No strollers allowed

by DaniGirl on September 21, 2009 · 27 comments

in Mothering without a licence

Following our apple-picking adventure on Saturday, we popped into nearby Merrickville for some browsing. The place is riddled with fun and funky boutiques, many filled with the wares of local artisans, with not a chain store to be found. I love the ecclectic character of the place, and that you’ll never know what you’ll find from one place to the next.

There was one store that looked particularly interesting, and I was just bending down to lift our compact stroller (and its passenger) up the stone step and into the store when an elderly gentleman stopped us.

“Sorry, no strollers allowed,” he said, blocking the door.

I was so surprised that for a minute I only gazed up at him, openmouthed. “Are you serious?” I finally asked, thinking maybe he was having a bit of fun with me and unable to imagine that he was actually denying me (and my baby) entrance to the store.

He replied in the affirmative, and started to say something about safety, but I wasn’t really interested in the rest of his answer. Beloved, standing behind me with the big boys, offered to take the stroller up the street a bit while I went into the shop, but there was no way I was going to give that merchant my business.

We wandered further down the street, and browsed a few other stores, but the experience of being denied entry had tainted my enjoyment of something to which I’d been looking quite forward. There were many other shops with breakables and other finery that did not bar our entrance, and quite a few where I had to bend down and boost the stroller up a step or two. I’ve never, in all these years, been denied access to any sort of establishment because of a stroller.

I’ve been puzzling over this for a couple of days now. I wish I’d listened to see exactly what the safety issue of concern would be with a stroller. I mean, are wheelchairs barred, too? That would be unimaginable. And yet, they’re a lot bigger than my little travel stroller. Or is it a matter of babies with grabby hands? Lucas on the loose, should I have chosen to leave the stroller at the curb, is far more of a menace to finery than he is belted securely into his stroller.

It’s not that I feel like my rights have been violated, that it’s worth making a stink over, but it does seem to me to be an issue worth discussing. I don’t want retribution or compensation or even to “out” the store in question, but I am curious as to your thoughts. Should my stroller and I have unfettered access to any public establishment? Would you have fought for your ‘right’ to enter the store? Am I missing a very good reason why we should have been denied access? Would it have mattered if I were pushing one of those SUV-type strollers that people so love to hate instead of a compact little Maclaren travel stroller? Have you ever been denied access anywhere because of a stroller? Is there a time or place when strollers should be prohibited?

What say ye, bloggy peeps?

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shannon September 21, 2009 at 7:33 am

Hhmm….well, I know the stores in Merrickville and they ARE quite cozy (last time, I used my Baby Hawk with the boy since I couldn’t imagine manouvering a stroller into/around many of the stores. I’m sure you’d keep a close eye on your little guy and his grabby hands but unfortunately there are people who don’t/don’t care and the shop owners I’m sure have been stuck with damaged goods (and they are not cheap goods there) so the owners have to resort to this. I don’t have a problem with it. But if I had a stroller, I’d just pass on by…so we both lose out. But that’s their choice, their business.

2 Missy @ Marketing Mama September 21, 2009 at 7:42 am

You know… I had a similar situation once at a tiny little gift shop next to an apple orchard! Except instead of a bouncer (!!!) they had a sign outside for “stroller parking” and “No strollers inside please” signage on the door.

When it was like that, it felt just like some of the restaurants I’ve been to, or the monorail at the zoo – where it is acceptable to ban strollers. I think the reason, at these types of stores, is that they often have tiny aisles and other customers can’t get past strollers, and that the strollers can bump into things.

I bet they had 1 or 2 complaints and then decided on that policy. Perhaps you could call and very politely ask about it?

3 Lana September 21, 2009 at 7:49 am

It probably would have been better if the bouncer had given you a reason (it’s crowded, narrow aisles) and asked you politely to carry your baby. Like Shannon said, they probably had a bad experience with a stroller in the past.

Living downtown, I often park our little stroller outside a shop if I know it’s small or there are stairs. I know that I can be a bad stroller driver at times.

4 andrea from the fishbowl September 21, 2009 at 7:56 am

That’s pretty crappy. But I guess it’s his right. He probably had a couple complaints (or mishaps) and just created a blanket rule – no matter if it means he loses some potential customers..

