Speaking Senior

(c) Dr. Arthur Holub, January 1999

There should be a new dictionary definition: "invisible, the way a Senior appears to many young salespeople at a computer store."

Have you ever had a young salesperson curtly answer a question and then walk away leaving you wondering what to do next? This is becoming a more and more common occurrence with us older Americans as we seek advice about the new technology. It has happened to me on a number of occasions and it is a common complaint that I hear from my students. These students typically are Seniors who are in classes to learn the intricacies of computers and the mysteries of the Internet. They are vital, active and very interested in taking part in the technological revolution. And every time one of these salespeople walks away they are showing a lack of understanding of some very important facts.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Seniors, those people over the age of 65, account for approximately 13 percent of the American population, 33.2 million in 1994. And this percentage is growing as the population ages. In the past, this group was perceived to be less affluent that the population as a whole. Today, the opposite is true as Seniors control a larger and larger percentage of disposable income. And Seniors are living longer, are healthier, more active, better educated and are very interested in keeping up with the modern technology.

In today's competitive world it is a serious mistake for salespeople to turn their backs on these intelligent and affluent customers. During my years in business I always told my salespeople that when a customer walked in he or she was planning on spending for our type of product or service. It was our job to take whatever reasonable time was necessary to see that this potential customer purchased from us. Occasionally some salespeople today seem to forget this fact.

Now, not all young salespeople walk away from us Seniors. Some are pleasant, knowledgeable and will take the time to answer our questions. In our new vernacular, they "Speak Senior." Many of us need this because the new technology can be baffling and, obviously, we have not grown up with it. It simply was not available to us as it is to today's young people. This does not mean that we are less interested or less capable of understanding. It only means that we may take more "hand holding;" a little more patience from salespeople.

So, the next time a salesperson turns away from you, find the store's sales manager and explain your predicament. I have found them to be very helpful and in most cases they will give you the name or names of their salespeople who "Speak Senior." In fact, they might even speak with their sales staff and enlighten them as to the buying power of us Seniors. Sometimes they need reminding that when you walk into their store you are there because you are interested in their products or services and that you appreciate the respect and time that a "Senior Speaking" salesperson spends with you.

So, the next time a salesperson provides you with less service than you think you need, speak up. This will help you and others when you next visit the store. This is worthwhile outcome for all of us. Likewise, don't forget to thank those salespeople who "Speak Senior" for their extra time and understanding.

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