June 19, 2006

What The Bookstore Clerk Really Thinks Of Kids

Minnesota Nice in a nutshell: smiling, polite, slightly passive aggressive but mute on the surface, but seething with unaddressed, unexpressed rage underneath.

Moira Manion, a Minneapolis writer/bookstore clerk did a commentary on Marketplace about toddlers whose parents allow them to wreak havoc when they're shopping:

Hunter and Sophia. Very nice names. Did you happen to notice that they're screaming, pulling items off the shelves, and running around like lab monkeys on mescaline?
Minnesota Nice try, Moira.

I don't think any parent can NOT expect a "you break it, you buy it" policy; but if they are oblivious to their kids' destructiveness, or if they get away without having to pay the consequences of their kids' mischief, you're only reinforcing the parents' undesirable behavior.

Instead, why not try channeling your rage into annoyingly gracious but unrelenting customer service as you obsequiously ring up a pile of torn or tossed books?

Kick out the kids [marketplace.publicradio.org via dt reader jj daddy]

5 Comments

Too funny--the commentary from Moira that is. I have a toddler but I have to agree with her--I have seen too many parents who really don't care if there kids have destroyed anything whether it's in a store or in someone's home. An acquaintance once argued to me that B&N / Border's built that into their biz model, and that they were making money off the parents' books anyway.

I thought I agreed with her. Then I read this: "If you ever come into this store again...I will take your neck and snap it like a dry twig"

Don't they have any anger management books in her store that she could borrow, or did Sofia destroy the self-help section too?

I think perhaps you missed the point she was making, which is that retail management has eliminated "you break you buy" policies, and that workers have zero recourse when customers and customers' children are disruptive and destructive. Essentially any reaction beyond a perky smile risks the loss of a much-needed job. I can't help but assume that you have never worked a retail job that entailed hours of cleaning up after others on top of your regular scheduled (and strictly supervised) tasks, nor experienced the contempt that most service workers have laden on them daily. I have, and I've definitely felt the frustration that prompted her piece. In spite of the name, service workers are neither servants nor slaves, nor are they nannies. What I can't understand is why so many parents (so many people, for that matter) act as though personal dignity/respect goes only one way, to them, and isn't everyone's right regardless of income or job description. They're wretched examples to their children and will produce not poor citizens but anti-citizens.

[hm, no, I got her point, and I agree with her and you that parents can too often act like selfish, irresponsible jerks. Maybe you and Moira are too involved in your class-poisoned pity party to recognize when someone agrees that things are screwed up. I don't have to have worked in retail to know it's a crap job most of the time, but then, I also don't think it's right to be nice only to "people like me." Most of all, I don't want to raise a kid who thinks she can tear through other peoples' property and cause trouble for them with no sense of responsibility or consequences. For parents who don't care, or who don't know what to do besides mutter a distracted "no, honey" every five minutes, I think they need to be made aware of the consequences somehow--break it/buy it, water balloons, "no kids" signs, blog-based mockery, whatever. But if management doesn't feel the cost of torn/damaged merchandise is a problem--and Moira doesn't have to pay for it--then she should let it go, too, and refocus her energies on something that matters. -ed.]

Hey, look what I found on the internet!:

"Enheduanna is at once a mystical and heroic figure.... She is the world's oldest known author whose works were written in cuneiform approximately 4300 years ago."

... and she's commenting on your blog! way to pull them in, G!

[and if only she'd socked a little money away 4300 years ago, she'd have a trillion dollars in the bank throwing off interest. Instead, she's moping around Banana Republic, bitterly refolding slacks. -ed.]

I used to be a bookstore clerk AND a teacher, AND am a Mom (for 17 yrs now!)and yes, rage has run deep within me as well re: this very topic. Parents seemed to treat the bookstore as if it were a playground. Then I spent hours cleaning up after them. With MY kids, we clean them up and put them back. Where they go. Alphabetically by Author. Well, close enough, usually. And I may even BUY a book or two.

[very High Fidelity. I guess my real problem is that I can't understand these parents. I mean, my kid lines up all the little chairs in the Ikea play area into rows, and if she ever takes anything off a shelf or a rack she has to put it back before she can take another thing down, so please: if you're a parent with a perfect angel who's having a hard time finding good help when you shop, give me some insight into the notion that wageslaves you don't pay should pick up after your child. -ed.]

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