Lego store detains child left alone

Discussion
May 05, 2015

In the latest retail incident to go viral, an 11-year-old boy was detained by a security guard at a Lego store in Calgary for shopping alone.

Although the policy wasn’t stated in the store, Lego has a rule that children under 12 can’t be left unattended in its stores. A store manager explained to CBC that the policy addresses safety concerns such as child predators or a possible mall evacuation.

In a statement sent to Canada’s Metro newspaper, Lego said, "As a toy company, our utmost concern is for children’s safety and as such we have a policy in place regarding unaccompanied minors in our store. As this customer was under the age of 12 and alone we followed our protocol and stand by our policy."

Afterwards, a sign was posted in the store that read, "To ensure that your child has a safe and enjoyable experience in our store, please don’t leave them unattended."

The incident is enmeshed in a much larger "free-range kids" debate around parenting practices and child safety. A significant drop in pickup games and outdoor play caused by concerns and laws around unsupervised kids is seen by some as depriving children of not only health benefits but the path to become self-reliant and independent. An overreaction to stranger abduction is said to be the root cause.

Child detained at LEGO store - blog

Source: coldbike.wordpress.com – Blog posting by Doug Dunlop

The father of the detained boy, Doug Dunlop, wrote a letter to Lego demanding an apology from the store manager and security guard, both of whom questioned his parenting skills. In the letter posted on his blog, Mr. Dunlop noted that his son had shopped alone there many times before and since he was 9 and spent thousands already on Lego products. He said it was "bad for business" to place restrictions on such as a frequent customer.

Mr. Dunlop concluded, "Please understand that I am not asking that the Lego Store run a babysitting service for anyone who comes to the mall. I am merely asking that paying customers of any age be treated with the respect that they deserve."

What policies should stores have around unsupervised children? What age or situations should raise concerns and restrictions?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Well, I’m just glad I grew up when I did. As a free-ranger, I could go to the corner drug store to buy a squirt gun, to the Dahl’s next door for more pea shooter ammo and the candy store for refueling. If child predators were lurking nearby, they kept their distance."
"I’m with Ed Rosenbaum on this. I have a granddaughter, age nine, who is extremely capable and well-coached about strangers, etc., and age isn’t a good measure of a child’s maturity. But I think the Lego store policy is logical and, unfortunately, a sign of the times."
"Yes, there are more places that are potentially unsafe for children. Policies in place should be respectful of the children and the parents. While some parents may misinterpret the intent, I’d rather err on the side of children’s safety."

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18 Comments on "Lego store detains child left alone"


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David Livingston
Guest
7 years 14 days ago

Lego’s policy seems reasonable. The list of reasons why kids should not be left alone is endless. Movie theaters have age limits on rated R movies. Airlines have strict rules regarding kids flying alone. I don’t know about this Lego store but the ones I’ve seen were in Disney World, Times Square and Mall of America, places where I think kids should not roam around alone. It’s very common for parents who have made a mistake to shift the blame on their poor judgment. Perhaps the child was safe. What matters is a retailer should be able to set their own rules. This was not about a child’s safety. This was all about Doug Dunlop using a child to get his 15 minutes of fame.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
7 years 14 days ago

Lego’s policy is understandable given today’s valid concerns about children’s safety issues. This could have been avoided if Lego had posted signs about unattended children prior to this occurrence. Lego certainly thought this through and determined their business is dependent on young children. Therefore the health and safety of their customer base has to be of the utmost importance. This parent may have known the ability of the child to take care of himself, but Lego did not. I think Lego acted wisely in what appears to be their interest in the safety of the child.

Dan Raftery
Guest
7 years 14 days ago

Well, I’m just glad I grew up when I did. As a free-ranger, I could go to the corner drug store to buy a squirt gun, to the Dahl’s next door for more pea shooter ammo and the candy store for refueling. If child predators were lurking nearby, they kept their distance.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
7 years 14 days ago

I’m with Ed Rosenbaum on this. I have a granddaughter, age nine, who is extremely capable and well-coached about strangers, etc., and age isn’t a good measure of a child’s maturity. But I think the Lego store policy is logical and, unfortunately, a sign of the times.

