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Last Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006, 11:52 GMT
Young people demand shop respect
By Nuala McCann
BBC News Website

Young people in Northern Ireland have cash in pocket but it doesn't buy them respect at the shop counter, a new survey has found.

The NI Commission for Children and Young People has urged retailers to value a new generation of shoppers, not treat them like second class citizens.

One in three young people surveyed said they felt shop staff were suspicious they would shoplift or cause trouble.

Retailers are urged to value a 'new generation or shoppers'

With just one exception, all 450 people felt they were treated negatively.

They got less respect than adults, they said.

"They (retailers) take it for granted that all young people are thieves," one adult who was interviewed said.

More than 450 young people were surveyed, along with 92 adults and four representatives of retails outlets or shopping centres took part in the survey.

Researchers travelled to towns across Northern Ireland to gather a broad range of opinion.

More than half of the adults and young people interviewed blamed negative stereotypical attitudes towards young people amongst shop staff.

This included a belief that all young people were "up to no good" or "out to cause trouble".

Children's Commissioner Barney McNeaney said: Young people have told Niccy for some time that how they are treated in shops is a major concern for them.

"It's now obvious from the survey results that this is an area where they believe they are shown different standards of customer care."

Can't a hoody also be a goody?

"More than 70% of young people and three quarters of adults told us that young people are treated differently, despite the amount of money they spend."

Deepak Sharma, 17, a Hindu, who came to Belfast from Nairobi, three years ago, said being from a different ethnic community also played a role in how young people are treated.

"I went to a shop near my home and the people there were looking at me and saying: 'Watch him'.

"Every child and young person is not the same and people should not make assumptions."

The survey was carried out by 20 young people aged between 14 and 18 who were trained by Niccy.

They found that three quarters of young people interviewed had 10 a week to spend and about 33% had 20.

However, despite their cash resources, young people said they were treated with less respect when not accompanied by an adult.

Rules regarding, for example hoodies or caps, were applied only to young people.

Shopkeepers served adults first, irrespective of who was next in line and acted in a suspicious way towards a young person.

Members of the retail community agreed that young people were often viewed with more suspicion if they were in a large group.

But many sought to redress the balance.

"They are the shoppers of the future, I was young once and I wanted to be treated the same an an adult and it is our aim to be as safe and welcoming as we can," one interviewee said.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Trading Standards Service and the NSPCC supported Niccy's work which was carried out along with the General Consumer Council.

NICCY has made the report on the survey findings available on its website and will be circulating it to trade organisations throughout Northern Ireland.

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