his woman. That guy is an easy mark.

        2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          When we were selling our house I didn’t even look at male realtors. I’m sure there are ones out there that wouldn’t only speak to my husband, but I wasn’t going to waste time sifting through all the real estate bros to find one. Even the women we interviewed, one of them mostly talked to him. We did not choose her either.

          1. Pam*

            I had a male real estate agent, and he was great. He quickly figured out that my boyfriend was happy-go-lucky and could be convinced of anything, and I had questions and a things that I would not be okay with. He knew that if I said “this won’t work”, that was the end of the conversation and he wouldn’t waste our time. He also quickly picked up on what I was looking for, so we never saw two houses that had the same issue twice.
            He was an excellent agent, because he knew how to work with BOTH customers.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Bike shops too– in fact bike shops are the only place it’s happened to me. I’ve stood in a bike shop next to a several hundred pound bike looking around for a salesperson, and it wasn’t even like they were avoiding my eye, they literally hadn’t seen me. Weirdest thing!

        1. Yorick*

          Hardware stores. When I was single I would just tell the guy, “my husband asked me to buy X, which aisle is it on?” Because otherwise they would interrogate me like I don’t know what I really want to buy.

      3. Elle Woods*

        I had a similar experience except it was with the dealership’s service department. I wound up finding a non-dealer repair shop, where they told me that the majority of their clients come from that dealership.

      4. Random Academic Cog*

        The last time I walked up cold to a dealership, I specifically said I wanted a female salesperson. I don’t know if I would have said that if the first person to approach me wasn’t giving off serious misogynistic vibes (no joking: slicked back hair, top couple of shirt buttons open, a gold chain visible, and a sneer as he walked towards me ). But he was and I did. My saleswoman was wonderful and when I talked with her later, she confirmed that he was very upset at my request. How dare I belittle him before he had the chance to belittle me?

        1. Csethiro Ceredin*

          “how dare I belittle him before he had a chance to belittle me”


      5. Christmas Carol*

        I used to hang out with a flock of car salesmen. I don’t know if it’s still true, but at least before the Plague, if you looked at the stats more NEW cars were titled in women’s names than men’s. This was in spite of the fact that more often than not, when a car is titled jointly, it’s the still with the man’s name first, but the woman often ends up driving it. The successful ones quickly figured out that anyone who disregards a female buyer is putting his/her commission in jeopardy.

    3. Jojo*

      Yep. When I was in my early 20’s, I needed to buy a car. My dad was driving me to dealerships, because my car was dead and I needed a new one. We went to a dealership and the salesman, upon seeing my dad’s old truck, (he used it to putter around town and kept the nice shinny new truck for longer trips) decided he was going to sell my dad a car he didn’t need, but completely ignored me, the young woman who needed a car. My dad kept trying to get the salesman to talk to me, and I was aggressively trying to engage him. He would not even look at me. So, my dad looked at me, said “lets go” and we left. I bought a car from a competing dealership that very afternoon.

      I also just told this story to someone who is loyal to the brand of car and suggested he steer clear of that particular dealership. It’s been a few…um…decades, but I’m still pissed and would never go there. (And I need a new car.)

      1. Polaris*

        I’m a little curious to know how many women DON’T have a similar tale to this in their history. Both my sister and I do….in completely different regions of the state, either with our Dad, or our boyfriend/fiance/husband. A lot of my friends have similar stories.

        Its almost like its a structural flaw….

        1. Ashley*

          I agree, but I have bought two cars from the same dealership because the first time I didn’t have that issue. First time young 20 something showed up not thinking anything of shorts and a tank top. I ended up getting a sales manager because the other guys didn’t think I was serious; it worked in my favor though because he had the pull to push my credit through. My most recent car purchase I ended up back at the same dealership even though I pass about 5 others closer to home. The sales guy got that it was my car and it is such a low bar to be grateful to be treated like an equal.
          I don’t walk out the first time I am treated like I don’t exist depending on the store and circumstance, but I will make an effort to not go back in the future when it does happen. (We have a list of contractors we won’t use for this reason as well.)

        2. Bruce*

          Before she bought her first new car my late wife went through a couple of rebuilt salvage cars, she bought them from a friend, finished the paint prep and got them painted. Then she’d drive them for a while and sell them on. So she knew body work really well, was pretty mechanical, and also was an experienced auto-cross driver… when we went for her to buy a new car, at one place the salesman seemed to be ignoring her. She asked for a test drive with me and the sales guy in the back seat, and then proceeded to test the cornering and acceleration on that car to the limits. The salesman was shaking when he got out of the car, and then we went somewhere else.

          1. Middle Aged Lady*

            Hubs and I were helping our nephew finance a car, and the two of them went shopping on a weekend I was out of town. They clearly stated they had a car in mind but were just looking that day and were not going to make the purchase until I was there. The salesman told them to just get it and then ‘tell the little lady it’s a done deal.’ Both are mild-mannered, but angrily told him they were leaving and wouldn’t be back. The next weekend we bought the same model from a different dealership.

            1. Middle Aged Lady*

              I know, right? They lost out big-time!
              I was really mad at first, though.

          2. Deejay*

            There was a similar story about Queen Elizabeth II. In 1998 she hosted the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, a place which banned women from driving.

            This former military driver from WW2 showed him she still had her old skills.

        3. Reed Weird (they/them)*

          I don’t myself, but I present butch and so far the only time I’ve bought a car was the dealership for a brand that leans into being “the lesbian car”. My partner, on the other hand, has anxiety and doesn’t know cars, and got talked into paying almost fifty more dollars to replace her windshield wipers at an oil change.

  10. metadata minion*

    I’m pleasantly surprised that he seems amenable to talking to women instead of immediately getting defensive, and I have the faint hope that this was an ingrained social thing and your question made him go “waaaait a minute maybe this is bullshit!” Goodness knows I’ve unearthed weird things in my own psyche.

    But if he seems to just be humoring you or the “experiment” never seems to actually happen, my benefit-of-the-doubt vanishes and this is absolutely worth bringing to a manager. It’s worth bringing to a manager even before that if you want to; I’m just for once actually holding out hope that this was a real learning experience for Fergus.

    1. Lizzay*

      Yeah, the ‘experiment’ comment makes me picture Fergus chuckling to himself and saying “oh, these silly ladies.” ARGH.

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        Indeed. Probably along the lines of, “Oh, these silly little ladies. Aren’t they cute?”

  11. Fluffy Fish*

    It is indeed batpoop banana pants but not surprising as its simply another flavor of women are objects to be possessed not sentient beings of our own.

  12. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

    This is particularly weird since women predominantly control the money in the house- if you treat the wife/girlfriend/etc well, chances are they will continue to shop there. Only acknowledging the male presence is bizarre from a business standpoint. If the woman initiates the conversation, Fergus ignores her and only answers the man? And what if they’re in a restaurant- in Fergus’ world, his girlfriend isn’t allowed to order for herself? (Probably not, I guess?)

    Though, I will say, when I didn’t drive and my father did the grocery shopping with me, there was one person at the store who only addressed him, despite the fact that I pushed the cart, put the groceries in it, and paid for them. Didn’t matter- this guy would only speak to my father. After I learned to drive and I started shopping on my own? He was fine with me. But it was really off putting for years.

    1. amoeba*

      I’ve actually had a weird (still sexist!) inverse version of this happen when I went shopping with my boyfriend for a new suit. The salesperson just kept addressing me and I was like – how should I know? He chooses his own clothing? Even for stuff like “oh, we’ll have the changes ready by XY, would you like to pick it up then or have it sent home”. I don’t know, I don’t care, it’s his suit, not mine!

      Apparently that’s not very common in that shop and most men just get dragged there by their wives who make all the decisions? Men who literally never buy their own clothing but have their mothers/wives do it for them? Seriously, it was weird.

      (The guy was also super excited that my boyfriend actually wanted a rose/pink suit. Like, of his own will! Without anybody forcing ot on him!)

      1. Clisby*

        Years ago, back in the days when there actually were door-to-door sales, a salesman knocked on my sister’s door trying to sell some fancy-schmancy vacuum cleaner.

        He did a few demos to show off its paces, and asked her what she thought.

        Sister: “I’m not sure, I’ll need to talk to my husband.”
        Salesman: “Oh, I’m used to dealing with the lady of the house.”
        Sister: “But my husband does all the vacuuming.”

        I don’t think he made a sale.

      2. ferrina*

        Ugh, I had this happen to me to. I hate it. I am not his mother. He is not a toddler. I do not want to dress him. I have enough to worry with dressing myself.
        (side note- my son was choosing his own clothes since he was about 3, and he has a wonderful and distinctive fashion that is all his own. I love it, and I hope he always feels this confident in embracing what he loves.)

      3. Pikachu*

        We went on a big group beach trip a couple weeks ago and more than one woman complimented me for picking out cool swim trunks for my boyfriend.

        I have never bought my boyfriend clothes. He grabbed a few pairs from TJ Maxx the day before we left. I wasn’t even there!

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Wow, they just *assumed* you picked out his swim trunks? That’s such a weird assumption to make, IMO.

          1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

            I live with my elderly parents and I picked out my father’s swim trunks. They were black with rubber ducks. And another pair were baby blue with pink flamingos. A third pair were lederhosen. Apparently he was the hit of the Y. Especially with the little old ladies. But that might have been his ridiculous Dad jokes.

      4. LaurCha*

        If a grown-ass man cannot purchase his own suit and come home with an acceptable choice, total dealbreaker. *I will grant an exception for the very first suit a man buys. He may need assistance there. After that, handle it yourself, boys.

      5. Butterfly Counter*

        Oh gosh! Memory unlocked!

        I remember something similar happening when renting tuxes for our wedding. I went with my SO and they kept asking me about everything. This connects back up in these comments to women being “in charge” during wedding preparations. I honestly didn’t care what he and his groomsmen wore. I just wanted more decisions off of my plate and onto his, or anyone else’s.

      6. HSE Compliance*

        When Spouse was getting his suit for our wedding, the guy there insisted that he call me and confirm. Uh, yeah, suits are his responsibility, he’s a smart dude, it’s up to him to choose which grey suit? and yeah, the lime green bowtie is fine? he wanted it? why are you calling me like it’s my decision and not also his?

        Spouse was pretty annoyed, which has had the hilarious after effect of him getting *even more annoyed* with any Home Depot/Menards/dealership/etc. salesperson that insists on talking to him and not me.

  13. Bast*

    Yet another vote that if an employee blatantly ignored me and spoke only to my husband, I’d be ticked off. Depending on the situation and the feel I got from said employee, if this were a small retailer or one where historically women are overlooked (think at a car dealership) I may not do business with them again. If I ask a question and you look at my husband and reply, I’ll be asking for a manager. This is DISRESPECT; I have no idea where this dude gets the idea that ignoring a woman is RESPECT.

    1. allhailtheboi*

      I think he thinks it’s respectful to the man, I don’t think he cares about respecting women.

      1. Observer*

        Exactly. Men “need” respect, and that includes treating their women as accessories. And accessories don’t need respect.

