Failing 20/20’s “What Would you Do?”

Have you ever seen the 20/20 Primetime’s series, “What Would You Do?” Basically the segment explores moral dilemmas by setting up scenarios in public (like aggressive behavior in couples, petty shoplifting, etc) and filming what happens with every day onlookers.

A few weeks ago, I sat with my daughter at the computers (set up for children to play with) in my local Apple store. A gentleman and his approximately 5-year-old daughter sat down at the computer next to us. After a few frustrating moments of trying to get a game loaded for his daughter, he looked at me and said to his daughter, “Why don’t you go play with that little girl?” Neither girl was amenable to the situation, and I was relieved not to have to tell him that I was not going to babysit his daughter while he shopped around in the store.

A few minutes later, I heard him say to her, “Okay, I’m going to run to the car. I’ll be right back.” Entranced with her game, she nodded . . . and then he WALKED OUT OF THE STORE.

I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh! Am I witnessing a child being abandoned right here? What do I do? Is he coming back?” The store was busy, evidently gearing up for the Christmas season.

For nearly 15 minutes, I didn’t move a muscle.

Then the little girl looked up, and began calling out for her Daddy. She looked around the store, searching for him. I looked too. She began to walk away from the computers, but I called her to come back and sit down. I told her I thought her Daddy would be right back, and that she should sit and wait there. She obliged and went back to her game.

Finally, her dad came through the door. I didn’t know what to do. Do I confront him? Do I tell an Apple store employee? I figured that confronting him – even if he was kind about it – would probably not do any good. He was making a bad, stupid choice in parenting, and even if the full potential ramifications of his choice had not clicked in his brain, ultimately his selfishness drove his decision. . . and I didn’t see that changing from an irate parent-to-parent confrontation.

He was back. I decided to let it go and went to find my mom who was shopping in another part of the store.

As we walked out of the store, we passed him again sauntering (not in a hurry, but rather strolling, window shopping!) down the sidewalk WITHOUT his daughter. I stopped in my tracks, torn with what to do. He walked back into the store, presumably to check on his daughter.

I decided not to follow him in and give him a piece of my mind.

When I recounted the story to my husband later, the 20/20 segment immediately came to mind. Obviously, the show had not set up this scenario; it was painfully real. But in my heart, I felt like I failed that little girl. I should have said something to someone. But who? And what?

So, I leave the question to you? What would you do?



  1. Wow. That’s horrendous. I would have at the very least alerted the employees in the store that a man was leaving his daughter for extended periods of time. As well, I probably would have told him, “Your kid got concerned when you abandoned her for 15 minutes, she was really scared.” Then I would have pursed my lips and gave him the stare before I walked off.

  2. The chances of anyone snatching the kid are astronomically low, but still, I’d probably volunteer to watch the kid while he did some shopping. Sounds like the guy was overwhelmed and could’ve used a hand.

  3. That is a tough call no doubt. It would not hurt to make employees aware as they would have “authority” to address their customer and ask him not to leave his child unattended (just thinking it might be more disarming for an employee to address him than another customer). I have had to ask parents in my store to maintain control over their kids on a few occasions, but can’t say I would have the guts to do that if I was just a shopper. Of course, I would secretly cheer on the person that did…

  4. OMG. I have no kids and even I KNOW not to do something like that. Holy Moly. My gut fell to the floor when I read this.

    I’m not one to confront, though. I’m not sure what I would have done.–Maybe scoop the kid up in my arms and walk the child to the nearest mall security guard? Let those in charge of protection protect the child from the parent’s bad choice?

    Thanks for the post.

  5. I am not one to confront, but I would like to think that I would have said something to the father. Perhaps he doesn’t realize how dangerous it really is, or perhaps he didn’t think that his little girl would ever miss him. I definately would not have left the little girl alone, and as mentioned above, I would have tried to locate a security guard or policeman.
    It’s tough to say how you would react until you are placed in such a situation.

  6. Agh!
    People are funny. The older I get, the more I realize people don’t do things like I do. (Crazy, huh?) But I agree with Madison – and hope that my gut choice would be based on the Spirit’s wisdom.

  7. LJ

    I would have gone to the store manager first – especially since the girl became a liability to the store when the dad left her. When the guy came back in the store I would have gently (with love) told him how the child became scared of being by herself. I’m glad you were there looking after the little girl. It looks like her dad needs some help with parenting.

  8. spaghettipie

    Thanks to everyone for your comments. I will definitely think about some of these things if (heaven forbid!) I encounter a similar situation. I really enjoyed hearing all of your thoughts!

  9. Tina, an aside.

    I finally used one of your gorgeous SC photos. Would you be willing to come tell us the story of the rocks? Or just do a post here which I can link to?

    Thanks again for the beautiful photos. (And I provided a permanent link for you too in “Links for Art” at the bottom of my sidebar.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: