Where Are the Parents?

“Rule #1 for retail customers: No amount of apologizing you can do in defense of your children’s behavior can compensate for the effort you should have put towards actually watching them in the first place,” a knowledgeable employee explained on one of my first days of work. It was a particularly busy Saturday, and these words of wisdom would prove to be painfully relevant.

“Rule #1 for retail customers: No amount of apologizing you can do in defense of your children’s behavior can compensate for the effort you should have put towards actually watching them in the first place,” a knowledgeable employee explained on one of my first days of work.

It was a particularly busy Saturday, and these words of wisdom would prove to be painfully relevant.

As I was fitting a woman for boots, I heard the unmistakable squeals of delighted children romping and playing behind my shoulder. I turned to look, and I saw a brother/sister combo in a game of tag on an extremely large display that Merrell constructed to show off its latest line of shoes. Shaped like a miniature mountain, it consists of several perches on which to place the various Merrell units. Unfortunately, it’s a magnet for the unmonitored adventurous type, and sure enough the siblings were climbing about with no parents in sight.

Before I could tell the two to be careful, the brother lunged at his sister in a desperate tag. He lost his balance and started to fall, but he managed to simultaneously grab his sister as well as a wall display, and the two of them came crashing down in a heap of fallen shoes and racks.

“What did you do??” the mother exclaimed as she finally made her appearance. “I’m so sorry for the mess!”

“That’s quite alright. I’m just thankful they didn’t hurt themselves,” I replied as I cleaned up the disaster area.

Once calm was restored, I continued my job of fitting customers’ shoes. However, the brief period of normalcy was interrupted by a women’s Montrail Hardrock shoe that whizzed over my head and tumbled under a clothing rack. I turned to look where this projectile may have originated from, and I spotted a young boy with a mischievous grin spread ear to ear.

“Hey big guy, those shoes are meant to stay put,” I explained to him, and I turned back to my present customer.

Two seconds later, a coworker was pelted in the back by another flying shoe. The same culprit was ecstatic, rolling and laughing on the ground. Before I could react, the devil child sprinted away, pulling down every shoe he could get his hands on.

“Where the hell are all of the parents?” I grumbled to myself as I found myself cleaning the shoe area for the second time.

After that incident, I walked through the store and I noticed another coworker on his hands and knees scrubbing a large wet spot on the carpet.

“Is that what I think it is?” I asked.

“Worse. A mother wasn’t watching her toddler, and he wandered here to the camping supplies. He stuck a spork down his throat and vomited on the floor.”

“Is shopping really that distracting?” I pondered.

My question was answered soon after, when I asked a man if he needed help with anything.

“Yeah. You can watch my kids while I look around.”

by Dylan Hawkins

Through July 1, retail sales staff answered the contest call to submit a story of survival and perseverance in the face of challenging customers. The story titles with summaries that made the first round of qualifications are listed below, and each is now in the hands of our judges to decide on the top 10. You can read each story in its entirety by going to the contest landing page -- click here.

Ten lucky story writers will each win over $1,000 in product prizes based on the contest judges' votes. Here is where you come in! Of those 10, one will be named the grand prizewinner, cashing in on a trip for two to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2007. Three others will be named official "honorable mentions," and in addition to the valuable prizes, each will receive a gift certificate that can be redeemed toward attendance at an Outdoor Industry Association-sponsored event, such as Outdoor University, Mountain Sports Festival or the OIA Rendezvous. The grand prize winner will be announced at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2006. We will determine the grand prize winner and the three runner up winners based on popular vote (sorry judges) -- those among the top ten receiving the most votes win, it's that simple. This is for store pride, for knowing you have a winner amongst you, so vote as often as you like. Tell your friends. Tell your friends friends. Tell your dog -- but only if he can work a computer keyboard.

Deadline for voting is August 1, 2006.Click here to register your vote now!

Did you miss out on this year's contest? Bummer, but no worries. If you haven't already done so, outdoor retail staff can get ready for next year by activating a subscription now at www.snewsnet.com/freeretail/snewsarticle-contest.html. Then, watch your SNEWS® for announcements calling for our next contest entries and get ready to be a winner.



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