Lana makes a good point too. It’s all in the delivery. He COULD have simply explained it to you and asked you if you wouldn’t mind carrying your baby instead. But he didn’t.

p.s. my captcha is “sensuous Emma” ???

5 Annie @ PhD in Parenting September 21, 2009 at 8:54 am

I have seen that before. There are places that won’t let you wear your baby on your back (e.g. the National Art Gallery) because they are afraid of the baby grabbing at things or you bumping into things inadvertently. With strollers I can see a concern with it blocking the aisles and also with kids grabbing at potentially breakable things.

The issue of strollers blocking the aisles was raised in the context of buses/OC Transpo last year. Different from a compact stroller obviously because this talked about the monster SUV strollers, but still relevant perhaps:

6 DaniGirl September 21, 2009 at 9:04 am

I know the OC transpo issue well, Annie — got my letter to the editor published on that one!

On Twitter, @karengreeners flipped me this interesting article from Toronto Life last year that talks about the culture of parental entitlement and talks about a restaurant boycotted after it put up a sign saying no strollers allowed:

I found the TO Life article interesting not just because it mentions some of my fave people (how did I miss it?) but because the hipster parent culture seems to be something we don’t really have much of in Ottawa, maybe with the exception of the Westboro and Glebe crowds.

7 Annie @ PhD in Parenting September 21, 2009 at 9:43 am

TO Life article looks interesting…and long…going to flat it to read later!

With regards to the whole issue of parental entitlement, I think part of the problem in North America is that people see children as an inconvenience and not as human beings with the same rights as other individuals. In Europe, people wouldn’t even imagine saying “no children allowed” at weddings, parties, restaurants, etc. If you are inviting adults, you assume that their kids come with them.

8 _Don September 21, 2009 at 10:13 am

I can understand that should there be breaky things, etc. that there would be an impending hazard. I too have been in some of these shops and they are packed with stuff.

However, the medium is the message. Dude barring the door and saying “no strollers” is not nearly as friendly as explaining why in a nicer tone. Certainly even a way to accomodate strollers (I like the stroller parking idea), would make the shop more welcoming to all customers.

9 Amber September 21, 2009 at 11:53 am

I have mixed feelings about this. I will admit that I am a total stroller menace. I can’t steer that thing for the life of me. In a small store I would probably be knocking things over and raining havoc. I am sure I am not the only one, and so I am sure that the store owner may feel such a policy is in order.

Having said that, I wouldn’t patronize a store in which my child and I were not welcome. Because ‘no strollers’ veers sort of close to ‘no children’, and I wouldn’t want to give my business to an establishment like that. Now, if they had a sign that explained their policy politely and offered you a place to leave your stroller, it might be different. But haphazardly and abruptly blocking someone’s entrance doesn’t feel good, at least to me.

10 Meagan Francis September 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I agree that it depends a lot on how the rule is stated/enforced. I’ve been to quite a few places with a “no stroller” policy that are very clearly family-friendly places (a butterfly garden, certain areas in a children’s museum). The rule is clearly posted and reasonably secure “stroller parking” is provided. In those situations I’ve never felt even a moment’s irritation, though sometimes it’s inconvenient to park the stroller, get my valuables out, carry the child, etc.

But in this particular case it is easy to see why “no strollers” came across as “no children allowed” or at least “we’d really rather you didn’t bring that child in here”. EVEN if that wasn’t the intent. I think if I were you, I’d have been irritated, but then just moved on to another store.

And regarding Annie’s comment: “I think part of the problem in North America is that people see children as an inconvenience and not as human beings with the same rights as other individuals. In Europe, people wouldn’t even imagine saying “no children allowed” at weddings, parties, restaurants, etc. If you are inviting adults, you assume that their kids come with them.”

I agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY. More often than not, this is less about parental entitlement, and more about children’s civil rights. Can you imagine if establishments didn’t allow disabled people, because they might be loud or inconvenient or make others uncomfortable? Replace “children” with pretty much any marginalized group and you see how wrong it is. And I say this as somebody who makes a point not to take my kids to a lot of adult-centric places.

