Would you shop at this store?

Would you take your kids into this store?

It’s Halloween today, which is all about the kids, and so I thought I’d ask. This is the sign that greeted us when we arrived at a destination that is trying to cultivate an image as being child-friendly. It was posted just outside a gift shop.

My reaction? Kids, whatever you do, don’t go there.

What’s your take?

Is it about time merchants put parents on notice? After all, the gift shop had breakable items, and let’s face it, some parents refuse to supervise their young kids — and accidents happen.

Or does a sign like that say: Families not welcome?

I’ve been mulling the meaning of it. To me, as the father of three young kids, it says, “Go away. You’re not welcome here.” But maybe I’m taking it too personally. Maybe it’s just a friendly warning.

But do they really love kids? I have a hard time believing that.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • S E Tammela

    It doesn’t say “Kids go away”.

    It says, “Parents who can’t be bothered teaching their kids to behave, go away.”

    There’s a big difference.

  • john4868

    I’m with you and I have 3.

  • NancyNally

    Yes I would definitely feel unwelcome with my child.

    And if you are going to get snotty with people, at least don’t make yourself look extra stupid by using poor grammar. “accompanied adult?” Why does the adult need to be accompanied to supervise the child? Try accompanying, people.

  • Ellen Carlson

    Yes, I’d shop here. They aren’t forbidding customers, they’re just reminding parents to keep an eye on the littlest shoppers. Items lost to breakage get passed onto customers in higher prices. We’ve all seen children hide in clothing racks, wipe their hands on glass panes and sample unpurchased groceries. Who wants to buy a new shirt that a kid has used as a tissue? I think this sign is a relatively gentle reminder that parents need to be vigilant 24/7 and the duty isn’t surrendered to shop clerks at any time.

  • David Bockman

    Indeed, the sign could also read “We appreciate & welcome attentive and engaged parents when in the company of their children”

  • http://woofwoofmama.com/ Woof Woof Mama

    I think the sign is great and I can totally understand why the shop owners need it. Some parents refuse to be responsible for their kids’ behavior and let them run wild. I’d much rather shop where they make it clear what’s expected. You can love kids and still state what the rules are!

  • sirwired

    Too many parents treat, say, the toy section of a store as a free babysitting service and then ignore any damage their kids do to the merchandise. Others will let small children wander around a store full of fragile stuff while the parents do actual shopping. I don’t see the sign as problematic at all; just a notice that parents need to be responsible for their kids in a store.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I have no objections to the sign. I had the “honor” of witnessing some terribly behaved children on a flight via my FAVORITE route this week. One kid (about 8-10 yrs old) kept hitting the seat in front of him during boarding and would SCREAM when his mother attempted to fasten the seat belt.

    The FA politely told the mother he couldn’t fly if he couldn’t be buckled in for taxi and takeoff.

    The mother’s answer: To SHRIEK in the FA’s face about how her child was “special needs” and that the FA was going to “ruin” their vacation.

    No, sweetness. The FA is not ruining your vacation. Your CHILD is clearly uncomfortable in this environment and you have chosen to stress him for your magical pixie dust vacation.


    Entitlement parents are everywhere.
    Sometimes a sign isn’t enough.

  • Patricia Lenhart

    When my kids were small, we had a rule that they had to keep their hands in their pockets in those kind of stores. Lately, I’ve seen kids on Razor scooters in small stores.

    Unfortunately, signs like that are necessary now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/judyserie.nagy Judy Serie Nagy

    It’s about time people take action against parents ignoring their children running wild. I stopped dining in one of my favorite restaurants because the little darlings were having races amongst the tables, they were loud, they bumped into tables and people … the parents ignored them and so did the restaurant management. Few people have a problem with well-behaved kids, even if they do get a little carried away occasionally. We do have a problem with the parents who don’t do their job of parenting. If you are raising children with manners and decorum, you should understand that this sign is meant for those parents who don’t supervise their children.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.kolker Jeff Kolker

    I appreciate adults who keep their kids under control. It seems they do too. I’d go to this store.