        And yes, he *clearly* does not see women as independent actors, but rather as beings owned by the men in their lives.

    2. EC*

      Well the woman doesn’t matter to guys like that, she’s a thing that a man owns not a person. Only the man counts as a person and needs to be respected.

  14. Petty_Boop*

    I handle the money in our family. It’s always amusing when we go to make a large purchase, such as vehicle or a home renovation. They always start talking negotiations with my husband, and he stops them and says, “talk to her; she knows what our budget is and she makes the yay or nay decision.” It’s delightfully awkward after that when they become over the top obsequious and condescending at the same time.

  15. Almost A Shrimp*

    A few weeks ago, I went to an auto parts store with my fiancee for brake pads for MY car. The dude working there (maybe late teens – early 20s) looked to my fiancee for every question about the car, even though I was the one answering. I mean, it is my car. And I was getting angry. But the real kicker is when I paid for the brake pads, and he handed “your guys’s” receipt TO MY FIANCEE!!! I ripped it out of his hand and muttered something about how it’s my receipt, he (pointing to my fiancee) didn’t pay.
    I really regret not letting him have it right then and there, but there’s always a chance I’ll need to go back and get a 2nd crack at it…

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        From context and pronouns it is clear that Almost A Shrimp was referring to a male partner. Please don’t nitpick.

      2. Almost A Shrimp*

        Yeah, fiance. I get them confused a lot for some dumb reason. I took enough French to know the difference; it just doesn’t stick in my brain.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Oy something similar happened when now hubby and I were dating. We went to a hotel for the weekend. Reservation was in my name. I handed over my credit card. Front desk guy tried to hand it back to now hubby. He just looked at the guy and nodded in my direction. Hubby did not take the card.

      We still talk about that weekend. It was memorable for a few other reasons about that hotel.

      1. Almost A Shrimp*

        Pretty sure that if I’d paid in cash, this dude would’ve given my change to my fiance. And my fiance just went along with it. I kept giving him the “shut up and let me talk!” look, but he was uncharacteristically oblivious until I had to actually say it out loud and not just with my eye daggers lol

  16. allhailtheboi*

    My friend told me this story: she (16 at the time), her younger brother, and her mum went to a posh restaurant. Only the brother was given a menu with prices! The insane logic being that men (or in this case teenage boys) pay for women so women don’t need to know prices I guess?

    1. Patriarchy is wild*

      The “Lady’s Menu” is a thing that still happens sometimes! My brother’s first “nice date” with his now-wife went that way (“how did you know how much the crab cakes were?” “the prices were on the menu” “no they weren’t”). There’s a good application for literally priceless menus when you are treating a group to a meal and you don’t want them to see the prices (“it’s on me, order whatever you want”) so you ask the restaurant to do that, but otherwise it’s just straight up patriarchy. Handing the menu with prices to a teenager rather than the adult is truly bizarre, though.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        My grandfather lost his father when he was 12. His mother wasn’t allowed to take over the tenancy, but he was. Yes, that’s right, it was better for the boy to be in charge of the whole-ass farm than the woman who would actually be running it (particularly since grandpa was at boarding school much of the time).

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Ooof. I hate watching movies and TV shows (usually not recent ones) where someone says to the young boy in the family, for whatever reason, that he’s “the man of the household now.” As if a household always needs to have a male in charge no matter how young that male might be. So trite.

          1. Managing While Female*

            I’ve usually seen this in period dramas, but each time this happens the look on the little boy’s face is heartbreaking. So much pressure to put on a little child all because society deemed grown women to be less capable than a 5 year old male.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I wish I only saw this in period dramas; I’ve seen this quite a bit in contemporary stuff (though usually with teenage boys). “You’re 16 now; you have to look after your mom and big sisters.”

              It’s always on the heels of some sort of traumatic event, too, with the subtext “I know your father/older brother just died/went to war/was thrown in jail forever, but you have to stop crying and be a man now. The women are all depending on you.”

              It’s like, societal parentification of boys or young men.

              1. Hroethvitnir*

                Absolutely. This is peak “patriarchy hurts men too”. Poor babies. Even 16 is so young!

            2. EC*

              My great aunt got the girl version of this back in the 1920s. Her mother, my great grandmother, died shortly after the birth of her seventh child. When the older relatives came to tell the other children the news, my 8 year old great aunt was told that she would have to be in charge of running the house.

      2. Mireya*

        @Managing While Female:

        Yes. In the musical “The King and I,” the king becomes ill and his young heir apparent pleads with Anna to help save him. If the father dies, then the boy will have to be king.

        “And I do not know how to be king.”

      3. Snow Angels in the Zen Garden*

        The WHAT NOW?

        Obviously I’ve never been anyplace fancy enough to have such a thing, but wow. Wowwwwwww

    2. Lizzay*

      Yeah, that’s a holdover from like the 50s or something. But that’s insane that a teenage boy would get the one with prices!

      1. Observer*

        Sounds like more of a holdover from Saudi Arabia, where women need permission from some man for many activities- and that man could be a teen ager (depending on the relationships.)

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I was thinking the same, but couldn’t figure out an appropriate way to comment. Thank you for doing that.

    3. Busy Bee*

      Yes! I read about this recently in Atlas Obscura. Look up “The Court Case that Killed the Ladies Menu.”

      Except it seems exceptionally weird to assume a teenager would be paying. Unless they figured dad/husband gave him money to treat “the girls.”

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      What the flip? They thought a 15 at most year old boy was going to be paying for three people in a posh restaurant? I mean, I assume they didn’t really think it through, but still. Surely, in that case, the mother would be assumed to be the one paying?

  17. Lenora Rose*

    Note to him it’s a good way to (often quietly) lose customers. Women notice, and they decide they aren’t coming back, and they WILL influence their partners to do the same. (Men sometimes also notice on their own, and decide they aren’t coming back; there are men who don’t like seeing their peers mistreated.) You won’t hear definite feedback of “It’s because Fergus only talked to Jim and not Jen.” You’ll just not get repeat business.

    He needs to pay attention not only to whom he addresses first – but what he does if the woman in fact responds to the query. Does he change his tack and start addressing her directly, or ignore her queries unless the man repeats them, or answer them but as if the man asked? What does he do if the man says, “Ask her, she’s the expert”? And what’s his body language on initial approach? It’s not so bad if he addresses the man first but keeps his body language open to both, worse if he talks to the man and also turns so he is obviously facing the man only.

    1. Snow Globe*

      There are definitely men who would be offended if their female partner is being disrespected. Last time I was car shopping, my husband went along and was pretty ticked off when the salesperson kept talking to him and not me.

    2. Deuce of Gears*


      As a counterpoint, it’s notable and heartening when someone gets it RIGHT (probably, sadly, because it’s so rare). I present as female, and I remember with extraordinary clarity this one time I went to see a particular male doctor with my husband. When my husband asked some questions, the doctor addressed *both* me (the patient!) and my husband, and this was extremely obvious because my husband and I were on opposite sides of the exam room and the doctor kept swiveling his head back and forth so as to talk to both of us. Normally even with female doctors, the moment my husband’s in the room, even if I’m asking the question, they talk to *him* and I stop existing.

  18. Cubicles & Chimeras*

    AH this brings me back to the dinner I had once with coworkers where the sommelier kept asking the one dude wine questions and he kept deferring to me, the only person with a fancy restaurant background and any knowledge about wine that wasn’t from a box. (And let’s be honest, I have strong opinions about wine that the sommelier eventually realized when I started quizzing him on his selection and eventually started to realize who he should work with.)

    1. CowWhisperer*

      I used to work in the Paint department of a DIY retailer. We got a new boss who decided that the only male employee – let’s call him Clint – was knowledgeable about computers and chemistry. New Boss was always asking Clint to fix our newest misbehaving equipment – and deeply confused that I was able to fix equipment that Clint couldn’t. Eventually, he decided that I was capable of fixing most equipment issues – much to Clint’s relief.

      Clint, though, did fix the chemistry issue in the best way possible. New Boss asked Clint’s opinion on how to solve a chemistry issue presented by a customer without asking me at all. Clint visibly paled and blurted out, “Look, I don’t know chemistry stuff at all! I went to art
      school! Ask CowWhisperer! She’s got a degree in it! ”

      I smiled gently and said, “My degree is technically in Biology and Education with a Chemistry minor – but I did teach Chemistry for 8 years. So here are the two best options… ”

      New Boss was never my favorite – but Clint’s panicked redirect has been my favorite example of a man redirecting a man.

      1. Cubicles & Chimeras*

        As someone who worked in a Home Improvement store too, I feel you deeply on this. Although not just bosses were like this, but customers too…

  19. Observer*

    he said that if someone asked his girlfriend “how are you?” he would be very upset.

    I’m sure that by the time I finish typing and posting there will be a whole bunch of comments about how weird, sexist and *DISrespectful* he is being. And of course, the fact that he is absolutely going to alienate many customers.

    But I think that this line is also a major issue.

    At first glance, it seems like just a personal issue. But he is bringing this incredibly ridiculous attitude into the workplace. And it’s concerning. Because what is he going to interpret as “flirting”? What is he going to interpret as a woman “showing interest”? This is not a theoretical or far fetched concern. He is *already* being rude to customers by assuming that saying “how are you” is SO sexual that any reasonable man is going to get offended!

    What happens if he decides that it’s ok to hit on a customer because she actually talked to him like a normal person in the absence of some guy? What is going to be his reaction when some guy harasses a female coworker? (What do you want to bet that he’s going to insist that she was completely on board with it, because she ~~gasp~~ actually talked to the harasser like a normal person.)

    This is all “out of respect,” of course. Respect to the man, I guess, because it’s definitely not respectful to the woman.

    I don’t think it’s very respectful of men, either. He’s a first class jerk, and he’s projecting his jerkitude on all men. I can tell you that if anyone ever expressed this to my husband, he would be baffled and grossed out. And in some situations it’s going to mean that we would have to walk out (even if we were interested in dealing with the blatant disrespect) because *I* happen to be the person with the expertise and if you insist on talking to my husband, we know we won’t get what we need. So, good bye.

      1. Ashley*

        I had wondered if he privately subscribes to that rule where women can’t be alone with a man. Unfortunately, there are several large churches that think that rule is an absolute must … and I always think less of there members for that alone.

    1. tinybutfierce*

      This also made my hackles IMMEDIATELY raise, because it’s the exact same sort of controlling BS that I’ve witnessed first-hand from a friend’s abusive ex years ago.

      Context that will be relevant shortly : my friend is bisexual. She and I worked together at the time, and when he came in to take her to lunch once day, as she was going out the door, she told me “be back in a bit, babe!”. I found out later they got in a FIGHT over lunch because he was FURIOUS she’d called me “babe”, because clearly that meant she was attracted to me, going to cheat on him, it was disrespectful to him, etc etc..

      I later saw EXACTLY how that boy had ended up how he was. My friend had also been facebook friends with some of his family. After they broke up, she changed her profile picture to one of her and her younger brother. Her ex’s MOTHER, a woman in her 40s, immediately commented basically calling my friend a slut, because of “how quickly she’d moved onto another man”, and a bunch of other ridiculous nonsense. ON A PICTURE OF HER AND HER BROTHER.

