Caption: PRX default Piece image
PRX default Piece image 

Teen Retail Psychology: Playing the Popularity Game at Work

From: Youth Radio
Length: 03:08

Youth Radio's Sophie Simon-Ortiz reports on what happens when clothing retailers push their teenage employees to wield the powerful psychology of teen relationships in order to move the merchandise. Read the full description.

Default-piece-image-1 Sophie Simon-Ortiz's report takes a critical look at what retail employees in trendy clothing stores are being asked to do to boost sales. She finds that store employees are increasingly acting as "walking advertisements" for the brands they sell. Not only are they required to spend a considerable portion of their paychecks on the clothes they wear, they're also utilizing the psychology of "the high school popularity game": by pretending to befriend store customers, they gain the necessary psychological leverage to complete the sale. A UC Berkeley professor calls this phenomenon "emotional labor".

To hear the full audio, sign up for a free PRX account or log in.

More from Youth Radio

Caption: Three high school students in Oakland, Calif., swap photos using Snapchat. (Ike Sriskandarajah)

How are Teens Really Using Snapchat? (03:05)
From: Youth Radio

A new photo-sharing app has quickly become popular-- especially among teens--precisely because its photos have limited lives--10 seconds at the most. It's called Snapchat. ...
Piece image

Youth Radio's Best Stories of 2013 (14:29)
From: Youth Radio

A few of our favorite Youth Radio stories from the past year.
Caption: Author Myles Bess with community leader Arnold Perkins., Credit: Photo: Brett Myers - Youth Radio/ BY-NC-SA

Coming of Age in the Era of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin (04:39)
From: Youth Radio

Youth Radio's Myles Bess came of age in-between the shootings of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin. He asks other black men in Oakland for advice on how to deal with the ...
Caption: Students and staff eat a Thanksgiving dinner at Youth Radio., Credit: Youth Radio

The Psychology of Teen Gratitude (04:25)
From: Youth Radio

The study of gratitude is a burgeoning field within positive psychology. Across the board, results show that people who are more thankful are less prone to stress and ...
Piece image

Postcard from Occupy Wall Street (04:16)
From: Youth Radio

Among the thousands of protesters to amass in Lower Manhattan in the past month are out-of-towners from across the country. One of them was 16-year-old Jelani Gibson who ...
Caption: PRX default Piece image

Osama bin Laden: This Generation's Boogie Man? (03:15)
From: Youth Radio

For young people who were in elementary school on 9-11, they've grown up hearing about Osama bin Laden and came of age during the War on Terror. Was he their generation's ...
Piece image

Youth Radio Investigates: Trafficked Part II (07:15)
From: Youth Radio

Youth Radio goes inside a police sting to investigate what the Oakland police and FBI are doing to combat sex trafficking.
Piece image

Youth Radio Investigates: Trafficked Part I (11:45)
From: Youth Radio

Part One of Youth Radio's Peabody Award winning series on child prostitution in Oakland.
Caption: PRX default Piece image

Hustlers, Street Vendors, and Farmers (04:02)
From: Youth Radio

King Anyi Howell visits a farmer's market in Los Angeles aimed at attracting African American customers. The market wants to bring fresh produce to a neighborhood known for ...
Caption: PRX default Piece image

Business Ethics 101 (02:06)
From: Youth Radio

An audio postcard exploring how the recession has changed the way business school students think about ethics.

Piece Description

Sophie Simon-Ortiz's report takes a critical look at what retail employees in trendy clothing stores are being asked to do to boost sales. She finds that store employees are increasingly acting as "walking advertisements" for the brands they sell. Not only are they required to spend a considerable portion of their paychecks on the clothes they wear, they're also utilizing the psychology of "the high school popularity game": by pretending to befriend store customers, they gain the necessary psychological leverage to complete the sale. A UC Berkeley professor calls this phenomenon "emotional labor".

7 Comments Atom Feed

User image

YEB review of Teen Retail Psychology

Back in the day, I used to work at a bakery selling cupcakes. And let me tell you, the store reeked of the phony friendliness that Sophie addresses in this piece. I had a work personality: my voice was a good octave higher, I was quick to joke, laugh and compliment. I knew exactly what she was talking about the instant that the piece started. The intro really picks you up and places you right in the middle of the retail psychology. The contrast between Sophie's greeting and her sarcastic "come on" was the perfect example of the "phoniness" retail stores exude. The piece flowed well and didn't stray from her original point about the twisted psychology of retail. I really appreciated that there were several other voices from an expert to other retail workers. It wasn't just Sophie on a soapbox. There were other voices to back it up and stand behind her. The piece might be a little stronger if there was another teen up there with her on that nice little box, who isn't part of the retail business, to agree with her. Other than that, the piece flowed easily like smooth peanut butter, no chunky transitions. And it'll really make you think the next time you're inside a clothing store and one of the workers compliment you.

Caption: PRX default User image

Review of Teen Retail Psychology: Playing the Popularity Game at Work

These days, it seems that when shopping, you make a lot of new friends--the salespeople. At shops aimed towards teens, the ever-present, ever-perky salesgirl or boy is always there to tell you just how cute you look.

This piece is a fascinating yet disturbing look at the tactics of young employees at trendy shops. The vox from these teens was really interesting--I couldn't believe it when one of the young women was talking about the certain kinds of fashionable clothes she had to wear to work!

I also really liked the vox from the teacher at UC Berkeley. He brought a more formal, academic view to this piece that was really smooth. Hearing him toss about phrases like "emotional labor", "walking advertisements", "instant friendships" and "brand representatives" was sickening and hopefully served as a wake-up call to listeners!

All in all, this piece is a really nice look at the world of retail. It would have been great to hear a little more, but at 3:07, it's a smooth, tight piece for radio. Kudos to Sophie Simon-Ortiz for exposing this!

User image

Review of Teen Retail Psychology: Playing the Popularity Game at Work

We all have been "welcomed" by sales associate who want to be our friend at least once. Putting on a smile after being scolded by a fellow customer, holding the door open as you walk in, saying "have a great night" as you walk out of the store; we all know it's fake, but it's done none the less. Sophie did a good job bringing us back into that world, one where those interactions are included in your job description. The piece was well put and easy to flow with. I loved how Sophie noticed and explained the "lying" that occured during her interview. There was a good connection between her fellow teenagers and the informative scholar. I loved how she brought in the scholar right after an interviewee and followed it up with a hard working teenager. It worked well to show us that not all teenagers have their daddy's plastic at their disposal.

See all 7 comments >>

Transcript

Teen Retail Psychology: Playing the Popularity Game at Work

Sophie Simon-Ortiz

Intro: With the economy in trouble, adults are settling for jobs teens used to monopolize, like flipping burgers and scooping ice cream. It's no surprise youth unemployment is on the rise, and youth prospects for summer jobs are bleak. But there's one kind of job adults can't get in teenybopper clothing stores, where the sales people have to look like the customers. Youth Radio's Sophie Simon Ortiz reports on how the social structures of high school are replicated in the workplace?on purpose.

SOPHIE: "Hi!", "Welcome!", "Love your boots!" Come on. Teenagers have to deal with phony people at school all the time. And isn't shopping an escape from social stress? But at every teenybopper store I've ever been to, it seems like the sales people are trying so hard to be my new best friend. I guess marketing...
Read the full transcript

Related Website

http://www.youthradio.org