  • cjr001

    It should be basic parental common sense, but far too often parents need reminders that they need to be parents when their children are being children.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.kolker Jeff Kolker

    My mother did the same thing to me, hands in the pockets. Now, instinctively, when I go to a store with lots of things that could be broken, my hands go straight to my pockets. I don’t even realize it until later they are there….

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.merck Stephanie Baker

    I am always surprised how some parents let their children run wild in public. I take it back; I see it so often that I have started to expect it. I have a very, shall we say, social and opinionated little boy, so I understand the challenges many parents face. Sometimes kids misbehave in public. As long as the parent handles it, it’s okay. But by letting it go, they are letting their problem become everybody else’s problem (for example, I am not going to ruin others’ shopping experience because my child is continually screaming).

    I said all that to say I don’t mind the sign. I’m sure they had a problem with kids running wild and possibly breaking things. They probably could have worded their sign a little differently (I love the “unattended children will get caffeine and a free puppy” sign), but I understand where they are coming from.

  • http://www.ComputerConciergeNY.com/ Mike Klubok

    Some good answers but yours may be the best. It puts parents on notice that if they are not watching their child then they need to.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Sorry, Chris, I think you’re overreacting. Just because the store has had bad experiences with unsupervised children doesn’t mean that they think all children are bad.

    And yes, it’s long past time that merchants put parents on notice. And restaurants, churches, schools, airlines, you name it. I’ve worked with children for almost 30 years now, professionally and on a volunteer basis, have two grown sons and a 4th grade granddaughter, so it’s not like I have an anti-child bias. I just think we adults are doing our children a grave disservice when we don’t set and enforce boundaries, which goes right back to the sign on that gift shop.

  • Jimspy

    I’d make it a POINT to shop there. I love kids…at least my own. Everyone else’s kids can are a pain in the tush.

  • Becky

    As the mother of 3 young kids, I have mixed feelings about a sign like that. I am sure the store is reacting to the fact it’s had a problem with kids running amok in the past, so I can understand why they post this. The sign wouldn’t deter me from shopping there if I was by myself, but it would deter me from bringing my kids with me (except maybe the oldest, the 8-year-old, who would stay by my side). In my experience, it’s no fun to shop in “gifty” stores anyway with kids in tow. If you are concentrating on shopping, can you really concentrate on supervising them, too? It’s much better to “tag team”, if possible, with the parents take turns going in the store without kids. Mom shops while Dad supervises, then Mom supervises while Dad rests!

  • Mel65

    I’m a mother of three and not offended in the least. Parents who are conscientious about supervising their own children are appreciative of reminders to those who don’t, I think. I worked in retail for years while putting myself through college and it was an endless frustration to deal with parents who basically thought the store was a veritable playground for their child’s amusement while they browsed and that the staff should keep an eye on the kids for them. I’m no more offended by this sign/concept than I would be by a “You break it, you bought it” sign in a glass shop.

  • Mel65

    Sounds like maybe you’re the type of parent that they are addressing this to, if you are offended by the concept of supervising your child. Guess the sign is doing its job, eh?

  • jebaker

    I would go out of my way to patronage this store. Any place that requests responsible parenting is my kind of place. I am not saying your children aren’t well behaved, Christopher, but we all have experienced those who aren’t – and frequently at that.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I have kids and it wouldn’t bother me, particularly if it were a gift shop with all kinds of delicate crystal figurines and the like sitting around. It actually gives the parent a heads up that this is the place where Junior could potentially have problems. Beats an argument over whether you have to pay for the expensive trinket that got broken.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.merck Stephanie Baker

    Yep. My little one hates going to stores like this, and bringing him along isn’t very enjoyable anyway. I usually go on this sort of outing when my husband has kid duty.

  • Christina Conte

    Absolutely, I would shop here! I’m tired of shopping in stores where kids are running around past me (and into me) because the parents allow them to act as if a store = park. When my children were younger I taught them to be respectful of other people and merchandise. My rule: if you have the money to buy it and are considering making a purchase, you may touch it. If not, hands off. There is a Toys R Us near me which I had to stop going to, because parents would drop their children off to play there. It was covered in opened boxes and toys and children running helter skelter…absolutely insane. I spoke to the manager once, and he said he was more frustrated than me as they were not allowed to say anything to the parents because they’d complain that they were telling them how to parent! However, this makes prices go up for all the lost merchandise that they can’t sell. I am by no means “a child hater” I LOVE kids (I was a children’s social worker) but I used to teach parenting skills and have no patience for people who feel they can let their children run around stores destroying merchandise. It is not the children who are to blame, but the parents.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.merck Stephanie Baker

    Great idea. Petco and Petsmart have signs that say something to the effect of “Leashed and vaccinated dogs are always welcome.” Telling people what you want, rather than what you don’t want, is generally the way to go.