  20. Jenga*

    Fergus need to learn to treat women as humans…you know, out of respect for the women

    1. not nice, don't care*

      But we aren’t human to men like that, and they will fight to the end to make/keep it that way.

  21. Patriarchy is wild*

    I experienced something similar when I (a man) was out at a restaurant with a female friend. The manager dropped by after the check to ask how our meal was and encourage us to fill out a survey and was visibly, deliberately speaking only to me to the extent that she actually angled her body toward me and put her butt in my friend’s face.

    Anyway, that was our last time at that restaurant (chain, entirely).

  22. Spencer Hastings*

    This is obviously not the main point of the letter, but:

    “I’ve noticed that every time these groups come in, there’s always just one person who interacts with me. The lead speaker/organizer might be the man, it might be the woman, or with one family it’s a frighteningly competent 13-year-old daughter. Regardless, it’s the same person every time within the family. I thought that was interesting! My wife and I do this too, but I hadn’t noticed. I take the lead when we’re shopping, she leads when we go to restaurants. We never discussed this, it happened organically. I think this says something about … something?”

    This seems bizarre to me. Unless there’s a situation where one person has some expertise and not the other(s) — like if we’re buying a computer and Mom knows a lot about computers and Dad doesn’t, and us kids are just along for the ride — it seems pretty normal for more than one person to do the talking.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      My husband is a quiet person, so I often take the visible lead in an interaction unless it’s his areas of expertise. We both contribute, generally, but one definitely talks more than the other in every specific situation that requires more than “Please direct us to the aisle with the Blurple Widgets” then “Thanks”.

      Restaurants are the exception; everyone orders for themselves.

    2. Snow Globe*

      I think it’s something that just happens subconsciously. Whose decision was it to shop for this particular thing? Who suggested this particular store. The person who is most interested will probably end up doing the talking.

      1. metadata minion*

        Exactly. Sometimes one person is just that bit more extroverted or verbally quick and so tends to speak up first, and so you fall into a pattern unless there’s some practical reason another person needs to take the lead.

    3. She of Many Hats*

      In my region, when it is a child who is the spokesperson for a group, it is often because the adults are recent immigrants who haven’t mastered the new language to the degree the more adaptive kid(s) have. It can also happen with technology, too, where the kid is more broadly knowledgeable.

      1. iglwif*

        I always take my kid along when I’m shopping for a tech thing, because (a) she knows more than I do, it’s one of her special interests, and (b) she will shore me up if I am in danger of letting a sales person talk me into something I don’t actually want, since we’ll have discussed ahead of time what it is I do want.

        Sometimes this ends up looking like her doing the talking for me. She’s in her early 20s now, but even at 12 she was a champion at standing up to pushy sales dudes! (It always seems to be dudes.)

    4. No Longer Working*

      My immediate thought was that they don’t all speak English, and the person speaking for the group would be the person who speaks English or speaks it best.

    5. Admin Lackey*

      Having worked in retail, it’s absolutely a thing that happens. Doesn’t mean the other person is silent the whole time, they’ll chime in, but 95% of the time one member of the couple takes the lead and does most of the talking.

      I think there are a lot of subconscious reasons for it to happen and they’re different with every couple. Partly for efficiency, I think

    6. sparkle emoji*

      When I was a kid, my family would speak to each other but one person, usually my mom, would default to being a representative of sorts with the cashier. This even happened when my dad was there, so it wasn’t just an adult thing. Feels similar to how some groups will have one person order for the table at restaurants.

    7. Sparkles McFadden*

      This is a common thing with group dynamics, and the dynamics change based on who is in the group. It’s actually really fascinating. If there’s a group of people and they are at a business dealing with a single representative, the group will organically decide on a spokesperson for the initial interaction. If the discussion goes on for a certain period of time, the other people will join in the discussion, but if it’s just “Hi, we need a table for six” the other five people won’t saying anything until they have to (such as “a table, not a booth”).

      But, the business representative deciding who the spokesperson for the other group *should* be? That’s the weird thing.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      I only really noticed this at the start of a new relationship, the first after my divorce. I’m chatty, but my ex had always taken the lead when we went into restaurants or asked for help in stores. I hadn’t really consciously realised this until my new boyfriend started deferring to me, and letting me speak first in most situations. Not 100 per cent of the time, and in the beginning there was a bit of overlap and eventually we got into a habit of him speaking in certain situations and me in others. For some reason I was always on duty at the chip shop counter! It’s a bit like divvying up chores; in some households both people do every task but take turns, some households leave everything up to one person, and others divide the task between them by type.

    9. Coverage Associate*

      With my husband, it’s usually a combination of him being more introverted and having English as a second language, being an immigrant, even though you have to get him very agitated or be a speech specialist to realize he’s not a native speaker. I have actually had to decide we generally won’t socialize together, because I spend all my time trying to get him to join in, even though he can socialize and network really well alone.

    10. fhqwhgads*

      I think there’s probably a bit of “the one who seems to ‘always lead’ is the one who actually wanted to be in this store, and the other(s) are just physically with them while out” rather than any sort of group-specific leader tendency.

  23. Marlo*

    So if a man and woman come up to Fergus and the woman asks a question, he just sits there silently until the man speaks? Out of respect?

    It’s both weird and terrible customer service – I wonder if he’s pulling your leg, it’s too bizarre otherwise

    1. sparkle emoji*

      In my experience with Fergi in the wild they will respond turned towards the man, making eye contact with him. Maybe throw in a “sir” or two.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      It’s not bizarre in the sense that its some kind of strange not common experience. Women deal with this all the time.

    3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Please read the many, many comments from women who have experienced this exact thing and then rethink whether you still doubt it’s real.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      No. Having met this guy he will answer her question, but he will do it while looking at the man, pretending as though the man asked the question. It’s also pretty common for the male who’s ignoring you to very quickly ask a follow up question to the guy you’re with, in the hope of setting off a conversation with him that you won’t be able to “interrupt”.

    5. LaurCha*

      No, he will most likely look at the man and answer the question in his direction.

      He is not pulling anybody’s leg, as this entire thread is evidence of. Men do this to women in service and retail environments CONSTANTLY.

    6. tinybutfierce*

      Please read the many, many comments from women talking about having had this exact experience many, many times.

  24. HB*

    This reminds me somewhat of a conversation my husband and I keep bringing up because it annoyed us so much. I was talking to a friend of my mother’s about how when my husband and I were getting engaged, I called my mother to make sure that it wasn’t going to be a problem that my partner wasn’t going to ask my father for permission. My father’s response to my mother telling him this was “Permission for what? To use the house [for the wedding]?” As I followed up with how much of a relief it was – because “asking for permission is gross”, the husband of another friend of my mother’s jumped in with “Well it’s about respect.”

    I forget how I ended the conversation, but I really wish I had pressed him on it. I’m assuming his wife didn’t ask his parents permission for *his* hand in marriage so the only thing being “respected” here is the idea that adult women aren’t allowed to make their own damn decisions.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My ex got really mad when I told him not to ask my dad for permission. “If you ask him, he’ll say no because he will assume you don’t know me well enough to ask me directly.” Finally I was like “look, ask him if you want, but if you ask him we’re gonna go with his answer. Your call.” (Yes, this should have been one of a forest of red flags. :-P )

    2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Oh man, I hate that whole “ask the woman’s parents” rigmarole. My mom complained and complained to me about how my stepsister’s fiancé hadn’t asked my stepdad before they got engaged. So I knew my then-boyfriend would have to say *something* before he proposed or my mom would be upset (we were paying for most stuff, but knew we would want their help with the venue, so we didn’t want to start off with her being upset), but he had also told me he thought the whole asking permission thing was gross, which, yeah. Hard agree.

      So instead of asking permission, he just told her he was going to propose. It might be semantics, but it was enough to make her happy, but not feel gross to my now-husband. But it was annoying to feel like we had to do a work-around.

    3. Jojo*

      My husband actually went to my dad’s house and asked if he could marry me. It was impressive because my husband was kind of scared of my dad. I think my dad’s answer was along the lines of, “you’ll have to ask her.” I was not thrilled that my husband did it, but I married him anyway and I have never regretted it.

      I’m also realizing that my dad was a pretty badass feminist.

    4. Media Monkey*

      my husband decided he wanted to be traditional and called my dad to ask for permission and my dad said “you have asked her haven’t you? if she says yes that’s all the info you need”

  25. She of Many Hats*

    LW – have you noticed if it tends to lean that way automatically? That if you’re a female associate, the women tend to take the lead and the male customers tend to take the lead when it’s a male employee? Or if it is the person who will handle the final payment transaction?

  26. PivotPivot*

    I once went to a hardware store. I was asked by the teenage salesperson (male) on the floor, “Why kind of bolt does your husband want?”

    I don’t know. But, I do know what kind of bolt I want!

    Don’t know if that changed his responses going forward, but man, that was irritating.

    1. Nina*

      I have enough spare time and enough stored-up rage from being a woman in aerospace that when that kind of thing happens I’m 100% okay to just stop dead and go
      ‘where is your manager?’
      ‘hi manager, I want you to know that [look at name tag] Employee here just cost you a sale by assuming I didn’t know what I was doing. How you handle this determines whether Employee has cost you all of my business going forward, or just for today.’

      1. tinybutfierce*

        Same. I tolerated enough of this sexist BS when I was younger and had less of a spine; but I have a backbone and ALL THE TIME now.

  27. Momma Bear*

    This may cost the company customers. Not all, but some. I’ve left places where I felt that I was being ignored as either part of the decision making team or as the primary customer. Fergus is also doing some assuming here – I went car shopping with a friend who was simply my driver. There was no financial or romantic connection between us. Any salesman (it was always the men) who addressed him instead of me, even after I was clear who was buying, lost a sale.

    Fergus is also weird to be offended by someone asking his theoretical GF “how are you?” That’s just…being polite. Fergus does remember that women are intelligent and can have their own money, right?

    1. Ann Onymous*

      I always bring a male friend or relative when I go car shopping for this reason. If you don’t want to talk to me, I don’t want to buy from you.

    2. not nice, don't care*

      Fergus no doubt weaponizes his vote to help prevent women from developing their intelligence and managing their own money, a la GOP.

    3. Observer*

      Fergus does remember that women are intelligent and can have their own money, right?

      Unfortunately, I suspect that this is not a reasonable assumption. Because I’m pretty sure that in his mind, even if she “technically” has money in her bank account, it’s not *really* her decision how to spend it.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on social media recently (like the last couple of months) that seem to take it for granted that women are dependent on their spouse or SO financially.

      One was something like “if a woman earns $500,000 a year and her husband earns $40,000, should the man still pay the rent/mortgage?” It was phrased as if it were a “Gotcha!” to feminists, like the poster just assumed everybody was going to say the man should pay it all or at least that he should be paying the lion’s share and therefore feminists were being hypocrites by wanting to be equal but still expecting a man to “provide for them.”

