Ask The Experts
What to do when a child breaks down in your store—and how to help prevent it BY JACQUELINE DURETT
ou’re doing your best to keep your customers DRN: How do you handle a parent who’s being friendly. If children come in regularly to your
happy, but one little ballerina’s younger exceptionally hard on a child and making it worse? business, then it’s in your interest to have something
sibling is crying—no, screaming. Other DC: Direct the parent’s attention back to the purchase to occupy them. Many department stores and
shoppers are noticing and heading for the door. by saying, “How can I make this easier?” That will doctor’s offices have children’s play areas. Include
Handling a child’s meltdown in your store is a reassure them that you care about their shopping books or dolls and toys that appeal to little girls, or
challenge, especially because it also involves the experience. Go above and beyond to offer assistance, even a video game system—you can get them cheaply
parents—your customers. Author and retail expert and be careful not to point a finger at them. now.
Dana Connell has some strategies to ensure that at
the end of the visit everyone is wearing a smile— DRN: Is it ever appropriate to ask a parent to DRN: What about candy?
including you. step outside with her child? Will this cause you to DC: Always ask a parent before giving a kid candy.
lose the sale? And make sure to keep it out of children’s sight so
DRN: What is your best tip for handling a child DC: There is a fine line between what you want to they don’t ask for it. For example, keep it up on the
throwing a tantrum? say and what you should say. By asking a customer counter so you can easily point to it to get the
Dana Connell: You can try to diffuse the situation to step outside, you may send the message that you parent’s permission.
by distracting the child. I always believe in using think the person is a bad parent and run the risk of
humor or play. A new face can sometimes quell a offending her. DRN: Babies and toddlers are not the only kids
child more easily than a parent. Treat the retail environment as if it were your own who throw tantrums. Teenagers and parents can
Some mothers and fathers may be so used to home. How would you handle the situation there? have very different opinions on what’s
dealing with their children that they don’t realize You’d most likely go get toys and say, “How can I appropriate dance attire. What should a retailer
how disturbing they are to people around them. Try help you with this? How can I make this situation do if they find themselves in the middle of such
to give parents some support and space. They most better?” You would never kick someone out or tell an argument?
likely feel embarrassed about the outburst, and them their child doesn’t behave well. DC: That is hard. A lot of times a dancer wants to
rushing them out of the store will only make them buy something that is inappropriate for her age or
feel worse. Tell them that you are available when they DRN: How can storeowners prevent these types out of the parent’s price range. When this happens,
are ready and step away; this will ease their stress and of meltdowns? offer the dancer an alternative that the mother will
in turn allow them to calm down their child. DC: Do anything you can to make your store child- approve. Refer to what you have seen in magazines
and on TV to talk up your suggestions, such as “This
is what so-and-so is wearing,” or “Did you see this
on ‘Dancing with the Stars?’” Teens are usually more
open to what an outsider says—even when it’s the
same opinion as her parent. Whatever you do, don’t
1/3h criticize the dancer’s choice.
6.5” x 6 5/8”
DRN: How should a storeowner respond if a
parent tries to use their presence to scare the
child, saying, for instance, “If you keep acting up,
this lady’s going to yell at you”?
DC: You should acknowledge the comment, but then
try to turn it into something the child can identify
with. For example, if it’s a young girl, say, “You don’t
want me to be Cruella de Vil, do you? You want me
to be Cinderella!” That’s half of the game in retail—
being able to turn a negative into a positive.
DRN: Any thoughts on what doesn’t work?
DC: What I see most often is that the sales associate
will just walk away or else keep forcing the
transaction without acknowledging the problem.
I think what’s important in any sales transaction is
comfort. People want to feel good. Dealing with a
problem child is just a detour in the process. If we
can make the child happy, the customer will be free
to engage in the relationship you are creating and
make purchase decisions along the way.
Jacqueline Durett is a freelance writer in New Jersey.
Dana Connell, MBA, is an
associate professor of retail
management at Columbia
College Chicago and the author
of A Buyer s Life: Planning &
26 DanceRetailerNews.com July 2010