  • bodega3

    At our local gift shop, the owner has a sign at adult eye level at the entry door that says:

    Unaccompanied Children Will Be Given An Expresso and A Puppy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.merck Stephanie Baker

    Have any of you noticed this issue of kids running wild while traveling abroad? Last year, we kept noticing young French kids at nice restaurants and very adult places (by adult, I just mean places that are quiet, places that have breakable things, etc). At first, we were annoyed that kids were there. Then, we started to realize that we didn’t even notice them after a while because they were so well behaved. That’s just an observation based on one trip…I’m curious if anyone else has had this experience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.merck Stephanie Baker

    Yep, there are lots of variations of this. Espresso and a free puppy, coke and a free puppy, sugar and a free puppy, etc. It’s funny, and it gets the message across without being overly offensive.

  • Daniepwils

    If children can’t behave in public then they shouldn’t be in public (parents need to teach their children about consequences to their actions). That is how we were raised. If one of us was having a fit we didn’t get to go shopping with mom and we had to stay home with dad. If we acted up at dinner, we left and when we got home we went to bed without eating for the night.

    This only had to happen once or twice ever and I learned my lesson. Some kids it takes longer, learn what will make your child listen and learn and use it! (for me it was being grounded and being spanked. For my brother it was taking away things in his room, tv, phone, game system, etc.)

  • lost_in_travel

    Yes, I have had this experience both ways. I have observed well behaved children in adult places and have also taken my daughter to very adult places as a young child and been complimented as we left the the other diners did not even know she was there. My son was not quite the same sort of child so he went to fewer adult places, and his father or I took turns going for walks during dinner if need be. He is now 16 and quickly notices naughty behavior in other kids. I think his (eventual) kids will also behave well.

  • JenniferFinger

    I don’t think it means “Families/kids, go away.” I think it means exactly what it says. Children are welcome provided they are accompanied by responsible, attentive adults who keep them from acting out, shoplifting, or other disruptive or criminal behavior. Nothing wrong with that.

  • Grant Ritchie

    HA! Too funny. Thanks for the smile. :-)

  • StarKiller

    5 lb bag of sugar and a free kitten

  • EdB

    Lots of sugar and a DRUM set. :)

  • MarkKelling

    More stores need signs like this. Maybe parents will realize that they need to teach their children that they can’t always do what they want when they want.

  • Vec14

    Our local bookstore has the sign “Unaccompanied children will be sold to the zoo.” I knew I was officially old when I yelled at a couple pre-teens trying to run up a crowded down escalator with a phrase my mother would use.

  • J246

    Good lord, who are all these grinch-like non-parents on your blog? What a bizarrely hostile set of reactions. I hate these kinds of signs. No parent would ever put one up. So what if a $2 shot glass that cost $0.25 gets broken? Why make people feel unwelcome before they even step foot in your store? If you don’t want families patronizing your establishment, open a liquor store or something.

  • Ali Jackson

    From the post: “It’s Halloween today, which is all about the kids…”

    This is a good example of how personal circumstances affect perceptions. While many parents might think as Chris does, there are plenty of people with a slightly different perception of the holiday. By that, I mean that Halloween is an excuse to wear inappropriate clothing and drink too much.

    Both of these viewpoints are valid. But, that duality is why some people might be offended by the sign and others will go out of their way to enter the store.

  • Cybrsk8r

    5 hour energy and a kazzoo.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Great story! (Good) moms are the best!

  • lcpossum

    My retail establishment is NOT a free playground for your brats. If you don’t feel like supervising your little monsters then PLEASE either leave them somewhere else or don’t patronize my store. I didn’t stock those 25¢ shot glasses for your child to break.