11 Loukia September 21, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Nope, never been denied access anywhere with our stroller – even our double stroller… sometimes it’s totally hard to navigate our double stroller in certain stores, but I’ve never had anyone say such a thing to me! I can’t imagine… glad you took your business elsewhere – I would have done the same. That’s just bizarre. At least they should have had a place where you could park your stroller – if you wanted to. I mean, if it’s too hard to bring the stroller in to the store, you would be able to figure that out yourself, you know? I think it’s just rude to be told that…

12 XUP September 21, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I always took my daughter with me wherever I went, while she was in a stroller and after, and was told quite a few times that “your child would not be comfortable here” (i.e.: don’t bring your kid in here). It usually wasn’t about the stroller, but about the child and what they perceived to be an adult’s only establishment. Restaurants, galleries, shops, movies (not x-rated) and other events. It got to be quite tiresome. I even got denied an apartment once because “the stairs would be dangerous for the child”.

13 kgirl September 21, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Not cool. I hate being treated like someone with no common sense just because I am a mother. I’m sure that you would have quickly left the store if it seemed like the stroller was just not a good idea in its cramped quarters. People will say that we, as parents, have an inflated sense of privilege, but to me, this was a power trip of the most offensive kind.

14 Annika September 21, 2009 at 3:50 pm

This is nothing…my friend was banned entry to a children’s clothing/equipment sale at the Nepean Sportsplex a few years ago because she brought her CHILDREN and their double stroller.

Unbelievable, Not until I became a mother did I realize their are people out there who are anti-child.

I’m sorry you had to experience this pathetic merchant on what looks like an otherwise terrific day.

15 Angela ( jhscrapmom) September 21, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Hmmmm….I am wondering where i fall on this topic…

To begin with, the gentleman at the Merrickville store definitely took the wrong approach with you. He is forgetting that in a short year or two, while you will be without need for a stroller, you will also be without need for the goods his store. Bad, bad customer service. He could have handled it very differently and left you with a positive taste in your mouth. Now? Forget it. I would follow up with a quick email or letter to the store, letting them know how this bothered you and how a simple change in approach might have made it at least more understandable. I have been to Merrickville, probably in that store, and I can see the mobility issues as being a concern for a store owner – it was the delivery that ruined it for you.

I have three kids, spanning 13 years of restaurant and store and travel experience, hip and unhip…I had a hard time recalling any negative experience with kids or the strollers. And we roll in some pretty fancy circles ( okay…only when with our in laws,lol;)) and I think that has to do with us editing our activities to accomodate our family. With our daughter – a now lovely 10 year old with manners that would shame a princess? We did not eat out publicly from the ages of 2 to 4. Seriously. It was a nightmare. There are parents, I think, who do exist, that do not feel a need to curtail their activities to best suit the needs of their children. Even if that means “missing out” if you have a child who has a harder time in public. HOWEVER, I think that these are the exceptions, the urban myths of modern parenting nightmares that get blown up and turn into unwarranted situations like the one you experienced this weekend.

I travelled all over London and Paris this summer, with a stroller and a 10 month old. We did not experience one moment of any kind of negativity, anywhere. I have been dragging this same child to coffee shops and restaurants and galleries all over Ottawa since he was two weeks old and I have never had a bad experience. Oh, sometimes I have my little stroller and sometimes I have my SUV stroller…it has not made any difference yet. I hope it is the exception that you came face to face with. That or maybe I am in my own “parenting bubble”;)).

I can not come up with any safety issues that would prevent access with a stroller ( escalotors, maybe ). Hee…I just had a thought…join me in Merrickville next weekend and we will take our babes out of the strollers and let them walk/toddle around the store…they will be begging us to bring in the strollers;). Kidding. Really;).

16 DaniGirl September 21, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Angela, brilliant idea! Let’s stage a giant baby-in for all our babyful friends — without strollers, of course. 😉 (I am *kidding*, honest!)

When some of you mention that it smacks of banning kids, that’s what bugs me. I am far from a perfect parent, but I do try my best to both be conscientious and raise conscientious children. And you are all correct that it was the approach as much as the fact that irked me.

(Of course, as soon as it happened I knew it would make for terrific blog fodder, so all was not lost!)

17 Eric Jacksch September 21, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Sounds like an Ontario Human Rights Code violation to me. I say out them 🙂

18 Nat September 21, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Merrickville, for the most part, is not kid friendly. (Except for the ice cream shop.) However, I think his problem is in the delivery. (Most shops aren’t wheelchair accessible let alone stroller friendly.) Shrug.

