Missing Child in the Mall or Shopping with Kids
Too often, in my six years of retail, I've seen cases of lost children. Moms and dads, shopping with their little ones, have lost sight of them. I've seen the despair in parents eyes and I, myself, worried about the child's well being. So far, thanks GOD, all of the lost kids have been found sound and safe. But the moments when you look all over the store, and even all over the mall and nobody can find them are horrifying.
The last case of lost child happened few nights ago. It was around 8 pm, one hour before closing. I was working on merchandising a wall, while a colleague was telling me that the new system for overstock is not working properly. Few racks away a woman was shopping. I was aware of her presence because I greeted her some minutes before but I was not paying attention to what was she doing. Suddenly I heard her calling a name, her child name, louder and louder. I run to her and she told me 'I can't find my child'. We moved fast...in less then one minute, everybody in the store was searching for the missing child and each entrance was guarded. After few minutes we knew was time to call the security mall, the kid wasn't in our store anymore. They found him very fast, all the way to the other end of the mall.
There's few reasons why this is happening and some ways to prevent it, if only parents would take the time to think and get prepared. Most kids that are reported lost in stores are between 3 to 5 years old. At this age, kids tend to explore, wondering around, hiding between the racks and fixtures, waking away from their parents' spot. They are attracted by toys, colourful clothing or hideaway places. They get easily distracted by other kids and easily bored.
There are some common mistakes that parents make.
1st: They assume that the kid is somewhere around. As a matter a fact, if you don't hear or see your kid for one minute, chances are that he/she is far away.
2nd: They wait for the kid to come back. Children have a short attention span and they don't remember where they were 2 minutes ago.
3rd: Some parents wait to make absolutely sure their child is lost. (this is actually a case that ended happily but could have ended bad. One customer came to me one night about 7:30 to tell me she cannot find her kid. When I asked her where she had last seen him, she told me the spot where he was. She told me she waited for him for 20 minutes to come back. All this time, the kid wandered around, got out of the store, and was walking in the parking lot when some people brought him back in the store).
The best way to react when you realize your child is missing is to find a store associate and report the case right away. Tell the clerk the following information, in this order: age, gender, skin colour, name, what is the kid wearing, last place where he/she had been seen. Also, ask to be place at an exit door so he/she will not walk out. If you find your child first, do report back to the store employees so they stop looking. But in most cases missing children are found by store employees or by the mall security.
Here are some things I learned in my retail experience:
When shopping with your toddler, forget that he/she is a person. Better treat him/her like your wallet, your purse, or your car keys...something that you have to keep close and bring back home.
Be aware that the worst time, when most of the cases happened, is around Christmas time. So, as we step into the holiday season keep in mind few things: Stores will be crowded. There will be more traffic comparing with a regular month. It's easy to overlook your child with many people around.
There is going to be more merchandise on the floor - therefore more stops for you to check them out, more things for your child to get distracted. You will spend more time in the store and your kid can get bored.
Lots of parents are going to shop with their little ones so yours would tend to fallow them.
I also learned that some parents are asking the kid to take care of the shopping cart may give them a sense of responsibility and they like helping mom and/or dad; or keep the kid in the shopping card as much as they, can offering them toys (brought from home), books, even snacks (non messy ones please); they speak with the kids or ask them to help with shopping and this may help the children stay around the parent and focus their attention.
I wrote this article a while ago and I didn't think to make it into a hub. But as I search for another lost child on Wednesday night I realized that parents often overlook the danger of shopping with the kids and maybe they need a reminder. I just hope for a peaceful holiday season.