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Ask Rene: The Price Is Right?

broken-vase-300x300Ask Rene:
The Price Is Right?

Dear Rene,

A few weekends ago, my husband and I were shopping with our two small kids, Hannah age 3 and Ella, 5, in a local home furnishing store – a place we shop quite often and actually know the owners. The store is wonderful, filled with lots of floor displays and room for customers to shop.

The kids were having a good time playing with each other while my husband and I were shopping.  All of a sudden we heard a loud crash and saw my 3 year old Hannah, on the floor surrounded by broken glass, crying. She had accidentally bumped into the display. Other than a small scratch Hannah was fine, just startled by the loud noise.

Needless, to say the owners were concerned about Hannah and happy she was fine. Once things settled down, my husband and I were approached by the owners who explained to us that the items broken had to be paid for.

Rene, the items were on a floor display in the middle of the store, just waiting for an accident.  We are happy our little girl wasn’t hurt but do you think we are responsible and should pay for the broken items?


Rachel, San Diego

Dear Rachel:

Honey, thanks for writing but this is a joke right? Either that or you’re new to the site and not sure how I respond. If you are new to the site, something tells me after you read this, you won’t be back. So open your checkbook wide and be prepared to pay up. Here’s why.

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A playground warning sign with selective color desaturation

There are places specifically for little people with lots of energy. They have slides and swings and wood chips all over the place so tender knees don’t get scraped up. Little people meet up with other little people and share everything from gossip to germs. They are called PLAYGROUNDS and that is where kids are supposed to run around, not inside stores filled with expensive and breakable stuff. NO!

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One of the aspects about this that concerns me is not only did you and your husband NOT offer to pay right away, but you genuinely seem surprised that the store owners would ask you to. Let’s say you have an expensive vase in your home and you host a dinner for some friends. Their two kids come over and are throwing your dog’s tennis ball in the house when it hits the vase, which comes crashing to the floor. Your friends would feel awful and, in the interest of keeping the friendship on track, would probably offer to pay for it on the spot.  They know it would not be fair for the actions of their kids to result in you being out money. It’s the same thing here; why should the owners have to pay because you didn’t keep an eye out on your kids?

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Okay, now I have to tell you.. this is one of those things that gets in my craw. I am a mother and I understand kid behavior having seen it up close and personal. I know it’s hard to control them and sometimes they do stupid things without a clue as to why. BUT, they are your responsibility! Why on earth would you take a three and five-year-old furniture shopping with you anyway? You can’t concentrate, you’ll be running after them (though in this case it sounds like you were not) and you’ll probably end up spending way more than you intended (in this case it sounds like you will) in an effort to get them to hush up.

As parents we have a responsibility to raise our children; as members of our community we have a responsibility to make sure our children don’t disturb or disrupt the comfort of others. So, yes you need to pay and in the future and next time, leave your kids home unless you are going to a kid-friendly place. A funhouse, yes. A furniture store? Not on your life.

Good luck mommy!

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That’s my advice.. what would you tell Rachel?

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(Editor’s note: This piece originally ran on May 2, 2011)

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  1. Leslie

    May 2, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Pretty sure the old adage, “You break it, you buy it” still applies. I can’t believe this woman would not know that. I was pretty much raised with that little ditty in my head. Good response Rene, I agree with you 100%!

  2. b.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Thank you, Rene. Really, thanks!

    Three and five and “having a good time playing with each other” in a store? And this store is not Toys ‘r Us? (Which, even then, is not acceptable.) I wish I *would* have thought about running and playing in ANY type of STORE as a child. The thought of my mother’s look alone would suffice to knock that idea down.

    Let me break it down: you don’t play in the store. Why? Because you may break something. And if something breaks…there’s a price to pay.

    I’m glad the little girl wasn’t hurt. But this lady has got to be joking.

