Teenagers are an interesting breed – they are learning to become independent and are well on their way to adulthood, yet, if you’re a parent of a teen, you know that they still have toddler-like moments.
I’m sure retail or restaurant employees cringe a little when they see a group of teens enter a store or restaurant. In some cases, this may be warranted, but in most, it’s a good idea to treat them as you would any other customer, especially when your business caters to this age group.
Teenagers today are very savvy about knowing what they want and are already starting to show loyalty to certain businesses. Just like adults, sending the wrong message through employee interactions can stop that loyalty in its tracks.
My 15 year old daughter started me thinking on this path. For her birthday she received gift cards to her favorite retail store. We frequent the business often, but as she is getting older, she is starting to spend time with her friends rather than me.
She recently went on a shopping spree with gift cards in hand, very excited to be shopping for summer clothes. When she returned home, she showed me what she bought, but I noticed that she didn’t shop as much where she usually does. At the time I chalked it up to changing preferences or not finding something she liked and didn’t think too much more about it.
A couple of weeks later she asked to go shopping again with her best friend and asked for money. Remember her last purchases, I asked how she spent all of her gift cards based on how little she purchased. She said she had gift cards for her favorite store, but didn’t want to go there anymore. Surprised, I asked why, and she shared her story with me.
It turns out that she did go to the retailer on her last shopping trip. Instead of the cashier taking the gift card and swiping it to complete the transaction, which is typical, she was asked to swipe it on the credit card reader. Since she doesn’t have a debit card and has never done this before, she wasn’t sure what to do. She swiped it the wrong way at first and it didn’t register. The cashier told her to do it again, but didn’t explain that it needed to be turned over. So, she swiped it again with the same results.
The cashier sighed heavily and said she probably didn’t have a balance on the card, and asked her (in a condescending tone, or at least that’s how it was perceived) if she knew gift cards “ran out” at some point. My daughter knew what the balance was and said maybe she swiped it wrong, mentioning that she never did that before.
The cashier pulled the card out of her hand and finished the transaction in an abrupt manner.
My daughter was embarrassed by this and said that there were customers waiting in line behind her, which added to her embarrassment. She shared that the cashier made her feel like she was a stupid kid and didn’t take her seriously, and she didn’t want to shop there for a while.
So, for now, the gift cards sit in her room. I’m sure she’ll go back at some point, maybe not to the same location, but it’s a shame that this experience is keeping her from going back, not only for her, but for my pocketbook.
Sometimes it’s hard to keep it in perspective, but teens are customers too, and, especially when your target demographic is teenagers, it’s important to have a little patience and treat them as you would an adult customer. With many teens shopping at the same stores they may be frequenting as they get older, it’s a good idea to build brand loyalty now.