I had to tell my daughter the truth. At the risk of hurting my baby's feelings, I had to tell her that the cool teenager in the 'tween-age clothing store was not really a friend. The 16-year-old salesclerk --so cute, so charming -- was more interested in my 10-year-old daughter's wallet.
I hope I did the right thing.
Here's the scenario: To kill time before a movie, my daughter and I wandered into a store that targets girls ages 8-12. It's a great concept. Driven by Miley Cyrus --Hannah Montana -- and other young stars, the 'tween market for merchandise is hot.
Preteen girls have allowances and a desire for cute clothes and trinkets. As a frugal mom, I should have re-directed our window-shopping expedition. But my daughter wanted to check out the bright store, which featured videos, magazines and other gear from various Nick Jr. and Disney stars.
Immediately, a salesgirl in a ponytail and jeans, swooped down on us. Before I could say "bling-bling," the cute salesclerk had picked out several outfits for my daughter, complete with a cute matching cap.
Long Lines, Short Time Frame
With our movie about to start, we did not have time for the dressing room or the lengthy cashier line. My daughter promised to return. After the movie, my daughter gushed about the really nice salesclerk as we ran back to the store. (What was I thinking? Clearly, I had 'tween fever!)
"She was so nice," my daughter said. "She spent so much time with me. I just want to go by and say 'hi' to her. I promised her that I would come back after the movie."
Shopping Reality Trip
At this point, I halted in the middle of the crowded mall.
"She's not really your friend," I blurted out. "She just wants you to buy all that stuff that she picked out for you."
"You mean she doesn't really like me?" My daughter is visibly distressed.
I soften up and carefully select my words.
"Sure, she likes you. But she also likes your business. She wants you to buy those outfits. She makes more money when you spend more money," I said.
Reconsidering the Merchandise
When we returned to the store, my daughter made a big effort to track down and wave to the friendly salesgirl, who at this point was best-buds with another little girl and a huge stack of trendy clothing.
My daughter studied the cute plaid hat. It was $15. I mentioned that the hat might be cheaper --marked down -- in a few months. But I still let her decide if she wanted to spend her hard-earned money, (she works as a mother's helper), on the little cotton cap. My daughter returned the hat to the display. She'd rather save her money and besides the line was still so long.
What would you have done? Would you have told her the truth about the salesclerk? Should I have continued to let her believe that the cool clerk was a friend?
By the way, I'm hosting a Q&A session at a Wise Bread Forum:
"For this entire week (8/18- 8/24), Sharon Harvey Rosenberg (The Frugal Duchess) will be answering questions in our forum about blogging, personal finance, and her new book Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money Anywhere "
Here's how to buy my new book: