Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Assault or Concerned Employee?

I'm so busy this week. I have all my normal wifely,motherly, teacherly duties and I'm getting ready for my sister's baby shower. We're celebrating Addie becoming a member of our family. So yesterday I met my sister and her gorgeous baby for lunch and we discussed invites to the shower.

Straight after lunch I went to wal-mart with my children to pick up some stationary for the job. I was looking at the choices and talking on the cellphone to Stephani. (She had gone home to give Addie a nap. My children are way too entertaining to sleep around.) John was at the end of the aisle looking at party favors. Hannah was on the other end of the cart making her own purchasing decisions. I saw out of the corner of my eye that she was loading up my cart with all sorts of merchandise.

I was about to hang up and "help" Hannah replace all the loot, when a nice, grandmotherly employee came up to Hannah and said, "You don't need to do that." She grabbed Hannah's wrists (albeit, gently) and stopped the cart-loading process. Then she started to remove the packages from my cart. The Mamabear inside me woke up nice and quick. In a firm, assertive tone I said, "Ma'am... Ma'am. Please stop. This is keeping her busy and I will be putting those back in just a minute. She's not hurting anything." She finally paused and looked at me incredulously and asked, "Back where they are supposed to go?".

My tone was still firm but starting to move from assertive to frustrated. "Yes, of course, I'll put them back where they belong." I knelt down and started to reshelve the plates when I realized I was still on the phone. I quickly said to Stephani, "I'll call you back. Apparently I'm an employee of Wal-mart now."

The woman stayed in the aisle working on the shelves nearby. She was about 10 feet away from us. John wandered over to ask if he could go look at toys. I spoke to him but my words and tone were directed at the woman who I perceived as assaulting my daughter, my parenting skills, and my character. "We are leaving. I don't believe it is appropriate for someone to come and put their hands on someone's child and tell us what things we should buy. We will go get our supplies from Staples. Wal-mart does not want our money today."

I was frustrated and angry but not terribly so. I felt good about my assertiveness in telling the woman to stop and not quite as proud of my passive-aggressive ramblings to John about the woman. I probably should have spoken directly to her and and asked for a manager. I never asked for a supervisor or even her name, I simply left the store.

But on the other hand, I keep thinking I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. She was out of bounds but she wasn't particularly nasty and she was actually sweet as she disciplined my child. She behaved just as my mother or mother-in-law would have. But that's the thing... this wasn't the grandmother of my grandchildren. This was a complete stranger.

I've never worked retail but I have worked in situations where people were thoughtless and even rude in their lack of concern for others. I know she was probably thinking about all the work this little girl was making for her. This woman had no way of knowing, of course, that I was going to put the things back and not just stash them haphazardly as I walked by.

That doesn't give her permission to parent my child, parent me and remove things from my cart. My sister, who was on the other end of the cellphone, later told me that people used to come into a clothing store where she worked and make horrible messes. She said they'd remove a bunch of different dress shirts from the packaging and leave the pins on the floor of the dressing room and they were unable to put them back in the bags. Sometimes she'd try to head them off by offering to measure them or point out that the convenience of standardized sizing so that they only needed to try on one... but she said she'd never dream of telling a customer they couldn't take seven shirts of the same size into a dressing room and wreck the packaging.

I was emotional in the moment but the "danger" of what she did faded quite quickly. Where I find myself now is a somewhat academic inner discussion of what is the best way to handle something like this. I know for a fact the woman behaved inappropriately. I know I handled asking her to stop assertively and without a nasty attitude. But after that... I'm sure that my talking about her for her benefit was childish. (Even if it might have been deserved.)

So if I don't choose to use that method in the future to inform others of my distate, what would be the redemptive course of action? Did this interaction warrant a discussion with her supervisor. Or is this simply a shrug it off sort of situation? Perhaps something in between where I actually address her politely and explain why I felt that was inappropriate? Or something else? What do you all think? Perhaps I should shop at Target?


Angela (HsvScrapGirl) said...

Yikes! On top of everything else, she could have caused a reaction! If she had handled anything with milk or soy since she had last washed her hands, then Hannah could have reacted!

MamaHolly said...

You and Theo had exactly the same thought. Great minds think alike. :D

Angela (HsvScrapGirl) said...

That is funny! But as I read I had this fear that was where the story was headed. I'm glad she didn't react!

Molly Sabourin said...

This is a great post, Holly. You explain so well that uneasy feeling in the pit of a mother's stomach when someone else repremands/makes assumptions about her child. I'm not sure what I would have done. I am so passive in those kinds of situations. I am working on being able to look a person in the eye and either apologize or state clearly, "Thanks for your concern but I can handle it"

MamaHolly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MamaHolly said...

I'm posting this for Dena because blogger wouldn't allow her comment. I've changed the settings to allow everyone to comment. Feel free to email me your comment if you still have problems.

It is hard for me to comment since I don't have kids or the mamabear instincts but I do think that she was out of line. If she was really concerned, she should have been assertive and spoken to YOU. Maybe point out to you that Hannah was putting stuff in your cart since her main concern might have been that you were just clueless to the mess, not knowing that you were watching.

I think your response was good, but I kind of like Molly's suggestion of just letting her know you handled it.
I'm thinking that switching your shopping habits because of her one action might be extreme. You'd have to view it in light of other employees as well as price and convenience. She is probably not a true representation of what employees are "taught."

Just my "non mamabear" reactions....

MamaHolly said...

I agree that Molly's comment was great. Thank you all for commenting on this one. And I will still be going to wal-mart... my Target question at the end was tongue-in-cheek. :D

Though I do typically have better shopping experiences elsewhere, regardless of this specific encounter.