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It’s Time to Play “Rip-Off the Widow”

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I had heard of it before. The bizarre phenomenon of complete strangers to sense a newly-widowed woman. A kind of radar that auto repairmen, home improvement workers, and lawn care professionals possess. A dark side of them they would never dare to try on a female who had a man in the picture.

Lots of women have noted this instantaneous shift in their business dealings with others, mainly men, but sometimes with women, too. Although these seem to be confined more to being taken advantage of by women friends than women in business. One blogger described it as suddenly having a neon sign switched on over her head that said, “I’m a widow! Take advantage of me!”

This happened even while I was married. A local tire shop was notorious for quoting prices $100-$200 higher to female callers than men callers. I used to make my husband call and ask for the same thing I had the day before. Every time he got a cheaper quote. And I went down the road to the competition.

Just weeks after I had become a widow, I went in to my trusted tire shop for new brake pads. I remarked that my husband had just passed away and I needed some help getting the car in good order. $1200 later I had new brake pads, rotors, and tires. I’m still not sure I actually needed anything but the brake pads. And one year later, the whole thing was still squealing like a stuck pig.

Why one year later? Because I was loathe to go back and complain, to risk being fleeced again. But I eventually mustered the courage and told them I had been unhappy with the service the year before. They apologized. They took time to explain the details of the repair. They redid my brakes for free. And they won back my trust.

As disgusting and sinful as this practice is, there isn’t much point in disputing it or curing it. And if you don’t believe it exists, then you aren’t a lone widow in the wide world of wolves. But there are a few tips to help stave off the worst offenders. I’m sure you can spot where I made my first mistake.

Don’t tell people you are a widow. Make up a fictional husband you must confer with before any repairs or purchases can be made. Time and distance can create the boundary that was previously established by his presence.

Learn the Lingo. Before you go into an unknown arena (auto mechanics shop, electronic purchase, or other unfamiliar zone) take a moment to research some of the terms related to what you know you need. Using some of this jargon will deter a shyster from assuming you are ignorant, and therefore helpless.

Take Your Business Elsewhere. Know what you need and about how much it should cost. Get multiple estimates. And if someone isn’t treating you fairly, move on. Go with your gut. Every. Time.

Learn the Facts, and a few swear words. Be able to defend yourself with factual information. You aren’t going to marry these people, so stop deferring to them. For the hard cases, use hard language and accuse them straight up of trying to take advantage of you.

Get comfortable with being a bitch. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, if you are single, independent, and assertive, you WILL be perceived as a bitch. Get over it. You’re here to do business, so you’d better mean it.

Now, you may not like that I’m promoting a few white lies and some vulgar language. But understand this – I’m not proposing that you become that person. It’s a persona. Just like the nice, fake, smiley one on your social media. Or the subservient, acquiescent one you used with your husband. Or the fun-loving, free-spirited one you have with your friends.

Except that this one saves you cash and keeps vultures on the fringes of your existence where they belong. Stop being the next contestant on a losing game.

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