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Child detained at Lego store

“Stay here and wait for your dad. Customers must be 12 or over.”


Update April 29, 2015:

I spoke to the district manager just now, 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. I explained the difference between inconvenient and dangerous. Also the store manager denies saying anything outside of “for child safety reasons, this is our policy” – I can’t say that I blame him, to admit to having said that to me would show integrity, but be career limiting for him. 

Comment moderation was becoming overwhelming, I have closed the comments. Thank you for all the kind words and for the alternate perspectives.

End of Update.

The following is a letter to Lego regarding an incident which happened at the Chinook Centre Lego store on Sunday.  My son, who rides his bike to school alone, goes regularly to stores to buy groceries, earns money for babysitting and yard work, and is passionate about Lego, is apparently not old enough to be at the Lego Store alone.  This policy is not posted, and they had to sneakily ask him his age to even know how old he was.  He has been going to the Lego store alone to spend his money since he was 9.

April 26, 2015
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 at the Lego Store and likes to browse the merchandise and evaluate his next purchase.  He is a skilled lego builder and has built many of his own models as well as assembling kits which he has purchased from the Lego Store.  He uses his own money which he has earned from such things as babysitting and shoveling walks.
Imagine my surprise when I entered the Lego Store and found that the manager of the Lego Store had called a security guard to detain my son and confront me to try 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.  He is dedicated to Lego and has a very extensive collection.  He has never been hassled, and no Lego Store employee has ever questioned his behavior in the store.  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 who was in the store.  I then asked what my son had done wrong.  The security guard stated that it was Lego Store policy and that he was just enforcing it.
I then followed the guard to the manager, Sydney Lowe, and asked the manager 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, but that 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.  The store manager then said, “For child safety reasons, we don’t allow children under 12 to be unattended in the store.”  I asked what safety scenario made the Lego Store so unsafe that an 11.5 year old needed a chaperone.  He then replied “If I have to explain THAT to you, then you shouldn’t be a parent.”  I explained that my son had been a Lego Store customer for years and that he had spent thousands of dollars of his own on Lego.  I explained that it was bad for business to require my son to have a parent with him in the store.  I explained that my son regularly went to stores, including the Lego store and that there was no reason why the Lego store should be an exception to general society.  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?”  The security guard then said to me, “if you don’t see how leaving your child alone in a store is dangerous, then you are a bad parent.”  I questioned why this alleged policy was not posted on 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.”
We left the store and have no plans to return.
When I recounted the story to my wife, she went to the Lego Store to get the manager’s card.  He treated her with contempt and made  it clear that he did not care if we shopped in the Lego Store ever again.
We asked our son how they had even found out his age, and he replied that he had been discussing Lego with one of the store employees (he was not sure which one, but not the manager) when the employee asked, “Just out of curiosity, how old are you?”  Our son naturally assumed that he simply wanted to know the age of the Lego Prodigy that he was talking to and provided his age.
Lego is a big part of our son’s life, and by extension a big part of our life.  It would be very sad for us to have to end our customer relationship with Lego on a permanent basis.  As such, I am asking for the following restitution:
1.  Sydney Lowe will deliver to me a personal, believable and full apology for questioning my right to be a parent.  I am raising my children to be strong, independent and good citizens. He has no right to disparage me as a parent in light of the fact that my son was by his own admission doing nothing wrong.
2. Sydney Lowe will also deliver an apology to my son. My son is a dedicated Lego customer and does not deserve to be treated as anything but a responsible young Lego enthusiast, and certainly not a criminal, which, by calling a security guard and detaining him, certainly implies.
3. The Security Guard at Chinook Centre will be found and will also deliver an apology to me for questioning my parenting, lying and detaining my child for no reason.
4. If this policy is actual policy, then it will be posted on the door of the Lego store in Chinook Centre so that responsible children can see the contempt in which the Lego Store holds them. (especially the manager)
Please understand that I am not asking that the Lego Store run a babysitting service for anyone who comes to the mall.  I am merely asking that paying customers of any age be treated with the respect that they deserve.

Doug Dunlop

cc; Sydney Lowe
Lenore Skenazy

40 thoughts on “Child detained at Lego store

  1. Yes! I would have been detained throughout most of my childhood. We can’t allow society to force thie fear state on the next generation. When I took my family across Canada by bicycle, as well as when we pedaled across the USA, I was called crazy, irresponsible and cruel – forget that those secret summers are the heart and soul of our family and their childhood. Keep raising your son to be independent and thoughtful and strong. Hopefully the world will get a grip! Cheers, Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie, bestselling author of Metal Cowboy, Momentum Is Your Friend and Mud, Sweat and Gears.

