Hey Kid, Where’s Your Mom? Malls Ratchet Up Restrictions on Unsupervised Teens

  • Share
  • Read Later

Generally speaking, it’s unwise to kick customers — any customers — out of a shopping center. But what if kicking out certain customers increases the likelihood that other, wealthier customers will come to the mall and spend?

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the St. Louis Outlet Mall is ratcheting up its restrictions on unaccompanied teenagers. In 2006, a parental-escort policy was instituted: on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 6 p.m., anyone 17 or under who wasn’t accompanied by a guardian who was at least 21 years old would be kicked out of the mall. It was around this time that other malls around the U.S. likewise banned unaccompanied teens during certain evening hours.

Starting this Friday, the St. Louis Outlet Mall is pushing its parental-escort rule back to 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Similarly, the Mall of America expanded its parental-escort policy during the recent holiday shopping season. Normally, the policy bans kids without guardians from 4 p.m. until closing time just on Fridays and Saturdays. But because of a brawl in the mall involving dozens of young people that took place on Dec. 26, 2011 — a weekday — and that resulted in tons of bad p.r. after videos of the chair-throwing episode wound up on YouTube, the policy was broadened to include peak 2012 holiday shopping periods, including all of Christmas week.

(MORE: Target Introduces Six New Brands … That You Can’t Buy in Stores?)

Teen disturbances in other malls have brought up speculation that more shopping centers will introduce or expand parental-escort policies. The Indianapolis Star noted that two back-to-back incidents in early 2013 in area shopping centers — a 15-year-old allegedly shot a gun at Lafayette Square Mall one night, and four teens got into a brawl with off-duty policy officers the next night at Circle Centre mall — raised the possibility that “Indianapolis malls might need to consider banning unsupervised juveniles.”

Obviously, such bans are aimed at stopping violence and other outbursts involving teenagers. More important, from a purely business perspective, these bans aim to attract shoppers who might otherwise be hesitant to go to the mall because of concerns about violence and outbursts involving teenagers. The restrictions allow mall security officers to systematically kick out a demographic that is perceived to be loud, thuggish and bad for business overall.

The manager of the St. Louis Outlet Mall told the Post-Dispatch that the increased parental-escort hours didn’t come as a result of a rise in incidences involving teens or any one particular disturbance:

“It wasn’t related to any kind of problems per se,” he said. “We’ve had some success with the parental-escort policy, and families like shopping out here together.”

He added that the mall wanted to make it feel less like “middle school” or “high school.”

(MORE: Bye-Bye, Mall Rats)

In some ways, the rules concerning unsupervised teens are intended to help the kids being banned. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, younger unaccompanied teens are the most likely individuals to be victimized by older teens and adults in their early 20s.

But again, the biggest influence on stricter mall policies for teens seems to be that they’re just plain good for business. Malls reported strong sales growth after they first instituted the policies a half-dozen years ago, and if there’s one rule in retail, it’s this: if a small initiative proves successful in boosting sales, then it’s all but guaranteed that a larger initiative will follow.

11 comments
delta5297
delta5297

How would you be able to tell that someone is a teenager? From how they dress?

EnticingHavoc
EnticingHavoc

I'm so confused. Teenagers are given the right to steer a car at the age of 16 but not allowed to enter a mall past a certain hour.

Does that make any sense ?

John
John

A policy  like this has been in effect at the mall, except for weekends,  for something like 3 years in Jefferson City, MO.

RubyFicklen
RubyFicklen

As a college student who grew up in St Louis, I remember the series of "gang related" brawls around 2006 when I was in middle school that led to these restrictions (contrary to the Galleria's statement) as well as carefully planning subsequent shopping and movie trips with my friends.
Now, as a "grown up" of age I've been asked to leave more than once due to failure to present a photo ID and opt to shop at other establishments to avoid the hassle. Similar curfews have been put in place in the nearby Delmar Loop that ban underage residents of University City essentially from their own neighborhood (and their peers, often who come in on the Metrolink) in favor of wining and dining white suburbanites from further west in St Louis County that are uncomfortable setting their iphones down on patio tables in the presence of urban miscreants. Unlike the Galleria, which, from my experience, IDs almost everyone who looks young, swarms of police almost exclusively target black youth. Riot squads, canines, and paddy wagons, and sets of police on every corner are staples during the summer months. Very unfortunate for local kids and seems like kind of an ambiance killer for restaurants in the district.
Advocacy groups like The University City Youth Society, started by high school students in collaboration with local officials, instead aim to create safe, constructive environments for teens to go on weekends rather than just banning them and in effect - ship them off to flock to another hangout and cause disruption. 

porchchat
porchchat

OK, guess that's what I get for reading Time while at work. So I guess employees are OK as long as they are all 18 y/o. Is that the case?

FindlayJonathan
FindlayJonathan

It also says ages 17 and under, not 21. The "guardian" accompanying them needs to be at least 21. Singles 18+ shouldn't have any problems.

porchchat
porchchat

Neither of the comments have addressed the issue of whether ALL teens (or patrons and employees between 16 and 21) will be evicted, or only the ones in groups.

Again, I ask if teen/under-21 employees, college students, young parents, and under-21 service members will also be banned.

Not all people between 16 and 21 are living with their parents. A great many people between 18 and 21 are on their own and shopping at the mall as well.


porchchat
porchchat

Hmmm... So does that mean that the single, 19-year-old mother or a college student can't come to the mall on Friday or Saturday afternoon or evening? How are they supposed to get shopping done? And does this also ban 16-21 year-old employees from working those hours?

I don't see how this could be fairly implemented, but malls are private property, and unless those tossed out can show that they were discriminated against based on being in a protected class, the mall management can probably do whatever they want.

Going up to 21 years old seems a bit extreme. After all, that would mean that service members back from overseas, but not yet 21, couldn't come to the mall. Really?

Perhaps the real problem is that there are so few places for people under-21 to gather. Malls are unhealthy places in so many ways, and fighting seems to be a symptom of boredom among those with nothing to do.



RubyFicklen
RubyFicklen

@porchchat You're spot on. Malls are private property and can absolutely make these kinds of restrictions, but it is indicative of a lack of purpose and, for the most part, nowhere in particular to go. 
Curfews are pretty easy to put in place, creating long-term solutions for youth is much more challenging which is probably why we will continue to see these policies fortified until teens flock somewhere else.

elgabachogil
elgabachogil

@porchchat their parents should be more interested in their welfare and not kick them out the house because they're a bother

vrcplou
vrcplou

@porchchat Sorry but these kids aren't brawling because they are bored.  They are brawling because they are the end result of a generation of kids that essentially have been raising themselves.  Their parents always dropped them off everywhere and didn't care who, if anyone, was supervising them.  Dropping them at the mall is just another way that the parent gets off the hook and doesn't have to do any of the heavy lifting involved in parenting.  Sad for the kids because most of them have never been taught better.