I work as sales associate in a clothing store where many young mothers come to shop. They often have 1 to 3 young children in tow who may or may not appreciate the shopping trip. Our store focuses very highly on customer service, so if a child is whining or crying I often try to distract him or cheer him up. I also try to make sure they don't knock something over that might hurt them.

My question is, as a parent, how would you react to a sales clerk trying to help with your children? Am I totally out of bounds here? I do have a lot of baby-sitting and teaching experience so I feel very comfortable working with children, but I wonder if this further embarrasses the parent. Would it be better if I just ignored the situation and let them struggle alone? I don't want to be nosy, but I hate not helping when I can.

Edit: Further clarifications

I usually greet both the parents and the children as they walk in the door and, in general, take a laid back approach to sales. (I hate it, too, when people won't let me just shop.) My goal is to be friendly and make you comfortable.

Parents haven't seemed bothered when their children are behaving fairly well, and I keep the kid engaged. It's usually when the child is running around or being louder than the parent wants that they seem embarrassed.

Most of the "safety hazards" are things like mannequins or displays that could topple if the child isn't careful or shoves it repeatedly. So, it's an issue if the child is running and no one is watching.

Among the staff, I seem to take the most interest in these issues. The rest seem to say things under their breath like, "Watch your kids!" as the parents leave the store. So, I'm not sure how much support I'll get from my coworkers and management.

But thank you, all, for the great answers! There are definitely some good pointers I can use. :)

asked 29 Oct '09, 22:46

Artemis's gravatar image

accept rate: 11%

edited 30 Oct '09, 13:41

+1 for a really interesting question!

(30 Oct '09, 08:29) Emi

Thank you very much! :)

(30 Oct '09, 13:24) Artemis

I think that would be incredibly helpful, if done in the right way.

Wrong: Walk up, pick up kid without asking.

Wrong: Follow us around the store, chatting up the kid or trying to get him to engage if I haven't asked or you haven't offered to help me in a specific way. (I don't like clerks hovering over me even when I'm not with kid in tow.)

Right: "Excuse me, you look like you're juggling so many things. If you'd like, I can watch your boy for a minute while you try those pants on. Don't worry, we'll stay right here and I can show him my robot key chain."

Right: "I keep a paper and crayons behind the counter. Would you like to leave him here to color for a minute while you look at that? I'll make sure he doesn't wander away."

Note the common elements -- ask first, offer a specific helpful thing, and come off as if you are used to doing this for lots of people (like keeping kid entertainment stuff handy).


answered 30 Oct '09, 01:05

lgritz's gravatar image

accept rate: 14%

Thank you for the very good, very specific advice. :)

(30 Oct '09, 13:17) Artemis

I would welcome the help.

Case in point - when I went to buy a new TV at Richer Sounds (which I'd thoroughly recommend), one sales person talked my requirements through with me while another talked to my son, gave him a lollipop (after checking with me), and generally made sure he didn't get in the way. This was incredibly helpful, and I was appropriately grateful.

The key points were:

  • Even though I wasn't always immediately "with" Tom, I always knew where he was (which was always in the same room). I never had to worry about his safety.
  • Permission was sought beforehand
  • It really made me feel like a valued customer
  • The store benefited from a quicker sale (admittedly at twice the manpower) and didn't have the distraction to other customers of a whining child

I wish more shops took the same attitude. (Admittedly Richer Sounds is slightly different to most shops in terms of the value of each sale, and they're very customer-oriented to start with.)

EDIT: One point I've just noticed - your title talks about misbehaving children. I suspect that by the time they're misbehaving, it may be too late. (Certainly once my kids have decided to play up, it's very hard to stop them.) If you're able to give the kids enough attention/care/whatever before they start misbehaving, that's likely to be much more effective :)


answered 30 Oct '09, 07:24

Jon%20Skeet's gravatar image

Jon Skeet
accept rate: 35%

edited 30 Oct '09, 09:01

It seems like parents are highly averse to people touching their kids, but as far as distractions go, I, for one, would be appreciative.


answered 29 Oct '09, 23:56

Scott's gravatar image

Scott ♦♦
accept rate: 10%


Touching my kid is a lot like hitting me in my mind. Ever since I became a Dad I feel very defensive about my daughter and think of physically interfering with people. Whereas before I would never consider getting into any kind of confrontation regardless of the offense.

