Mobile operator shops dismissing their young customers?

A little while I asked Issah, the SMS Text News Youth Reporter, aged 15 and from East London, to check out some of the UK mobile operators here. Whenever I walk into a shop, I am generally treated pretty well. I wondered if this was the same when it comes to teenagers who are poised to become extremely high mobile spenders in a short few years.

Here’s what happened when Issah headed down to Oxford Street, centre of Her Majesty’s Empire (London) and popped into one global vendor’s shop.

Over to Issah:

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Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Issah Abdul-Moomin, I’m 15 years old and I am the SMS Text News Youth Reporter.

I was out with my Dad last week and as we passed a plethora of mobile phone shops we got into a discussion about the mobile industry and its importance. As we passed a Vodafone store I and my Dad thought we’d have a look at some of the phones on offer.

I made straight for the pay monthly handset display at the back of the shop, I wasn’t really impressed. Their selection of phones was just not wide enough for me. I then walked to the pre-pay phones display and felt a similar dissatisfaction.

My Dad who is not very familiar with mobile phones in general, wanted to find out more so he grabbed a bored-looking shop assistant and started asking questions.

This is where the real annoyances started.

I first asked if they stocked the LG Viewty – a silly question, as I had already seen the display, but I think you will agree the response was even sillier.

The sales person simply handed me a catalogue to look through.

Couldn’t he answer my simple question? He couldn’t be bothered to even say the word ‘yes’.

Maybe I’m being silly, I don’t know. I believe as an employee you should have at least basic knowledge of the establishment you are working for. Surely, in this case the mobile phones on offer come under these criteria.

Anyway, slightly disgruntled I resumed listening quietly like a good little boy. I observed how he wasn’t making any attempts to engage my Dad at all, and that really annoyed me. I then asked him about the internet mobile offers available and was redirected back to my catalogue. I’d had enough.

I sought another assistant whilst my Dad continued his consultancy. I approached the next available sales person and asked another mobile-related question of which I cannot remember. I was again directed towards the ‘best assistant’ in the whole damn shop: The March edition of the Vodafone in store catalogue!

The same assistant (human) was then approached by an adult customer that asked a similar question and was treated with a lot more care than I was. I was pretty livid at this point and with minimal difficulty got my Dad and left (he wasn’t too impressed with the monthly tariffs as opposed to Flext on T-Mobile) I related to him the consultancy farce I had just experienced and he told me he wasn’t too impressed either.

I want to draw attention to my treatment at the hands of assistant number 2. Was I blown off like this because I’m a kid? Was he having a bad day? I don’t know but I do know that neither qualifies as an excuse. I am sure that this service isn’t true for most Vodafone branches – but one can ruin it for all.

I think that employees in mobile phone shops need to be either educated or just apply common sense when dealing with young customers. We need to be treated with more care and thought than the average customer.

I finish with this; shop assistants should assist me with my purchase and make it an enjoyable experience. I want to be able to leave the store content that my choice has been well-educated, not the result of some lazy worker’s attempt to get me out of the shop with a phone as quickly as possible.

My Rating: 2/10.

– – –

So it could just have been a bad day down at the Vodafone shop on Oxford Street. I certainly understand that when a teenager arrives in the shop, there’s little a sales assistant can do than sell them pay as you go credit, since teenagers can’t sign up for contracts.

But their parents can. I wonder how much business is lost (and won) on this front. Anyway, thanks for this Issah. Shortly we’ll be putting an iPhone into Issah’s pocket and asking him to walk around his school and see how folk react to it. (Remember we did a research piece with quotes from Issah’s colleagues about the iPhone launch here.)

If you’ve any ideas for products and services we should stick in front of some teenagers to see what they make of it, let me know.

Issah, is, by the way, looking for work experience for a few weeks in the summer time. He’s on the hunt for mobile industry related experience in or near London (as he’s living in East London). If you’ve any suggestions, let me know by email please.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

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