There is nothing in life that I dread more than shopping with my two year old, Kaitlyn. Whether it's grocery shopping at the local Albertson's store, or a trip to the Super Wal-Mart, shopping with a baby is a horrible experience.
My daughter is so overwhelmed by the endless stream of varying shapes,
colors and sizes, that anything within her reach is fair game; and there is a lot
within her reach.
and the Baby Bandit
As my friend, Yuri Gudnikoff, a marketing major from
Leningrad once explained, "You go to checkout counter. What have you?
Magazines? Candies? Keychains? All at eye level. All designed to attract
you, trap you into the impulse buy! You think we stupid? We do the same
thing for infants in Russia. Strollers lift children only so high. Everything
a two year old could ever want is on some display rack designed with a two
year olds eye-level in mind."
I never really thought about it before, but Yuri is right. I spend more
time pulling things out of strollers than I do putting things into carts. On
one such trip, I was so flustered I couldn't even remember what I came into
the store for. On another outing, I pushed my stroller out of a K-Mart only
to find a pair of 101 Dalmatian sneakers tucked safely in the corner of the
stroller. Needless to say, I marched baby Bandit Back into the store and up
to the managers desk.
"We'd like to return these," I said, plopping the sneakers down
"Do you have your receipt?" the manager asked.
"I didn't even know we had the sneakers," I added, further explaining how
they probably came to be in our possession.
"Keep them," the manager said. "They're a close-out and I appreciate the
So, I suppose I should have been a little more sensitive to my wife when
I picked her up at the Manatee County Correctional Facility. My wife, you
see, is a shopper, and early one Monday morning she set off for an area mall with
Baby Bandit in tow. My wife was eight months pregnant at the time and felt
the need to go out and buy all the hospital goodies that women fill their
overnight bags with everytime they have a baby.
"What's wrong with the old nightgown?" I asked
"It's old!" she replied.
So my wife purchased a new nightgown. She then meandered over to the
newborn section for several newborn outfits so that the baby might have one
thing to wear for the trip home. Then she purchased an outfit for baby
bandit. All total, my wife spent $179 dollars and some odd cents. When she
left the store, she was immediately grabbed by a man identifying himself as
"Is anything wrong?" my wife asked.
The gentleman leaned over the stroller and removed a palm sized Beanie
Baby valued at under $10 dollars.
"You have a receipt for this?" he asked.
"No." my wife responded. "I didn't buy it."
This was probably not the single most significant statement my wife has
ever made, but then my wife has never so much as received a ticket and firmly
believes innocent people have nothing to fear.
"I'm afraid you're going to have to come back into the office with me,"
the security guard added.
My wife followed the man back into the store, up a flight of stairs and
into a small office. Baby Bandit couldn't have been happier. On the way to
the office she managed to replace the Beanie Baby she lost with two more and
the security officer let her play with both of them. My wife offered to pay
for the item, but the security guard told her that it "wouldn't be
necessary." He apologized for all the trouble and explained that he was just
doing his job. He typed up his report, placing little X's in all the places
he wanted my wife to sign, assuring her that she could leave just as soon as
he was done.
She signed in all the right places and did leave, in the custody of two
Manatee County Sheriff's.
"Let's face it," the manager of a major department store told me, "You
don't have to be a brain surgeon to be a security guard. These guys have
quotas. If they don't make quota, they're out of a job. And yes, you've
seen the news reports. Some stores target women with strollers. People are so
wrapped up in buying, they're not even paying attention to their kids. We
lose a fortune in retail theft."
I posted a bond for my wife. We tied up the courts fighting the charges.
What struck me as very funny to begin with wasn't really funny at all. My
wife, who signed in all the right places, was found guilty and we were forced
to pay a fine. While I don't doubt that there are women who go out and
exploit children in strollers, I have to believe that they are part of a
small minority. Perhaps it's time for policy changes, on both the part of
prosecutors and department stores. Perhaps a store manager can be called in
to make a judgement call; or victims could be forced to purchase what they
claim their children snatched. After all, shouldn't women with no prior
arrests be given the benefit of the doubt?
Jon Simonds can be reached at: Agriblit@cs.com