Posted: July 30, 2012, 1:30 p.m. EDT
The summer tourism season is in full swing here in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with the opening of the oldest sporting venue of any kind in the United States: the historic Saratoga Racecourse. I get a thrill visiting with my horseracing customers who return each summer for the six-week racing meet (many of them with dog in hand). While the increase in business is welcomed, there are some negatives associated with significantly more store traffic.
I want to preface the following with the fact that I have two children, a 12-year old and a 9-year old. I know that children don’t always behave as you would like them to and sometimes don’t listen to what you are telling them. However, I find myself stunned at both the bad behavior and lack of parental control that I observe almost every day during my busy summer season.
Near the back of my new store, I’ve put up a long curtain to separate the sales floor from the back area, which I currently use as a stockroom. The curtain extends from the ceiling to approximately one foot from the floor. Quite frequently, I have children come in with their parents and invariably make their way to the back of the store. Quite frequently, the kids will drop to the ground to try to see what is behind the curtain. That doesn’t bother me as I can appreciate the curiosity of youth.
It is the children that either crawl under the curtain of try to pull the curtain down that I have an issue with. I have an even harder time with the parents, who more times than not, do not stop their children or scold them for their behavior. When I have to step-in with a mild rebuke ("No, no, no…we don’t go back there. It is my backroom.”), more times than not the ire of the parent is directed toward me for saying something. I’ve had mothers and fathers grab their children and storm out of the store, saying something to the effect of "I guess we aren’t welcome here” or "They must not like kids here.” Nothing could be further from the truth; what I don’t like is the lack of respect for others and the lack of parenting that is so rampant in our society today.
Just the other evening (and I’m talking late in the evening, around 11 p.m.), I had a preschooler march into the store (alone) and go directly to my window display and start using it as a Jungle Jim. I was stunned and my mouth went paralyzed as I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Soon thereafter, a grade school-aged child, who I assume was responsible for watching her little sister, came in and told (asked?) the child to stop climbing in the window. The child immediately jumped down from the display and sprinted to the back of the store and crawled underneath the curtain. The chase was on.
The father eventually came in and swooped the child up under his arm, and while he was leaving uttered that he would never step foot in my store again based on my attitude. MY attitude…really…MY attitude??? I am dumbfounded how this interaction could possibly end the way it did. I’m sure I’ll see a comment on the Internet how unfriendly my store is to children. Can’t ever win…Needless to say, I have a contractor coming in to build a wall to replace the curtain, so maybe my issues with parents will begin to wane.
I’d love to hear about some of your stories and how you handle similar situations.
Thankfully, there is balance in the world and I am grateful for all the well-behaved and respectful children that are so excited to pick things out for their dogs. I am tickled each time a child leaves the store beaming from ear to ear, paw print shopping bag in hand, eagerly anticipating returning home to treat their furry brother or sister.
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