Rebecca Eckler is one of Canada's most talked about newspaper columnists, the author of Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother to Be, which has been translated into nine languages. Also the author of the bestsellers, Wiped!, Toddlers Gone Wild, and Rotten Apple, the first in a YA series. Random thoughts on life in the competitive world of modern mommyhood. Blog will be loved by trendy mothers who still feel, or often feel, that the most important word in "mommee" is ME!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Do you have to pay?

Has your toddler ever broken something in a store? Completely by accident?

Did the store owner/manager make you pay for the accident?

Yesterday, I took the Dictator into a store - let's just say it was NOT Shopper's Drug Mart, but a store like it (Really, it wasn't Shopper's. I'm a Shopper's addict.)

She was thirsty so I grabbed a plastic apple juice bottle from the fridge and handed it to her. My hands were full of other supplies - kid's bandaids, baby shampoo, blah blah....

My daughter dropped the plastic bottle of apple juice and the bottle exploded.

It was completely by accident. AND...AND....AND....

The way the plastic bottle broke wasn't in a way that was her fault. This is kind of hard to explain.

But you know the part around the lid, which is so difficult to rip off, but so you know the bottle hasn't been opened before? The kind that you have to use your teeth to rip open?

Anyway, that's not where the bottle broke. The lid broke in a way that if I had dropped it, the same thing would have happened.

Basically, it was a flawed plastic bottle to begin with. A flawed plastic bottle that my daughter completely by accident dropped.

Now, if you were the store owner, and you saw a mother with a ton of other things she was going to buy and the bottle of apple juice that had completely broken in a way that was clearly the fault of the apple juice company and NOT the child, would you make the person pay the $1.39 for the broken apple juice bottle?

Would you let it go?

I'm not going to say what ended up happening or what I ended up buying or not buying. However I am interested in your stories of your toddlers breaking things in stores and the reactions...

Do tell....


Blogger Megan said...

Yes, you should pay.

9:17 AM

Anonymous Karen said...

Absolutely. You break it, you buy it. I'd rather pay $1.39 than to be the one who has to mop up the mess.

9:44 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You broke an item that the store owner will no longer be able to sell.

You were responsible for breaking it.

Why wouldn't you pay for it?

11:07 AM

Anonymous MJ said...

You need to pay for it to set an example of responsibility to your daughter.

11:14 AM

Blogger Badness Jones said...

It's $1.39.....why wouldn't you pay for it? I'm assuming that if it hadn't been dropped you would've been able to drink it, right?

11:23 AM

Blogger Laural Dawn said...

I think you should offer to pay for it.
But ...
This has happened to me, and I've never had to pay if I've offered.
For instance, we were on vacation at Ben & Jerry's and I bought my son a huge ice cream cone and he dropped it when I handed it to him.
They immediately said to leave it on the ground and got him a new one - and then someone came and cleaned it. (and oddly, another person in line tried to pick it up and eat a "free ice cream that was perfectly fine").
Personally, I'd offer to help clean up and pay.

12:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though this wasn't at a "Shoppers", I used to work there and there is NO WAY we would make someone pay for that juice. It was an accident and the store could just write it off. Though I might have offered to pay for it, I certainly wouldn't have expected them to take me up on it. A china shop? maybe. But a pseudo Shoppers? never.

1:09 PM

Anonymous Annie said...

Doesn't matter if its $1 or $100. I think that if your kid broke something, you need to pay for it. What if everybody dind't pay? It's not fair to the store owner to have to pay for broken stuff. Just my two cents.

1:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had similar mishaps and always offered to pay. I was told not to worry about it, but was glad that I offered to do the responsible thing.

1:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, you should pay. And why not use a cart?

8:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it would be most gracious to at least OFFER to pay for the broken item. However, you did mention that you had numerous items which you were considering buying. Hmmm, in such a situation, i think the store would be dumb to make you pay for one bottle of juice, especially if they knew that you were going to be a good customer. The last thing the store would want to do is piss off a customer & lose a potential sale.
I've had the pleasure of cleaning up other people's vomit in drugstores. Out of those four instances, only ONE customer actually apologized. So, you spilling a bottle of juice is not a big deal...that's the price of running a business.

9:11 PM

Blogger Denice said...

I'm a total clutz and things like that happen to me all the time, and I ALWAYS offer to pay. Sometimes they don't charge me and sometimes they do, but I feel it's my responsibility to pay for it if I have broken something.

11:41 PM

Anonymous Lily said...

I would always offer to pay, expecting for them to say "don't worry about it." It's not their fault someone drops something, but they want you to be a returning customer.

But I also would never give my toddler something to drink before I paid for it in the first place. What if you discover you forgot your purse, or if your card(s) bounce?

I hate it when I see parents feed their children banana's, cookies (or a whole bottle of juice) before passing the exit. I always wonder why they don't teach their children some self control and/or keep some juice/crackers in their bag/car for emergencies.

And now I wonder why I commented in the first place, since you won't tell us how the story ended.

3:07 AM

Anonymous Soccer Mom said...

Just want to say that I have opened something for my daughter to have in the store while I am shopping many time...makes it easier for me and the rest of the shoppers. Not the end of the world, we always pay for it. Plus, if the bottle was not good, I'd offer to pay expecting them to say "Don't worry about it"

6:53 AM

Blogger Billie said...

Once while walking from the beer store to my car the box from my 12-pack broke and 12 bottles of beer smashed on the ground. I went in to tell them, I wasn't sure if they would give me something to clean it up with or what but the guy immediately asked me if I was hurt. When I responded that I was fine he then said "don't worry, we'll take care of it. What kind of beer was it, I'll grab you another. I'm just glad you're okay!"!! Now that's customer service!

10:35 AM

Blogger A Peanut's Life said...

I would pay and would use this as a lesson to my child even if it wasn't their fault. That's why it's called an accident, but sometimes we have to pay for accidents. There are consequences to everything accident or not.

11:12 AM

Blogger A Peanut's Life said...

Yes I would pay, and use this as a lesson to my child, regardless of if it's their fault or not.

We all have accidents and there are consequences to them as well.

11:14 AM

Anonymous Karenna said...

Hmmm... I don't know. If it was a small chain, I'd pay. If it was Wal Mart, I would not.

7:51 PM

Blogger joyce said...

absolutely DON'T pay!!! apologize, then that's the end of it.

8:07 AM

Blogger Rebecca said...

Of course you shouldn't pay for it. Stores have insurance for just those types of things. It hasn't happened with my own children, but I've been with my cousin and had her drop and entire gallon of milk and it was brushed off as "eh, it happens." I, myself, have broken something at a store and was told not to worry about it. It happens, and if I were forced to pay for it, they'd get their $1.39 and that's it. I'd buy nothing and they'd get no more of my business. Customer service should be of utmost importance and as I said, a GOOD store knows how to handle these incidences properly.

8:07 AM

Anonymous Nicole said...

I would offer to pay, out of courtesy. Out of courtesy, I would expect the store owner to not accept payment, especially if I were making other purchases.

I mean this with kindness, but it actually IS your daughter's fault that the bottle broke, not the fault of the apple juice manufacturer. Regardless of whether or not the bottle was defective, the fact is (accidentally or not) she dropped the bottle. One of the issues with our society today is that I feel we do not accept as much responsibity for our actions as we should - we tend to look for someone to blame. A small thing, breaking something, but something that can be extrapolated into a larger issue down the road.

8:49 AM

Blogger Vancouver Island Mommy said...

I used to work for a big-chain supermarket, and we never made people pay for stuff like that. For example, several times customers dropped glass jars of tomato sauce on the floor. They never paid for it, and someone cleaned it up. It would probably be polite to offer to pay, but I wouldn't expect them to take you up on it.

4:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If my toddler broke something in a store I would absolutely offer and expect to pay for it, whether it was a big chain or a small shop. And as somebody mentioned earlier...why not use a cart or a basket, especially when you have a toddler in tow??

8:30 PM

Blogger Haley-O said...

Uh oh... I feel like the worst mother now because everyone's saying pay! My little monkey broke a beaded necklace at "Claire's Accessories." I was shock when they told me I didn't have to pay for it...and there were beads everywhere. I didn't insist or anything. But, I did insist that the monkey hand the rest of the beaded accessories back to me -- and pleaded with her not to put any beads in her mouth!

So, I guess I'd say -- wait and see if they ask you to pay. If they ask, then go for it. If not, then take your money and run! ;)

For $1.39 apple juice, though? I'd be SHOCKED if the store made you pay.

5:59 PM

Blogger Yiddishkeit said...