  2. I was sent on many an errand at this age and younger on my bike. and to have a manager question your skills at parenting??? He is lucky you didn’t clock him one.

    1. He is indeed, ironically, it is because I believe that I am a good parent that I controlled myself.

      1. An excellent point! I worry about the way things are going and how kids will be able to progress to doing things on their own if mommy and daddy are forced to be there at all times

        Mine is 17 and he HATES when a parent has to do something for him

  3. Yes! My parents are the worst! I walked and rode my bike to school about a mile away. Went out all day long without a cell phone with only the promise of being back at a certain time and the assurance i was a certain place. I would take my money to stores, took the bus to the mall the next town over. And dont tell me times have changed because i was born in 1986. It hasnt changed that much in 29 years since i was born. The hysteria is what has changed.

    1. The world has actually gotten safer since you were young. Violent crime is significantly down all over North America.

      1. Exactly. People get hysterical and paranoid about it because while the incidents of abduction and abuse are down, the media coverage of any of these incidents is way up, and everywhere.

  4. Lego, working hard to ensure kids aren’t permitted to grow or learn independence. Because Lego is not about learning anymore. It’s all about branding now. Maybe if they can keep them in diapers until age 21, they can squeeze a few more toy-playing years out of a child’s lifecycle.

    For all of us parents with nine year olds who want to grow, learn and practice making independent decisions, please consider filing a lawsuit against them. If a company with Lego’s brand recognition lost a lawsuit like this, it might just slow down the damage our society is doing to the learning aspect of childhood.

    1. I am pretty sure that this is a store policy, and maybe just this manager, I don’t think the Lego Corporation endorses such a repressive action. I think the toy is a great way to promote many of the good traits that kids have and I wouldn’t want the actions of one store manager to ruin that for my kids.

      1. If it is “Store Policy” it’s not a great policy, but the Manager should have just continued to repeat this, while hoping you left the store.

        When he started talking about your parenting…wow. Lego really needs to focus on Manager training, especially when their business lives off of parents and their children.

        Keep us posted on this, if Lego doesn’t have him present a formal apology, it’s time for other parents to send them a message.

  5. I can see this policy being in place to ensure the safety of their merchandise, but this is the first I’ve heard of a store having a policy that’s primarily in place to enforce safety of children? And yet they led with the latter as their rationale.

    I wonder if this is just a store manager and security guard not understanding WHY the policy exists and instead just enforcing the letter of it (and making up the rationale on the fly).

  6. Brutal! I personally don’t believe in helicopter parenting. My kids walked the mall at 12, and went into various stores. Sell a kids product, expect that kids would shop there. Also, train staff to
    Watch for unsafe behaviour. I have never heard of a child being taken from Chinook Mall. I have shared your story and hopefully it goes viral…

  7. This is unbelievable! Since when does the Lego store reserve the right to become a second parent? This could have been my son. He earns his own money and shops Lego deciding what he is going to purchase this time or if he will continue to save for the bigger items. He rides his bike to the grocery store without me and never has a problem. The Lego store is tiny as it is and it’s a challenge to try and get in there with 3 additional children and a stroller. Sure, it’s not a babysitting service but any skilled salesman knows who’s just hanging out verses who’s there to shop.

  8. Bravo Doug! Though police are now employees at the lego store.

  9. I raised my children to be responsible. They would be called Latch-Key kids today. They reported into a neighbor then went home, made a snack and did their homework. They got themselves to swim practice, soccer practice and other activities on their bikes if we were not there to take them. They either walked or rode their bikes to and from school. They all had jobs in high school All 3 have graduate degrees. One is an attorney, one is a pharmacist and one is a Master’s prepared nurse.

  10. We won’t be shopping in that store until you receive the appropriate apologies. Their behavior is ridiculous! I encourage my oldest, who is 8, to earn her own money and do the shopping on her own. I may be nearby, but it is important for them to learn independence! Please keep us up to date on this situation and I hope you have also contacted Lego’s corporate office!

  11. It’s actually illegal to detain someone unless they are under arrest (security guards can do a citizens arrest) if they believe a child to be lost they are supposed to contact Calgary police to assist with this. What they did is completely and totally illegal and I hope this mom knows the laws up and down

  12. I imagine there are so many parents who would drop their little kids off at the lego store to “shop” while the parents went and completed their own errands with little or no chance of ever purchasing a thing, that they had to come up with a policy for younger and less responsible children than the likes of yours. I agree with the suggestion you have made, this policy is about avoiding making the lego store a babysitting service.
    Everything that happened to your family around the enforcement of this policy though is ridiculous, unnecessary and weird. It makes no sense that the manager would handle your challenge in this way. It seems as though the manager and the security person were unwavering in their denial and certainly suffering from their lack of understanding of customer service. Often people have been treated as though they are always right, for so long, they do not have a clue what to do when they are challenged or are in the wrong?
    I hope you are able to satisfy your child’s love of lego and the convenience of this store with the obvious consequence to not want to hand over your earnings for such poor customer service.
    Good luck.

