Tips for Dealing with Rowdy Teens who Disrupt Your Business

If you run a public-facing business — especially one that serves slushy drinks and junk food — you know that nothing’s worse for your business’ image than rowdy teenagers who yell, swear, make messes, and hang around for hours at a time.  So what can you do to keep them from causing problems? We spoke to a few business owners who shared some strategies for keeping them in check:

Play classical or easy listening music. Nothing gets rid of teens quicker than music that doesn’t suit their tastes. When a group of kids were riding their bikes and getting in the way as Paul Hurst was setting up his Medieval Jesters stage show, “most of the sound system was set up, so we started playing classical music through it,” he says. “They drifted away quite quickly.” Just be careful the music isn’t something that will drive away polite adults, too.

Go overboard on customer service. Typically, teenagers who aren’t planning to buy anything at your store prefer to be left alone, and will feel more uncomfortable the more attention you pay to them. So make a point of asking how you can help them. Gabrielle Miller owns a clothing boutique, Cry Baby Couture, which is located in a college neighborhood in Tucson, Ariz. She often encounters groups of teens who make a mess of the merchandise without buying anything. “Giving extremely attentive service can get them to either leave or buy,” she says. “Instead of just letting them have full run of the store, you can be more interactive and ask them if they need help with anything and tell them about the store.  If they are serious buyers, this can convert them into a sale right then or they may bring their parents back later.  If they are in just to make mischief, they will generally leave. ”

Set limits and stick to them. Because Miller is worried about teenagers trying on and damaging expensive dresses in her store, she’s created a new policy stating that teenagers must have a parent present in order to try on dresses that are priced at $100 or more. She’s also set a limit to how many dresses can be tried on at once. Likewise, if you run an ice cream shop, you may want to limit each customer to three free samples in order to prevent teens from wasting your time and hurting your supply by demanding countless samples.

Show off your authority. If teens aren’t simply being annoying, but are truly disrupting your business, it could be time to take bigger steps. Consider hiring a security guard to keep an eye on the situation in your shop or the adjacent parking lot. In most cases, even a modest display of authority will be enough to send the rowdy teens someplace else. If a guard is out of your budget, “place visible signage to discourage such behavior outlining potential penalties that will be enforced by local law enforcement authorities,” says Jon C. Paul, a security consultant.

Have you used other strategy for keeping disruptive teens under control? Share them in the comments.

About Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at the content marketing agency Eucalypt Media. She's written about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship for publications including BNET, TheAtlantic.com, Inc.com, and owns and operates the positive news site Gimundo. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynhawkins.
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4 comments
Lesley
Lesley

Hi Jay,Thanks for the response! I totally understand where you're coming from, and not wanting to repeat past stories. I help companies with blogging and other content development and I know that can be tricky! And I didn't want to come across like teens are exempt from any trouble, haha. I know that there is some validity to the stereotype in certain situations, for sure. I was kind of playing devil's advocate a bit. Difficult customers come in all shapes and sizes, and it's true that with accessories boutiques or convenience stores, I'm sure there are some demographics that are more consistent than others. :)

michael
michael

Well written and great advice. Thanks!

Lesley
Lesley

I'm not a teenager (at least not anymore!) but I have to say... I find this post a bit offensive, lumping 'rowdy teens' into one big group. Small children could be an equal nuisance, pulling things off shelves or running around... or older loiterers who keep a clerk in a 20 minute conversation, or middle-aged white-collar workers after a post-work pub crawl, or a girl scout troop, young mom with a dog, etc. etc. etc. It could be anyone. I think it just strikes a chord with me when I read things like this because I was always with a nice and respectful group of friends growing up, and it always bothered me to feel the "teens" stereotype either in person or the media. It would have been nice and more helpful if it had been phrased in a kinder, less judgmental way, perhaps just referencing difficult patrons in general.

Jay Badenhope
Jay Badenhope

Hi Lesley, I was a teenager once myself, so I understand where you're coming from. We've also written stories about how to deal with difficult patrons in general, such as this one. Rather than repeating past stories, we're increasingly suggesting tips for more specific situations. In this case, I like how Kathryn included real-world examples from two different business owners, showing that rowdy teens are a concern for some business owners. We're also big fans of teens! Please see our stories featuring entrepreneurial teens Lane Sutton and Maddie Bradshaw, as well as this article on how to hire under-18 workers. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Jay B. (Intuit)