      So yeah, there do seem to be guys out there who just assume that any woman in a relationship is financially dependent or at least that her partner is the one to pay for joint purchases,

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Ugh. I know more than one woman who supported a husband/male SO through grad school, law school, med school, etc. And, yes, the woman was responsible for the bills during those times.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        What a bizarre question. Of course I wouldn’t expect someone earning 1/12 my salary to pay the entire rent/mortgage! I wouldn’t expect a husband earning an equal salary to pay the entire rent/mortgage (unless he already owned the house or something so the mortgage was $0).

        With such disparate earnings, it would also be important to make sure that I was paying into his personal emergency and retirement savings so he wouldn’t get screwed if we were to divorce at some point.

  28. Ariaflame*

    Well, in this case it’s likely in the one retail place, so for that place that person may take the lead, either because it’s their area of interest, or it’s for them, or to be honest they’re the one with the better haggling skills if it’s that kind of store. It just isn’t gender/age linked.

  29. Bonkers*

    Huh. I’ve decided not to buy cars from dealerships where their staff do this to me. We’ve changed banks/credit unions for this kind of crap (the one where they asked if my husband approved of my loan inquiry). I’d leave a retail store or restaurant that treated me this way. Life is short, and my patience for misogyny is even shorter. Fergus is a pig.

    1. Wolf*

      My parents have a shared bank account (besides their personal ones). The bank will constantly send letters addressed to “Mr. John Wolf and his wife”, like she doesn’t have a name.

  30. sparkle emoji*

    Another woman chiming in to say women know it’s happening and hate it(@ Fergus). My mom had a Pretty Woman moment car shopping because they kept trying to talk to my dad. She was paying for the car and was going to be the primary driver, his opinion didn’t matter. Most women I know have similar car shopping experiences, does Fergus want to be regarded with the same lack of respect as a slimy used car salesman?
    (In case I was not clear OP, you’re right and Fergus is a skeeveball)

    1. not nice, don't care*

      Dudes like Fergus ‘expect’ to be reviled by women. It’s proof that women are silly creatures that need minding by men like him.

  31. Emmy*

    So many questions: How does he feel about his girlfriend going shopping without him where he can’t control the conversation? Does he genuinely think every employee is flirting with her? How is it *gag* “better” for her to be silent when he is present – but she is perfectly able to shop when he is not supervising her?

    Perhaps most importantly: Does he himself feel he is flirting when talking to those lone female shoppers?
    (*Gasp* Are female employees flirting with him everywhere he goes shopping?!? /s)

    1. Observer*

      Perhaps most importantly: Does he himself feel he is flirting when talking to those lone female shoppers?
      (*Gasp* Are female employees flirting with him everywhere he goes shopping?!? /s)

      I agree. This is important. I feel bad for the women who work in stores that he shops at. But that’s out of the LW’s area of influence. But I think that the store needs to worry about how he’s interacting with female customers when they come in without a male “minder”.

  32. not nice, don't care*

    Dudes like that can best show respect for everyone by self-isolating until they have gained enlightenment. My first choice of remedy involves something a bit more painful and targeted.

    1. Wolf*

      He might be pretty isolated already – seems like he couldn’t have female friends, and a large number of men wouldn’t want to hang out with him, either. And in that lonely state of mind, a casual sentence suddenly feels like a connection to him. (Not to excuse him, just wondering about his state of mind.)

  33. YrLocalLibrarian*

    My mom inherited significant financial resources and is the primary administrator a trust providing income to other family members. My parents’ financial advisor directs all communications to my dad. This year my dad got a birthday card from the office. My mom is never even acknowledged by the business. I keep encouraging my mom that moving their assets elsewhere may be the only way to sort this glassbowl dude out…

    1. Observer*

      I keep encouraging my mom that moving their assets elsewhere may be the only way to sort this glassbowl dude out…

      Maybe you could point out to your Mom that this guy is creating a potential legal issues. And also creating an enormous potential for error.

      Because if he’s acting as though your father is actually in charge and your input is not relevant, he could wind up acting on something your father says when he shouldn’t. Even if your mother trusts your father 100% and she’s 100% correct to do that, misunderstandings happen. And if your father were to make an off-hand comment and this idiot decided to act on it, that could really be a problem.

  34. Ann O'Nemity*

    I’ve seen this go both ways, though. When I’m out shopping with my husband, the worker helping us tends to address the same-sex person – female worker addresses me, male worker addresses my husband.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      But do they actively ignore the other spouse? That’s a sign that they are not good at their job.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        It’s like they obviously prefer to talk to the same-sex person. They will answer a direct question, so it’s not like they’re 100% ignoring the other person. But they will keep defaulting to addressing the same sex person.

        1. COBOL*

          This isn’t the point of the overall discussion, but this happens a lot with child-related items. I’ve had female Fergus(es) only speak/include my wife even when I’m the one talking, or I’m the only one who coordinates a specific activity (e.g. my wife has no patience for play dates)

    2. Observer*

      As others have pointed out, it’s one thing when someone *initially* starts the interaction with the person of the same gender. It’s a totally different thing to not talk to the person of the other gender *at all*. Even weirder when they only do it in the presence of their own gender out of “respect” for the person of their gender.

    3. Brain the Brian*

      Interestingly, I am aware that I — a gay man — subconsciously flip this: I’m more likely to talk with women than men (especially straight men) in everyday interactions. I think it’s holdover from teenaged bullying at the hands of straight dudes, but it’s still obviously a bias that I have to work to overcome. I think I manage alright, but it’s of course hard to see yourself from another person’s perspective.

      1. Deejay*

        As an ace man, my teenage lack of interest in girls also made me a target for homophobic bullying.

        I find I instinctively prefer the company of the half of the human race that tends to say “Oh, that’s a shame. Why is it always the nice ones?” to the half that tends to insist that I must be lying or need to seek medical assistance.

  35. Admin Lackey*

    When I worked retail, I always made a point of addressing each member of a couple equally until one of them took charge of the conversation – when you give a ‘straight’ couple the option of choosing who’s going to speak, I found it was a pretty even 50/50 split between the genders.

    I also noticed a lot of the women seemed surprised and pleased to be spoken to equally, which is depressing.

    All this to say, LW, keep doing what you’re doing and Fergus sucks.

    … I’ll never forget the time a male coworker reached past the woman who has paid to hand the receipt to her boyfriend. Then woman seemed really annoyed (rightfully) and her boyfriend just laughed at her. Hope she’s found someone better since then.

    1. Student*

      I used to have this happen to me constantly at restaurants. I ask for the bill. They give it to my husband. I pay the bill. They give the receipt and my credit card (with my very feminine-coded name on the card) to my husband. This happened at restaurants we frequented, where I was the only member of our couple to ever pay the bill.

      Ultimately, the easiest (and only) solution to this problem was to exchange my husband for a wife, which I recignize is just not practical for most people.

  36. Ann Onymous*

    In college, I (female) went to a hardware store to get some supplies for an extracurricular group I was a leader of. Another member of the group (male) came with me because he had a car and I didn’t. The guy who was helping us find what we needed at the hardware store kept directing all his questions to my friend even after he said, “you should really ask her, she knows a lot more about it than I do.”

    1. Not another anon*

      Reminds me of a magnet I saw: “Do you want to speak to the man in charge, or the woman who knows what’s going on?”

  37. Lopside Teapot*

    The Red Flag Guy on Tik Tok would have a field day with this one. Fergus is absolutely bananapants.

    1. Oldsbone*

      My guess is she’s the most proficient English speaker in her family. Or maybe her parents really don’t have their stuff together and she’s had to be the adult in their family dynamic for most of her life.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        Or they sell a specific something the daughter is interested in and the parents are not. (Common with things like tech and entertainment). A thirteen year old with a special interest can be fantastic to deal with.

        1. Snow Angels in the Zen Garden*

          Agreed! I’m not certain of the age, but I’ve been troubleshooting a product with a child the past two days who I’m enjoying working with more than most parents.

      2. iglwif*

        Most proficient English speaker and/or most familiar with the thing that LW’s employer sells. If you want some mobile technology or any Apple product troubleshot in my household, you go to my daughter, and that was true even when she was only 13. (I am the troubleshooter for all Microsoft products and apps; my spouse handles issues related to the TV and sound system.)

  38. Lizzay*

    That reminds of a time my company was interviewing for an entry level (tho white collar) position. They sent me (early 30s at the time) and my male coworker (let’s call him John early 20s) out with the guy for lunch (also early 20s – either recent college grad or a year or two out), and I realized at some point that every question I asked him, he responded to John. Every. Single. Question. He would look at me while I asked, then he would look at John when responding. We had been the only two-on-one interview that day, so the other women hadn’t had the opportunity to be ignored. During the whole team debrief, I noted that and John said he hadn’t noticed. Siiiiiigh. Pay attention, men!

    1. noncommittally anonymous*

      I had pretty much exactly the same experience. We were interviewing the person who would become my boss (!). During a tour of the lab facilities, he addressed every question over my shoulder to my male colleague, even though I was the only person responding. To be clear, I managed the lab facility, and my male colleague was only tagging along because he couldn’t bear to be left out of anything (eyeroll).

      When I brought up this interaction later, male colleague claimed he didn’t notice. We hired the guy anyway, who then made it abundantly clear that he really was a sexist asshat for the 5 years until he was fired.

      1. Lizzay*

        I guess it’s good we didn’t end up hiring that guy! It was nice to be heard & not just ‘oh, you’re making a big deal out of nothing’ed.

  39. Performative gumption*

    I’m currently having a new bathroom installed. The staff in the store were great and really engaging. The admin automatically sent me an email for Mr Performative Gumption.
    I replied it was Ms; there was no Mr; I have a female name so not sure why the confusion but was happy for the invisible Mr PG to pay.
    I got a half hearted apology stating it was automatic and she hadn’t updated it.
    I’m waiting for my bathroom to be completed and best believe I’ll be feeding back about it. I almost pulled out of having a bathroom with them over it I was so annoyed.

  40. BeeCees*

    Is there a convention on AAM to name the problematic employee “Fergus”? I have seen a few post with “Fergus” being the bad person.

    How about naming the good employee on posts?

    The fictional company is always Chocolate Teapot.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      It goes back to an old post with a very problematic Fergus, and it’s been the tradition ever since that the bad guy is Fergus. (As opposed to Wakeen–that’s a whole other story and it’s hilarious!)

      As far as teapots and llamas, I have no idea where those came from. I’m so sick of them that the moment they pop up in a letter, I’m out of there.

      1. Llellayena*

        Similar to Fergus, the chocolate teapots and llamas each showed up in one letter as a fictional substitute for the LW’s real workplace to keep things anonymous. They were just oddball enough to work as fill-ins for multiple job types without giving away details the LWs wanted to keep confidential that they stuck.

        1. Pizza Rat*

          It’s not like we’re required to use them. Many people use other stand-ins to keep things vague enough so they remain anonymous.

          I think they’re fun.

  41. Alice Simpson*

    Yah, sooo common and also gross.

    I almost always take the lead in retail situations unless it’s something really out of my wheelhouse (electrical supplies, for instance – my husband is an electrician so I have nothing to add there).

