Gift shops. Every parent’s nemesis. You can guarantee that even if you’ve all had a lovely day together, the gift shop will make sure it comes crashing down in a spectacular fashion. Until you can’t remember anything but prising a screaming child off an overpriced teddy. Time to introduce a well-honed gift shop strategy. Like this one.
1. Go into the gift shop BEFORE your kids do. Then you can have a quick scan for the cheapest thing and point them in that direction. You can even rehearse a few supporting lines. ‘Ooh look at this AMAZING pencil. It’s got a rubber on the end. Isn’t that cool?’ Showing my age here. Not only will you struggle to find a pencil with a rubber on the end but even if you do, your child will soon let you know there is NOTHING amazing about it. Move swiftly on to the next cheapest item.
2. Treat each child according to their age. I have learned that 3 and 5 year olds are VERY different when it comes to gift shop expectations. As long as I haven’t already angered Godivy by making her wear something nice, supplying the wrong crisps or questioning her ‘opinions,’ I can pretty much make her buy what I want her to have. But Beaver? Erm, no chance. At 5 years old, she’s got her very own gift shop strategy.
3. So be prepared. Don’t fall prey to any of the following manipulation techniques. Guilt. Nostalgia. Promises to be good. ‘Oh I wouldn’t fall for any of that,’ you say. Except you will. At Peppa Pig World, Beaver picked up a limited edition print, clearly struggling to find anything she actually wanted. ‘Why do you want this?’ I asked, genuinely interested. ‘Erm…because every time I look at it, I’ll think of the lovely day we’ve had together.’ Ahhhh, what a sweet thing to say. See what I mean?
4. Construct a good argument. Go into a gift shop and you’ll see every parent and child playing out the same battle. ‘But, WHY can’t I have this?’ ‘Because it’s £15 and we already have enough toys in the house.’ Hands up if your child knows what £15 is worth. Hands up if your child would say they have enough toys. Don’t even go there. Much better to say something like, ‘Because it’s utter junk,’ whilst pointing out all the manufacturing faults and possible pitfalls/dangers. By the time you’ve finished the dullest monologue ever, they’ll have lost all interest and wandered off to find something else. Repeat until you’ve verbally trashed everything in the shop.
5. If they have to buy something, make sure it’s useful. None of us need any more stuffed toys in our homes. But a new hooded towel? A nightlight? A pair of slippers? You’ll feel marginally better about handing over the best part of a month’s salary if it’s something you were meaning to buy anyway. Your child will take some convincing so you’ll probably have to use some supporting lines. ‘WOW! I’ve never seen slippers like this before. Have you?’ Lame, I know. Lie. Say they’re magic. Say they fly. Whatever it takes. Just don’t use the word ‘useful.’
6. Reverse psychology. Pick something you know they’ll like and get in there first. ‘What about this?’ My kids never do what I say so this usually works a treat. Repeat until there’s nothing left but that AMAZING pencil with the rubber on the end. (This technique is risky if you have an obliging child. Use with caution or it could backfire. And you could end up skint.)
7. Just say no. It worked for Zammo. It can work for you too. Yes, you’ll feel mean. Yes, you’ll pay for it on the car journey home. But look at it this way. Two days from now, they won’t even remember what you bought them in that gift shop. It will be laying forgotten or broken somewhere. In other words? They’ll get over it. (Unless they’re like me and still remember the toy kitten my mum and dad wouldn’t buy me at Gatwick airport when I was 9. Tragic.)
8. Buy sweets. They’re cheap. They’re a treat. And they’re perishable. (Plus the confused look on your child’s face as you practically force them to buy sweets is priceless.) Woohoo! Job done.
9. Create a diversion. Anything, which means you have to leave the area IMMEDIATELY. I’m not going to be irresponsible here and suggest what you could do. Use your imagination. Ahem.
10. Stay at home. Last time I looked there were no gift shops there. Yes, this is probably the safest option.