The back story: While shopping at a national chain store, my 11-year-old daughter stopped to watch an in-store infomercial, which featured an endless loop of a toy ferret executing tricks. On the screen, the toy looked so cute. "It had this invisible string," my daughter explained.
"The commercial showed it doing all these cool tricks and stuff," she said, adding that the ferret was tied to the transparent string that seemed invisible from a distance.
The reality: "The string broke the first time I tried using it," she said. "The ferret worked much better in the commercial."
Her $4-plus-tax lesson: "Commercials aren't always true."
As a parent, I learned the following lessons:
- Children (even teens and tweens) need adult supervision in stores.
- No matter how savvy you think your kids are, there's always more to teach and more to learn.
- Kids need decoders for advertisements, promotions and retail offers. Don't assume that your kid understands that strings are always attached. Something that is transparent to you may be a complete mystery to kids with money.
- It's important to let kids make minor shopping and spending mistakes with their money. In the ferret situation, the financial penalty delivered more value than any lecture I could have offered.