    If the service person ignores me, we leave. This is as much husband’s choice as mine because he’s not much of a talker and is quite happy to let me blab away.

    OP, if you’re a manager, I’d argue you have a responsibility to the business to make Fergus knock this shit off.

  42. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

    Just sent this to an acquaintance of mine who is of the opinion that sexism is a thing of the past. Looking forward to seeing my email account explode with his justifications.

    He’s definitely not a friend, and very vocal about how ‘I can’t talk to women without them accusing me of harassment’ thing.

    (Apparently I don’t count as a woman because I’m over 40 and therefore not something a man would want. Yes I hate his guts)

    1. Andromeda*

      Why bother emailing him when he’s as awful as you make him sound? He sounds like an “avoid at all costs” type.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

        Because there’s reasons why completely cutting him off would negatively affect me and that’s a whole other story.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      “sexism is a thing of the past”. Wow I just love alarmingly unsolicited reassurances.

    3. Cinnamon Stick*

      I’m very interested in the rationalizations if you care to share them, either here on in one of the upcoming open threads.

  43. Ashley*

    My husband gets annoyed by this now to the point that it’s kinda funny to me, as someone who is of course also annoyed but more numb to it. When I was buying a new car (we have the one car but it was my money for the down-payment and my name going on it), he came with me to make sure it was also comfortable to drive but otherwise knew he was just there basically for support. We were very clear with the salesman that it was me buying the car, my money, etc. Guy still defaulted to talking to my husband and each time he’d pointedly look to me and go “what do you think, it’s your money.” Around the third time it happened, he looked squarely at the salesman and said “I’m just here, man, talk to her” and literally pointed to me beside him. I had to struggle to keep a straight face.

  44. A Simple Narwhal*


    There are several contractors we have chosen to not work with because they only ever addressed my husband, and I might as well have not existed.

    I also remember after visiting a local store feeling really good about a sales interaction and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I later realized that even though it was for a project my husband was leading the charge on, the project was for our home, and I was included in the whole process and discussion by the salesman. And not in a sh!tty way (“better check with what the boss says [wink wink]”), in a genuinely normal “I am talking to two adults” way. Kinda sucks how semi-used to being a second-class citizen/non-existent in certain interactions I am. (Fwiw my husband always corrects them/makes sure I’m included/does what he can to counteract their behavior but in an ideal world he shouldn’t have to convince the person trying to sell us something that he should be selling to both of us.)

    We definitely avoid patronizing places that don’t treat us as two adults with equal say in things, so Fergus is most definitely driving people away, even if it’s not overt.

  45. foofoo*

    Echoing others comments as well. This is gross and sexist and it will lose the store business. I walked out of a computer gaming store when the guy wouldn’t talk to me and kept addressing my partner despite him just standing there and me being the one who was touching and trying out all the different components. He even pointed to me and said “she’s the gamer”.

    Between that store interaction (it was for a very specific name-brand of gaming components) and an extremely sexist ad (that they not-apologized for), I stopped spending money on *any* of their products and found replacements. Sure, it’s only a few hundred dollars a year but I also let others know the sexist attitudes the company carries (if they ask or it comes up naturally) and I know of at least a few others who have stopped buying their stuff.

    Being a sexist a-hole WILL lose you money and reputation.

    1. Dawn*

      Oh but please do name the brand, I’d like to know myself so as not to inadvertently patronize them.

      1. foofoo*

        They’re known for their gaming mice, keyboards and headphones, usually black with a lot of flashy colors, and begin with the letter R (with five letters in the name). *cough cough* Did a quick google with a few words in here and just the R and it came up in the autofill….

        1. Dawn*

          That was actually my first guess but I couldn’t find a sexist ad when I went looking… I guess I’ll have to go look closer.

          Not sure why you’re so hesitant to name them, but thank you.

          1. foofoo*

            my correction, it was a tweet that said “S my D”, with the intention to play on their new SD card and a poke at another company. A lot of female gamers were annoyed at it because we get that said (and worse) on a regular basis and it was just another poke at a sensitive spot.

            And I’m just hesitant to blatantly call out specific companies/names just in case.

            1. Dawn*

              Thank you. Being a woman gamer myself, I do understand and sympathize. I just never ran across that one and, well, search engines aren’t working as well as they used to these days.

          2. Lenora Rose*

            They made a tweet which was intended as a dig at a competitor that included a sexist phrase, then a “for those who may have been offended” “apology”. I haven’t as yet found an ad, but it was advertising of a sort.

            1. Dawn*

              I think that if someone says, “A sexist gaming company? Wow, I ought to go give them my business,” they probably were Razer customers already, lol.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Ugh, gaming while female. The other day a game showed up in my steam queue that looked pretty cool: competent female lead, similar to some other gameplay I’d enjoyed, what looked like an interesting story. I was three seconds from adding it to my wish list when it auto-played the next trailer for the game, which was a full-length trailer advertising the sexy bunny suit you could buy for the female lead to wear.

      I don’t have a problem with sexy outfit DLC or mods in general, but who decided that was the feature of the game that needed it’s own 30-second trailer?

      1. Dawn*

        People who know their target audience, and who are perfectly content with us not being it, I think.

        Or at the very least, people who really want to sell bunny costume DLC.

    3. tinybutfierce*

      Years ago, I went into a game store to buy a console for myself. As soon as I asked for it, the salesman immediately asked me if it was for my boyfriend, and then basically spent the entire rest of the transaction doing that fun “testing” thing where he was trying to see if I had enough knowledge to be a “real gamer” and trying to catch me up on being “wrong” about the slightest details of something. Never went back there and I wish I’d had the backbone then to just tell him to get me a manager before I left without buying anything.

  46. WellRed*

    As an aside, upon reading this tale of retail, I remind you all that 2024 marks a mere 50 years since women could get a credit card without husband approval. We’ve been spending ever since and we can choose not to spend with the Ferguses.

  47. HonorBox*

    Raise this issue with your manager, if that can be done. But if you need to raise it yourself, do so. It is disrespectful to the woman in that situation, and may end up being a huge issue for the business going forward. Imagine a Google or Yelp review from a female who faces this. People are (rightfully, in most cases) happy to post some sort of narrative about their experience, and that seems to be more likely when someone has a negative experience. Your business may end up with a negative perception just because someone feels like it is “more respectful” (it isn’t) to address only the male in a couple/group.

  48. HelloWorld*

    There are still many bananapants out there. Not only in the grandparents generation.

    I worked in a polling station for a Canadian election. There was a couple (man and woman) arrived the polling station. The man insisted on following the woman behind closely at all time including behind the polling screens and the ballot box! Only one person is allowed behind each polling screen and ballot box at a time. Fortunately, a male supervisor spotted the behaviour and stopped the man from entering the polling screen with the woman.

    1. Dawn*

      From what I understand, this has genuinely become a DV issue in some cases, where women are forced by their (abusive) partners to vote a certain way.

      1. Wolf*

        There’s a kind of DV where one person says “I’m just here to help, since you can’t do things by yourself” and runs the partner’s self esteem into the ground until they get scared and make mistakes, thus confirming the “see, you need me to help” story.

    2. Zap R.*

      Worked in the Canadian election sphere for a while. This was a huge problem. I can’t tell you how many women I spoke to while phone banking or canvassing who said “I’ll have to ask my husband who we’re voting for.”

  49. Mall Bookstore Refugee*

    I’ve have a lot of retail in my work history and Allison nailed this. It’s batshit crazy and rude af. You greet customers when they come in and if it’s a group of them, you acknowledge the lot of them. It’s not hard. You can’t tell from first glance who is going to spend the money.

    Fergus respects men by disrespecting women. I wouldn’t let him on my retail floor.

  50. Audrey Puffins*

    He said that “out of respect,” he would never address a woman in an inappropriate way, so as not to offend her beau.

    I would 100% be grilling Fergus in a polite and bemused but absolutely relentless fashion to get him to explain what exactly is inappropriate about “How are you”. Unless he’s touching people’s butts while he says it, he won’t have an answer for this that stands up to even the slightest scrutiny

  51. Tradd*

    Unfortunately, I know guys who think that any interaction with a female is an opportunity for the woman to claim harassment or somehow trap them. They will not interact with female coworkers in person unless there is a group. Anything else, only in writing.

  52. ElastiGirl*

    Is Fergus a religious person, by any chance? This may be an offshoot of behavior he has learned in his (conservative, right-wing) church.

    In 2017 or so, Mike Pence announced that he wouldn’t dine alone with a woman, presumably out of “respect” or for his own “safety.” This was an offshoot of a rule Billy Graham had for himself in the 1950s. I laughed at this — until I got this treatment from a man I had known for years.

    This man went to my former church, and we worked in the same industry. I was friends with his wife, he was friends with my husband. I asked him to lunch to ask his advice about something professional. This involved me meeting him at his place of work, walking across a public street, and sitting in a booth at a public restaurant.

    When I got there, he had invited a man I didn’t know to join us. He didn’t explain why. The lunch was awkward. I couldn’t ask some of the questions I wanted to ask. And yes, I had to pick up the lunch tab for the unwanted guest.

    Only later did I realize: OMG, I just got Mike Penced!

    To me, your coworker’s behavior feels one of a kind with my experience. It’s a poorly thought through stance that relies on vague notions about “respect” at the expense of actual respect for other human beings.

    Try asking your coworker *why* he has this weird policy. I’d bet you’ll find it’s rooted in this weird, fear-based religion background that likes to pretend it’s Christianity. If so, you’ll be better positioned to know how to discuss it with him, should you choose to do so

    1. Andromeda*

      He *MADE YOU PAY THE GUEST’S BILL*? That is so, so gross, and ruder than even the Mike Pencing (which is very rude) imo. You just cannot claim to do stuff in the name of respect or politeness and then turn around and do that. Nooooooooooo.

    2. Space Needlepoint*

      OMG, I just got Mike Penced!

      We have a new verb! I hope I never have to use it, but I”m glad it’s there if I need it.

  53. Dawn*

    Back when I used to work in retail (in southern Ontario, Canada, so probably an area that makes less of a deal about this than other places,) we obviously never did this to customers, but we’d occasionally have a customer who would do it to us. Like they’d literally wait in line at the counter to speak to a man rather than speak to any of the fully available women employees, or at the very least, wouldn’t actually make a purchase from the women, and one explicitly said to one of the men, “I was speaking to your subordinate,” when he had been talking to our manager!

    1. Oldsbone*

      I think a certain percentage of men are like this and you just didn’t hire any (or they had the good sense to behave better while on the clock). So you only encountered the misogynist asshats in the wild instead.

      1. Dawn*

        Oh, I’m not saying that it couldn’t have come from an employee, don’t get me wrong, but that men in this particular store knew better than to try it on; recall the woman manager.

        1. Dawn*

          One of them was a real trial to me and I had to tell him on several occasions to stop commenting on which clients he found physically attractive after they had left the store.

    2. Admin Lackey*

      As a fellow southern Ontario resident, it’s definitely something I’ve noticed though oddly, never at restaurants.

