Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Telling My Daughter the Truth about Her New 'Friend,' The Salesclerk!

I had to tell my daughter the truth. At the risk of hurting my baby's feelings, I had to tell her that the cool teenager in the 'tween-age clothing store was not really a friend. The 16-year-old salesclerk --so cute, so charming -- was more interested in my 10-year-old daughter's wallet.

I hope I did the right thing.

'Tween Queens

Here's the scenario: To kill time before a movie, my daughter and I wandered into a store that targets girls ages 8-12. It's a great concept. Driven by Miley Cyrus --Hannah Montana -- and other young stars, the 'tween market for merchandise is hot.

Preteen girls have allowances and a desire for cute clothes and trinkets. As a frugal mom, I should have re-directed our window-shopping expedition. But my daughter wanted to check out the bright store, which featured videos, magazines and other gear from various Nick Jr. and Disney stars.

Immediately, a salesgirl in a ponytail and jeans, swooped down on us. Before I could say "bling-bling," the cute salesclerk had picked out several outfits for my daughter, complete with a cute matching cap.

Long Lines, Short Time Frame

With our movie about to start, we did not have time for the dressing room or the lengthy cashier line. My daughter promised to return. After the movie, my daughter gushed about the really nice salesclerk as we ran back to the store. (What was I thinking? Clearly, I had 'tween fever!)

"She was so nice," my daughter said. "She spent so much time with me. I just want to go by and say 'hi' to her. I promised her that I would come back after the movie."

Shopping Reality Trip

At this point, I halted in the middle of the crowded mall.

"She's not really your friend," I blurted out. "She just wants you to buy all that stuff that she picked out for you."

"You mean she doesn't really like me?" My daughter is visibly distressed.

I soften up and carefully select my words.

"Sure, she likes you. But she also likes your business. She wants you to buy those outfits. She makes more money when you spend more money," I said.

Reconsidering the Merchandise

When we returned to the store, my daughter made a big effort to track down and wave to the friendly salesgirl, who at this point was best-buds with another little girl and a huge stack of trendy clothing.

My daughter studied the cute plaid hat. It was $15. I mentioned that the hat might be cheaper --marked down -- in a few months. But I still let her decide if she wanted to spend her hard-earned money, (she works as a mother's helper), on the little cotton cap. My daughter returned the hat to the display. She'd rather save her money and besides the line was still so long.

What would you have done? Would you have told her the truth about the salesclerk? Should I have continued to let her believe that the cool clerk was a friend?

By the way, I'm hosting a Q&A session at a Wise Bread Forum:

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Evelyn (ehoward at si dot rr dot com) said...

Oh you absolutely did the right thing. It's one of those life-lessons we never want our kids to experience, but an oh-so-necessary one. And who better to teach it than you to help her understand it ... instead of learning from the "school of hard knocks" later on. The more tools we give our kids when they are under are wings, makes it much easier for them to fly on their own when that time comes.

Anonymous said...

I think you absolutely did the right thing. It is a hard lesson to learn but one that is best learned early. I think you chose your words VERY well. Think of it this way - in a few years she may be talking to a car salesalesman who wants to talk her into extended warranties and all kinds of extra bells and whistles for a car. You want her to be cautious of who she gives her money to.


Kristen said...

A great story and a great lesson in being a savvy consumer for your daughter. I own a store for tweens (boys and girls), and it was interesting for me to hear the emphasis the salespeople there put on showering the kids with attention. Our customer service is mostly geared to the parents. Any kind of hard sell is offensive to me, but to kids? Wildly inappropriate.

Lauren said...

I think your actions and explanation to your daughter were dead on accurate.

Even as adults we get caught up in slick marketing and advertising. Buy this and you will look like me, use that and your life will be wonderful.

The cute 'tween clerk was overtly operating the same way.

Kudos to you for recognizing it, and then taking the "teachable moment" to educate your daughter!

Chaucey said...

I think you did the right thing.
I think a lot of people haven't learnt this lesson and end up overspending because the salesperson has been so nice to them. I read about this is in a marketing book where the concept was called reciprocity.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, salesclerks in stores DO NOT make commission unless they work in shoes. Clothing stores do not pay commission to people that sell tshirts and skirts. So, I think that while it was good to tell your daughter that the girl wasn't her friend -- you also have to look at the sales clerk and realize she's probably just a nice girl that likes to help out tweens because she is probably bored out of her mind. Seriously, I used to work at a clothing store and if you never help customers it's pretty boring.

pam munro said...

The lesson is that people can be friendly and even charming and not necessarily be your friend - There was no harm in acknowledging a friendly salesgirl - there are too many snooty ones and freshed-faced enthusiasm should be encouraged - but she is acting in her salesgirl capacity - which you should make clear to your daughter -

KT said...

Sales associates can indeed make commision on items other than shoes. It all depends upon which store you are talking about.

And if no commission is involved there are usually sales goals (quotas) one has to meet to keep one's job or at least number of weekly hours. Also sometimes prizes are involved instead of commissions.

You handled it just right in my opinion.

Frugal Duchess said...

Hey KT:

Your insights are appreciated.

Thanks for breaking down the different types of bonuses & perks.

Take Care!

Donna Freedman said...

I, too, think that you handled this perfectly. It's very possible that the salesgirl did like your daughter -- who WOULDN'T like a cute 10-year-old? But her job is to be friendly in order to get people in the store and get them to buy stuff.
Better your daughter should learn this now, before she's old enough to get a credit card...