Business watching out for children

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 9, 2002

BNI Newswire

It sounds like an urban myth – like the college student who comes home late at night, gets ready for bed in the dark and then wakes the next morning to a dead roommate and a message scribbled on the wall: "Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the lights."

Well, maybe not exactly like that. This "urban myth" has a happy ending. And – at least for the most part – it is not an urban myth.

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An e-mail circulating across the Internet tells the story of a frantic mother shopping in Wal-Mart who turns around to discover her daughter is missing. The mother rushes from aisle to aisle, backtracking her last steps, in search of her precious child.

At the first sight of a sales associate, she begins to scream that her child is missing.

The associate rushes to the nearest phone on a pole and sends out over the PA system, "Code Adam."

Managers rush to the doors, sales associates start walking the aisles and check out clerks scan the customers in line. Soon, a description of the child – height, weight, hair color, eye color, clothing – is announced to all in the store.

In this particular e-mail – perhaps the "urban myth" portion – the child is found in the bathroom. Her head is partially shaven, a wig lies on the floor next to her and clothes in a bag beside her.

But the child is safe.

This story – according to the e-mail – originates from Nebraska, but the store manager at Troy’s Wal-Mart said it is not completely implausible.

"We do have a ‘Code Adam,’" Bobby Brackenridge said. "If a parent loses a child or vice versa, we call a Code Adam."

While Brackenridge said he does not know if the e-mail is true, he knows that Code Adam is a corporate policy.

"Every Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club in America abides by this policy," he said.

And it is used more often than people may realize.

"We usually have a child go missing once a week. That’s just an average," Brackenridge said.

Of course, these missing children are more often found in the toy department or by the TVs.

"We’ve never had a serious case here, never an abduction or anything like that," he said.

And Wal-Mart is not alone.

Pam Sanders, general manager of Fred’s in Troy, outlines a similar policy for Fred’s stores nationwide.

"What we would do is lock the doors, alert all the employees and search the store," she said. "If the child could not be found, we would call the police."

At Food World? Ditto.

"It’s standard policy," a corporate spokesperson said.

As for the e-mail, it attributes Wal-Mart’s naming of the "Code Adam" to Adam Walsh, the son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh. Adam Walsh was abducted and murder several years ago – one of the main reasons John Walsh has said he is so committed to America’s Most Wanted.

"I don’t know about (the naming)," Brackenridge said. "I’ve heard it, but I don’t know."