      1. Dawn*

        This was also Dundas specifically so we definitely had a clientele that skewed older and I’m sure that played into it.

  54. junior*

    Aside from the blatant sexism, Fergus is also showing extremely poor sales judgment. In families, women make like 80% of the purchasing decisions. To just ignore them because a man is in tow is absolutely bonkers.
    The idea that you need to INSULT a woman in order to RESPECT a man is also absolutely bonkers. The fact that I’ve had men argue with me on this until they’re blue in the face is wild.
    However, I’ve absolutely had this happen to me. Thankfully, my husband tends to notice just as often as I do, and he’ll suggest we leave.

  55. pally*

    When I was a child back in the day (1970’s), I watched these Fergus-guy actions all the time. My Dad, not one to talk much, made it a point to deflect this sort of thing. He recognized what it implied and he wasn’t having any of that.

    When the store clerk or waiter would greet him, he would nod and say “hello!”. As the questions started (“what can I do for you today, sir?”), Dad would make a hand gesture towards my mom, meaning “she is the one to whom you will direct your questions”. They were forced to acknowledge my mom and interact with her. Dad would stand right there, with his attention entirely on my mom. Clerks, waiters and the like would not get another word out of him -even if they directed questions to him. The gesture was simply repeated as many times as it took to get the point across.

    For those hard cases that got insulting towards Mom, Dad would pull the offender aside, for a talk. A calm and deliberately worded “correction” was issued. It was always effective. Dad never raised his voice or cursed. He never had to. I should note that Dad resembled Lou Costello and being “corrected” was quite a jarring experience. He just didn’t look like the type that was at all menacing.

      1. pally*

        Thank you both (Irish Teacher and ferrina)! I think Dad was way into modeling the behavior he expected us kids to emulate. And he wanted his daughters to know they should expect (require?) same treatment from anyone they might have a relationship with.

  56. Persephone Mulberry*

    Considering that Fergus’s take is that he’s being “respectful” of a (presumed) relationship by not addressing the female customer (vs. the many, many examples herein of sales and service people just being across-the-board misogynistic), I’m wildly curious how Fergus handles things if he thinks the male customer is the woman’s father or son, rather than partner.

  57. Justin*

    I’ve noticed this sometimes with my wife.

    If we’re at the doctor with my son (I mean urgent care not our regular one), they all talk to her instead of me. Probably a “lady is caregiver” assumption.

    If we’re buying something male-coded (car!), they approach me despite me hating cars and her dad being a mechanic.

    They similarly tend me to hand me the check if we eat out.

    With all that said, these are not as bad as This Guy, because they will change up if the other one of us speaks up, or, they’ll go along with whoever makes a request (ie they’ll give my wife the check if she is the one who asks).

    So having these ingrained things is bad but it’s very possible for people to adjust, so f this guy.

    1. ferrina*

      If this was all that was going on, I don’t think it would be an issue. It’s one thing to pick someone to initially approach but switch, and it’s something else to only speak to one of the customers, no matter what.

    2. Observer*

      because they will change up if the other one of us speaks up, or, they’ll go along with whoever makes a request

      Yes. That’s the key. Sure, they should not make assumptions. But we all do that. What differentiates the jerks from the people making a mistake is how they react when implicitly corrected.

  58. My Useless Two Cents*

    Ok, so we are going way way back in time here. Late ’90s, still living at home, just started my first job. I wanted a small tv for my bedroom.
    I’m out shopping with my brother so we stop at a circuit city type store (not Circuit City but I can’t remember the name of it now, but a big competitor at the time) but the kind of place where they’d get a small commission for a big-sale item like a tv, even a small one.
    I go stand in tv’s for a sales associate. My brother wanders around, just browsing the aisles. Mostly looking at cd’s and small ticket items (ie. no commission items) The store is freaking empty, with maybe two other customers on the sales floor.
    After the third salesman approaches him to see if he needs help, he points them in my direction (for the third time), and the third salesman still does not approach me. We go to leave and a salesman finally asks if I need help when I’m almost to the door. I just wish I had more courage at the time to say something rather that just shake my head and leave.
    Never went back to that store. I went to circuit city and bought a nice little tv with built in vcr. The salesman there was very helpful.
    My first experience with salesman misogyny. Just wish I could say it was my last :(

  59. Oldsbone*

    I notice that LW pointed out that usually one person in a couple does the majority of the talking. I suspect it’s because introverts and extroverts seem to find each other in a marriage/partnership and balance each other out (and/or drive each other crazy).

  60. Ellis Hubris*

    this gives off the vibes of why a number of men online assumed women wanted to f”CK the bear. Never in the equation. missing the point.

  61. Charlotte Lucas*

    This was the reason my parents hated Sears so much. Salespeople anywhere but the clothing section would literally ignore women (even when no man was present) who were trying to get help. (They also only hired men for the big appliance department, where the big commissions were.)

    Radio Shack also did this. Note that it is a terrible business model, if you enjoy keeping your business open.

    If “we should be normal people” doesn’t work, there are multiple studies showing that women are often the final decision makers in household spending, especially on large items.

    1. Bunnyhug Wearer*

      I had difficulty with Sears when I went vacuum cleaner shopping. The salesperson asked me about my ability to afford a vacuum cleaner. Her words were “I mean, even *I* don’t have this vacuum! It wasn’t even a fancy vacuum-just a mid-priced Kenmore. I was young, and I looked even younger, but I was right there at the cash register ready to pay. I looked her in the eye and said “yes, but I outearn you.” Normally I wouldn’t support income-based value judgements, but I feel she walked into that one.

      I realize this is not a story about misogyny while shopping, but it is about salespeople making poor assumptions and also about Sears. Despite this bad experience, I miss Sears. It had good appliances and linens. I am still using my midpriced vacuum.

  62. Bebopolea*

    Dear Fergus – you are losing sales as a result of this practice. My husband and I have had several sales interactions like this, and are agreed that we do not spend money in places where I’m treated like a mute bystander.

    1. The Kulprit*

      Seconded. I notice it. My male partner notices it. Neither of us like it, and we take ourselves (and our $$) elsewhere.

  63. Not Alison*

    All that your husband/boyfriend/father needs to do to have the service person deal with you is to look at you instead of the service person. If the male looks at the woman instead of the service person, the service person will automatically look to where the male is looking and will address the woman.
    I’ve tried this with my dad and husband and found that is actually works!

    1. Chili*

      Sadly, this does not always work. My guess is it will work on people who do this out of unconscious bias but not for people who are doing this very intentionally.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      I doubt this will work with Fergus as with him it seems to be a matter of principle and something he is doing consciously.

  64. Guest*

    This sort of thing is totally obvious and all too common. Once while we were dining at a rather pricey restaurant, not one but TWO staff members approached DH and asked “how’s your meal, sir? Is everything to your liking?” and completely ignored me. This wasn’t an old school place; it considered itself hip and trendy. Oh, and don’t get me started on buying a car. Fergus is undoubtedly costing your business customers and money.

  65. Wendy the Spiffy*

    Adjacent experience: I’m a married woman, and bought a house last year. It was my money; the financing is in my name, and I selected and interacted with all vendors in the process. My husband’s name is on the deed along with mine. Yet, all physical / junk mail related to the house purchase is addressed solely to him. Never ever just to me, and never to both of us. Just him.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      When my wife and I (both women) bought our house, her name was first on the paperwork – apparently this translates as The Man to people who bought the mailing lists, because all the junk mail about stuff like plumbing and roofs went to her while the stuff about furniture and so on went to me.

      (We’ve also learned that the IRS goes bananas if you swap the order of Taxpayer and Spouse from year to year, because apparently it’s completely unheard of for people to alternate tax-filing duties.)

      1. Wendy the Spiffy*

        I’d wondered about the IRS thing! I’m the main breadwinner but “Spouse” on our filings, as well. Ah, the patriarchy.

        1. Evan Þ*

          The IRS computer system is very old.

          Fortunately, at least they don’t mind who goes first as long as the couple keeps it consistent.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          I just assumed the main filer was whomever prepared the forms. I’ve done our taxes since we’ve been filing jointly, so my husband is “Spouse” and has been for about 20 years. He certainly does not want the IRS to call him, if I screwed something up, so he has no qualms with being “Spouse” instead of “Taxpayer”.

      2. Dancing Otter*


        The year my ex and I divorced, I put my name first on our final joint return. (I had always prepared them, but that year I was o.v.e.r. pandering to his insecurities.)

        He got an IRS notice for failure to file. I know this because he had to ask me for another copy of the return, not having had the common sense to hang on to the first copy I gave him.

        I regret nothing.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I bought my house before we got married and my now-husband’s name ISN’T on any of the official paperwork and he still gets half the weird mail about windows and such.

    3. Friday Hopeful*

      Haha its insane. I bought a house six years after I had divorced, moved to an apartment, and changed my name back to my maiden name. I actually get junk mail about the house in MY EX HUSBANDS NAME. When he doesn’t share my last name and never lived at this address, nor was he party to any of the house purchase or anything else. Still can’t figure that one out.

  66. Jezebel*

    It’s extra fun when race is added to the sexism at play in these situations. I am a white woman and my husband is a dark man, and we have encountered service people who look back and forth between us at a loss as to which of us should be in charge. Their preference is obviously to defer to the white man, and they can’t decide what do to when there’s only a white woman and a dark man to choose from.

    1. Middle Aged Lady*

      So depressing! I used to go on shopping trips with my elegant, well-dressed, ‘real jewelry’ Black friend, while I (white) was in jeans and a tshirt with no makeup. Who is likely to buy more clothes, accessories or beauty products? But the salespeople would address me and not her every single time.

  67. Texan In Exile*

    Even my two – how do I put this – very conservative uncles – knew to talk to the wife when a couple came in to buy a car. (They had a small dealership.)

    “Women make 75% of all major purchasing decisions,” they told me. “It’s essential to talk to the women.”

  68. HealsinDC*

    Ugh. This reminds me of a time I had a piece of furniture restored. The guy doing the work was such a sexist sh!t. It was my furniture and I was paying the bill, but when my then boyfriend was with me he would always talk to him, shake his hand, etc. He would also belittle his wife in front of customers so needless to say I do not recommend him to anyone despite the admittedly beautiful work he did (I had already put down a big deposit before I realized what a walnut he was, otherwise I would have bounced).

  69. Project Maniac-ger*

    If you’re going to talk to him, come from the angle of “it’s rude not to address both” and address the action itself instead of “hey Fergus, women are people too” because he doesn’t believe that and is not going to change his stance but he might modify his behavior in specific situations. You’ll “disqualify” yourself in his eyes if you go on a “feminist rant.”

  70. Anti sexist tipper*

    I usually let my husband take the reigns in situations where a “man’s opnion” is socially more regarded as taken seriously, like at the auto shop or with the credit card company. I will be honest, if a waiter presents the check only to my husband I am less likely to leave a generous tip. We also do a good cop bad cop type interaction if we need something. Misogyny is not ok, but it happens and we just have to deal, but call out the person for making assumptions. Respect both customers not just the man.

