Strictly Business: Women control the purses

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 
photoCami Joner, Columbian business reporter

Just because I'm an old lady doesn't mean I want to be treated like one.

Yeah, I'm talking to you, restaurant owners and small-business merchants, so listen up. I am also talking to you department store managers and anyone else who's running an enterprise that depends on a steady stream of sales.

What treatment am I talking about?

I am specifically referring to the way I am called "Hon" and "Sweetie" by your twenty-something and thirty-something-year-old employees when I patronize your business. You need to eliminate these terms from their customer service vocabularies. If your employees ask why, tell 'em it is just plain offensive and belittling to most women over the age of 50 (except when uttered by a hair stylist, for some reason).

Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive. But the term "Hon" makes me feel like I'm being judged by my wrinkles, age spots and middle-age spread, not to mention my non-skinny-leg pants. Makes me feel like your employees are making fun, calling me weak and feeble, when I am anything but.

If your employees ask why they should even care about offending middle-aged women, maybe it's time for you to share with your staff just how important women over 50 are as part of your customer base.

Because when your service employees insult middle-aged, baby-boom females, your business runs the risk of slighting (and turning away) the generation with more spending power than any demographic group in American history.

According to a 2012 Nielsen study, baby boomers — Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — are 76 million strong, accounting for nearly half of all consumer spending and controlling close to 70 percent of all disposable income. And about half of them are women.

Jimminy, you know how Tom Brokaw dubbed our folks "the greatest generation," for their sacrifices and heroic acts through the Great Depression and World War II? Well, that generation's not-quite-as-impressive offspring just might be called "most valuable generation" with approximately $2.3 trillion in annual spending power.

And guess who controls the purse strings? Well, it ain't the men. In most cases it's the women who present a golden market for restaurateurs and retailers. But they need employees who look beyond the 18- to 34-year-old consumer favored by marketers and product manufacturers.

According to the marketing blog GirlTalk, boomer women buy 65 percent of new cars, 91 percent of new homes,and make 92 percent of all travel arrangements. They also spend more than $55 billion per year on consumer electronics. Do you still want to call the folks in this group feeble and old? I'll bet not.

You see, that's why you need to tell your employees that at least some of us don't like being called "Hon" or "Sweetie." If they still don't get it, tell 'em it's just like they wouldn't call a man from this age group an "old fogie."