  • Scott

    While I assume you’ve had some issues with kids in stores, would I also assume that you have had experiences where children in a store did NOT cause damage, chaos or frayed nerves?

  • ssheldo

    Sorry, Chris, I agree with the majority of these replies. The owners of that shop might just be tired of suffering loses due to unsupervised children. I continue to be astounded at the number of people who seem to go deaf and blind as soon as they become parents. I often refer to small children running rampant in stores as ‘orphans’ as they apparently have no parents. And then there are those toddlers who are allowed to roam freely in restaurants while their parents seemingly ignore them!

  • pauletteb

    If the sign keeps out irresponsible parents who don’t think their children need controlling, so much the better!

  • William_Leeper

    As a father of 2 bright children, I would probably not shop there. My eldest is special needs, and while I would not view this sign as a threat, I would simply not be comfortable with the situation. Would I avoid this store yes, would I avoid it because of the sign, no. But why put myself or my children on edge if I don’t have too?

  • pauletteb

    I agree. I think any parent who would be put off by this sign is exactly the kind of parent to whom the sign was directed.

  • pauletteb

    Sounds as though you’re exactly the type of parent the sign was meant to address.

  • pauletteb

    I’m willing to bet most of us here ARE parents (I am). The difference between you and us is that WE expect our children to behave!

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I have to agree with you, some of these responses seem pretty harsh. The fact that you’ve been downvoted 24 times suggests to me that a lot of readers feel the sign is absolutely appropriate.

  • KaraJones

    I think the sign is a good idea and very politely worded. However, I saw one last summer that I liked even better. It said:
    “Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy.”


    Edit- woops! Apparently someone else saw that sign and mentioned it before I did. Sorry to duplicate. Well, anyway, my point is that I think it’s a good thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melissa.p.spencer.3 Melissa Parzych Spencer

    I love this sign. As having worked in retail I know how horribly frustrating it is to watch unsupervised children running (yes, literally running) in the store, pulling items off shelves, damaging items, and disrupting other customers. All while their parents ignore what is happening. I have had a customer ask for a discount on an item her child had just damaged. Even after admitting her child damaged the item she felt that she could not be expected to pay full price. Children being a little louder that adults, fine. Even children being whiny, fine Children being left to do whatever they want, not fine.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I think that most of the reactions were pretty mild and thought was given to the phrasing of their response, except for that by lcpossum. I saved one of my rare down votes for this response, since @J246 has decided that everyone who disagrees with her (him?) is a “grinch-like non-parent” and feels that it’s okay to break a “$2 shot glass”.

    Disagree with the sign, but put forward a reasoned response for that disagreement, rather than a blanket condemnation of anyone who has a different viewpoint and suggesting that the responsibility of patrons differs somehow based on the merchandise offered.

  • J246

    The reason my children are fine in stores is not because I bribe and threaten them into some kind of robotic state of “good behavior.” I teach them genuine kindness toward others in the world. This sign suggests the opposite – that parents must muzzle the uncontrollable animal instincts of their children. I suggest that if we were more respectful of the innate goodness in children we might get better “behavior.” I shudder to imagine the futures of children of posters here.

  • Unegen

    Well aren’t you and your children just *special*.

  • Pam

    I’ve worked in retail & some parents just let their kids do whatever they want. One “lovely” child was climbing on a fixture & fell off. Luckily it was only merchandise that fell on him. But we still got yelled at & blamed for her poor child being traumatized. As a shopper I’ve also experienced children running wild in a store.

  • Pam

    This person probably suffered damage loss of merchandise because of a child being unsupervised.

  • Vinny

    All too often children get hurt when unsupervised and then the store is blamed and possibly sued. This sign is as likely a legal warning as it is a reminder that parents need to parent.

  • Retail Employee

    Fires me up to see this sign. Too many times parents go into a store and forget they have kids. When the unruly children start destroying the place and an employee must ask the parents to do their job and parent, the “adults’ usually get mad, say something about how their kids aren’t doing anything wrong and leave in a huff leaving the poor employee with a mess they didn’t cause and customers who will bad mouth the store because they “got bad service” when a little bit of parental supervision was all that was required.