  71. Chili*

    You may be losing business from this. It is always painfully obvious when this is going on and I won’t support it. When we were shopping for a car that we’d made clear was specially for me, the sales person ignored me and addressed answers to my questions to my husband. We’d been equally interested in two different cars and this ended up being the deciding factor.

  72. Coco*

    I’m a woman, and I’ve worked in retail for over a decade. Sometimes employees will unconsciously default to the man being the “leader” of the group. Fergus is doing this on purpose, and he is definitely in the wrong. It’s probably very subtle, and customers may or may not even notice. Because he’s not being blatantly or overtly rude, it’s unlikely that management will do anything about it. If a customer directly complains about it, maybe. Ugh this stinks.

  73. Disaster Diva*

    I encounter this ALL.THE.TIME when I have to do something surrounding my veteran’s status. (discounts, free tickets etc.) My very sweet, and quiet BF who has never served is the automatic “veteran” in people’s minds (sadly even females). I won’t lie, I derive some very petty pleasure when I inform them, I, in fact am the veteran, and when they (inevitably) ask what I did, tell them my super awesome, bad a@$ career field, and bask in the shocked looks.

  74. We’re Six*

    I know the LW doesn’t want to dox themselves but depending on the type of retail/sales establishment could actually make this so much worse too. Are the LW and Fergus selling cars, for example? Because trust me, women are well acquainted with what happens—even in 2024!!—when we enter those places by ourselves versus with a male (even if we’re still the ones making all the financial decisions).

    But regardless of whether this is a Chevy dealership, a Target, 123 Main Street USA Thrift Store, or your local Food ‘N Stuff, it’s still really short-sighted (and sexist) on Fergus’ part. The customers who don’t share Fergus’ philosophy are going to side-eye him at best, and possibly avoid your store at worst (and tell others to do so). The customers who do agree with Fergus are, ultimately, not ones you should be enabling. You can’t necessarily stop them from shopping but like, when the LW is talking to them, they can at least be normal.

  75. ZK*

    Fergus would immediately lose a sale and I would absolutely refuse his help after that, if I came back.

  76. librarian*

    On the other side of this, when I worked in a library assistant role that was majority helping patrons with computers/printing etc., male patrons would almost always immediately go to the male coworker I was at the desk with, even if he was further away than me and otherwise engaged. Because of course as a woman I don’t know how to use a computer!

    1. Wolf*

      My mom is a sysadmin. Every few months, some young IT guy’s mind is blown that the middle-aged blonde woman is really the admin and she knows what she’s doing.

  77. SALC*

    The one time I’ve noticed people consistently going after my husband instead of me it was actually the sketchy people trying to sell you stuff (and maybe pick your pocket who knows) in Italian tourist hotspots lol. The aggressive tour salesperson blocking your path in a crosswalk in the middle of the street… the guys trying to get your attention and get closer to you by pointing out something random like your shoes and not really making sense so you stop and try to figure out they’re going on about… the guy who was asking for directions but seemingly kind of backing us into an alley…

    My hypothesis is that they’re more likely to get punched if they try the aggressive sales tactics with a woman when my man is standing right there. I’ve honestly never been so thoroughly ignored before, even in car dealerships, and it was pretty funny

    1. Shiny Penny*

      Maybe their base assumption is that if a man and woman are together, that the man would be carrying all the money? So they are choosing targets based on their sexist views?
      Pretty weird, tho!

  78. SusieQQ*

    As a woman, I find this so infuriating. It happens to me all. the. time. It’s not respectful, it’s exactly the opposite. Fergus should stop trying to pass off his sexism as politeness.

  79. CatMouse*

    yeah, definitely needs to be brought up tp someone. The internet (and the comments here) are full of stories of women being ignored for the male with them and the business then losing their business.

    Heck my husband would be more likely to leave if they won’t talk to me

  80. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    What should I say when this happens to me and the person says, “that’s just my culture, X culture is very respectful,” and then X culture is a minority. Like, as a white woman, should I leave it? I don’t want to.

    1. Observer*

      “that’s just my culture, X culture is very respectful,” and then X culture is a minority

      I don’t see why it matters. If you are a customer, then you are a customer and should be treated with respect. The fact that X culture is a minority does not change anything. You don’t get to disrespect people just because you are a minority.

      And, yes, I get it. There really are situations where some people who are of a minority ethnicity or race are judged as being “disrespectful” for behavior that would be just fine with a White person. But in the US, this kind of behavior is disrespectful no matter the race / ethnicity of the person doing it. So you are 100% ok with refusing to accept it. “When I go to Saudi Arabia I’ll adhere to Saudi norms.”

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        My thinking is a little more nuanced than what you described, @Observer.
        People who live in the United States don’t all subscribe to one norm. You can find tons of people born in the US, whose parents were born in the US, who have these kinds of rigid gender roles and call it “respect.”
        All you have to do is hang out in some anti-racism spaces and you’ll start to see there are plenty of, for example, Black people who think using “female” as a synonym for “woman” is cultural, and there are plenty of Black people who think it’s misogynistic. But the people who think it’s fine to say “female” are, rightly, not going to be persuaded by someone who’s not part of their culture.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      Maybe you could point out that it is considered disrespectful in some other cultures and it could therefore be “misunderstood”? Like “I think some cultures consider it disrespectful not to address all parties.”

      It is a difficult one though as you don’t want to sound like you are telling anybody their culture’s norms are disrespectful.

  81. Crencestre*

    Perhaps someone should “gently” remind Fergus that there’s little thing out on the internet called “online reviews” of businesses and that ignoring female customers in favor of speaking only to their male companions is not the way to garner good reviews for your company!

  82. Light Dancer*

    Years ago, my husband and I decided to have some kitchen remodeling work done and contacted a company whose name rhymes with “Witchin’ Tragic” (initials are actually KM). The male representative they sent over (A) insisted that my husband and I must both be there for the appointment and (B) made us look through pages and pages of remodeled kitchens which could have doubled for those in the White House or Buckingham Palace but which had zip to do with what we have in our apartment. All that before he’d even look at our kitchen!

    Despite my husband assuring him that I (who love to cook) would make all the decisions about our kitchen, the representative spoke ONLY to my husband and was openly impatient when I dared to speak up and ask questions or engage in conversation. His annoyed expression every time I opened my mouth was all that my husband and I needed to know about how much he wouldn’t respect anything I said about the kitchen (which, as noted, is my domain.)

    When someone from the company called later to follow up, I told them exactly what had happened; they apologized and suggested sending someone else over to our home. I said that KM was now out of the running as a possible source of our kitchen remodel and that their misogynistic representative had cost their company a potential contract. And I wondered out loud why anyone who clearly didn’t like or respect women would work for a firm like theirs; I’m certainly not the only woman who runs her family kitchen, after all.

    Bottom line, folks: if you don’t want to communicate with half the human race, don’t get a job in which you’ll encounter any of the 50% of people who populate this earth!

  83. Friday Hopeful*

    When I was growing up I had married neighbors who were from India. I was a teenager the first time my neighbor’s brother came to visit (from India) and he would not speak to me unless my parents were present, not even to say hello in the driveway. It was supposed to be a form of respect, and was cultural. Is it possible Fergus had some cultural traditions he was raised with?
    Not saying tis right, but a possible explanation.

    1. Observer*

      Is it possible Fergus had some cultural traditions he was raised with?

      Nope. There is nothing in his “explanation” that speaks to cultural traditions.

      Also, if you notice, this *would* talk to you in your parents’ presence – that’s the exact reverse of what Fergus is doing.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        Honestly, though, @Observer, there is something in his explanation that speaks to cultural tradition. That’s why people keep bringing it up. I know you said in an earlier comment that you “get it,” so I think you have to admit that a lot of people use the word “respect” when a more accurate word would be “misogyny” or “ageism” or “extremely hierarchical systems of language and socialization.” But that’s still the word that group uses for their behavior, similar to using a word like “honor” in reference to misogynistic behavior.

      1. Friday Hopeful*

        Its awful no matter why he does it. But understanding why might help in getting him to stop. Maybe he can be approached from a different angle.

  84. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

    Pushy pest control kid came to our door a couple of weeks ago. My husband told him several times that we weren’t interested but he kept trying. Finally the kid says “Uh…maybe your wife makes the decisions in your household? Can I talk to her?” I heard all this from the living room and laughed so hard. The kid wouldn’t have wanted to talk to me because I would have said “Nope!” and slammed the door in his face right away. My husband is much more pleasant. Hahaha

  85. call me wheels*

    This is interesting because I’ve never noticed experiencing this as a woman (at least in a customer setting, socially many times) but I definitely experience it as a wheelchair user! I often will be doing everything I can to signal I’m the one who needs dealing with, I’ll be the one giving directions, talking to staff, having my card or tickets in hand, but the majority of the time the people I encounter will default to talking to whoever is stood nearby me and assume I’m not competent myself. Usually people notice and switch when my friend or girlfriend obviously ask me and defer to my answers, but sometimes people persist in talking over my head like I’m not there. -_-

    1. Wolf*

      I’ve taken an acquaintance, who has a physical disability, to the hospital once. I knew him for a week, and I just brought him there because it was easier for him to have me carry his bag.
      The doctors and nurses just would not talk to him. I kept tellling them he’s a grown ass adult who can speak for himself, and I do not need to know his medical details – yet they kept asking me about his symptoms, and telling me how to treat his illness.

    2. Deejay*

      It’s because of things like this that the BBC had a programme on disability titled “Does He Take Sugar?”

  86. Mireya*

    OT, but this reminded me of an old, short-lived TV series
    called “Otherworld.” A family of five is transported out of our world, and travels through other worlds while trying to return home.

    In one world, they knock at an apartment house advertising a place for rent. The female manager answers the door.

    Husband: We’d like to rent an apartment.
    Manager: You mean, a dwelling unit.
    Husband: Yes.
    Manager (to Wife): Then why did you not say so?

    Soon enough the family figures out that in this world, there’s strict gender separation and men are treated as subservient second-class citizens.

  87. Quinalla*

    This is so annoying and still happens sometimes. What it does in my case is prompt me to take my business elsewhere. The most egregious is when shopping for my first car, Toyota salesman (yes it was a man) even after we explained that the car was for me would not talk to me. He insisted on talking to my husband about everything, even answering questions I asked to him. My husband even kept redirecting him to talk to me and show me things. It was ludicrous. He went inside to draw up some paperwork that we told him we didn’t want yet as we wanted to think on it overnight and we left and went to the Honda dealership next door. We told the Honda salesman about what happened and he was annoyed for me, but also said he gets more business from folks leaving that dealership due to their sales people. He even said nothing wrong with Toyota cars, but that dealership was not good.

    We ended up buying a Honda!

    This is the worst I’ve seen, but it happens still way too much and the places it happens often again I just take business elsewhere.

  88. Ex-prof*

    I’d be willing to bet there are women who have never shopped at that store again after a dose of Fergus.

    Also, the frighteningly competent 13-year-old girl is my new favorite character.