I’m not sure I’d have felt comfortable in a store with The Boy as a babe, he would just grab and break things. It would just cease to be enjoyable because I’d be too worried. (Even with him in my arms.)

19 Marla September 21, 2009 at 10:04 pm

First, I would like to point out that in the TO life article you linked to, I was wearing a vintage sterling barrette by Elsa Peretti from Tiffany’s. Plastic! Gah! Second, in that article, I came off on the side of the gentrifiers, when I was supposed to be more of a dissenter (oh – wait…the first sentence makes the second sound wrong, doesn’t it). That sign was on Pulp’s door long before they walked in – they probably got the stink eye because they ignored it. It was there when my daughter was born over a year before, and I understood the point and never had a problem with it.

The reasons in food service establishments are fire codes and safety. Aisles need to be clear so that people can escape in an emergency. Those places have fire hazards and that must be respected. It’s an expensive ticket. Servers in food establishments can’t be tripping when they’re carrying food, especially hot things or breakable glass. That’s their right – a safe workplace. Many restos in this area are still having this issue, and we have come to the point where a special “cafe n’ play” for moms and kids is opening, because years later, a group of five moms wanted to bring some of their strollers into a new pub and it couldn’t accommodate them. And good for them, because the moms’ new business is lovely and I’m happy to promote it – but I’d never look at that pub, as nice and shiny new as it is, and think that was the place to meet for lunch with babies and did ask them if they were crazy in the head.

As far as retail goes…

You are wrong my dear, dear friend, in calling a store ( or restaurant) a public establishment. They are private establishments and you are invited to enter them at their invitation or refusal. You have no rights. Disabled people cannot be denied entry on those grounds (intoxication yes, gimpy no) – but as far as I know, it’s not legislated that access has to be physically accommodated (yet). So he very well could have stated that a disabled person could enter, but not the wheelchair.

And (generally speaking), parents want kids’ right to be in a store respected – but it’s not the kids’ choice to be in the store (or anywhere) if they’re in the stroller. I don’t get that. You want to be in the store, you go in – but a todder isn’t going to get anything meaningful out of it and Beloved and they boys were wiling to take him – so fighting for the right of an object to be in the store would have been just silliness.

And the reason Ikea gets more money out of me is because they let me park my kid, not drag her though. People juggling kids don’t spend more money in small boutique stores – they usually spend less. And they often affect the purchase decisions of other buyers.

In the Science of Selling, Underhill notes that consumers are likely to leave without purchasing if they are bumped. Older customers especially fear being unsteady. While many stores have the space to accommodate strollers and lots of other customers – very small ones don’t.

You know I work in a very small store (less than 500 square feet of antiques, cards and small furniture). We work hard to accommodate strollers, and only because we’re nice. We cannot fit more than one, really – sometimes two single file, and a double can’t make it around the store all the way. And we have lots of dusty, sharp, rusty and breakable objects, and fragile, tearable paper and yes, moms and kids come in but why a parent would think a kid would enjoy it in there is beyond me. And guess who pays our rent? Not the moms who are “strolling’ (ar ar – get it?) through, killing time and leisurely spending a day during the week while the baby naps in the stroller that cost a fortune – it’s those damn single people with all that extra income and the unfrazzledness to decide to go for that vintage Haegar vase or those pink vinyl tub chairs on the weekends. A stroller in the store on a Saturday after brunch gums up the whole works, but we never say anything, even though yes, people get frustrated at not being able to move all the way through and leave while a mom dithers over a $4 card near the “decompression zone” by the door. And the little black pug who stays with me at the store all day has been bumped by strollers while sleeping in his bed, because moms often push them on autopilot while browsing.

He may have been abrupt, but Saturdays are the busiest days for browsers and the actual sales that keep cute stores in the black – and he may have been protecting more guaranteed sales as much as the merchandise and you may have just been the stroller that broke the camels’s back that day and he was short on patience and he didn’t notice your adorable dimples. I like the idea that the store should be called and asked why, as part of being called out.

