British Supermarket Bans Girl's Balloons

British Supermarket Bans Little Girl's Balloon

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

British supermarket chain, Tesco, is in the news for not allowing a helium balloon into their store. Again.

Alex Pearson, a nine-year-old girl, had been given a helium balloon while she was eating lunch at a local restaurant. She walked with her mother to the Tesco store afterward, enjoying her balloon, and looking forward to spending some of her own money there.

I remember when I was that age, spending my own money was a huge deal. It made me feel special, so I can imagine how she felt.

But little Alex – sweet, cute widdle Alex who onwy wanted to spend her vewwy own money to buy a nice pwesent – was told by a big, mean security guard that she wasn't allowed to bring her balloon into the store.

It's a health and safety risk, the security guard said.

"Health and safety risk" is a term British bureaucrats like to trot out when they can't think of a good explanation for their idiocy. It's like when American bureaucrats (and my fourth grade teacher) say "if we let you do it, then we have to let everyone else do it." It's a slogan for the drones who don't like to use the remaining 98 percent of their brain.

It's how the Tesco drones justify not letting balloons into the store, even though they sell bags of them.

Alex's mother, Marion, had tied the balloon to Alex's wrist to keep it secure. Not good enough, said the guard. It's "company policy."

"Some idiotic reason about security," said Marion.

Alex didn't understand why she couldn't bring her balloon. So Marion told the security guard to explain it to Alex.

"He couldn't even look her in the eye," she told the London Daily Mail. "I think he was too embarrassed."

Since Alex didn't want to let her balloon go, the Pearsons left. Marion has promised to never shop at Tesco again.

It turns out, balloons can be used as weapons and instruments of torture. They have been used to hold up stores and banks, kidnap entire families, and cause political unrest. Back in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed by a helium balloon, which ultimately led to World War I.

No, seriously, it's because Tesco thinks they're a fire hazard.

A Tesco spokesman peeked out from behind the skirts of bureaucratic logic long enough to offer this poorly reasoned explanation.

"Unfortunately (balloons) were getting trapped on the ceiling and blocking the sprinkler system, and they are pretty difficult to retrieve," said the unnamed Bureaucratic Spokes Unit. "The managers decided to use their discretion. There is not a set policy on helium balloons at the store. It's just common sense really."

No, this is the exact opposite of common sense. It's 540 degrees from common sense – it's not just 180 degrees from it; this one is so far from common sense, it actually went around one-and-a-half times from it.

Common sense is understanding that restaurant helium balloons deflate by the next morning, and you can pick them up off the floor when the store opens. Common sense is understanding that if the water pressure from the sprinkler system is strong enough to put out a fire, it's strong enough to push a four gram balloon out of the way. Common sense is understanding that if a security guard can't explain a policy to a 9-year-old girl without feeling embarrassed, there's something wrong with the policy.

Of course, this isn't the first time Tesco has taken issue with helium balloons. Back in August 2007, I wrote about Barney Baloney, a children's clown whose five hour gig at a Tesco supermarket was ruined when they said he couldn't use balloons in his act. Back then, a Tesco Bureaucratic Spokes Unit said, "We have banned balloons because latex is used in the manufacture of them and this can trigger an allergic reaction in some children."

That's different than what the other Spokes Unit just said. A lot different.

Back in 2007, Tesco was worried about children having allergic reactions to latex, which is asinine, since anyone with an allergy would have to rub themselves with balloons for hours to get anything more than mild skin irritation. Now, Tesco is telling us they have a poorly-pressurized sprinkler system that can't push a balloon out of the way during a fire.

I suppose the bureaucrats are only doing their jobs, remaining ever-vigilant, knowing they are all that stand between its customers and horrible, fiery death.

Or a bunch of itchy kids. I can't be sure.

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