Here’s a confusing question for you – Which of these things is not like the other one? Fuzzy animal backpacks, a child’s bathrobe, pint-sized high heels, and crotchless thong panties.
Wait, maybe that’s a trick question. Let’s do it this way – Which of these things would be the LAST thing you’d expect to find in a children’s apparel store? Fuzzy animal backpacks, a child’s bathrobe, pint-sized high heels, and crotchless thong panties.
Or, we could do it this way – If you had to pick a store display that said “Child Prostitution Ring” to you, what would you pick? I’ll go first: Fuzzy animal backpacks, a child’s bathrobe, pint-sized high heels, and crotchless thong panties.
Three weeks after the story out of Greeley Colorado broke, I still have more questions than answers in the Crotchless Panty Caper. Mostly because the owners of Kids N Teen have not answered their phone for three weeks, and Greeley Mall management won’t return my phone calls. I even sent a mom into Kids N Teen and the mall management offices, and no one is interested in talking. Now, I’m a retailer, and I do two things. One, I answer my business phone every time it rings, because it is my business phone. Two, when a customer has a question, I make myself available to answer it.
But that isn’t the case here, as mall management told the mom I sent in to ask questions to leave, and then had her followed by security. And despite the pretty ballsy move by Kids N Teen to not only sell thong underwear in a store for children, but to also choose to order, receive shipment of, enter into inventory, tag, and then stock crotchless panties in juvenile sizes….No one at the Greeley Mall seems to think they need to answer to angry parents who find it grossly inappropriate to sell novelty sex items to children.
I am of the opinion that if you are a businessperson attempting to make money by sexualizing and pornifying childhood, you’re going to need to be prepared to answer to very angry parents.
I’ll tell you what I know first, and it is going to differ a little from what you might have already read. Then I’ll tell what I think I know, and then what I’d like to know. Keep in mind, only one media outlet covered this story – reported by Nick McGurk from Denver’s Channel 9. Anything else you have read or seen on ABC’s 20/20 or anywhere else came from Nick’s work, and the eyewitness accounts of two women. Erin French is the name you’ll recognize from the news, the other woman is Debbie. Debbie is the mother of the young girl who was featured in the news story, and who was approached by the male store owner. I worked with Erin and Debbie for three straight days to try to determine who the manufacturer of these panties is, and talked with them about how this has affected their families.
Information I have confirmed:
- Kids N Teen opened in late October/early November and carries a very wide range of children’s apparel, apparently spanning from toddler to teenage years. This is an independent store, not part of a chain, and the two owners seem to be working in the store and do not have employees.
- During the first two weeks of November, Kids N Teen was selling thong and crotchless thong panties.
- The female owner admitted to Debbie that when the crotchless panties arrived at the store she was unsure if she should stock them or not, ultimately deciding to do so.
- The crotchless panties were in the back of the store, displayed in its own section with these items: thong panties, fuzzy animal backpacks, childrens bathrobes, and pint-sized high heels. There was no seperate teen section, despite the store owner telling press the reason she carried the thong underwear was because 25% of her inventory is for teens.
- On or around November 14th, the Kids N Teen owners were asked by mall management to remove the crotchless panties (but not the thongs) from their shelves. Kids N Teen complied.
- On November 15 I made numerous calls to popular lingerie retailers and was told by all of them that they do not carry crotchless panties, and that I would need to go to a “sex shop” to find an “racy item” like that.
- On November 15 I made numerous attempts to contact both mall management for Greeley Mall and Kids N Teen. My messages were not returned.
- On November 16 when I sent a mom back into Kids N Teen to try to buy a pair of the crotchless panties so that we could determine the manufacturer, she was told the store no longer carried them. When she pressed further to say she knew the store still had to have them on site and she just wanted to see who the manufacturer was, the store owner said she would not reveal her vendor. (I listened to this conversation via cell phone.)
- On November 16 Erin and Debbie contacted the Greeley Police Department asking for their assistance, and expressing their concern of a larger issue at play with this store located directly across the walk-way from the children’s play area. The women were told the police could not do anything and there was no cause for investigation.
- On November 17 when I spoke with the buyer for an adult store and novelty sex shop near my home, she said several things to me that are very important. One: She and her staff would absolutely give me any assistance needed to determine the manufacturer of these panties that very clearly come in extremely small sizes. The idea of child-sized crotchless panties apalled her. Two: She has a very difficult time finding XSmall-sized lingerie and novelty garments for her own customers, and she felt someone who received very small crotchless panties most likely searched them out, and very intentionally ordered them. Three: She felt very confident these items came from an overseas vendor, as with all of her years in the business she has never come across an American company making an item like this for the teen or children’s market.
- The four women involved in this story – Erin, Debbie, the adult store manager, and myself all admitted to each other coming to the same feeling independent of each other: This story stinks of child prostitution.
Let me be clear – at this point in time the only thing I think the Kids N Teen owners are guilty of is a grossly negligent and irresponsible decision to carry very racy thong and crotchless panties in an apparel store for children.
Let me be clear – as a former criminal investigator, when I was told all of the little pieces of this story that on their own don’t make a lot of sense, but when put together create a shady picture, my intuition tells me this story stinks of something bigger than a couple of racy panties hanging in a store in a dying shopping mall.
Other pieces of information, unconfirmed:
- During the original shopping trip that Erin and Debbie were on when they filmed the crotchless panties, Debbie said that the middle-aged male store owner saw her seven year old daugther Paige looking at the display of thongs, told her the price fo the garment, and asked is she liked them and wanted a pair.
- The owners of Kids N Teen own several other retail locations in the mall. The mall is struggling financially.
- There were many questions from our Facebook Parent Community as to whether or not the store owners were foreign, maybe explaining a cultural difference in views on the panties. Because I have not spoken directly to the store owners, I will not comment further on this. I will say that I think crotchless panties have a rather universal understanding as to their purpose and use.
- After an extensive internet search, I could not find crotchless panties that matched what Erin and Debbie showed us in the video made on their cell phone. I am at a dead end for determining who the manufacturer of the panties is.
- The Kids N Teen owner claims she ordered the thongs for her store, but the crotchless panties were a free gift from her vendor. The adult store manager said she thought is was highly unlikely, as a new shop that only dedicates 25% inventory to teen apparel would not have placed a large enough wholesale order to earn an assortment of free lingerie. She also was highly suspect of all of the “free lingerie” being in such very small sizes.
So it is a great mystery, how these child-sized crotchless panties arrived at this children’s apparel store and who is responsible for making these in child sizes to begin with. But is there mystery in why the Kids N Teen owner decided to sell them? And the more important question, why did she think they would sell? When “family-friendly” department stores have been carrying panties in the junior’s section for years with highly sexually-suggestive slogans….how many steps away were we from selling actually novelty sex items to girls? When we will say NO MORE to retailers meeting their bottom line by sexualizating and pornifying our daughter’s girlhood? When will enough be enough?