Last week I got to go on a trip to San Antonio. To be honest, when I was asked about going, all I heard was "two days in a hotel room" before I started squealing "YESPLEASESIGNMEUP."
I mean come on. Two days in a hotel room, ALONE? You might as well offer me heaven on a damn platter. So I get on this plane to San Antonio and to be quite honest I didn't really know what I was doing there, beyond not being with my kids and husband.
I did know the trip was what's called a "press trip," which is when a company invites members of the "press" on a trip to learn about a product. Now, let's just call a spade a spade: journalists are invited because they're hoping said journalists will write about the product in a positive light, though there is no obligation. And, for those of you who know me, you know I wouldn't write anything out of a sense of duty.
That's not how I roll. I don't care how nice the hotel room is, ya feel me?
So the fact I'm writing anything about this is because I am genuinely impressed, and I'll tell you why in a minute. The host of this trip was Cooper Tires (yes, as in tires for your car). We went out to their testing site in the boonies near San Antonio.
Now your first question is probably: Why the hell is a tire company targeting a bunch of mom bloggers?
Well, a recent study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that for the first time, more women hold driver’s licenses than men, although there are still more male drivers on the road – for now. Cooper Tires has responded to this changing demographic reality by shifting their marketing focus to women.
The realization that women drive and buy tires is not itself particularly impressive. I mean duh. However, the acknowledgment that the automotive industry has been ridiculously male-centric, catering to machismo and "dude stuff" at the omission of, oh, I don't know, WOMEN, is kind of impressive. Even more impressive is that a portion of the tire industry is signaling a willingness to change that.
And that was the first thing they told us when we arrived.
So we're this group of women, mom bloggers, and we're out on this tire testing site. The truth is I expected them to treat us like "mommies," to assume the only things we care about are minivans and safe driving and, as my friend put it, the number of cup-holders in the car.
But you know what they did? They threw us in a couple Chevy Tahoes and said "We want you to drive these babies as fast and hard as you can on a wet track." And then, they did the same thing with BMWs.
Oh yeah, I got to drive a BMW 328i at high speeds on a wet asphalt track. We all spun out, numerous times.
We got to ride shotgun with the legendary Johnny Unser while he drove hot laps in a Mustang.
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And they taught us about tires - how to put air in them, how to tell when they're worn (ashamed, I must admit, that I didn’t know). They taught us how to tell the age of a tire by looking at it (it's printed on every tire!). It was clear they were interested in empowering us. They even owned the fact that women often get taken advantage of in automotive-purchasing situations, and if we walk in knowing what's up, we are way less likely to get sold crap.
They taught us about the chemistry and physics and science behind their tires. Rather than assuming our feeble feminine brains couldn't handle such complex topics, they talked to us like equals. They didn’t dumb it down.
You know they could have assumed all that stereotypical nonsense "Women don't like to drive fast! Women will be scared! Women won't want skid sideways at 50 mph in a Mustang!"
But they didn't.
They let go of that B.S. and recognized that women are smart, capable badasses as interested in "going fast" as any dude. And yeah, their point was made: I felt a noticeable difference between the Cooper Tires and the others, and I was genuinely surprised to learn how much science goes in to making their products. And the truth is I might even buy Cooper Tires for my family in the future.
But more than that, they proved they're a company I can get behind. And so, this is me, getting behind them. Thanks for giving me a damn good time. Thanks for giving me an experience I won't have again. Thanks for making me a more empowered, educated buyer.
But mostly, thank you for not treating me like a damn lady.