One in three young people who have a negative experience when asked for proof of age in stores are unlikely to return because of the way that the ID check was handled, according to a survey by mystery shopper specialist firm Marketforce.

The survey of 1,506 consumers aged 18-21 found that one in five felt “embarrassed and humiliated” by the ID checking process, and a third of those who have a negative experience will not return to the outlet in question again.

Marketforce marketing manager Simon Boydell commented: “We’ve been speaking to a lot of young consumers and, for them, being asked for ID is a negative experience. While most retailers have some form of due diligence in place, they are not really looking at ID checks from the customer experience point of view.

“Retailers have been asking us: ‘how do we do this best?’ ‘At what point in the transaction should we ask for ID?’ You obviously have to demonstrate that due diligence is in place, but there is also an opportunity to convert young shoppers into regular customers.”

Marketforce, which used to be known in the UK as Retail Eyes, this week launched a new service called Check-it, which uses 18-21 year olds to make planned ‘test’ purchases, and then gives feedback to retail operators, including advice as to how they can improve the process from the customer’s point of view.

“You can put all the posters up, but it’s how your staff actually carry the policy out that counts,” Boydell continued. “Because of the pressure, members of staff can become too firm and just give out the message ‘I don’t believe you’. The happier the customer is, the better experience it is for everyone, and doing it right can prevent the counter staff getting verbal abuse.

“It’s all about courtesy,” he added. “If it’s done right you don’t have to make young people feel embarrassed.”