When a Texas area TV station took its cameras on an undercover operation into the Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurants in the San Antonio area, they were trying to catch the “kid checkers” breaking bad. I hope they took their earplugs.
Chuck E. Cheese’s is heaven for little kids. And like any good (albeit lapsed) Catholic, I firmly believe in heaven’s eternal opposite. Yes, Chuck E. Cheese’s is hell on Earth for parents. The rat himself is Satan, come to burn our tongues with oily cheese pizza and our ears with the searing sounds of shrieking children let loose on a play floor with a cup full of coins.
Let loose is exactly the problem. You really can’t blame Chuck E. for the mass chaos that unfolds under his whiskers. But the mom who contacted WOAI says you can blame the company for advertising a kid check program that doesn’t work. The premise (in case you’ve been one of those parents blessed by a child with a profound lack of interest in junk food and arcade games) is that no child will walk out of a Chuck E. Cheese’s with an adult other than one who walked in with them. To monitor the ingress and egress, an attendant stands at the doorway to welcome families with a numbered stamp. Each member of a group walking in gets a matching number stamped on the hand in black-light-sensitive-ink. Babies get a numbered sticker to adhere to their clothing. When a child attempts to leave, the attendant is charged with running the black light first over their hand then that of the accompanying adult. If the numbers don’t match, no one leaves.
At least that’s the plan. In San Antonio, not one of the restaurants passed the WOAI test. Every child sent in with an adult left with a different adult. Some of the “checkers” never even checked. Others tried to find the stamps, but gave up without a fuss.
It’s annoying, but ultimately, who cares? Do people really expect the teenager at the door of Chuck E. Cheese’s to keep their kids in line or protect them from a pedophile? My last trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s (entered and left with someone kicking and screaming both ways – any guesses on which member of the family pitched which fit?) was for a birthday party for my three-year-old’s little buddy. There were five adults and three kids under three-and-a-half. We spent the entire time on our feet, running after kids. We did our very best not to let them out of our sight for a second, and we were exhausted by the end of the day.
But letting a kid out of my sight in a busy restaurant (can you call Chuck E. Cheese’s a restaurant?) was out of the question. Scanners at the door or no scanners, people can still walk in the door with all sorts of ulterior motives. Short of rolling out the bubble, keeping kids safe means maintaining control of the situation . . . and the kid.
So you can call foul on Chuck E. Cheese’s for poor hiring choices, poor advertising, what have you. But can you really blame them for losing your kid?
Image: Chuck E. Cheese‘s