Free-Range Kids

Lego Store Detains 11-Year-Old Boy for Shopping Without Dad

Store: It should be obvious to any good parent that children under 12 shouldn't be in a store unattended."

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lego
Lego Movie / Youtube

A boy of 11 was detained in a Canadian Lego store for being "too young" to shop on his own. This note to the store comes to us from his father, Doug Dunlop, who describes himself as an outdoor dad in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Here's an edited version of what he wrote to the store:

Dear Lego,

Today, our son went to the Lego store in Chinook Mall, Calgary, Alberta.  He had over $200 and was intending to purchase some Lego with it.  He is a frequent customer and a skilled Lego builder. He uses his own money he has earned from such things as babysitting and shoveling walks.

Imagine my surprise when I entered the store and found that the manager had called a security guard to detain my son. He then tried to coerce me into staying with my son while he was in the Lego store.

It is important to note that my son has been to the Lego store on his own several dozen times and has made thousands of dollars' worth of purchases.  No Lego store employee has ever questioned his behavior.  He does not disrupt business and he is a paying customer.

I spoke to the security guard who told me that the Lego store required a parent to be with any child 12 or under. He  stated that it was Lego store policy and that he was just enforcing it.

I then followed the guard to the manager, and asked him why he would call security on my son.  He stated that for safety reasons, no child under 12 could be left unattended in the store. I explained that I had not left him unattended—he had arrived at the store on his own, as a customer. I happened to be meeting him there afterward, but only because we wanted to meet for lunch.

I asked what scenario made the Lego store so unsafe that an 11.5 year old needed a chaperon? He replied, "If I have to explain THAT to you, then you shouldn't be a parent."

The security guard then piped in and started making a claim that child abductions from the mall were a frequent event—which is a lie. I cut him off and asked, "How many child abductions have taken place here in the mall?"

I questioned why the age policy was not posted at the front of the store and the manger responded once again with, "It should be obvious to any good parent that children under 12 shouldn't be in a store unattended. We have the policy for child safety reasons. Your son is welcome in the store, but we ask that you accompany him whenever he is here."

The dad went on to list what he would like the store to do: apologize, and post the age policy on the front door.

I recognize that just because this one manager and one security guard got it into their heads that an 11 year old is the equivalent of a toddler, that does not mean that all malls, or Lego stores, or Lego store managers, are this uptight. And the fact that the boy shopped there many other times unbothered by the staff indicates that this time was an anomaly.

But of course the big point is to make sure that kids—like the elderly, the disabled, and everyone of every stripe and color—are always allowed to be part of society without being discriminated against on the false pretense of "safety."

Doug, the dad, says that he has just spoken with the district manager, "and the summary is that they will put up a sign saying no unaccompanied children under 12. The safety scenario he suggested was that if the mall was evacuated and my child couldn't contact me it would be dangerous."

Talk about classic worst-first thinking—dreaming up the very worst case scenario first and proceeding as if it's likely to happen. It's like saying, "Well, of course I'd LIKE to allow kids to play at the park. But if a tiger got loose from the zoo, it could be attracted to the scent of young meat. So for the children's safety, we're forbidding them to play outside."

My advice to Lego: Apologize and give the boy a Bionicle. Quit while you're behind, but have not yet outraged every kid with an allowance.

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  1. I wouldn’t fuck with Lego. Those Mindstorm robots are just the beginning.

    1. I know they want us to call it “Lego”, but I call it “Legos”

      *shrugs*

      1. Playing with a single Lego would be almost as awful as an article with no alt-text.

  2. “Go down to the corner store and get daddy some cigarettes. And keep the change for whatever you want.”

    Anyone remember that kind of liberty?

    1. It’s all gone, like beers in the rain.

      1. That’s poetic and hauntingly beautiful.

    2. It wasn’t cigarettes, but yeah I remember being sent out to the local grocery to get something that was needed for supper and yeah the payoff for having to trudge a whole couple of blocks to the store was being able to use the change on something good.

    3. I’m old enough to remember going and buying my dad a 6pack of Budwiser

    4. Holy crap, I wish my dad had smoked.

    5. Fuck yeah. When I was six, my Dad would send me to the pharmacy for Parliament (box, not pack!) and whatever candy I wanted with the change. Of course, that was back when…

      EVERYTHING WAS AWESOME!!!

    6. Sure do! Get the old man a pack of Kool Milds and by myself a couple of packs of Baseball cards. Pure bliss!

    7. Jeebus!

      When I was 11, I got up every morning at 4:30 (all by myself!), stuffed the ads into sixty newspapers, walked 4 miles while delivering them to my customers- and on Saturdays, would hit the bakery on the way home for donuts and chocolate milk.

