Dear Shopping Mom…Sincerely, The Retail Worker

It can get pretty busy on any given Saturday at a department store, and with the holidays coming up, it’s been even crazier. But as a retail associate, I can handle it. I’ve fished dirty diapers out of shopping carts and Band-Aids from a returned purse. I’ve helped people get their way at the customer service desk, even when they haven’t been nice (or even slightly pleasant) during our exchange. I’ve pulled out the piles of clothes left in each dressing room (over and over and over again) and I’ve sorted, folded, and returned each piece for you. I’ve helped to load your shopping bags into your car so you could get the kids buckled into carseats, all while it snowed on us. All of this is okay because it’s part of the job that I willingly applied to and said I would do.

But you know what I didn’t sign up for? Babysitting. Or policing.

retail worker

Dear Shopping Mom, if you’re going to bring your kids with you to a department store, can you please keep an eye on them for us retail workers? Or at least stop asking us to babysit them while you browse? 

Listen, we get it. Shopping with kids in tow is rough. Kids whine, get bored, don’t let you finish trying on your own stuff, and they are master escape artists. I’ve seen toddlers escape even the most helicopter of parent. No parent is perfect, no kid is perfect, and we understand when accidents happen. But those of us working retail at the store you’ve chosen to shop in aren’t trained to babysit. And nowhere in our contract does it state that it’s our job to be the bad guy for you.

I’ve had the buck passed to me from many parents, who ask me to be the one that denies their child the candy they don’t want to pay for. I’ve had to brake up fights between preteen boys, whose parent’s are in the store, but nowhere in sight. I’ve watched a kid make eye contact with me and then purposefully tip a shelf full of clothes over and run away. I’ve had to stop the fun of many hide and seek or tag games, since the kids running around knock over all the clothes and trample them underfoot. And I’ve even had a few customers ask to leave their kid with me while they “run and try something on” or “forgot something at the back of the store and will go get it really fast.” Most of these scenarios could have been avoided if the parent had looked over at their kid a little more often.

We can’t be your babysitter since we are total strangers with no official training in childcare and have a billion other chores that need to be done.

We can’t police your children for you since kids know we hold no weight, being complete strangers, and they don’t have to do what we say.

Let me be clear: I am NOT saying we hate customers like you/your family and I am NOT saying you shouldn’t do any shopping with kids. In fact, we really want you to come and spend money here! All I humbly ask is that you keep the retail workers in mind, and take a second to see what is being left in your child’s wake.