KAI RYSSDAL: I've got three little kids, as I think I've mentioned before. Mostly, they're pretty good guys. But I can definitely sympathize with parents when I see their kids tearing around the supermarket out of control. Or making a mess at the bookstore. Kids are tough to control. Sometimes, though, you see those parents who don't even seem to care. And you wonder . . . What does the person on the other side of the cash register think? Commentator and bookstore clerk Moira Manion gives it to us very . . . very straight.
MOIRA MANION: Excuse me. I'm a clerk at this bookstore. Are those your children?
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?
Back in the day, mortified parents would take children like that and remove them from the store. My co-workers and I notice your lack of mortification. Your only attempt to rein them in is to stand around, sipping your latte — which is dripping on our carpet by the way — and mumble the mantra, "Hunter. Sophia. Hunter. Sophia." Not particularly effective, is it?
We're curious: Are you allowing their misbehavior because you acted like that at their age, or because you simply don't care?
Now, see, Hunter just tore the cover of that new picture book. Once upon a time, stores had a "You Broke It, You Bought It" policy. These days, retailers will tolerate even the most demonic fits in order to keep you, the customer, happy. But we can't utter a squeak of protest. All we can do is say, "Thanks for coming, have a nice day" as you leave the scene of carnage.
I'm sorry; I sound angry to you? Maybe it's because we employees are caught in the middle. The manager yells at us for the mess your kids made, then he yells at us because we've taken time from our other duties to clean up the mess your kids made. If the store looks bad, it reflects on us. We're hauled into the manager's office and given a warning. The manager never warns the customers. Because the customers have money, and the manager wants it. So he won't look bad.
If employees step out of line, as I'm doing now, and hold you the customers accountable, then you the customer can go to the manager and say, "Fire that lady!" Then, the manager hires another desperate slob who thought his MBA degree would never lead him to picking up after screaming toddlers.
Well, on behalf of retail employees across the country, let me tell you what I'd really like to say: If you ever come into this store again, and allow your spawn to crush Cheerios into the rug and pierce our ears with screams of "I WANNIT!," I will take your neck and snap it like a dry twig. Thanks for coming. Have a nice day.
RYSSDAL: Man, she's right. Her boss isn't gonna like that. Moira Manion works a couple of jobs to support herself as a writer in Minneapolis.