Tom Redd
Guest
7 years 14 days ago

Simply put a sign in the window and state the age limits. This father is just some liberal that is demanding attention. Read this article from the other angle — “11-year-old kidnapped from Lego store.” Lego did the RIGHT thing in protecting this child. Here in Arizona we have babies left in hot cars that end up dead. The moms or dads forget about them or are just running quick errands.

Today’s demands on parents seem to cause them to sometimes lower the priority of parental responsibility. Lego did the RIGHT thing. The parents did the WRONG thing, and if this kid has been shopping alone since he was nine the family services group or the police need to visit this lousy parent.

Free-range chickens get nabbed by coyotes out here. Free-range kids get nabbed by psychos around the world. Protect our young, except the pre-Millennials — texting will protect them …

Cathy Hotka
Guest
7 years 14 days ago

So we’re criminalizing childhood now?

Both of my parents would be in Leavenworth prison in today’s environment. There’s absolutely no reason, none, why kids over eight shouldn’t be able to shop at will.

Someone should tell these companies that kids — gasp — WALK TO SCHOOL WITHOUT PARENTS.

Giacinta Shidler
Guest
Giacinta Shidler
7 years 14 days ago

I don’t think this is so much about free-range parenting as it is about store policy. I’m sure there are many liability factors to consider regarding children wandering around unattended, and I am sure that many retailers have a similar policy. Suppose something did happen to the kid, would the father turn around and sue Lego for not watching him better? An 11-year-old is not an adult and does not have the same rights as an adult shopper, nor should he, because there are just too many other factors that come into play here. In the end, I think retail workers are not trained to be babysitters or to make a determination when it comes to a child’s safety. They are trained to make sales and prevent theft — that’s it. The security guard acted appropriately with the limited information and options available to him.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
7 years 14 days ago

Lego is correct in having a policy. Society is wrong in what we are doing to our children.
When a 10-year-old cannot walk to a playground two blocks from his house to play then we need to look at our society and start figuring out a way to give children a chance to grow in a world in which we are afraid to let them out of our sight.

Lee Kent
Guest
7 years 14 days ago
This issue conflicts me in so many ways. Yes, Lego did the right thing in having a policy. We live in a much more dangerous world, or so I have been lead to believe. Were predators around when I was young? Probably, but we just didnt have ready access to news across the world back then. My conflict comes when I reflect back to the Rebel Queen which was on our way to and from elementary school. (To which I walked every day.) I don’t think they would have stayed in business had it not been from all the kids stopping for french fries, drinks and/or milkshakes after school. If we misbehaved, they kicked us out. We were not allowed to hang around inside where there might be other paying adults, oops, I meant customers. They told us where we could and could not loiter and for how long. Funny thing is, I can’t seem to remember a single incident where the police were called or anyone was hurt or any fights broke out. It… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
7 years 14 days ago

While I’m disheartened that 2/3 of our voters think 12 or 13—or even higher!—is an appropriate age, I wonder if it’s only coincidental that that age is just over the one mentioned in this story.
But regardless, I think this was poorly handled on Lego’s part. What should have been a customer service issue was turned into a security one…that’s how a lawyer runs a company, not a merchant.

Doug Garnett
Guest
Doug Garnett
7 years 14 days ago
The policy seems relatively sane. What strikes me is that the language around the story is law enforcement strong. “Detain”? Sounds like cops hanging on to somebody they think broke the law. That makes me suspicious that the store manager blew it in the way they chose to take action. There’s tremendous ability to have these come out right or wrong depending on how the specific situation is handled. What’s wrong is that the way this was handled makes it look like the store is covering its legal butt rather than caring for their primary toy users: children. So while the policy seems legit, there need to be instructions and wiggle room so that taking action looks first, and foremost, at the welfare of the child. But big corporate legal departments struggle with this. Store managers should have an escalation approach. Maybe something like… Watch child who is alone and not start action for 10 (or some number) minutes. After 10 minutes, talk with child to see if they know where their parent is and… Read more »
Joan Treistman
Guest
7 years 14 days ago

Ed summed it up well. Like others I remember at a very young age being able to go to the library, movies, bowling and school via public transportation.

At the same time I remember instilling the buddy system in the mall and telling my daughters not to let anyone in the house. No one was to be allowed in. If they claimed to be friends or mine or my husband they were still not allowed in. And I told my daughters if the people got angry they were really not my friends.

Yes, there are more places that are potentially unsafe for children. Policies in place should be respectful of the children and the parents. While some parents may misinterpret the intent, I’d rather err on the side of children’s safety.

Mike B
Guest
Mike B
7 years 14 days ago

I went into stores alone all the time at that age. If the kid isn’t causing trouble and doesn’t loiter too long I don’t see the issue. If the kids are causing trouble or stick around too long then there is a problem. I understand the policy and why, but it would have really annoyed me at that age. Probably enough to turn on Lego.

Detaining and questioning a person is how you treat a shoplifter, not an orderly customer and I don’t care what their age is.

James Tenser
Guest
7 years 14 days ago

It’s deeply regrettable that we live in a world where a retail operator must take steps to protect an unattended child or adolescent on its premises.

I began walking about 10 blocks to school at the age of 6. My parents didn’t own a car with seat-belts until they were mandated by law. Well that was half a century ago. Times have changed.

Of course we’d like to raise kids who are independent and street-savvy but not paranoid. But store policies cannot be a substitute for actual parenting, and store security guards or other associates are put in a very awkward position if they must look after a young person shopping on his or her own.

Gajendra Ratnavel
Guest
7 years 13 days ago

This is all fine until the news headline reads, “11 year old boy kidnapped, last seen alone at Lego store.” The issue with Lego store is, if there was no such policy, it will become a day care and unless store is willing to put security in place to ensure the safety, it’s smarter for them to detain the children.

This should not be about a parent’s ability to raise their children though. If I were the dad, I would be very upset about someone questioning my ability to raise my children, but not so upset about the store policy.

Hy Louis
Guest
7 years 13 days ago
A Lego store in an unsecured area seems like the perfect place for a pedophile to go lurking. The corner drug store not so much. Before people pass judgment on Lego, go visit a Lego store. Eleven is probably old for a Lego shopper. Usually children are three to 8. I’d be concerned about unsupervised kids bullying the younger ones. Yes, I know YOUR children are perfect and would not do such a thing. Eleven and still buying Legos? Sorry, I mean 11.5 years old. Dad, are you sure this kid is mature enough to be on his own when you are still measuring ages in half years? “I explained that my son had been a Lego store customer for years and that he had spent thousands of dollars of his own on Lego.” If he can afford to do that, then his dad should be able to hire a chauffeur and a bodyguard as well. After reading this father’s manifesto I’m not so sure this has anything to do with Lego or store policy… Read more »
Carlos Arámbula
Guest
7 years 12 days ago

It’s a reasonable practice by Lego and while it was not directed at the sophisticated 11-year-old in the story, it’s often needed. The potential liabilities to the store should anything adverse happen in the retailer to the store make it all—including any negative press, worthwhile.

Kai Clarke
Guest
7 years 12 days ago

Children shouldn’t be unsupervised in any store…ever. This is why they are children, but the risks and issues around lack of proper adult supervision is not one for the retailer to ever have to be involved in. Proper parenting requires that parents are always available, in-charge, in-control, and supervising their children in any retail establishment.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Well, I’m just glad I grew up when I did. As a free-ranger, I could go to the corner drug store to buy a squirt gun, to the Dahl’s next door for more pea shooter ammo and the candy store for refueling. If child predators were lurking nearby, they kept their distance."
"I’m with Ed Rosenbaum on this. I have a granddaughter, age nine, who is extremely capable and well-coached about strangers, etc., and age isn’t a good measure of a child’s maturity. But I think the Lego store policy is logical and, unfortunately, a sign of the times."
"Yes, there are more places that are potentially unsafe for children. Policies in place should be respectful of the children and the parents. While some parents may misinterpret the intent, I’d rather err on the side of children’s safety."

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