  89. Hroethvitnir*

    Boo. I’m connecting before reading most of these so this is probably redundant, but man. When doing public facing work I always made a point to engage with *both* people in a couple regardless of who seemed the most invested. It was noticeable that a lot of women noticed, too!

    My (male) partner is pretty crap at noticing if I’m being ignored except the egregious cases of me looking at cars (eugh), but he certainly noticed and appreciated when I took him to an upscale restaurant and the server immediately pegged that *I* was taking *him* to dinner and addressed us as such (not ignoring him, but addressing me first). It was definitely part of the clearly very professional level of service – but without the level of either arse kissing or actual snobbery I have experienced at other high-end restaurants (rarely, but memorably. Non-tipping country, fyi.)

  90. aebhel*

    Your coworker is an unhinged misogynist, and if I were treated this way I would immediately and permanently take my business elsewhere, and tell everyone who asked exactly why. It is an absolute guarantee that he has lost customers and damaged the reputation of your business, and also he’s a gross person. If you have the standing to push back, you absolutely should.

  91. nnn*

    Throwback to the time I (female) was furniture shopping with a (male) friend along for decorating advice, and, across multiple stores and multiple days, we could not get salespeople to look at me when talking money or look at him when talking aesthetics.

    Even when we started opening the interaction with “It’s for my home, not his. I’m the end-user, I’m the money, he’s just here because he has taste.”

    We had fun trying to make it clearer and clearer with each subsequent store that we’re not a couple, with him levelling up the gayness and me levelling up the butchness, to no avail. At one point, when the money talk started, he went “Ugh, I just CAN’T with money! You deal with it!” and literally flounced off to another part of the room and went on Grindr. And the salesman walked away from me and followed him.

  92. Anon For This Comment*

    A friend of mine is a man, married to a woman, and they have 2 children. One of the children is disabled and requires many appointments. A care coordinator contacted my friend the other day to confirm some information, which he happily provided. Then she said that she also needed to talk to his wife just to make sure the information was correct. When he said he’s a very involved parent and that actually he handles most of the day to day stuff (related to the information she needed), she said that she finds she always has to (and this is a direct quote, according to him), “check with mom since dad usually doesn’t know.”

    Guess who lost their job as a care coordinator.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      My husband is the one more in the know about most of the kid stuff as well. I will do forms, volunteering, and events/conferences, but he does most of the day-to-day of getting them to/from school/activities. No matter how many times I asked our public elementary school to call dad first – he worked from home less than a mile away – I was always the one who got the call regarding sick kids and other issues. At my office an hour away. I asked the office why they never called him when his name and number were written on the contact form first (FOR A REASON), and the secretary told me they always called the mom because in the “rare event” she wasn’t able to pick up the child, she’d call the other parent for them and ensure the child got picked up whereas the dads would tell *them* to call mom. (I found it hard to believe I was married to the only competent father in the school.)

  93. Stinkfinger*

    On a COMPLETELY politically incorrect thread (sorry for any offense)…there’s a commonly taught sales adage “Don’t Pitch the Bitch” (i.e., never sell to women).

    It feeds from historical stereotypes about male and female buying behavior. I refused to embrace it when I entered industrial sales many years ago, but many old timers in industry strictly relied on it. The concept they preached was this “women take longer to make a buying decision, want to include more stakeholders in the decision (i.e., decision by committee) and are generally more difficult to satisfy…so, you can make more sales by focusing on men than you can selling to women and men.”

    Admittedly, although I fought the concept HARD, I did notice definite differences in the industrial buying process for female purchasing agents. Is it always true? NO WAY! Is it true with statistical significance when selling to industrial buyers? Unfortunately yes. That said, I’d spend more time with the female purchasing agents, but in the end was also rewarded (less competition because the DPTB guys wouldn’t even try). To each their own!

  94. Snow Angels in the Zen Garden*

    women take longer to make a buying decision, want to include more stakeholders in the decision (i.e., decision by committee) and are generally more difficult to satisfy

    Hmm, I wonder if this has anything to do with how much pushback female buyers vs. male buyers get on their choices! Nah, probably not /s

  95. Hot Water Bottle*

    Going out on a limb to play devil’s advocate – maybe Fergus is mostly just afraid that the husband would think he’s making a pass at the wife if he addressed her directly (rather than making a political statement). I DID once have a female co-worker who was very concerned about other women getting the impression she was flirting with their husbands, and purposely paid scant attention to those husbands accordingly.

    1. Jackalope*

      The devil has plenty of advocates already and doesn’t need any more. And if Fergus thinks that saying “Hello, can I help you with anything?” is too flirty, he seriously needs to recalibrate his understanding of the world.

    2. tinybutfierce*

      Instead of unnecessarily playing devil’s advocate, I’d encourage you to read the many, many comments here from women who’ve also experienced what the OP is talking about that’s clearly happening here.

  96. LobsterPhone*

    Back in the days when I still used cash, it was very common for me to pay for something and the cashier to try to hand the change back to my male partner instead of me.

  97. Pamela S*

    This issue is compounded when a woman reaches a certain age and develops the superpower of being invisible. The number of men I’ve startled by suddenly materialising and becoming visible when they obviously couldn’t see me, despite me standing right in front of them.

  98. RRR*

    By any chance does the OP live in an area where testosterone poisoning is rampant? Fergus might be trying to avoid getting jumped when he walks to his car after his shift. His reaction to being asked what would happen if someone talked to his girlfriend supports this in my opinion. But at least he seems open modifying his behavior. Still crazy though.

    1. Wolf*

      What part of the world would that be, where men get jumped because they had a standard conversation with a customer?

      1. RRR*

        In the US, parts of deep-red states, for one. Any place where women are seen as possessions, a man’s honor is easily bruised and disrespect isn’t tolerated. Where boys are raised to be the center of attention. Leaving out any association with a particular culture, I’m talking about machismo. Fergus obviously got that idea somewhere. You and I wouldn’t interpret a friendly greeting from a store clerk to our partner instead of us as disrespectful, but a “manly” man just might.

        1. Andrew*

          The letter quotes Fergus as saying he’d be upset if a male salesman spoke to his girlfriend. It sounds like the “testosterone poisoning” of which you speak is not an issue confined to “Deep Red” states as you say, but rather that it’s stuck between Fergus’s ears.

    2. tinybutfierce*

      What a bizarre excuse to fabricate that’s not remotely supported by anything in the letter or the countless similar experiences women have had noted in the comments.

      1. RRR*

        My response to Wolf above clarifies a bit where I think Fergus’s head could be at. If he is living in a place where looking at another guy’s girlfriend the wrong way would start a fight, he might be a bit deferential. OP’s letter even said that were the roles reversed, Fergus would get angry. And that’s messed up. Do we care why he thinks that way? Maybe, if we want to try to change it, as OP suggested. Or maybe Fergus is beyond saving. In which case, he needs to find some other work.

  99. Virtual Assistant who Really Exists*

    When my husband and I were dating, about 30 years ago, I needed a new tv. He came with me to the electronics department at Sears. A salesman approached us from my side, walked past me, and said to my then-boyfriend, “How can I help you, sir?”

    I immediately replied, “I’m the one who’s shopping, and you just lost the sale.”

    No regrets.

  100. Carmen*

    “Have you checked to see if perhaps you are living in 1742?”

    Thanks, Alison, for I just laughed and shot Diet Coke out my nose. Ouch!

  101. Martina*

    Fergus needs to be told that he’s costing your company a lot in sales. If I’m out shopping with my husband, male friend or family member for a product I’ll be using, if I’m asking the salesperson questions and they’re responding to someone else I’m with, I will not be buying a product from that store, pure and simple. There are enough decent retailers who will address their comments to the person asking the question, the intended user or purchaser of the product that you don’t need to purchase from retailers who think the ego of the person I’m shopping with is more important than making sure the end user gets a suitable product. More assertive women will directly tell either him or the manager that they will not be buying from there as Fergus thinks they’re not worth talking to. Most will simply leave and bad-mouth the store to their friends.

  102. Cheshire Cat*

    My mom and I experienced something similar when she decided to move into a retirement home. She had stopped driving by that point, so I went with her to visit 6 or 8 homes. I was astonished to find that about half of the salespeople spoke mainly/only to me, including questions like “Does your mom like to sing? We have a choir that meets Tuesday afternoons.” And I would look at Mom and repeat the question. But the salespeople never caught on and spoke to her.

    Needless to say, she did not move into any of those retirement homes. The one that she ended up in had a lot of good features, and was also the one where the sales associate spoke mainly to my mom and only spoke directly to me when I asked a question.

    1. Wolf*

      Good choice. There are people who will treat the elderly like they’re stupid, and these people are not the ones providing good care. Imagine your mom had to convince them that she was experiencing pain or getting sick, and they didn’t listen.

  103. Panhandlerann*

    When I was in my late 20s, I had an old car whose windshield wiper on the driver’s side wasn’t working well. It seemed to be moving across the windshield ok, but in a heavy rain, it wasn’t really clearing the rain off well at all. The situation was getting worse and worse: on one occasion, I’d had to stick my head out the car window to see where I was going. I tried two different repair places to seek help with this, and in both cases, I couldn’t get anyone to take me seriously. They kept trying to see me a new blade, and I kept saying it wasn’t the blade but rather the wiper arm itself that was the issue. I resorted to telling my father about it, and he, too, wouldn’t take my word for it as to the nature or the severity of the problem. That is, he didn’t until he had to borrow my car one day, and it rained heavily that day. What a turn-around: all of the sudden, he couldn’t act quickly enough. Realizing that the windshield wiper was slightly, almost imperceptibly bent, he switched it with the passenger-side wiper (since it isn’t so necessary that the passenger-side wiper do a great job). And just like that, problem solved. But it has rankled me for years and years that none of these men, not even my own dad, would believe what I was telling them.

  104. Panda Jones*

    A friend told me how she went car shopping. Her husband went along but was, as she joked, “strictly arm candy.”
    A salesman approached them who, as expected, addressed only her husband even though Friend was asking all the informed questions and made it clear that this was her purchase. She walked away, leaving her husband with the salesman, and engaged another salesperson on the floor. It took Salesguy1 a few minutes to realize that Friend had walked away, mainly because Husband excused himself to rejoin Friend. Salesguy1 tried to reassert his claim on this potential sale and that’s when Friend let him have it.

    “I am the one buying a car and asking all the questions, yet you directed all the answers to my husband whose only interest is in whether his thermos will fit in the cup holders. You also did not notice that I walked away until my husband came to see where I was, and now you want to get the commission on a car sale that you didn’t earn while ignoring my existence? Your behavior toward me has been disrespectful and sexist from jump. You need to leave now, I’m busy.” He learned that day!

    Gotta give it to a person who spite-buys cars.

  105. Andrew*

    To me, this is a “I refuse to do my job if…” situation. Front-of-house retail is customer service and refusing to speak to a walk-in customer is refusal to do your job. I agree with everyone who says Fergus is being a misogynist and that his misogyny might carry over to other aspects of his job. I still want to highlight that he straight up refuses to do his job except on terms that he defines. That alone makes him insubordinate regardless of his motive.

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