“Don’t Over Moo the Cow”

Josie Leavitt - September 12, 2012

The nature of a bookstore is that merchandise will get played with and looked at. This is a very good thing that most retailers encourage. A problem arises when little ones don’t understand the nature of business and can’t stop playing with something at the store.
We keep our sidelines by the register for two reasons. The first is they are a great impulse buy, so having them by the register is smart. The second reason we keep them within sight is so we can keep an eye on  the products. Sometimes these are things that can break easily or  they are the noisy toys. We have a really cute display of farmyard pens. These pens come as a cow, sheep, owl and pig. If the plastic tab is removed from the back of the animal’s head, they make that animal’s sound when the head is depressed. Generally, we’ll have one of each ready for kids to play with and the rest have the silencing plastic tab in place. For some reason all the tabs have been removed and every pen makes a very loud “Moo,” “Oink,” or in the case of the owl, the loudest, scariest shriek you’ve ever heard. I have to admit I’m not patient with these noises at the register for prolonged periods of time. But rather than be a total curmudgeon and just taking the pen away, I’ve found myself saying things like, “Don’t over moo the cow.” Really? Can you actually over moo a cow? I guess little ones don’t understand about batteries yet, and saying something could be over oinked seems to work with kids.
Stuffed animals can often present a challenge to little shoppers. Up until the time kids started going to stores, all stuffed animals could be played with, pretty much no matter where you were. At a store a child has to learn that these soft, lovable creatures either need to be left alone or paid for. We solved part of this problem by having toys that could be played with and hugged and sat on. This allowed the for-sale plushies to stay cleaner longer. The problem arises when it’s time to leave and a child wants to take the animal home. We have found a great way to break it to the child that they can’t have the animal is to tell them the animal lives at the store and has to stay. This they understand and it’s gentle without making the child feel bad.
Kids love to spin things. We have finger puppets hanging from a book mark spinner and kids love to flick the spinner as hard as they can to see what will happen to the puppets. I have always thought that this looked like a carnival ride where inevitably someone gets motion sick. A mom clearly had the same idea when I heard her say to her five-year-old, “It’s not a ride for the animals, sweetie.”
I chuckled when I heard this and watched the ride slow down, and I could see that all the animals were fine.

2 thoughts on ““Don’t Over Moo the Cow”

  1. Christina Wilsdon

    Sweet. Your stories remind me of the time I was behind a little girl and her mom at the library and they were checking out a plastic bag that included a picture book and a small stuffed animal. The librarian took out the book and plushie just to check that everything was there, then pushed them back in the bag.
    She didn’t do this roughly or anything, but the little girl took the bag from her (causing a halt in the checkout proceedings) and very carefully extracted the plush toy, which had gone in head-first. She turned it over and put it back in very very gently, so that it was right-side-up.
    Both the mom and the librarian smiled and waited very patiently for this fix-up to finish.

  2. Carol Chittenden

    We’ve been attacked by princess clones all summer, because the battery-operated scepters are right outside the office door. Like your idea of having them at the counter.
    We’ve also taken to leaving at kid level some other battery powered noisemakers whose batteries are largely shot, with a sign telling customers fresh merchandise is available at the counter.
    But it seems to be less of a problem now that parents let their kids, from diaper age on up, fiddle with their ipods and smartphones.
    Now if we could just get parents, especially dads, to stop taking puppets from the high shelves and handing them to smeary babies…


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