(30 Oct '09, 00:00) MrChrister

@MrChrister: So you're looking forward to the teenage daughter years too then, eh? :-(

(30 Oct '09, 00:07) Scott ♦♦

I think the aversion usually is to unsolicited touching. It's a totally different think for somebody to say "I'd be happy to watch/hold your baby while you try this on."

(30 Oct '09, 00:59) lgritz

I completely agree! I would never touch someone's child without their permission.

(30 Oct '09, 13:16) Artemis

While I agree with all the points made by Igrizt and Jon, I would just add that I think its a very sensitive issue when dealing with other peoples children. In my opinion the following points are important when you are in a work/professional enviroment,

  • Their safety in the store* Can these children hurt themselves in anyway? If an accident occured could the parent hold you responsible?

  • Their security* If you are watching over the child can you assure his or her security 100%.

  • Possible damage to merchandise* Children can be children and of course damage goods by accident, would you be held responsible for this or the childs parent?

In my opinion, I would suggest that you discuss this issue with your store management, in your next meeting and address the issue altogether.

If your store gives importance to customer service then perhaps you could adopt an approach that would help all your customers ( who seem to be parents with 1-3 children ) and this would even improve the shopping experience of your customers and even raise sales!

Depending on the size and layout of your store, a small kids corner could be suggested, (a small table and 3 or 4 small stools ) and children could be occupied there with colouring pencils and paper. Bored children do seem to make shopping harder for parents!

Are there other sales associates like yourself who would be capable of looking out for the children? You could make a rota of somesort, so its not always the same person watching over kids.

Hope this helps too!

EDIT: and sorry my answer, as a mother would be; I would like to be acknowledged as both a mother and a customer. While I wouldn't expect you to be responsible for my child, I would appreciate an offer of help if I needed it, provided that some of the above points were being taken into consideration!


answered 30 Oct '09, 08:25

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%

edited 30 Oct '09, 10:11

As long as you don't touch my kid or get super close, I would be happy to have someone entertain her while I am shopping. I promise you that if I wasn't happy with you near my kid you would know about it shortly.

So as long as you are just chatting with the child, smiling and being a distraction while I am getting my shopping done, please go for it!


answered 29 Oct '09, 23:58

MrChrister's gravatar image

accept rate: 3%

I think a kids' corner is the way to go. That way a mother doesn't have to wait for you to notice her struggling, and she may choose to go to your store because her kids are happy there. Also, it's less intrusive than a sales clerk approaching a mother.

When we bought a new car about 2 years ago, it was nice that some car show rooms had set aside an area for the kids. Others, which hadn't, were less enjoyable experiences all round. Although it wasn't the only factor, we did buy our car from the showroom with the best kids' corner. They had a lego table which suits a wide age range. Another sales room had a comfy corner with a kids' video showing on a loop - I didn't like that as much, it wasn't a video I'd have chosen to let my kids watch and I prefer them to do something interactive rather than passive - and they didn't want to leave until they'd seen the end.

If a kids' corner isn't an option, then certainly a polite offer to distract the kids is often welcome and I can't imagine I'd take offence. So long as it's phrased in a way which I can refuse if I want to.


answered 30 Oct '09, 10:49

Meg%20Stephenson's gravatar image

Meg Stephenson
accept rate: 7%

Because corporate is very specific about how we need to arrange the store, I don't think I could get a kids' corner (of any real size) arranged. However, we might be able to arrange a small spot for coloring.

(30 Oct '09, 13:23) Artemis
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Asked: 29 Oct '09, 22:46

Seen: 3,981 times

Last updated: 30 Oct '09, 13:41