Once, one of my kids threw a package of eggs on the ground, breaking all of them, at the supermarket. The manager was nice and did not make me pay. Also, once another one of my kids as a baby threw some glass jars of babyfood on the ground and broke 2 of them. I was lucky I did not have to pay for that either. the manager was very nice.

2:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE YOUR BOOKS! Adore them! We bought knocked up, and in one week six people read it. I just finished the baby one, and adored it as well! Just to let you know I am an absolute fanatic about scrapbooking, so if you ever need someone to scrapbook your daughter's life feel free to ask me :) Kelsey

9:46 PM

Anonymous patricia said...

Common courtesy would compel me to pay. But that has a lot to do with how my parents raised me. To not pay, and to insist upon not paying in front of other people teaches your child that there are no consequences for her actions.

And yes, the prudent thing to do would have been to get a basket for yourself, and bring a bottle of water with you for your child.

2:47 PM

Anonymous Kari said...

As someone with a master's degree in marketing I would be shocked if the store asked you to pay for a $1.39 item broken accidentally by a little girl. It probably only cost 25 cents and you were going to purchase other items. Smart stores understand that how you handle the customer matters MUCH more than one small item. It is the store's responsibility to make the shopping experience a good one - bottom line.

I'm also shocked by the people who said you should pay. This was not vandalism, a large ticket item, or on purpose. I hope you folks don't work in customer service.

1:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Setting a good example for your child is important - offering to pay for it is the right thing to do. You were planning on paying for it when you gave it to her, right?

9:45 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, you should not have to pay. It was by accident.. In my country (The Netherlands) you don't have ti pay voor such accidents.

Just came here to say that I really enjoyed reading your books! Yes, even people in The Netherlands and Europe are reading you dairies!

Wish you, you're Fiance (still not married?) and the little big Dictator (still?!) all the best for 2008!

1:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course you should pay for it; you (ok Rowan) broke it. If they refuse to accept payment that's fine, and a nice thing to do, but in the end the parent is responsible for the child's actions.

If it were a $500 camera, or peice of art, or china, and your child wrecked it, would you expect the store to just write it off?

6:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Customer service sums it up. Accidents do happen and stores need to look at the big $$ picture. The only reason I don't let my kids eat anything before it is purchased, is I am paranoid that I will not have my bank card with me, I have forgotten it before, and do not want to be accused of stealing.

10:09 AM

Blogger jchevais said...

A couple of weeks ago, I was pulling a box of beer from the shelf. The container was cardboard and before I could do anything about it, the handle broke off and they all went crashing to the ground.

I went to the security fellow to tell him what happened and he was all flustered. Nobody ever does this! I was telling him because of the glass and the slippery beer on the floor for other customers. It never even entered my head that I would have to pay. Eventually the security fellow flagged down a manager who said, ok. Whatever. And I went to get another case of beer and I left.

Ironically, if it had been my kid that had broken something I would have offered to pay. Go figure.

6:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Stores have insurance for just those types of things" - my store must be much too small - we certainly don't get insurance to cover the many, many things that are accidently broken by customers and their kids!

As a mother, I would always offer to pay for anything my child broke or damaged. As a children's consignment store owner, we take every precaution to ensure things likely to break are kept out of reach of little ones, but things happen. We never insist the parent pay for the item, even if it is a lot more than $1.

That being said, customer service and the great shopping experience is vital to our business. Free "accident" clothing (including brand new underpants) and waving off broken things are part of what we do.

2:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work am a cashier at a grocery store and have been for almost two years. As a general rule, we don't mind if you open things that come in boxes and bottles of juice. However, if you buy a bag of grapes and your child is nibbling, your a wee bit out of line. You haven't paid for the grapes and since most produce goes by weight you will not pay for what your child consumed-basically stealing-not a good thing to teach your children. And you should absolutely offer to pay, every time. I have never made anyone pay, but its the offering that makes the difference.

Also..if you come through the express line with more than the limit, acknowledge it and we probably won't care. Its when the limit is 12, you have 26, its busy, and you try to pass it off like nothing that we want to punch you out.


Just manners :)

12:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, you opened it; once you opened it, you bought it, regardless of what happened after that.

6:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former employee of a grocery store, we never made customers pay for items that were broken accidently. If the store made you pay and were giving you attitude about paying, then they are extremely short sighted. What they should look at is if $1.39 was worth losing all the future profits they would have made off you if they had kept you as a happy customer.

11:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...I personally believe that you shouldn't have had to pay for it. Yes the offer is nice, but never should a company actually insist that you do pay especially if it was a manufacturer's defect. The ideal way to go, in my opinion would be to buy a different bottle that was not defective. In that situation, everybody wins: you get your juice, the store makes some money, and you are happy enough to come back. I personally would not shop there anymore.

1:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm no lawyer, but I believe, legally, even if it's a small antique store with 'you break it, you bought it' signs, you have no legal responsibility to pay for any accidental damage. Morally, you probably will want to offer to pay if you can, but don't ever be bullied. Accidents happen.

12:55 AM

Blogger HenvY said...

You should offer, and it should be up to the manager. It shocks me that you're trying to rationalise that it isn't your(or your childs) fault. Of course it is your fault - you dropped it. You wouldn't drop a vase, break it and then blame the vase for being fragile, would you?

7:44 AM

Blogger Tara said...

I know I'm a little late on this one (I just read your article in Mcleans and thought I'd check out your blog) but I can't even imagine why you would have to pay for it!

If anyone drops a plastic bottle in a store and it breaks we would never pay for it -- it was obviously faulty merchandise and the store would have the right to send it back to the supplier.

The fact that your child was holding it at the time has nothing to do with it.

This is just good old customer service.

In regards to your Mcleans interview, I totally agree with you about rude people on the internet -- it's ridiculous! If you won't put your name beside it, you probably shouldn't be saying it.

Here's another post from my favourite blogger about what she calls "Internet Trolls":

7:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of insurance, stores will write off the amount of the item as a business loss on their taxes. This is part of why stores do inventory, to determine the amount of their lost products compared to their sold products. In Canada, the price they lost (as in the entire amount of the full price item, not the amount they payed for it originally) reduces their taxes by an equivalent amount, ergo, the "loss" is actually no loss at all.
If they make you pay for it, either they're a little person who is angry at the moment and they get a high of making others pay for their anger, or they don't understand their own accounting.

I'd apologize and leave, if they charged me the money I'd pay but never shop at that location again. My child would only see me in a gracious way, and we would follow-up with a conversation regarding stategies to use to prevent it next time (like a cart or basket).

6:31 AM

Anonymous Constance said...

I think that you should at least offer to pay. It was just $1.39. Now if it was a big ticket item then I would have stood my ground and argued til the next morning about the defective product. I also agree with the person that said kids need to learn self control. I do have kids, 2 of them as a matter of fact, so I'm not just talking out the side of my neck. Sometimes kids just want things because they see them or they know it's there. I could have just given my daughter the most humongous and delicious three course meal, but if she sees me eating some chips then she wants some. That's just how kids are. As for the apple juice I would have looked at it like what if it had broken at home? You would have already payed for it and I highly doubt the store would have taken it back.

9:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While there are situations where you should pay for a broken item this is not one of them. For example; If a child is running through the store, or throws a little tandrum, and breaks an item intentionally, the parent being unable to control the child should be held responsible and made to pay for the item. Even if the store can prove this (with a video recording)they may ask the parent to pay for the item and if they dont, they usually will not make an effort to retrive the loss due to the cost of the item. In most cases it would be far more costly just to try and retrieve the cost of the item broken. Even the age of a child comes into play, for courts decide on what age a child should know the diffence from what is right and what is wrong. Each situation is different none are the same. Now if it is a very expensive item, say hundreds or thousands of dollars at their cost, you can bet the store will make every effort to retrieve what they can even if it means taking you to court. But again, they consider all the circustances before doing that even.
All store owners are fully aware that there are going to be accidents where items are destroyed and defective.
They know that not only will the customer accidentally break an item they or their own employees have accidents resulting in damage or total loss of an item. This loss is already placed into their profit margins and passed on to each and every consumer when you buy a product. If you are a parent you can look forward to many items getting accidentially broken by your children over the joyfull years of rasing them. We come to expect the loss but do we make them pay for it? If an accident, we pass it off as a loss because we expect it to happen just as store owners do. If intentionally or neglectfully we find a way to punish the child somtimes by making them pay for the item but with a store the punishment is accessed upon each and every consumer by the increase in product cost, for they have no other recourse. Yes people should make an offer to pay for the item if they feel responsible for the breakage. At the same time, when it is clearly evident that an item is defective in some way should you offer to pay for it? I would say no. How many times has anyone out there brought an item, got home opened the box and found some observable defect in it or that it would not operate as intended. Do you then think that once you brought it you should take the loss because it is now your problem? No. This is why the store has already placed an expected amount of loss into their profit margins.
It would be too much of cost by the store to try and find out just how or when the damage occurred.
Now in the case of a broken or defective item costing as little as 1 to 5 dollars on the shelf (after being marked up 100 to 300%) unless there is a large number of the items defective it would cost the store more in shipping the item back for a refund from the wholesaler.
This is why you sometimes find damaged, defective, or opened items sold at stores far below cost price and stating sold as is with no refunds. They are trying to get back what they paid at wholesale and sometimes a little more depending on the item.
So, the next time you accidentally break an item in a store remember it has already been paid for by you and the other customers especially if you have brought many items from the store in the past. Everyone out there has at one time or another dropped an item in a store. If it didnt break we picked it up, some of us looked to see if it was dameged, some did'nt. We then placed it back onto the shelf and continued on but what we didnt know was we casued that small hairline fracture that made it defective because we didnt see it. So then someone else comes along, drops it again and the item just blows apart. Was it their fault that the item broke apart and should they pay for your mistake? What I am trying to show is that just because the item does'nt break when dropped does'nt mean that it is not now defective. The next time you go into a store late in the day look at the shelves and see how many crushed corners of boxes and dents in cans you can see just on the front part of the shelf and you will see that other customers have picked up the item and dropped it causing damage that in turn could make the item defective. Many stores after closing or at restocking will remove these items or place them to the back of the shelf for if it is the last one left and you need it you will buy it with a dent or a damaged corner. So if you think that someone who accidentally drops an item in a store and it breaks they should pay for it, then the next time you drop an item in a store should you buy it just because there is the possibility that you could have caused a defect in it, causing it to fail later? This is the very reason that you can't hold a person totally responsible for an item breaking after accidentally dropping it, especially in a store.
In this situation it is pretty evident that the item was defective in some way whether it was by the manufacture or that it was damaged prior to the child dropping it. The fact is that from the height of a child or from a child in a cart dropping a plastic bottle from that distance would not cause it to break open without other factors of cause involved. Whether or not you offered to pay for the item the store would have to accept the loss in this situation.

6:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter is only 9 months so she has yet to cause any accidents at stores...but if she did, I would hope that if it was something as small as a botttle of apple juice they wouldn't make me pay for it... even though I probably would offer to anyways. The store probably paid like $0.25 for the bottle...and they will probably get reimbursed for it anyways... besides, customer service is more important. And if the customer was buying other items, then you are giving them money anyways? I think they should have let it go.

6:48 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're pathetic! Of course you have to pay. the bottle was defective? come on!! I know your type. I can tell by the way you blog. You think you're something special b/c you're a single mom. You're not. nothing unique here. lots of people single parent. lots of people parent. it's hard at times and great at times. it's just life. no special breaks just cause your hands were full....that's par for the course. I'd give extra sympathy to those parents whose children are disabled and have a real challenge on their hands. get over yourself.

1:05 AM

Anonymous Lewis Bae said...

Accidents do happen. Some stores won't require you to pay, but others will. The best is to just be ready for such accidents to occur while shopping, especially when a child is around.

8:30 AM

Anonymous Hellcat said...

My son smashed a juice in the checkout just a week or two ago. I fully expected to be paying for it, but they did not charge me for it. It was one of those $5 veggie infused juices. Ughh. They said it smelled nice, anyway.

11:27 AM

Blogger Talon said...

Wow...I just happened on this blog...and I am shocked at the sheer number of holier than thou people commenting through the magic of anonymous.

And even ones who don't use the anon feature.

ANYONE who has worked in retail knows the difference between an accident and willful destruction. I can't tell you how many jars of tomato sauce, bottles of beer, jars of pickles, gallons of milk and I don't know WHAT all I've cleaned up in my time. Let me tell you...more crap got broken getting that stuff from the warehouse to the store and ON to the shelf than any accidental customer accidents.

You don't charge people for crap like that!! They shouldn't even have to think about offering to pay!!

Customer service goes a LONG way, and any store owner or manager will tell you that it takes much more time and effort to get new customers into the store than it does to lose them through poor customer service. And happy customers will not only frequent your store if they are treated well and respectfully, they will tell other people and bring you more customers.

It's business 101.

7:32 PM


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