  13. I think wroth the amount lego promotes kids to be creative that you should get hold of head office and inquire what they’re policies are since they say they want kids to do things on their own all time.

  14. I do believe that this is a store policy and to some extent is valid. They do not want parents leaving their kids in the store while they shop elsewhere. It’s a business not a babysitter. Please don’t say this wouldn’t happen because I’ve seen parents leave their kids in the toy section of stores while they go off and shop. So while the majority of parents and children will be responsible there are those that aren’t and the store cannot be made to be responsible for children that are left/alone in their store. All it would take is for one child to have an accident and there would be a lawsuit,

  15. Holy Crap! I would have lost it on the asshat. What a presumptuous, rude, overbearing and nasty person. I sincerely hope you get what you have asked for, and I will be sharing the link.

  16. I’m guessing the policy is to stop people from leaving their kids at the Lego store while they shop elsewhere, using it as a babysitting service. The manager of the store should be more upfront about the reason and not couch it in child safety and bad parenting.

  17. This is crazy! I too have a Lego obsessed child and I can’t even begin to think of the number of times we have been in the mall and her and her younger brother will head off to the Lego store while I’m shopping in another store. Didn’t Sydney ever head to the toy aisle while out shopping with Mom and Dad?
    Good thing it was you and not me because of someone questioned my parenting they would probably need dental work.

  18. I don’t think LEGO is the only store with that policy. We had faced that a few times when my children were younger. I think it reflects the fact that they get many younger kids in there who would like to pocket a piece or two of LEGO without paying for it. I’ve also seen too many parents drop their kids off to stores for babysitting purposes. However, if it is their policy, it should be posted clearly for all to see.

  19. Two words. Mega Bloks.

  20. I’m sorry for what happened to you. It’s an unfortunate reality that in this day and age of helicopter parenting, safety obsession, and children raised to be dependent, 90% of children could not do what your son did (earn his own money, bike to the mall on his own, go to the store, and purchase his own Lego.) But questioning your parenting and being rude towards you like that is inexcusable. The customer is always supposed to be “first” and that goes for security guards and store staff. If they really thought your child was in “danger” they could have gone other routes rather than merely insulting you. You definitely deserve an apology. Side note, I would imagine that the big reason the store doesn’t want unsupervised kids in it is because of theft. There are a lot of great kids out there but it only takes one bad teenager stealing from a store to make the staff paranoid of all kids. People like to generalize and many are scared of teenagers.

    And I’m still laughing that the security guard thought your child was in actual danger in the store. Of all the places in the mall to be in danger, the Lego store doesn’t immediately come to mind. Drug deals going down in the middle of the Lego store? Not likely. Abductions in the middle of a busy store, of a child old enough to scream and know who his parents are, unlikely as well.

  21. We should protest the store by sending in out children age 12 to 15 to completely bog down the store with non paying customers on a Saturday afternoon. They can announce their age so the store can’t call security for some made up policy.

    It is sad that it is difficult to teach children that we trust their judgement and honesty using such a benign scenario as going to the Lego store.

  22. Lego store needs to make this right, and issue an apology for their poor behavior. Congrats to you and your son for pursuing this.

  23. I am not defending a store in a situation I was not party of. But I do want to say I was in the store on Saturday with my 3 daughters. It was a gong show. Pure chaos of children of all ages left to basically destroy the store with parents using it as a babysitting service. In amongst that mix were of course very well behaved, respectful children of all ages too, like this boy would have been. I barely attended to my own girls because they are of the ‘well behaved’ variety, like this boy. But I have to say, those employees of that particular store are left to do more babysitting and spend more time making sure parents are watching their kids than serving customers… out of necessity. I would guess theft is the concern. And even though this boy was a regular customer and should have been respected, the store clearly has bigger issues requiring a strong liability/policy on parenting kids. I would say 12 and under is a fair age requiring a parent in that particular store having observed the chaos when it was that busy… no matter how responsible. Having said that, unless a policy is stated and clearly explained the advantage of all, it is not a fair policy and this poor responsible boy should have an apology and I suspect he will get one. In spite of the chaos, we had exceptional service on Saturday. I saw the staff busting their best child-management/sales skills to do parenting that was not happening while also helping legit customers. I would fail. I would quit. All other parents who do not parent their children owe this family an apology, because these policies are clearly in place for a reason from what I saw. That store perhaps should have a limit on how many people are allowed to enter.

