Yikes. Where to begin?
1. Prefacing a sexist remark with “not to be sexist” does not make it non-sexist.
2. His use of “gals” didn’t help.
3. Whether customers are more likely to buy medical supplies from comely female employees, and whether putting them in lab coats would diminish or enhance sales, is a scientific question, and, to me, an interesting one. But it’s the sort of question one must handle gingerly. Besides PR and legal implications, the issue of treating people with fairness is not to be overlooked. From points 1 and 2 above, I suspect this fellow lacked the wherewithal to handle anything gingerly.
Less disingenuous than my would-be client was a friend who, after making a sexist remark to a sales clerk and noting her displeasure, admitted, “Yes, I am a sexist pig, but I am at peace with my pigness.” They laughed together.
Sexism is not a trait to covet. But while working to disencumber yourself of it, a self-deprecating honest admission beats the heck out of hoping to excuse what you’re about to say with “not to be sexist.”