      And, I would have kicked that security weenie in his balls.

  3. Yes but what wage is the employee at the lego store making?

    It’s fuck well better be $15 or higher.

  4. The world has changed so much in such a short time. We usually talk about things like flat-screen satellite TV and iPhones as indicators of change, but this highlights some huge changes in society.

    When I was that age back in the 70’s, every kid in america went to the toy section at Penny’s or to the toy store in the mall while mom went shopping for an hour or two. That’s just what you did. Nobody was the least bit worried about kids being abducted, and we probably cost the stores a good bit to take care of the mess, but everyone seemed happy to live that way. And that was in a time where violent crime was twice as prevalent as it is today.

    It is just crazy to me how worried and soft we have become.

    1. Yep. My mom used to take me to the mall. We would agree to meet at a certain place in the mall at a certain time (usually 1 to 1.5 hours later) and that was that. On the other hand, this was in the idyllic 70s, when crime was nonexistent and everyone was safe and happy.

      1. idyllic 70s, when crime was nonexistent

        LOL

    2. I distinctly recall getting stuck in the plastic toy handcuffs and having to ask for assistance.

      1. I’m confused. Was this in college or what?

      2. Sometimes I would go in the middle of a circular clothes rack, sit down, and read for like 45 minutes.

    3. Three words:

      Nancy fucking Grace

      1. Ouch. That hurt.

      2. She goes by the mononym; “Cunt”.

    4. I was born in 83, so it was the early 90’s when we did the same thing. My mom had no interest in hanging out at the comic book store, and I had no interest in clothes shopping. So we met up when we were done

  5. It must suck being a kid today. Except for the video games – but everything else must suck.

  6. “Doug, the dad, says that he has just spoken with the district manager, “and the summary is that they will put up a sign saying no unaccompanied children under 12. The safety scenario he suggested was that if the mall was evacuated and my child couldn’t contact me it would be dangerous.””

    Really? The supposed danger in this instance is a freak mall evacuation?

    1. What if someone had attacked him with a passion fruit?

      1. Or worse – a pointed stick.

        1. “We haven’t done bananas yet!”

    2. Well since he called them out on the farce of child abductions at the mall they had to come up with something.

      And it is a well known fact that there are like at least 10 mall evacuations to every child abductions.

      X * mall evacs * 10 = X * child abductions

      Sure I’m betting that some of you assholes will point out that X is 0, but still it is a true statement.

  7. But of course the big point is to make sure that kids?like the elderly, the disabled, and everyone of every stripe and color?are always allowed to be part of society without being discriminated against on the false pretense of “safety.”

    Should bakers be forced to bake wedding cakes for 11 year olds?

    1. only if they’re gay 11 year olds

      1. Let’s not overlook the sad 11 year olds.

  8. This is Canadian years, right? Isn’t that something like 5 in real years?

    1. Way longer dude. They don’t use regular calendar years like normal humans.

      They go by seasons. So that kid is like 11.5 winters old. And since winter never ends up there he is really like 40 or so.

  9. “If I have to explain THAT to you, then you shouldn’t be a parent.”

    Somebody wants a broken nose.

    1. THIS!

      Life was much simpler before the NAP replaced playground rules. Some people really need to be punched.

      1. That’s not to say that I would actually punch the dude. Just that he will have earned it at that point.

    2. That’s the kind of effective customer relations you just can’t teach.

  10. Eleven year old kinnath was a Boy Scout with a pocket knife, a hatchet, and a box of matches.

    Kinnath also had a bicycle that he rode without a helmet to the local store and spent all his free cash on candy bars and sodas.

    1. Until one fateful day, kinnath was riding home from the candy shop when he had a diabetic seizure causing him to wreck his bike, split his open on a hatchet, puncture his his scrotum on a pocket knife and burst into flames after his box of matches exploded on impact.

        1. …and then abducted by Jeffery Dalmer – and EATEN!

          1. What else would you do with a precooked kid lying on the side of the road?

    2. 13 yr old Lord went to a pharmacy and bought–
      “blue tip” matches
      potassium nitrate
      a pack of cigarettes

      The dude behind us in line was *shocked* that they sold us the matches….

  11. Why didn’t the manager tell the truth? That is, if a lone eleven-year-old ever DID get abducted from the Lego store, the policy might prevent them from being sued.

    “See, we told you not to leave your eleven-year-old here alone.”

  12. The security guard made a claim that child abductions from the mall were a frequent event. Frequent Event? Does he realized what poor PR that is for the mall. Why would any parent then take their kids to that mall ever. Why would I, even as an adult, want to shop at a mall that had frequent abductions regardless of age?

