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Family Friendly Store Isn't So Family Friendly

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Jana Mathews: Forget the Resurrection and where babies come from -- one of the hardest concepts for my kids (6-year-old girl and 5-year-old twin boys) to grasp is why their favorite clothing store sells soccer balls ... and why they aren't allowed to play with them.

kids playing soccer in a family friendly clothing store

An increasing number of retail clothing stores in the U.S. are going the way of chain restaurants and advertising themselves as "family friendly." While providing coloring tables, toy boxes, and television sets to shoppers' children may boost sales, blurring the line between place of business and indoor playground can quickly backfire ... as one store learned from my family's recent visit.

"Don't even think about it!" I barked as one of my boys reached into one of the several bins of sports balls that were scattered inexplicably throughout the store (for privacy reasons, the name of the store shall remain nameless, but by way of a clue, it shares its name with a branch of the U.S. Military).

My sons exercised considerable self-restraint and managed to keep their hands off of the balls located next to the toddler cargo shorts and women's swimsuits. By the time we made our way to the front of the store -- where an even bigger bin of balls awaited us -- my threats and warnings had begun to wear thin. While I paid for my purchases, one of my boys decided that it was just as good a time as any to practice his field goal kicks.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the ball whiz over my head and across the storefront. The ball made a perfect arc over the display of women's tank tops, meeting resistance only when it reached a plastic manikin wearing sunglasses and carrying a floral beach tote. As the manikin and the table of beach-themed T-shirts she was pointing to toppled to the ground with a loud thud, my son yelled, "SCORE!"

I opened my mouth to say something meaningful, if not apologetic, but strangely, nothing came out. As it turned out, the store manager had more than enough to say for both of us.

"Little boy!" she screeched. "Those balls are not for kicking!"

I saw the woman's point, but suddenly, for the first time, also my son's. In a rare moment of generosity, I sided with my offspring. Turning to the manager, I found my words.

"What exactly are they for then?" I asked.

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28 comments so far | Post a comment now
MarMar April 23, 2009, 9:04 AM

lol - good for you! I’d like to know what the manager said after that. They’re for decoration?! Or to tease the child, the equivalent of “nana-nana boo-boo, you can’t play with me!”? Either way, bad idea. I’m not a big fan of Ancient U.S. Military Branch anyway, and this didn’t help!

Barbara Wacker April 23, 2009, 9:53 AM

Really?? You are faulting the store for selling balls? Would you let your child kick a soccer ball in your living room? What about setting boundaries? Maybe by saying - this is an outside toy. I’m assuming you also drive the new cars inside the dealer showrooms?

Nicole April 23, 2009, 10:41 AM

Barbara, I don’t think she was meaning it that way. She understands that children should not kick balls in stores… however, the words that the manager used were not the most effective. By saying that a soccer ball is not meant to be kicked is downright laughable.

Trish Blake April 23, 2009, 10:50 AM

Really?? Are you faulting a mother for bringing her child to a clothes store that stupidly places balls that are in reach of young children? My guess is that Barbara and the store manager have no children. I am a mother of 3 under 5, I teach my kids manners and expect them to behave in stores and they are reprimanded if they don’t or we just leave. As all mothers know, kids are kids meaning they can’t control their impulses no matter how much we parent them. This store is not Target or Dicks Sporting Goods, they are strictly a clothing store, why on earth would they ruin a shopping experience for mothers by placing kid enticing balls everywhere? Kudos to you for sticking up for your child and putting this manager in her place.

Anonymous April 23, 2009, 12:01 PM

I agree with Barbara.

I can’t people who let kids run wild in stores.

Renee April 23, 2009, 12:26 PM

As a frequent shopper of this particular store I also am exasperated by the ball bins!! I have a WELL BEHAVED 2 and 4 year old and they simply do not understand why they can’t have the balls and throw them. Even the best mannered children are impulsive by nature and I feel the store sets parents up to fail! If they want to sell balls that aren’t being played with in the store then they should package and/or display them in a way that discourages it. It would be great if their weren’t at least five of the ball bins throughout the store. Just one (near the exit!) would be fine, thank you!

Barbara Wacker April 23, 2009, 12:32 PM

Actually I have three kids - 26, 8 and 6 - and they know when and where it is appropriate to play with balls, no matter where they are sold. We assume a dangerous position when we “side” with a child who has acted inappropriately and blame the store or staff. While I will say that the manager’s choice of words was ironic - the point was that those balls where not to be kicked in the store. Both the mother and child should have apologized. A valuable lesson could have been learned by taking responsiblity for their actions.

chris April 23, 2009, 12:37 PM

BOO HOO…so your kids don’t understand that the balls aren’t to be played with. I don’t think there is a store out there that kids can’t find something to play with. It’s up to you as their parents to keep them from doing it. (YES I have kids!!) You’re lucky that ball didn’t hit someone or break something. If you can’t handle the pressure of taking your kids in a store without them wanted to touch and play with everything, then keep them home. And for Renee, the stores set parents up to fail? You really need help if you believe that. Yes stores put items out to entice impulse buying, that’s what they are suppose to do to increase sales so again if you could handle the pressure then leave your kids home.