  24. This is terrible. We go there with our young son regularly, and can’t believe the actions of this manager. I’m going to talk to my wife about no longer going to the Chinook LEGO store.

    Please update to let folks know if you and your son get an apology. Have you contacted local media?

  25. I had a similar experience with my 11 year old daughter at a Petland in Cold Lake, Alberta except their “policy” was that “no child under 16 was allowed in the store unaccompanied”. The policy was not posted anywhere. I inquired whether my child had somehow caused some problem and the answer was no. When I inquire with Petland they assured me that the manager at the Cold Lake Petland would contact me to discuss it. That never happened. There seems to be a general idea in society that children can’t be responsible even when they show that they are capable. I think those parents and children who are responsible are being penalized here and these businesses have no idea how absolutely insulting and patronizing they are being by using these “policies.” A large amount of their customers are children so I don’t get when they say to their customers “Get Out!”

  26. Lego encourages the minds of Children to be expanded.
    you can’t even go to LEGO land without children (believe me we tried). i applaud you and your child and frankly i think you deserve a little more than a appology

  27. Reblogged this on Trans/plant/portation and commented:
    When do we decide that humans have autonomy? When is a person capable of making her own choices? Why do we imprison ten-year-olds for crime but not let a nine-year-old walk through a store by himself? Our culture’s understanding of age and agency is twisted.

  28. I guess I’m a terrible parent, because they’d have certainly needed to come up with a plausible threat of imminent danger inside the LEGO store, and explain it to me in great detail, to justify why an 11yo can’t shop for toys on their own. “Children are abducted from Chinook mall quite often”?! what a crock!! I’m not sure what the world is coming to, or why people are so afraid! Statistically, our kids are safer than they’ve ever been. There simply aren’t marauding villains behind every corner, waiting to jump out and snatch them. It still remains that putting your child in the CAR and driving them to the mall (or anywhere else) is far riskier than allowing them to spend time unattended, and they are in more danger from predators, sitting in front of the computer screen inside their own home, with mom and dad only steps away.
    What’s more likely the case here, is that the LEGO store in Chinook mall is experience high losses due to theft, and a policy that requires parental supervision was put in place to try to curb that. I’m sure it was recently discussed at a staff meeting, and this child was the unfortunate victim of employees being pressured to enforce said policy. When questioned, they couldn’t make it seem like it had to do with suspected shoplifting (since your son wasn’t engaging in this behaviour) so they came up with a ridiculous story about child safety. Personally I would contact LEGO higher up, and explain what happened. The treatment of you as a father was absolutely appalling!

  29. This is absolutely crazy, and so utterly insulting to your son and to you as a parent. For crying out loud, it’s not like you left a six-year-old child in the store to go galavanting. 11.5 is a perfectly acceptable age to move independently in the world around you, and to make your own purchases in a store. “Safety reasons?” WTF? What safety reasons could there possibly be? Is he going to dip a scoop into the bricks and take a hearty swallow? And I call BS on the scenario that “if the mall had to be evacuated…” If that is the case then the ENTIRE mall should have signs everywhere stating that anyone under 12 is not allowed inside unless they are accompanied by an adult. How ludicrous. I am sorry you had to deal with a couple of certified tools who cause a completely unnecessary situation. Terrible examples to the children they are supposed to be serving. I grew up in Calgary, and my friends and I would regularly walk from Crescent Heights to downtown Calgary at the age of 11, unaccompanied by adults. We’d take the bus, go to the movie theatres, peruse the stores, walk around Prince’s Island and more. Nobody abducted us, no evacuations occurred, and nobody hassled us or refused to take our money. In my opinion, you are owed a genuine apology from both of these people and LEGO should try and make things right. I hope this story goes viral and is held up to the light as the over-the-top, insulting and ridiculous incident it really is.

  30. This is crazy kid is almost a teen. Let the kid buy his shit and go why is this even an issue. Do you have Nuthing better to do at work then bug a kid buying Lego. When I was his age I had to work to pay for things I wanted why would you need mommy there to hold your hand. People what are you doing to your kids that this has become a problem. Saddened.

  31. […] policy was not visible inside the store at the time. But Doug, who posted his letter to Lego in a blog about the incident, asked the store manager why the policy existed. The store manager cited […]

  32. […] policy was not visible inside the store at the time. But Dunlop, who posted his letter to Lego in a blog about the incident, asked the store manager why the policy existed. The store manager cited […]

  33. […] set. So Doug let his son go, just as he always has. Somewhere in the conversation, as Doug explains in a blog post, the LEGO store found out Doug’s son was 11 and called mall […]

  34. […] 2015, a Lego store in Calgary detained an 11-year old boy until his father arrived. The man was extremely displeased and wrote about his […]

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