    I grew up in the late sixties and seventies and was made to watch in school those social guidance/safety films. The most over-the-top films were produced by Sid Davis; most notorious was “Boys Beware”. It’s like we are now living inside some Sid Davis film.

    1. Why would any parent then take their kids to that mall ever.

      They’re probably the same parents who send their daughters to college knowing that 1 out of five of them will be assaulted.

      1. If it weren’t “victim blaming” and “enabling abduction/rape culture” then it would be irresponsible NOT to send your kid to the mall or college armed.

    2. Was that the one that told you how to identify the homosexual predator?

      1. HP,

        Not just how to identify them but that they are all around and no boy is safe. Parts of the film are just strange. One boy is molested, and later reports the crime. The police arrest the perpetrator but the boy is put on probation?!?

        In Sid Davis’ world children were just a hair’s breadth from death, dismemberment, blindness, other injuries, molestation, etc. It did not matter what the kid was doing, playing in the park with other kids, doing homework or chores, eating lunch at school, he/she was in constant danger.

  13. When I was 11, I was swallowing Legos left and right. At 12, I coughed them all up. True story.

    1. You must have been dealing with some serious shit to be eating Legos at age 11.

      1. Are you kidding me?! The red ones are delicious!

        *rummages through desk drawer for Lego Lunch*

    2. But what had you built? I MUST KNOW!

      1. “You didn’t build that.”

      2. Quite a potential lawsuit?

  14. IMHO, the real reason for the “no unaccompanied children under 12” is so the store employees don’t have to babysit. Store mgmt uses the “safety” excuse because most parents will believe their kids are at risk of abduction.

  15. in Canada mind you

    1976… 11 yr old Dave and his friends….
    buy gun powder from gun shop, advise counter guy we were making bombs, which we were
    roam streets of the city with pellet guns shooting at “stuff”
    corner pharmacy sold chemicals. such as sulfur, salt peter, charcoal etc… see bombs above
    ramshackle ramps, rafts, etc never with supervision
    talked a farmer just outside the city to let us ride his horses… “go ahead if you can break em without hurting them, if you get hurt it isn’t my problem” only one broken collarbone in the group, who “wiped out on his bike”… cause that guy was awesome and we didn’t want to get him trouble…

    Shit my friends and I were jumping on the bus and going downtown when we were 8 or 9 to roam around

    Maybe there are still places where this sort of thing still goes on… but for the most part I don’t see it anywhere any more and they are poorer for it

  16. I recognize that just because this one manager and one security guard got it into their heads that an 11 year old is the equivalent of a toddler, that does not mean that all malls, or Lego stores, or Lego store managers, are this uptight. And the fact that the boy shopped there many other times unbothered by the staff indicates that this time was an anomaly.

    True story: The barber shop in my neighborhood won’t let “unattended” children under 12 in.

    What that means… and I’m having a hard time saying this with a straight face… what that means is, if I’m sitting in the barber chair, and my 11 yr old daughter is sitting 8 feet away in one of the customer waiting chairs reading a magazine, she’s “unattended” and I’m not allowed to get a haircut. I have questioned this policy several times, and the only answer I get is a vague “it’s our insurance policy”.

    Apparently, attended means I need to have her physically in hand at all moments she’s in the shop, I must be facing her and be in constant eye-contact until we both leave the shop. She must exit the door first, and I must be the last to exit the door.

    1. But then she’s outside unattended until you get out there. All the predators who are constantly watching her could swoop in and grab her the moment she crosses the threshold while you’re still inside. Best to just leave her at home until she’s 26. And stay with her so CPS doesn’t have to get involved. Unless you have Radon or Carbon Monoxide.

      1. Nice sarcasm, HP.

        I noticed that the explanation given (whether true or not) was “it’s our insurance policy” which is compatible with what Paul informed us he was told: “She must exit the door first, and I must be the last to exit the door.”.

        What happens to children after they exit the barber shop/insured place of business is evidently of far less importance.

    2. And you still patronize those assholes?

  17. “Well, of course I’d LIKE to allow kids to play at the park. But if a tiger got loose from the zoo, it could be attracted to the scent of young meat. So for the children’s safety, we’re forbidding them to play outside.”

    I hear there are rocks for that situation.

    1. I have one here – for today’s special, it also guards against the *WOMBAT MENACE*.

  18. When I was 11 years old, I took a 300 mile trip by myself including 100 miles by train, 150 miles on a different train after a one hour layover in a downtown train station, and then 50 miles by bus after a 10 hour layover in another downtown station. Also, I carried a rifle in my baggage.

    I managed to get there without being abducted, molested, or robbed, and I didn’t use the rifle to hijack the bus. None of my parents or the relatives I was going to visit thought this was strange.

    I was fortunate that CPS did not exist in those days.

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