Shelly April 23, 2009, 12:43 PM

Why do they have so many ball bins anyway? I get bored while shopping and even I want to throw one around!

Renee April 23, 2009, 12:58 PM

Chris, yes I think they set parents up. They do understand that children will ask and cry for the balls (or any other enticing thing) and most parents will give in. But there are those of us who say “no” and very young children will have a hard time with that. It sets families up for a meltdown during a shopping experience that would be otherwise stress free!
And I am a very good parent thank you very much as well as an experienced teacher. I understand the stores tactics, but it doesn’t mean I approve.

And just for the record I do think the author acting inappropriately and should have disciplined her son. The manager should have asked the child to not repeat the offense and addressed the parent otherwise.

Renee April 23, 2009, 12:59 PM

Please forgive the spelling errors in my last post. Someone was talking to me while I was typing! :)

Alex April 23, 2009, 1:56 PM

The candy at the front of the supermarket is directly marketed to kids to grab…
I appreciate stores that don’t put it there like the big whole food stores we all love to drop our paycheques in.
We have stores like this near us…my real issue with these stores is the lack of attention to the environment. The balls are harmful PVC…they don’t recycle the hangers they throw them in the garbage.
That is a good reason to boycott a store!

Anonymous April 23, 2009, 3:55 PM

It’s all about wimpy parents who can’t tell their bratty kids “no”.

SesshoumarusGirl April 23, 2009, 4:48 PM

The manager could have responded better, no doubt about that! :)

Just be thankful it was only a plastic display and not glass. It shouldn’t matter “what” is sold in the store …I understand that kids will be kids, but expecting a kid to listen isn’t a horrible thing either.

mercaties April 23, 2009, 5:40 PM

I have two children an eight year old girl and a two year old boy. My eight year old has always been good in the store and listens very well. My son on the other hand if I can’t belt him into a shopping cart, I don’t take him. When we are shopping I’am very careful not to place the shopping cart anywhere within reach of anything! Some stores are meant for kids some are not the particualr store in referance to this story I would not take my children into.

AM  April 23, 2009, 6:14 PM

This was an opportunity lost. You have just given your son permission to not only ignore you but other adults as well. Yes, kids get tempted by fun things in the stores and, yes, they sometimes act out, but it is the responsibility of the parent to let them know when they have misbehaved and give them consequences so they don’t do it again. You should have made your son apologize to the manager and had him help clean up the mess. Because while her frustration clearly muddled what she was trying to say, her point was obviously that he shouldn’t be kicking the ball in the store. And that was the same thing you were trying to tell him.

crunchy April 23, 2009, 8:14 PM

yep..they set them up and the even more inexplicable DOG toys and collars (????) as impulse buys…but yes..they are RIGHT there.

Now while I am an OGRE about my kids not touching sure puts me of shopping there if I have to spend time in a clothing store rambling on about NOT BUYING A STUPID BALL..therefore I don’t feel much guilt if they get sent all over the bloody store.

Lets just focus on the clothing please

Beth in SF April 23, 2009, 8:14 PM

Perfect response. I mean, I would be equally ticked at my kids for behaving that way, but the lady responded in a really stupid manner. She deserved what she got.

darkness is light April 23, 2009, 9:26 PM

Umm, seems to me that she *was* attempting to keep her children in line (“My sons exercised considerable self-restraint and managed to keep their hands off of the balls located next to the toddler cargo shorts and women’s swimsuits. By the time we made our way to the front of the store — where an even bigger bin of balls awaited us — my threats and warnings had begun to wear thin. While I paid for my purchases, one of my boys decided that it was just as good a time as any to practice his field goal kicks.”) And it wasn’t until she was otherwise occupied with PAYING FOR HER PURCHASES that her kids decided it was safe to act up (which is pretty typical of kids, from my experience, and I have three, ages 10, 7, and 5 all special needs, and all fairly well-behaved).

Did she react badly to the manager’s screech? Probably, but, honestly, I’d have started laughing, because it was a SOCCER ball, made specifically FOR KICKING, and the woman screeched it WASN’T. That would have been worse, but I would have pointed out that it wasn’t to be kicked INSIDE.

anonymous April 23, 2009, 10:04 PM

Um… I totally let my 2-year-old play with the balls in that store. I didn’t know that he wasn’t allowed. He does no harm, so what the hey? Lighten up people.

Also, just as an FYI, it’s mannequin… not manikin. Manikin means “little man” or something similiar.

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