A reader writes:
I sold cars on assorted lots during my summers off from college.
What you're saying [in debunking Malcolm Gladwell's theory that car salesmen are unconsciously offering higher prices to blacks and women] is true.
As a matter of fact, because of this phenomena of black men wanting to appear to be big spenders, I reflexively used what is called a "negative sell" approach.
When a black man would tell me what car he was interested in, I'd "try" to dissuade him.
"That's kind of an expensive model. Not everyone can swing that. Maybe you should take a look at a Ford Focus? Obviously, it isn't like the car you're interested in, but they're easier to finance."
Most often, he would say, "Oh no! I can afford what I want, no problem."
I'd reply with plenty of enthusiasm, and show his car of choice.
Back in the office, if he gave me any objections, I'd remind him that I told him it might be a little too expensive for him to handle, and he told me it would be no problem. That usually squelched any lowballing efforts.
Where did I learn this? Through experience, and the advice of mentors who had been selling cars for decades.
Nothing unconscious about it.
We all just wanted to make money. What race a fellow was being irrelevant except as it may pertain to getting them out with one of our cars under their butts.
If I'd been told blacks enjoy English tea and crumpets, and I found it to be true, all my black customers would be sipping Earl Grey.
Race did not matter to me. Making the sale did.
Matter of fact, professional sales is all about psychological self-discipline.
Generally for a professional salesman, being a racist is not cost effective. Being observant of human behavior, and accurately identifying how to exploit it... is.