  3. juli

    May 2, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Actually, I’m not sure if this applies in other states, but in California.; A store owner cannot make a customer pay for a broken item, unless true neglect was the cause of the break. ie; kids playing catch with an antique vase. It is a reason shops carry insuance and part of the risk of doing business. It is also a write off for taxes. Just like how back in the day restaurants would charge employess for broken glass ware on the job is now outlawed. I myself have replaced food at my expense if they accidently drop it before leaving. Just seems like good customer service.
    But since the shop owner was a friend, I would have offered to replace the item out of respect for the frienship. I also would not bring my children shopping with me to a posh store, as it puts a lot of pressure on them to not be children and I wouldn’t enjoy my shopping experience having to keep tabs on the kids. So I completely agree with you there. But all in all accidents happen, and that is why they are called accidents.

  4. Rene Syler

    May 2, 2011 at 10:41 am

    @juli: I see your point. To me though, it was really more about responsible parenting. She was shopping with her husband and the kids, you know what probably happened; they looked away for a minute and that was all it took. But while the idea that they brought young kids there in the first place was baffling to me, the fact that they did not trip over themselves offering to pay is even more shocking to me. I agree that accidents happen but it helps if we try to mitigate the circumstances wherever possible.

  5. Auntie Lisa

    May 2, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I agree. It was very rude of Rachel and her husband not to offer to pay for it immediately. If store owners have to “absorb” things like this, the costs must get passed along to all their customers… so we all end up paying for the irresponsible folks’ mishaps.

  6. Poutchi

    May 2, 2011 at 11:11 am

    I am not sure if this is the same at every store but when my sister came to visit, we went to this home decor store and she was wearing and african gown with got caught in a candle holder and trew it down thus breaking it, as least the glass part of it. We immediatly apologize and of course offer to pay and they told us that we split the price so made us pay only 50% of the marked price of the item, plus since it was 80% steel they gave it to us… it is still in my sister’s bathroom!
    But I mean you need to teach good exemple to the kids. Not taking your responsibilities isn’t a good way to do so.
    I totally agree with you Rene!

  7. juli

    May 2, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Oh they definitely should have offered. That is just common respect. But the friend who owned the store should only charge the wholesale cost and maybe look how they display delicate products in the future just out of defense of the “unattended children” We have a local store that post a sign that says
    “All unattended children will b.e given a kitten” It’s a friendly way of telling people to watch their children.

  8. m.e. Johnson

    May 2, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Oh Rene, you are soooo right! And Juli, there should be no such thing as “unattended children” in any store. In addition to what Rene said, nowadays wherever you are, unattended children can disappear in a nano-second, sometimes never to be seen again.

    In Kansas I browsed a huge antiques store with everything from precious delicate breakables to tractors. A clearly visible sign on the front counter reads: “Unattended children found will be sold into slavery.” I saw no unattended children.

  9. Shay

    May 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I think my favorite “unattended child” sign has been : All unattended children will be given copious amounts of sugar and caffine. And a whistle.

  10. Tiffany

    May 3, 2011 at 9:43 am

    The line that gets me is, “The kids were having a good time playing with each other while my husband and I were shopping.” I don’t know about anyone else (or if I’m just being a beast, actually), but often these kids who are “just having a good time playing” are often the ones who are annoying the crap out of everyone else in the store.

    Rene is right. It is most definitely about responsible parenting. And to me, it doesn’t sound like Rachel looked away for a second & an accident happened. It sounds like she & her husband were allowing their children to run amok (at least a little) because it made *their* shopping experience more enjoyable.

    And that IS the price you pay.

  11. Margit

    May 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    So this letter wasn’t a joke huh? Sadly,common sense is one of the biggest oxymorons out there. *Sigh*

  12. Tarrah

    June 12, 2011 at 3:49 am

    The store that I work at absorbs the cost of broken items. Generally the broken items are accidents, and not purposely broken items, or it would be a different story entirely.

    But were the grocery store I work at a posh furniture store, I can see where the store owner in this story is getting at.

    It’s all about responsible parenting, so amen to Tiffany’s comment, too 😉

  13. Beth Bellor

    January 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    “The kids were having a good time playing with each other while my husband and I were shopping.” So you admittedly relied on a store to be your babysitter? Drag the kids through the displays with you, or one of you stay home and trust the other one to buy the right thing.

  14. The Momarchy Ladies

    December 27, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Really? I would never let my kids roam around a store (expensive or not) unaccompanied. That’s just asking for trouble! “You break it, you buy it” definitely still applies.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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