Some stores are very personally curated and run, and pushing a stroller through them is not much different than bringing a stroller into someone’s home. I really don’t want to be a jerk here, and it may be my years in retail that trigger this defensiveness, but I always used to ask at small stores. He’s probably not an ogre, and yes, he probably was too abrupt and you didn’t stay for the explanation – but he probably does have a lot of his life invested in that business and has more to lose from even one stroller than you’d imagine.

Oh jeez – did I even answer one question, or did I just rant? Sorry!

Oh! And…

If he’s from a different generation (or culture), this newfangled privileged North American “babies go everywhere in strollers” trend must be exhausting. After all, my mom left me parked in the baby buggy (or in the car) outside stores while she went shopping and she wouldn’t have dreamed of bringing me in a place like that in the first place.

20 Eric Jacksch September 22, 2009 at 12:37 am

RT @DaniGirl: […] Should stores be allowed to ban strollers? We were denied. [Blogcasting] No strollers allowed

21 Hilary September 22, 2009 at 5:12 am

I agree with some of the previous posters that in Europe there’s a more ‘baby friendly’ attitude. One of my favourite restaurants in London is a casual yet very upscale place (this restaurant has a Michelin star) in a yummy mummy/hipster parent neighbourhood. It’s not at all uncommon to go there for Sunday lunch and see a young couple dining with their baby sleeping tableside in its pram. Nobody has an issue with it (until said baby starts wailing, I suppose).

On the other hand, I also really, really appreciate Marla’s insights as a retailer herself. Very interesting and valid points.

To me, child -friendly doesn’t necessarily mean stroller-friendly, but anti-stroller doesn’t necessarily mean anti-child!

22 DaniGirl September 22, 2009 at 5:24 am

Sheesh, Marla, you got a lot of pent-up comments or what? Thar she blows! 😉

Okay, you raise some very good points, but in making your point you do some unfair generalizing. Sure, some parents are oblivious, and self-involved, and browsing to kill time instead of actually spending — but that’s a human condition, not a parental one. I was intent on doing some Christmas shopping, and I would not have allowed Lucas to touch anything, and if he did embarrass me by breaking or damaging something, you can bet I’d pay for it. Hasn’t happened yet, and we go to a lot of funky places. (Antique store, you say? Got a Kodak Duaflex or a Starflex sitting there, looking for a new home?)

Of course, the rest of your points are bang on and I agree. But, I’m still feeling like there was a better way. Even a sign on the door would be less in-your-face than a large man blocking a doorway and glaring down at me. The potential customer is always right, even if she has no rights.

Great comments everyone! (Captcha = ters sterne — he was terse and stern but he couldn’t spell!)

23 kgirl September 22, 2009 at 9:35 am

Marla – time to start blogging again.

And, Pulp Kitchen is (was) a neighbourhoood joint. A neighbourhood with tons of parents (obviously you know. duh.) The whole thing could have been avoided by simply stating, on their sign, that it was a safety/fire code issue. But I’m not sure it was. And the fact of the matter is, we all remember, and won’t patronize her new establishment either.

24 Shannon September 22, 2009 at 12:09 pm

See, this is where the problem lies:
“I was intent on doing some Christmas shopping, and I would not have allowed Lucas to touch anything, and if he did embarrass me by breaking or damaging something, you can bet I’d pay for it.”

Not everyone is like you and it’s those few people who ruin it for the rest of us.

25 Shannon September 22, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Hehe. Just saw this and thought of you:

26 Wendy Stirbet September 30, 2009 at 11:25 am

I find it interesting when child focused establishments are not child friendly.

Our local Swimplex (which offers children’s swim classes) does not allow strollers in the change rooms. With four children five and under, there is now way that I would be able to go swimming with my children unless I bring a stroller into the change room. I understand that the change rooms are crowded, but I bring an umbrella stroller in so that it doesn’t take up much room and I can pack it away while we are swimming. They have not kicked me out yet!

There also was a local retailer which was geared to selling high end baby gear and children’s things which was designed specifically to make it difficult for people to bring in their strollers. This seemed somewhat counter productive when marketing to families with children? Overall, their gear was much more safe with my children in the stroller!

Our local Ontario Early Years center (which is the size of a small school) requires that parents leave their strollers at the door when entering. This makes it very difficult navigate our family through the building as I end up having a one year old and a two year old on each hip and then try to encourage my four and five year old to abide by my direction!

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