As Judy Putnam, Lansing State Journal columnist put it, “If you have a kid, you know the moment.” Putnam was referring to the checkout drama that occurs when children tug at their parents’ sleeves and ask for candy, which is conveniently placed at eye level.
So, as the columnist says, she understands “the passion of a Bath Township mom, Jane Kramer, who is petitioning Meijer (a regional supermarket chain), to dump the junk food, pop and tabloids and fill them with health-conscious foods and child-friendly literature.”
The story garnered national attention when the topic surfaced yesterday on Good Morning America. Co-host Lara Spencer brought up the topic, asking the audience what they thought of the idea.
They clapped and cheered, but then, it doesn’t take much to get the GMA crowd to do so. Amy Robach — to her credit — disagreed with Spencer. As she put it, “I think this is part of parenting. You have to tell your children, you can't have that. You have to be able to say it as a parent. That's not good for you. We're not going to do it.”
At this point, George Stephanopoulos chimed in, “You always make me feel like such a slacker.”
Robach, who’s used to Stephanopoulos’ quips, continued. “To tell a store they can't sell things that are highly sellable is crazy just because you don't want to have to parent.”
And that’s when Robin Roberts proposed a candy-free, tabloid-free checkout lane for parents seeking relief from, uh, parenting.
Robach responded by saying, “I don't know. It's a teachable moment.”
To which Roberts responded, “I love it. It's a teachable moment.”
And how did Meijer and other Michigan grocers respond to this? As always, if you need to dig deep into a story, good old-fashioned print reporters are your go-tos. Putnam didn’t disappoint. She quizzed Frank Guglielmi, senior director of communications for Grand Rapids-based Meijer, as well as Linda Gobler, president of the Michigan Grocers Association.
Guglielmi’s response to Putnam by email was not necessarily supportive, albeit respectful.
"Our customer base is very broad and diverse and we work hard to ensure our offerings appeal to the millions of customers who come through our doors each week," he wrote. "We are also passionate about offering healthy choices throughout our stores and we appreciate Ms. Kramer’s passion as well. Thanks."
As for Gobler, she told Putnam that this issue surfaces every now and then. But, as Gobler explained to Putnam, consumers have a better chance of influencing stores to make a change by targeting a specific store to make those changes, rather than the entire chain.
From my perspective, I’m with Robach. “Buck up, Mom and Dad.” If you can’t handle saying no to your children when they ask for candy, how are you bringing them up?
It’s a wild, wacky and at times, wicked world we live in. Teaching children how to behave in public is a parental responsibility. Being sensible about when children can have candy is part of that responsibility.
Granted, explaining sensational tabloid headlines to youngsters can be awkward, but it’s best dealt with in the moment. Besides, some of you are actually scanning those headlines and reading the teaser decks.
Moreover, we all remember giggling as youngsters whenever some family member said something inappropriate at a gathering. None of us were scarred as a result.
As for a checkout lane free of candy and tabloids, that I believe depends on the retailer. There has to be a bona fide replacement value. And it depends on the customer base. Reportedly, Kramer has garnered 223 petitions to date. But will those consumers purchase healthy snacks and children’s book at the candy- and tabloid-free counter? And is that enough to replace lost candy and tabloid sales?
So parents, as the former coach of the Chicago Bulls, Tom Thibadeau, used to say, “Everyone has to do their job. Do. Your. Job.”